2016 Longines World's Best Racehorse

Arrogate Is 2016 Longines World’s Best Racehorse

It only took two races for Arrogate to prove exactly what he’s worth to this incredible sport. The now four-year-old champion has been awarded the 2017 Longines World’s Best Racehorse title, beating out California Chrome. He did the very same on the track when the two met at the Breeders’ Cup Classic in last season’s grand finale. That victory helped Arrogate earn enough points in the Longines rating system to win the award.

Arrogate totalled 134 points after the Breeders’ Cup Classic to beat out California Chrome, who had 133 points by season’s end. The body of work between the two is starkly different and may be a point of contention in how the 2016 Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings were determined.

To be fair, California Chrome competed in six races last year, going 5-1-0 throughout those challenges. That volume of work should, in itself, give him an edge in the 2016 Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. The now six-year-old competitor won a Dubai Handicap, the Dubai World Cup, the San Diego Handicap, Pacific Classic and Awesome Again Stakes before placing second to Arrogate at the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a hotly anticipated showdown. California Chrome’s wins at the San Diego Handicap and Pacific were monumental at the time as well.

By comparison, Arrogate ran in only the Travers Stakes and the aforementioned Breeders’ Cup Classic. But his performances in those races were earth shattering. He broke a 37-year old track record in winning the Travers by 13 1/2 lenghts, and his speed rating at the Classic was one of the fastest recorded all year.

Finishing third in the standings for the 2016 Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings was Winx out of Australia, followed by Almanzor from France and Japan’s A Shin Hikari.

“It is a great honor and a thrill that the Breeders’ Cup Classic has been selected the world’s highest rated race of 2016,” said Craig Fravel, president of the Breeders’ Cup. “Arrogate and California Chrome put on a tremendous display for all of racing that day at Santa Anita Park, and to showcase such an exciting event on an international stage means so much to us. Bob Baffert said it best: ‘We are just so proud to have horses like these. It’s all about the horses.’ Our sincere thanks to the IFHA, and to Longines for their remarkable commitment to Thoroughbred racing.”

Arrogate and California Chrome will compete yet again in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup which offers a purse of $12 million. The race unfolds this Saturday, January 28th at Gulfstream.

2017 sunshine millions classic awesome slew

Awesome Slew In 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic

The horse to watch in the 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic remains Awesome Slew, a slow burning four-year-old colt who had been flirting with the winner’s circle through the fall of last year. The Edward Plesa Jr. trainee finished 3rd at the Harlan’s Holiday to cap his 2016 campaign, but also proved worth at the thrilling Pennsylvania Derby where he finished 5th after winning the Smarty Jones (G3) in early September.

There was some thought of running the up-and-coming colt on the Pegasus World Cup undercard out of Gulfstream, but Plesa ultimately decided that the 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic was a better fit. “I think it’s a good spot for him, because it is restricted to Florida-breds,” Plesa said. “Live Oak does breed horses that are Florida-breds and it’s an opportunity for us to run in a race that certainly isn’t going to be anywhere near a Pegasus-type race.”

Running from the outside post should give Awesome Slew an advantage against a decently competitive field, but it’s his experience that makes him the horse to back overall. There’s a lot of filler in this race. Piloting will attempt to get his first win for Mark Casse in his 27th attempt. Tiger of Wales will be making his stakes debut despite being a five-year-old.

“He’s just stepping up to the plate,” Plesa continued about the expected 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic favorite. “He’s been compromised by odd things that happen to horses—sickness being his main thing—and we were trying to play catch-up all last year. We finally caught up in the Smarty Jones and then I ran him back a little quicker than he probably would have liked in the Pennsylvania Derby. He’s been training great and he’s doing great. I think he’ll hit his full stride this year.”

Awesome Slew comes from a strong lineage so he could certainly be a surprise as a four-year-old. The journey to prove his overall worth to Plesa and horse players around the country begins this weekend.

2017 Sunshine Millions Classic – Saturday, January 21st at Gulfstream (8:35pm EST)
1 1/8th Miles — 4+ Year Olds — $200,000 

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Tiger of Wales (FL) Tyler Gaffalione 119 Michael J. Maker
2 Nauset Beach (FL) Paco Lopez 117 Teresa M. Pompay
3 Hy Riverside (FL) Jose L. Ortiz 119 Antonio Sano
4 We’re All Set (FL) Luis Saez 117 Fernando Abreu
5 Joshua’s Comprise (FL) Martin Ramos Ramirez 117 Barry R. Rose
6 Piloting (FL) Luca Panici 117 Mark E. Casse
7 Uncle Vinny (FL) John R. Velazquez 117 Todd A. Pletcher
8 Awesome Slew (FL) Javier Castellano 123 Edward Plesa, Jr.
2017 Holy Bull Stakes

Classic Empire Sets Sights On Holy Bull Stakes

After winning the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, all eyes are on Classic Empire to carry this class of three-year-olds towards the Kentucky Derby. The prohibitive favorite in the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager is already a 6/1 first choice, followed closely by McCraken and Mastery. Well get our first look at Classic Empire when he makes his season debut at the 2017 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.

The choice to run him in the Florida circuit certainly indicates that Classic Empire will likely aim long term towards the Florida Derby. It’s the same pathway that Mohaymen took to get to the Kentucky Derby, though he was decisively upended by Nyquist at the Florida Derby. Still, Mark and Norman Casse seem to be very eager about their chances this coming spring. That all begins with a strong showing at the Holy Bull Stakes.

“Norman was very enthusiastic about the breeze,” Mark Casse said. “When you look at it from a time standpoint it is more about what he does after the breeze. He amazes us because you can’t get him tired. There’s been a lot of discussion about the 2017 Holy Bull between Mr. Oxley, Norman, and myself. I think we’re going to make it because I just think it’s good timing. I would say today is another step closer to the Holy Bull.”

The breeze that Mark Casse is referring to is a 7-furlong set that Classic Empire romped in 1:02 4/5. Classic Empire already seems to have a fairly loyal following so this news will bolster his support. But he’s by no means a homerun bet right now. The three-year-old class this year has noone that is peerless. Classic Empire is merely the horse that’s made the most of his given opportunities.

Still, Casse is overly exited about his big lead, especially as a pathway to the Kentucky Derby begins to take a more definitive shape. “He’s a bit of a bad boy, there is no doubt about that,” Casse said. “I was talking to Mr. Oxley this morning and said to him, ‘He’s different than most horses. He’s absolutely brilliant, but what makes him so good, also makes his bad.’ The fact  he is tireless, makes him tough. Somebody the other day said he walks like a panther, and that’s what he does—always ready to pounce.”

The field for the upcoming Holy Bull Stakes doesn’t have much of a field just yet but more names will surely step up to take on the derby favorite in the weeks to come.

La Canada Stakes preview

La Canada Stakes Led By Vale Dori

Despite some rough weather hitting California over this week, Santa Anita looks on track to present the 2017 La Canada Stakes this coming weekend. The $200,000 race will feature much of the same field that competed at the Bayakoa Handicap in early December 2016. Only one of the entrants in this weekend’s tilt was not included in that race.

That standalone is Enduring Erin, a seven-year-old veteran who has a record of just 7-3-7 in 32 starts. Enduring Erin has no notable finishes in any stakes race, so she’s likely to be the longshot. Santa Anita is simply her home track.

Vale Dori is the anticipated favorite after winning the aforementioned Bayakoa Handicap over Wild At Heart, who came second. With a record of 4-1-1 in seven starts, Vale Dori is undoubtedly the most accomplished competitor in the La Canada Stakes field.

Not to be outdone, Wild At Heart has shown the type of consistency that handicappers appreciate. A strong record of 2-2-4 in 9 starts shows that she’s a more than apt show bet, and the daring play here is for her to place behind Vale Dori for a second time. Of any play, an exacta box on the two is the most logical wager at the La Canada Stakes this Saturday.

Rounding out the field are Autumn Flower and Show Stealer, who finished 6th and 4th respectively at the Bayakoa Handicap.

La Canada Stakes – Santa Anita Park on Saturday, January 14th (5:30pm EST)
1 1/16th Miles – 4+ Year Old Fillies & Mares – $200,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Vale Dori (ARG) Mike E. Smith 125 Bob Baffert
2 Show Stealer (KY) Tyler Baze 120 Art Sherman
3 Wild At Heart (KY) Flavien Prat 120 Richard E. Mandella
4  Enduring Erin (KY) Corey S. Nakatani 120  Richard Baltas
5 Autumn Flower (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 120  Dan L. Hendricks
2017 Sham Stakes Gormley

Gormley Brilliant at 2017 Sham Stakes

After a disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Gormley had plenty to prove heading in to the 2017 Sham Stakes. He was listed as the 8/5 second choice behind even money favorite American Anthem, who would make his stakes debut. It was an absolutely pulse pounding battle between the two three-year-olds that left everyone in attendance gasping on the edge of their seats.

American Anthem took the early lead but was quickly drafted and then matched by Gormley to start the race. The pair took the field out at :22.54 for the quarter and :45.46 at the half, marking an incredibly fast pace considering the muddy state of Santa Anita Park’s track. They hit the three-quarter pole at an equally impressive 1:10.13 before ripping down the homestretch side by side for a photo finish. At the wire, Gormley was able to stretch out by a nose to seal the victory in the 2017 Sham Stakes.

Trainer John Shirreffs was thrilled with the strategy employed during the race, noting that a fast start was pivotal to Gormley’s success in the 2017 Sham Stakes. “He’s quick. He starts quick and he gets away quickly, but then he checks himself as he gets into the race and he relaxes,” Shirreffs quipped. “It was great to see him pick it back up again and get it done.”

Winning jockey Victor Espinoza echoed this sentiment. “It didn’t surprise me how well he broke out of there today. When he’s feeling good, he breaks quickly and is already running. In the Breeders’ Cup, he broke slow, but today he came into the race in really good shape and got into it right away.”

In making his debut against one of the faster horses in three-year-old field, American Anthem was impressive and this experience will help mould the Bob Baffert trainee as we continue down the derby trail.

Gormley was worth $5.20, $2.80 and $2.40 with his 2017 Sham Stakes victory while American Anthem returned $2.60 and $2.20. Big Hit essentially ran in third for the entire race and delivered $3.60 at 11/1 odds in the 2017 Sham Stakes

2016 eclispe award nominees

2016 Eclipse Award Nominees Announced

The 2016 Eclipse Award nominees were announced on January 5th, and leading the way are California Chrome, Arrogate and Songbird who each earned nods for Horse of the Year.

Each of those oustanding performers also find themselves in the appropriate age/gender categories as well. California Chrome is one of the 2016 Eclipse Award nominees for Older Horse of the Year along with Frosted and Lord Nelson. It’s virtually impossible for either of those to build a case for outclassing California Chrome in this category.

Arrogate, who capped the season with an awesome Breeders’ Cup Classic victory, will contend with Exaggerator and Nyquist for the award given to the best amongst three-year-old colts. The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner and the 2016 Preakness Stakes winner have both since retired, while Arrogate is poised to have an incredible four-year-old campaign. Arrogate did not compete in the Triple Crown series, or any of the prep races, as a late bloomer who emerged out of nowhere at the Travers Stakes in August.

Songbird is in the three-year-old fillies category along side Cathryn Sophia and Queen’s Trust and the previously undefeated champion is more likely to win here than as the Horse of the Year. Had she fended Beholder at the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, there might be a genuine argument for her taking top honours.

A full list of the 2016 Eclipse Award nominees can be found below. The awards ceremony will be held on January 21st at Gulfstream Park.

Horse of the Year Finalists: Arrogate, California Chrome, Songbird
Two-Year-Old Male: Classic Empire, Not This Time  , Practical Joke
Two-Year-Old Filly: Champagne Room, Lady Aurelia, New Money Honey
Three-Year-Old Male: Arrogate, Exaggerator, Nyquist  
Three-Year-Old Filly: Cathryn Sophia, Queen’s Trust, Songbird
Older Dirt Male: California Chrome, Frosted  , Lord Nelson
Older Dirt Female: Beholder, Cavorting, Stellar Wind
Male Sprinter: A.P. Indian, Drefong, Lord Nelson
Female Sprinter: Finest City, Haveyougoneaway, Paulassilverlining
Male Turf Horse: Flintshire (GB), Highland Reel, Tourist  
Female Turf Horse: Lady Eli, Miss Temple City, Tepin
Steeplechase Horse: Rawnaq (IRE), Scorpiancer (IRE), Top Striker
Owner: Juddmonte Farms, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Spendthrift Farm
Breeder: Clearsky Farms, Darley, WinStar Farm
Trainer: Bob Baffert, Chad Brown, Mark Casse
Jockey: Javier Castellano, Jose Ortiz, Mike Smith
Apprentice Jockey: Kevin Gomez, Lane Luzzi, Luis Ocasio

2016 La Brea preview

Tough Crowd in 2016 La Brea Stakes

The 2016 La Brea Stakes will fall on the day after Christmas and poses some interesting money making opportunities depending on your flavor. This race is for three-year-old fillies and has a lot of talent involved, but the value might be somewhere in the middle. That is, of course, you prefer the outright favorite.

At 4-1-1 in six starts, Lightstream is entering the 2016 La Brea Stakes with a 2/1 number that pegs her as the favorite. Her performance at the Raven Run, where she went from 8th to 1st like a bullet, is more so indicative of where she is now compared to up-and-down outings in previous races this year.

“We’ve tried to space her races and we don’t run her unless she’s doing good, so fortunately enough she’s been pretty consistent all year,” said trainer Brian Lynch. “The ankle chip could have been a blessing. Sometimes it gives them a chance to mature. Sometimes everything happens for a reason.”

“Ultimately tracks vary from coast to coast,” Lynch continued while acknowledging the strength of the field in the 2016 La Brea. “A lot of time speed doesn’t come back, but there’s plenty of speed in the race. A few could get to banging heads and the race could set up for her or could not.”

One of the biggest threats in the field is Enola Gray, one of the top three-year olds at the lower tiers up until recently. Losing out at the Betty Grable Stakes did a lot to put a dent in her otherwise sparkling reputation. She was a heavy 1/9 favorite in that race but will be a more reasonable 9/2 third choice at the 2016 La Brea Stakes. There are those – such as me – who firmly believe that she is a worthy standalone play. With a record of 4-2-0 in six starts, you’re looking at one of the most consistent performers at this race.

Chao Chom, who upset Enola Gray at the Betty Grable, will be an 8/1 longshot alongside Perfect Pic (6/1), Lunar Empress (20/1) and Coniah (15/1).

The more probably entries include second cohie Finley’sluckycharm who is pretty much being excused for her 7th place finish at her last stakes outing. There’s nothing on her resumé to suggest that the W. Bret Calhoun trainee is worth the gamble.

Same goes for Jerry Hollendorfer’s Constellation who was last out placing 4th at the Cicada Stakes. She had previously won the Ruthless Stakes but there’s little in her body of work to say that Constellation is actually a contender at the next level.

The wisest choice is a pairing of Lightstream and Enola Gray, but standalone’s on either to win is a fine strategy at this post-Christmas race.

2016 La Brea Stakes – Monday, December 26th at Santa Anita
7 Furlongs – 3 Year Old Fillies – $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Lunar Empress (KY) Norberto Arroyo, Jr. 119 Richard Baltas 20/1
2 Lightstream (KY) Julien R. Leparoux 121 Brian A. Lynch 2/1
3 Finley’sluckycharm (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 119 W. Bret Calhoun 5/2
4 Constellation (KY) David Romero Flores 119 Jerry Hollendorfer 6/1
5 Coniah (CA) Tyler Baze 119 Carla Gaines 15/1
6 Chao Chom (CA) Kent J. Desormeaux 119 Gary Stute 8/1
7 Enola Gray (CA) Mike E. Smith 119 Philip D’Amato 9/2
8 Perfect Pic (ON) Santiago Gonzalez 119 James M. Cassidy 6/1

Mastery Takes Final Derby Prep of 2016

In the final Kentucky Derby prep race for the calendar year, two-year-old Mastery put himself on the map. It was the third consecutive win in as many starts for the young contender who joins Mor Spirit, Dortmund and Shared Belief as a winner at the Los Alamitos Futurity. The only downside is that he faced a small field of just five total horses.

Those concerns should be wiped away considering that Mastery posted an absurdly fast time at the track. Winning in 1:41.56 puts him in the company of 2008 Los Alamitos Futurity winner Pioneerof the Nile, who would go on to finish second at the Kentucky Derby in 2009. You might know that name since ‘Nile’ sired American Pharoah. So it’s good news regardless of the small field opposing Mastery.

Trainer Bob Baffert was satisfied with the results after seeing Mastery take on two turns for the first time. “You never know how they are going to do going two turns for the first time until they try it,” Baffert said. “Turning for home, he hit a bit of a lull and I didn’t know if he was going to go on or flatten out. Mike said it was a good thing I put blinkers back on him, because he hit the brakes when he made the lead. The last part, he threw it in another gear.”

Of course, Mastery did not have a perfect run and was challenged by Irap in those final moments. There are still some kinks to work out. “I was worried when I saw the fractions, but he looked like he handled it pretty well. He withstood it and kicked on again at the end.”

Mastery paid $2.40 and $2.10 with the win while Irap delivered $9.40 to place. There was no show wagering due to the size of the field.


2016 Hollywood Derby preview

Camelot Kitten Takes On Hollywood Derby

Chad Brown’s Camelot Kitten has been a profitable, under-the-radar bet for horse players all year long. The three-year-old colt has won the American Turf Stakes, Pennine Ridge, National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes and the Hill Prince most recently on a spellbinding tour of the lower tiers. He next takes on the Hollywood Derby and is expected to be the favorite.

Joining him will be stablemates Beach Patrol and Annals of Time who finished second and third at the Hill Prince in August. Both are also trained by Chad Brown and will try to avenge a defeat to Camelot Kitten, who has remained at the top of his game when pointed at the appropriate level.

Crashing the Hollywood Derby party is Revved Up, who is highly rated across the board despite his 5th place finish at the Commonwealth Derby in late September. The Claude McGaughey trainee has also had a flurry of strange results from multiple allowances, going just 2-1-0 in seven other non-stakes starts. Revved Up certainly remains a bit of a dark horse and could be worth a standalone play if you happen to have some misplaced faith in him.

A flurry of hopefuls from the Twilight Derby will also take part in this weekend’s challenge. That group is topped by Frank Conversation, who won the Twilight and was followed by Free Rose and Blackjackcat. Diplodocus came 5th while Path of David came 7th. I would rank Frank Conversation highly, but I also love Free Rose as an upstart in the upcoming Hollywood Derby. The Twilight was the gelding’s first loss at a stakes race.

Defiantly (1st at the Let It Ride), Isotherm (8th at the English Channel) and Hayabusa One (1st Allowance) round out the field.

However, this remains a race for Camelot Kitten to lose. I’m not sure that his compatriots can pace him like they did at the Hill Prince, so my money’s on Free Rose to spoil the race. An exacta on the pair wouldn’t be ill informed. Camelot Kitten has made it a habit to outdo himself against strong competition in general.

2016 Hollywood Derby – Saturday, December 3rd at Del Mar (6:30pm EST)
1 1/8th Miles — 3 Year Olds — $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Beach Patrol (KY) Florent Geroux 122 Chad C. Brown
2 Camelot Kitten (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 122 Chad C. Brown
3 Frank Conversation (KY) Mario Gutierrez 122 Doug F. O’Neill
4 Diplodocus (KY) Kent J. Desormeaux 122 Richard Baltas
5 Free Rose (KY) Norberto Arroyo, Jr. 122 Richard Baltas
6 Isotherm (KY) John R. Velazquez 122 George Weaver
7 Blackjackcat (KY) Mike E. Smith 122 Mark Glatt
8 Hayabusa One (FR) Victor Espinoza 122 H. Graham Motion
9 Revved Up (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 122 Claude R. McGaughey III
10 Defiantly (KY) Gary L. Stevens 122 Craig Dollase
11 Annals of Time (KY) Javier Castellano 122 Chad C. Brown
12 Path of David (KY) Joseph Talamo 122 Kristin Mulhall
2016 Remsen preview

2016 Remsen Headed By Takaful

The 2016 Remsen Stakes is always an intriguing indicator of the Triple Crown. Mohaymen was the big winner last year and used it to propel himself to the front of the class in the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager. That same pool is being released for the first time over the weekend so it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to the results of this big rase. Takaful is expected to be the favorite.

Takaful is coming off a strong performance at a 6 furlong Belmont allowance. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin knows it’s far too early to tell whether or not his juvenile has a shot at doing something incredible next year.

“It’s a big step up from a maiden to a grade II and it’s a big step up from 6 1/2 to a mile and an eighth, but he’s certainly a grade II type,” McLaughlin said. “The distance is a little bit of a concern, but we don’t have a lot of options, so we’re going to give it a go. We’ve missed out on a prep, but we can’t do anything about that, so we’re going to hope for the best.”

Almost the entire field will be making their stakes debuts in this race. The only two that aren’t are No Dozing, who finished 4th at the Breeders’ Futirity, and Sleep Hallow Stakes runner-up Tellmeafookystory.

The 2016 Remsen Stakes is on Saturday, November 28th and offers a point distribution of 10-4-2-1 as part of the derby trail. The Kentucky Jockey Club and the Cattleya Sho (Japan) are another pair of races in that series.

2016 Remsen Stakes – Saturday, November 28th at Aqueduct
1 1/8th Miles – Juveniles – $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Tellmeafookystory (NY) Kendrick Carmouche 116 Todd A. Pletcher
2 Newman (KY) Joel Rosario 116 Thomas Albertrani
3 Hookup (KY) Manuel Franco 116 David A. Cannizzo
4 Takaful (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 116 Kiaran P. McLaughlin
5 Tale of Silence (KY) Jose Lezcano 116 Barclay Tagg
6 Win With Pride (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 116 Todd A. Pletcher
7 You’re to Blame (KY) Javier Castellano 116 Chad C. Brown
8 Mo Town (KY) John R. Velazquez 116 Anthony W. Dutrow
9 No Dozing (KY) Daniel Centeno 116 Arnaud Delacour
10 Lead Astray (KY) Antonio A. Gallardo 116 Claude R. McGaughey III