BREEDERS CUP CLASSIC – 2022
There is the Kentucky Derby and there is the Super Bowl. Think of Breeders Cup races as many Kentucky Derby’s and one mega-Super Bowl all wrapped up in two days of spectacular racing.
The Classic being the Mega-Super Bowl. And this year’s Classic may be one of the great “classic” races of our time.
The race features 4-FLIGHTLINE, arguably one of the best racehorses in history. Not only is he undefeated with 5 easy wins in 5 starts, but the closest any horse has come to beat him was six lengths. He won his last race by 19 lengths and incredibly scored the fourth highest Beyer rating OF ALL TIME! I recently watched a video of his recent workout and was blown away. It was as if a missile was streaking across the track, seemingly effortless. He is a worthy favorite in this race. In fact, FLIGHTLINE would be the favorite in any race he is entered.
But what makes this race so special is the competition. The race features the Bob Baffert trained 1-TAIBA who appears to be in great form off his terrific win in the Pennsylvania Derby; 2-LIFE IS GOOD, the Pletcher trained winner of nine races in eleven starts, earning purses in excess of $4.3 Million; 5-HOT ROD CHARLIE, with earnings of $5.5 Million thanks in part to his wins in last year’s Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby; 6-EPICENTER fresh off his five-length victory in the Travers and who appears to be improving with every race, if that’s even possible; and 8-RICH STRIKE who pulled off one of the great upsets of all time with an unlikely win in the Kentucky Derby last May. The others in the field are no slouches either, all earning purses of more than $1 Million. Just wow!
So, who wins? Well, every handicapper in the world will tell you 4-FLIGHTLINE is unbeatable.
Understanding that dynamic going in, there are two ways to bet this race:
Either play FLIGHTLINE on top of your exotics. Maybe a longshot will match him in an exacta, trifecta, superfecta, or double. Good bet, apparent lock on top with all good choices for selections below.
Take a shot on a horse that somehow, someway can beat the unbeatable horse.
I am playing the latter. Here’s why: First, this is horseracing. No horse, not even the great FLIGHTLINE is truly unbeatable. Too many variables in the race that can upset even the best of horses.
True, 4-FLIGHTLINE is the best horse in the race. Heck, he may be the best horse ever. True, he was purchased at the yearling sale for $1 Million and is sired by the best sire in the nation, Tapit. True, he won his only 1 ¼ mile distance race – the same distance of this race - by 19 lengths with a speed rating reached only by the select elite horses in history. All true.
The one thing FLIGHTLINE has not encountered in his five prior starts is serious, and I mean very serious, competition. He will have his hands filled here, because for the first time he will see the best competition in the world.
So, if that’s my play, I need to carefully find that “other” horse to pull off an unlikely upset. The handicapping question is which of these spectacular horses can beat him?
I say it must be 1-TAIBA. Here is a big, strong horse sired by the champion Gun Runner, sold as a two-year old in training for $1.7 Million. He was inexperienced when he impressively won the Santa Anita Derby, before flubbing in the Kentucky Derby, finishing a disappointing 12th. I suspect there were medical issues which kept him from some of the other pre-Derby prep races and post-Derby Triple Crown races and kept him off track until a good second place finish in the Haskell. Following the Haskell, TAIBA went on the win the very competitive Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths, defeating tough competition in Zandon and Cyberknife, and scoring his best speed rating to date in that race.
1-TAIBA appears fit, getting better with experience, and ready to challenge the previously unchallenged 4-FLIGHLINE.
Here are my bets for the CLASSIC:
EXACTA: 1-TAIBA/4-FLIGHTLINE – STRAIGHT AND BOXED
TRIFECTA: 1/4/6 – STRAIGHT AND BOXED
SUPERFECTA: 1/4/6/2 – STRAIGHT AND BOXED
+ KEY THE 1 WITH 4/6/ALL
LEFTY LOUIE - Super hot handicapper, been nailing them - 4-FLIGHTLINE + EXOTICS
It’s hard to make a case for any horse but Flightline to win this race. But, at 3/5 odds, it will be difficult to have a big payday without working a long shot into an exotic bet. I see Epicenter (5-1) finishing second. The long shots are Happy Saver (30-1), Hot Rod Charlie (15-1) Olympiad (10-1) and Rich Strike (20-1). I am going to make a trifecta bet Flightline first, Epicenter second and the rest of the field third with the hope of a long shot finishing third.
4-6-rest of the field.
Good luck everyone!
BUCKET LIST HANDICAPPING - Selecting horses with the intensity of an engineer - 4-FLIGHTLINE + EXOTICS
It is looking like the lightly run 4–FLIGHTLINE will be tough to beat in the Classic. We like 6–EPICENTER to be finishing close and are picking 3–HAPPY SAVER to hit the board with the Pletcher/Velazquez combination.
We are betting the Trifecta box of 4–FLIGHTLINE, 6–EPICENTER, with the long shot 3-HAPPY SAVER
We like the 2-WAR LIKE GODDESS to win the race with 8-MASTER PIECE and 9-GOLD PHOENIX.
DANNY DIMES - 6-EPICENTER
I think the Classic is a 2-horse race between Flightline and Epicenter. I am using them both in my Pick 3 with Nest - ALL- Flightline and Epicenter. I am looking to score an upset with EPICENTER. Very true that Flighline's fractions are about a second faster on average, but Epicenter has a closing push where he cuts the overall time difference in half. That is something Flightline has not experienced. I am not a huge fan of these really small fields on the West Coast where horses have unchallenged trips and then come east at super-small prices. In the turf, I like HIGHLAND CHIEF at 15-1. While I am at it, I am going to try a Pick 4 with ORDER OF AUSTRALIA in Race 8. You can always count on at least one win on the card from the Aiden O'Brien/Ryan Moore team. Good luck!
AUGUST 27, 2022
LET THE WINNING STREAK CONTINUE!
Nailed the Haskell by picking longshot Cyberknife to win, matched with an Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta. Big bucks.
Picked the Belmont winner, Mo Donegal priced at nice odds.
Had the Exacta in the Preakness with Early Voting and Epicenter.
Won a $7,500 Derby Trifecta, thanks to longshot Rich Strike, boxed with Epicenter and Zandon.
Now, onto the Travers!
This year’s Saratoga summer classic is a terrific race with most of the top three-year olds lined up against each other. It’s Derby winner Rich Strike, verses Preakness winner Early Voting, verses the place horse in both those races, Epicenter. Oh, and don’t forget the winner of the Haskell, Cyberknife or $1.1 Million purse recipient, Zandon, or Chad Brown’s lightly raced, but super-talented, Artorius.
Bottom line, anyone can win this race. But who will?
A couple of handicapping notes to begin the review. First, there is an obvious lack of early speed in this race. That gives an advantage to frontrunner 7-EARLY VOTING, who likes to run on or close to the lead. It also serves as a disadvantage to the closers, such as 2-RICH STRIKE who, without having the talent of the others, needs help to win the race.
LET’S TAKE A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE FIELD:
1-CYBERKNIFE ran a fantastic and exciting race to win the Haskell by a head. Jockey Geroux ran a great race, saving ground down the backstretch, then rocketing past all horses with an impressive final quarter time. The horse also benefitted from a quick pace, but not terribly fast, allowing him to settle into his sweet spot on the backstretch, four lengths off the lead. I presume the same will happen here. The difference here is the higher quality of horses that will be challenging him during that stretch drive. Certainly game, but perhaps not at the level to win, as he did in the Haskell.
2-RICH STRIKE may always be my favorite horse because of his stunning upset win the Derby which allowed me to cash a $7,500 Trifecta ticket. However, no chest pounding here, as I did not consider him a viable player in the Derby field. Thank you, “ALL” ticket boxes. So, while this Derby winner is training well at Saratoga, he will need the conditions to match the Derby to run past these horses down the stretch. That won’t happen here. He may pass tiring horses and find his way into the Exotics.
3-AIN’T LIFE GRAND ships in from Prairie Meadows. Where? Right. He’s a mid-level three-year-old trained by that track’s top trainer. To his credit, he’s won five of eight starts, including four non-graded stakes. He clearly has a history of impressive stretch drives in those victories. This is a major step up for the colt.
4-GILDED AGE is a $600K yearling purchase who decided to pass on the Triple Crown races. The Medaglia d’Oro sired-colt is bred to handle the 1 ¼ distance here and could be a surprise competitor. Interestingly, it took a while for this horse to get going in his career. As a two-year old, he had difficultly breaking his maiden. After he did, he challenged 7-EARLY VOTING in the Grade-3 Withers where he finished a fair third, albeit after going 6-wide throughout. He then shipped to Dubai, then back home. In his last race, he finished second to 5-ARTORIUS, with a super-fast final quarter time, although not nearly good enough to catch the impressive winner that day. May improve off his last race and be part of the Exotics.
5-ARTORIUS is bred and owned by the historic Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky and is trained by super-hot trainer Chad Brown, his first of three entrants in this race. This one is the most lightly raced but may end up being the most talented of the bunch. Only three prior starts, winning two, with improving speed ratings in each race. Similar to 1-CYBERKNIFE, he likes to track the leaders then kick it in gear down the stretch. No prior graded stakes races, so he has not faced competition as he will on this day. How good is he? Well, this race will likely tell. Big jump in class from his non-graded stakes last time out.
6-EPICENTER is a worthy early favorite. However, 7/5 seems a bit generous given the substantial competition here. This horse does nothing wrong. He has won or placed in eight of his nine races. The last being a very competitive Grade-2 Jim Dandy Stakes at this very track. In that race, Epicenter tracked 7-EARLY VOTING, sitting fourth and about two lengths off the lead for most of the race. The pace was relatively slow. Then, like a rocket, this colt shot passed the leaders as if they were standing still, including 8-ZANDON. His final quarter time was off the charts. If this colt runs back to that form, race over.
7-EARLY VOTING is Chad Brown’s second of three entrants, and a good one. This Gun Runner-sired colt is the lone real speed in the race. That is to his advantage as his Hall of Fame jockey Jose Ortiz will smartly set the pace and use that factor to his advantage. A case can be made that this colt may run wire to wire without an early challenge. That is very possible. Remember, he outkicked 6-EPICENTER in the Preakness to win that Triple Crown race.
8-ZANDON was my Kentucky Derby pick who got into early trouble in that race and spent too much energy to make up ground to win the race but finished a decent third. He has since bounced back and ran a competitive race in the aforementioned Jim Dandy, won by 6-EPICENTER. His final quarter time in the Jim Dandy was very fast, just not faster than the turbo-charged winner. On paper, handicappers will assume this race will be a replay of the Jim Dandy, with this Chad Brown trained colt running just behind 7-EARLY VOTING. Based on that scenario, you’d think it would set up for a replay of 6-EPICENTER’s victory. Chad Brown knows that better than anyone. Therefore, I suspect Chad will change it up. I presume he won’t run ZANDON to the lead because that would wipe out the horse for a meaningful stretch drive and take out his stablemate to boot. Therefore, I predict Trainer Chad will hold ZANDON back as he did in the Grade-1 Blue Grass where he started far back and won the race down the stretch. Will be interesting to watch.
HOW THE RACE WILL BE RUN:
We can expect 7-EARLY VOTING to run to the lead. Chad Brown will change it up with 8-ZANDON and not have his stablemate challenge the leader early, giving EARLY VOTING a comfortable lead with little pressure. That impacts 1-CYBERKNIFE who may be compelled to make a move faster than he did in the Haskell. It also helps the inexperienced 5-ARTORIUS who can easily find himself in the second spot at the top of the stretch. 6-EPICENTER will be hard pressed to pass the leader under this race scenario, although he will most likely be in the mix toward the end. 1-CYBERKNIFE and 5-ARTORIUS will push from their tracking positions to take a stab at passing 7-EARLY VOTING. 8-Zandon will by flying down the stretch coming from his new happy place behind the trackers. At the finish line, it will be close between 7-EARLY VOTING and a hard charging 8-ZANDON. I give the slight edge to 7-EARLY VOTING to hold on.
WIN: 7-EARLY VOTING
EXACTA: 7-EARLY VOTING/8-ZANDON
SUPERFECTA: 7 with 8/6/ALL
LEFTY LOUIE: 1-CYBERKNIFE
This year’s race has a star studded field. However, there is not a horse with speed superior to the others. And, each horse has had its ups and downs this year. So, I am going to lean towards the horses that have done well in recent races which narrows my favorites to Epicenter (6) and Cyberknife (1). Epicenter recently ran an outstanding race at the Jim Dandy Stakes as did Cyberknife at The Haskell. Cyberknife has won 4 of his last 5 races. He has the rail position and will have to establish an early aggressive pace to win. Epicenter is the fastest horse who will make a run down the stretch to nose out a victory over Cyberknife. But, I am going to box this exacta as either horse can pull off the victory.
Chad Brown trained, Zandon (8) is always in the money. He and Epicenter are the two most consistent runners in the race. He will definitely finish in the top three with Flavian Prat riding him. The Prat/Brown combination must be taken seriously. I will add Zandon to the mix in a trifecta box with Cyberknife and Epicenter.
Another horse that seems to be hitting his stride is the 20-1 long shot, Ain’t Life Grand (3). His level of competition has been below what he will encounter at Travers Stakes. But, he has won so his last two races with authority and had a great workout last week. I see him finishing fourth and will place a superfecta wager that includes this horse.
Exacta Box 1 -6
Trifecta Box 1-6-8
Superfecta 6-1-8-3 & 1-6-8-3
HOWIE THE HORSE: 6-EPICENTER
The morning line favorite is a fast closing runner with power. Has been a consistent performer easily the class of the race.
EARLY VOTING 6-1
Beat the favorite two races back in the Preakness. Possesses the fastest dirt speed of all the entries in the race.
AINT LIFE GRAND 20-1
Has not raced against the caliber or class of the other entries in the Travers BUT has handled the races impressively. Just posted one of the most amazing 4f workouts at 45.4 seconds. Coming off back to back wins and the last by 7 lengths may be some signs. Remember many a favorite has stumbled at the Spa.
DANNY DIMES: 6-EPICENTER
Many thanks to Jeff Nash for reminding all of us about his wins this year! Love ya, bro! I have had a rough year after nailing Country House a few years ago in the Kentucky Derby at 61-1. It is what it is. I am going with Epicenter in the Travers and he has been the best horse in the field throughout the entire year and will probably win the Breeders Cup Classic too. I admit mistakes and made one last month when I picked Jack Christopher in the Haskell. I should have known there was a problem when the trainer did not run him in the Preakness. To my point on Epicenter, I love the owner/trainer strategy after the Preakness. You always have to ask yourself, "Why are they running this horse in this race/" Checks all of the boxes. Terrible price. But I also like Broome in the previous race and then I am doing an ALL in Race 12 on a Pick 3.. My favorite pick of the day is Swift Tap in Race 6 at 6-1. Love the trend-line. Good luck, kids!
JULY 23, 2022
Fresh off a successful Triple Crown series. Hit the Derby Trifecta Box for a cool $7,500. Picked the winner of the Kentucky Oaks as a bonus. Hit the Preakness Exacta Box, albeit at a financial loss. Then, a nice win in the Belmont Stakes. Let's see if we can keep the streak alive!
New Jersey’s turn to highlight some of the best three-year old thoroughbreds in the world. The day Monmouth Racetrack is filled to the brim. As a Jersey guy, I love that! While the winners of the Triple Crown races passed on running for the NJ crown, and $1 Million purse, the race has attracted a decent field, offering some intrigue.
Bettors here face a tough dilemma. The favorite 2-TAIBA may be one of the strongest horses ever to compete. Sold as a two-year old for a whopping $1.7 Million. Must’ve looked awfully good at the sale. Now, observers stand in awe at his power. LeBron James against a college intramural basketball team, comes to mind. One problem, his health. He was limited to two races prior to the Kentucky Derby where he finished 12th. He has not run since that time, a layoff of almost three months. If TAIBA is as good as he looks, expect a blowout victory.
Then there is the undefeated 7-JACK CHRISTOPHER. 4 for 4 impressive wins, the last race, a Grade-1 victory by ten lengths. One problem, his distance pedigree. His four race wins, while impressive, were all at one turn. This will be the colt’s first attempt at two turns and a much longer distance. Can he do it? His bloodlines suggest no. However, if his obvious talent translates to the distance, watch out!
If you are looking to cash a ticket, irrespective of price, the most likely finish finds 2/7 or 7/2. Most probable, for sure.
But, hey, who wants to make a dime off a dollar? Not I.
So, I look for that outsider with a reasonable chance to pull off an upset. That horse is 1-CYBERKNIFE.
Neither health nor distance will prevent this horse from running his best race on Saturday. Sure, CYBERKNIFE flubbed the Kentucky Derby finishing a poor 18th in a field of 20. But so many good horses do just that given the Calvary charge leaving the gate in Louisville. Look no further than TAIBA’s Derby flub. I discount that race. I prefer to look before and after and find a horse that ran a terrific race in the Arkansas Derby which he won by 2+ lengths. I find a tough, but impressive win his last time out, a Grade-3 race, scoring his highest lifetime speed rating. This horse, sired by the infamous Gun Runner was sold as a yearling for $400K and was bred to easily handle the 1 1/8 mile distance. The connections aren't shabby either. Red hot trainer Brad Cox matches with jockey Florent Geroux. When the two combine, they win 32% of their races.
So, sure, TAIBA is LaBron, trained by the great (cheater) Bob Baffert and JACK CHRISTOPHER is undefeated, trained by super boy Chad Brown. But with external factors at play, namely health and distance, the race goes to 1-CYBERKNIFE. Why? Well, he is owned by Al Gold who lives at the Joisey Shore. Don't mess with a Joisey guy in a Joisey race!
WINNER AND LONGSHOT: 1-CYBERKNIFE.
EXACTA BOX: 1/2. Wheel 1/ALL
TRIFECTA: 1 with 2/ALL and 1 with ALL/2
SUPERFECTA: 1 with 2/7/ALL
BRIAN THE BUGBOY: 2-TAIBA
Here we are at the Jersey Shore’s biggest race of the year, the 55th running of the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. The Million Dollar, mile and an eighth, will be ran over the dirt with none other than a Bob Baffert trained Taiba being set as the morning line favorite at 7/5 over a field of 8. Baffert is in search of his 10th Haskell victory and in my opinion a lock to find it with Taiba. The $1.7 Million dollar purchase for Zedan, out of Gunrunner, looks to make up for a flukey performance in the Kentucky Derby where he ran 12th. With Mike Smith up, Taiba will stalk the early pace and find no problem running down the speed at Monmouth Park. His only real competition is the 3/2 second choice, Jack Christopher, a Chad Brown trainee who has done nothing wrong winning 4 of 4 lifetime, but is going two turns for the first time in his career. If he can get the extra eighth of a mile I do believe he could win, but will he? My only bet for the Haskell will be a hefty ice cold exacta #2 Taiba over #7 Jack Christopher.
DANNY DIMES: 7-JACK CHRISTOPHER
My picks so far in 2022 have been flat out awful. However, if JACK CHRISTOPHER had been entered in any of the Triple Crown races, that would have been my pick. Chad Brown has to figure out if this horse will be entered in the Breeders Cup Classic or the Dirt Mile this fall and he has never done 2 turns, so here we go. That is why I was very surprised he was not entered in the Preakness. I don't understand the strategy, but you never know what an owner wants to do. I am much, much higher on this horse versus Taiba, and because Baffert is the trainer going for his 10th Haskell, expect zero value on that horse at post time. It could push Jack Christopher to 2-1, which is value. CYBERKNIFE, my Derby pick, rebounded with a win since then, but I am finally going along with others that his 97ish speed rating is the ceiling. Probably doesn't work here. The horse that really fascinates me is HOWLING TIME. Looked great last year, had a brutal Spring, and is now getting better with every race. That is a formula that typically works every summer in big races. If he takes the next step, watch out. I am doing a JACK CHRISTOPHER-HOWLING TIME exacta with win bets and other exotics on both. Overall, the only thing that has saved me on Triple Crown days is the undercard, and I had to dig deep here to find value. I like MONTAUK SUMMER in Race 5 at 6-1. Lots of races, but the horse is trending in the right direction with a new trainer and undefeated at Monmouth. And because I don't want to bet the wrong Montauk horse, I am going with MONTAUK DADDY at 10-1 in Race 2. This horse is 2nd in the field via both Last Race Speed and Class Rankings. If you have money in the bank after the Haskell, Good luck and win some money!
LEFTY LOUIE: 2-TAIBA
As much as I hate to see any success for Bob Baffert, Taiba is the horse to beat in this race. The distance of this race plays right into the strength of this horse.
The distance also suits White Abarrio well. He won the Florida Derby which is the same distance as The Haskell.
Jack Christopher is a favorite that cannot be ignored, but has never run this distance.
I think it will be difficult to to get a big payout on exotics as these three horses, together with White Abarrio and Cynerknife have low odds and will likely be in the money.
Benevengo at 20-1 looks to be the long shot with the best chance to place or show.
I see Taiba edging out Jack Christopher in the stretch to win this race. Both are very strong horses, but Taiba has the experience at this distance to win.
I am going to place a decent amount on Tabia to win. But, that bet will not have much of a return. My trifecta will be Tabia-Jack Christopher and the rest of the field third with the hope that a long shot finds a way to show.
2 to win
Trifecta 2-7-the rest of the field.
THE BELMONT – 2022
JEFF NASH WILL BE HANDICAPPING THE BELMONT
TUNE IN TO ESPN RADIO – 97.3 FM
THE LOCKER ROOM WITH BILLY SCHWEIM
SATURDAY, JUNE 11 AT 11 AM
PREAKNESS RECAP: The race results were as expected. EARLY VOTING/EPICENTER finished 1-2. I had the horses correct, but the order wrong and lost out on a better payday. No excuses, but my pick EPICENTER unexpectedly shuffled back early and lost the ability to track EARLY VOTING as had been planned. CREATIVE MINISTER ran a nice third. Regarding that horse, note to self… when a great trainer like Ken McPeek pays a $150K supplement to enter his horse as he did with CREATIVE MINISTER, albeit with little experience, include that horse in your exotics. I lost out on the trifecta too for that reason. Such is handicapping. On to The Belmont!
THE BEMONT: My favorite of the Triple Crown races. Why? Maybe it’s because my dad brought me to this race with his buddies every year, during visitation (in violation of Court Order, I believe); Maybe it’s because the 1 ½ grueling mile race is truly a survival of the fittest; Or maybe it’s because of Secretariat’s 1973 amazing run where he crushed the competition by 32+ lengths and set a track record, a race I have watched one million times. Whatever the reason, THE BELMONT is the best and most exciting race of the year.
AND THE WINNER IS… 6-MO DONEGAL
LET’S REVIEW THE FIELD:
1-WE THE PEOPLE: The least experienced horse in the bunch, but perhaps the most talented. Sounds like Early Voting before his Preakness victory, no? So, while experience is important, talent rules. And this colt is talented. In his last race, the Grade-3 Peter Pan, WE THE PEOPLE went wire to wire, defeating GOLDEN GLIDER by ten lengths. That race was run at Belmont Racetrack. That suggests he likes the track surface. However, the surface was sealed that day, favoring front runners such as this colt. Still, it was an impressive victory for this horse sired by Constitution and purchased as a two-year old in training for $230K. So, what more can be said in favor of a well-bred horse, with the pedigree to run a long distance, who apparently enjoys the Belmont track? The key to this race will be the early pace. WE THE PEOPLE is the presumptive early leader. How fast he runs depends on who and how other horses challenge him down the backstretch. The more energy exerted running early will deplete his tank down the stretch. That is when MO DONEGAL and RICH STRIKE will be looming. WE THE PEOPLE may hold on for victory if the pace is not challenging. MO DONEGAL passes him down the stretch if it is.
2-SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING: My flubbed longshot selection in the Preakness. Oops. But as I plead my case, I blame that flub on SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING’s Preakness jockey. He ran the horse way too damn fast during the early going. That was me screaming at my television telling the jockey to sit back further than he did. Well, apparently, I am not the only one who recognized that mistake. The jockey has been replaced by NY-based Manny Franco. Will the change of jockey and an expected slower pace make a difference? Maybe. If it does, that will certainly help this horse be more competitive as he sits mid-pack. My concern here though is the distance. Not great pedigree to run 1 ½ miles. For that reason, I am laying off this horse as a longshot special in The Belmont.
3-NEST: The lone filly in the field, trained by Todd Pletcher. She will try to do what the Pletcher-trained filly Rags to Riches did in 2007, win the Belmont. She is good, finishing second to Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks. However, she is not as good as Rags to Riches was in 2007 and does not sport the eye-popping record against the fillies prompting some hope that she can beat the boys. The one positive for this filly is that she is bred to run forever. Her sire, Curlin, finished second in the 2007 Belmont to, ironically, Rags to Riches. Her broodmare sire, AP Indy, won the Belmont some 30 years ago in the third fastest time ever. Plus, never discount a Pletcher horse in The Belmont, a race he has won three times. Add NY-based jockey Jose Ortiz and this filly should be competitive.
4-RICH STRIKE: The unlikely… no, the impossible, winner of the Kentucky Derby. Hurts to even type those words because it defies all handicapping logic. I have replayed the Derby many times, and still do not believe it. But it did happen, and the amazing Derby run must be considered when handicapping this race. When discussing MO DONEGAL I reference a bounce. Meaning that the horse runs above ability in one race and bounces back to true form in the next. I would apply that bounce theory to RICH STRIKE. Still, the horse has the pedigree to run the long 1 ½ mile distance and has shown the ability to kick it in gear down the stretch, although nothing compares to his improbable stretch drive in The Derby. Thus, while the bounce may be coming, we can assume that RICH STRIKE will be passing tiring horse down the stretch and find his way into the money at the end of the day. Just can’t predict that he will repeat what he did in Louisville.
5-CREATIVE MINISTER: So, now we know this horse is good. With only three prior starts and with no prior stake races under his belt, this colt finishes a strong third in the G-1 Preakness. Now we know why trainer McPeek paid the 150K supplement to enter that race which appeared to be over his head. Can we say a collective… DUH! The Belmont, however, presents a new challenge. The race is run at a significantly longer in distance and it’s more complicated in terms of running strategy. In each of this colt’s four prior races, the early pace was very fast. CREATIVE MINISTER’s running style is to sit back 3-4 lengths behind the quick-running leaders and then attack down the stretch as those in front run out of steam. He did that in the Preakness, although he was not good enough to catch the two leaders. Here, the pace will not be blistering fast. How can it be at 1 ½ miles? It will be interesting to see how trainer McPeek, jockey Hernandez, and the horse handle that difference. Well, the pedigree says the horse can handle the distance. The key question is whether the horse can handle the slower pace against some strong horses in front with gas to burn. Certainly, consider for all exotics. If he improves in his fifth race, he could be in the winner's circle.
6-MO DONEGAL: This Pletcher-trained $250K yearling purchase is poised to run a big race. Sired by Uncle Mo, with pedigree on both sides to handle this distance. MO DONEGAL won the Grade-1 Wood Memorial in spectacular fashion, earning the highest speed rating of any horse in this field. In the Derby which followed, I thought this colt would bounce off that terrific victory and run back to his form in prior races, which was very good, but not great. I was wrong. He ran a terrific race in the Derby. After getting shuffled back to 19th at the start of the race, MO found his way to a 5th place finish, only 3+ lengths behind the winner, RICH STRIKE. Arguably, MO would have finished in the money had he not run into early Derby traffic. Now, after passing on the Preakness in favor of running fresh in The Belmont, MO is primed to win. He may be a co-favorite, but given the competitive nature of this race, we should see good prices worthy of a picking this horse to win and laying him on top of your exotics.
7-GOLDEN GLIDER: A newcomer to the Triple Crown series, and a very interesting addition. A $395K weaning purchase from sire Ghostzapper. This colt has been on the improve in his four past graded stake starts. The concern with this horse is that he has not beaten the big boys in those races. In fact, he finished second to WE THE PEOPLE in the Grade-3 Peter Pan, losing by a hefty ten lengths. In that race, WE THE PEOPLE ran to the lead and was not challenged throughout setting very slow fractions. In turn, WE THE PEOPLE was able to motor on home leaving everyone, including GOLDEN GLIDER, in the dust. This race will be run differently. Most significantly, the track conditions for the Peter Pan will be different on Belmont day. On the day of the Peter Pan victory, the track was sealed giving advantage to front runners, such as the winner. This time, with the track presumably not sealed, we are not expecting a blistering pace, but certainly faster than the Peter Pan, perhaps giving this horse and others an opportunity to catch WE THE PEOPLE. GOLDEN GLIDER could be a beneficiary with NY-based jockey Dylan Davis on board. An interesting watch.
8-BARBER ROAD: A lunch pail horse that allows us mid-level racehorse owners an opportunity to dream. This grey colt was purchased as a weaning for $15K. In turn, he has earned purses in excess of $650K. Nice ROI! BARBER ROAD was a 60-1 longshot in the Derby and finished a respectable 6th, exceeding his past best speed ratings in his nine-race career. There are two issues that negatively impact this horse in this race. First, he is not bred to handle a 1 ½ mile distance. His sire’s progeny has an average winning distance of only 6.6 furlongs. Second, the horse has not shown the next level of talent needed to beat these top-tier horses. I will include this horse in my “ALL” exotic bets because he has shown the ability to slip into the money. However, he will not be considered for my primary win/place finishers.
HOW THE RACE WILL BE RUN:
There is a lone front-runner, 1-WE THE PEOPLE. That is good news for the winner of the Peter Pan. However, there are seven other all-star trainers who know that they can not let WE THE PEOPLE coast wire-to-wire. The one trainer who knows that best is Ken McPeek, for 5-CREATIVE MINISTER. I suspect McPeek believes his inexperienced, but talented, horse can track and push the front runner and have enough in the tank to pass him down the stretch. Todd Pletcher’s filly 3-NEST will be pushing too. She has no other option. Both horses will bet that WE THE PEOPLE is not ready for prime time and will falter late in a 1 ½ mile marathon. I believe that will happen too. The one caveat to that prediction is the weather. The track has not been sealed for a Belmont Stakes in over ten years. The weather on Saturday calls for rain, but not enough to seal the track. A sealed track, and off-track conditions benefit WE THE PEOPLE. So be aware...
With WE THE PEOPLE struggling to get to that finish line, CREATIVE MINISTER pushes past. NEST will run out of steam. But here comes Todd Pletcher’s 6-MO DONEGAL.
6-MO DONEGAL wins the race, followed by 5-CREATIVE MINISTER, 1-WE THE PEOPLE, and 4-RICH STRIKE who passes tiring horses.
WIN: 6-MO DONEGAL
EXACTA: 6/5 BOX. 6/ALL
TRIFECTA: 6/5/3 BOX. KEY 6 with 5/ALL
SUPERFECTA: 6/5/3/1 BOX. KEY 6 with 5/3/ALL
LONGSHOT: 7-GOLDEN GLIDER (20-1)
Big Preakness victory for Lefty Louie who hit on all bets: Win, Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta. No “Lou”-zing there. And we’ve added a new celeb, CHUCK! Although not published for the Preakness, Chuck hit on winners in the Preakness. Publishing his expert analysis for the Belmont.
CHUCK: WE THE PEOPLE
Well, it’s my first foray into the official handicapping game. Lots of pressure.
My philosophy is to select horses, not to tell you how to wager, as those decisions are a game day determination based upon weather, track conditions, warmup, odds, etc.
Let me start by telling you what high quality horses I do not think will be in the money this year.
First, while a quality horse, the filly Nest (PP7) does not seem to measure up with the boys and will have a difficult time competing over the 1½ mile distance. I’m sure if she proves me wrong, the Phillies in my house will forever remind me.
Next, Rich Strike (PP8), while hitting the one in a million shot at the Kentucky Derby, will not be as lucky this time, as the rest of the field will not let him steal the race this time. As much as it would be good for the sport, lightning in this case will not strike twice. Sorry.
That brings us to the three contenders: namely, Creative Minister, Mo Donegal, and We The People.
Creative Minister is a lightly raced colt, most recently finishing third in the Preakness. He comes into this race with a short break and has yet to display the breakout qualities that I think he will need to put him in the winner’s circle.
Next is Mo Donegal, sired by the great Uncle Mo. He had an exceptional outing at the Wood Memorial and, like the rest of the field, was apparently mishandled and outsmarted by Rich Strike in the Kentucky Derby, coming in fifth place. I expect Mo Donegal to be right there at the end of the day.
Finally, We The People. This lightly raced colt is from the great sire Constitution. He is well rested and blew away the field in the Peter Pan Stakes, albeit against lesser quality. He is used to the Belmont track and has a great jockey up in Falvien Prat.
I would be looking at We The People, Mo Donegal and Creative Minister in your exotic wagers, with We The People ending up in the winner’s circle.
P.S.: I also like the name as we head to Independence Day.
Enjoy your Manhattans!
HOWIE THE HORSE: WE THE PEOPLE
WE THE PEOPLE:
Firmly believe in horses for courses! Couldn’t have a better reason than the impressive 10 length romp wire to wire in the Peter Pan Stakes. We The People is the ONLY speed in this race and thus should be able to sprint from the gate and relax on the lead. Without a speed duel up front it will make it difficult for the closers in the race.
Coming off a tremendous upset in the Kentucky Derby at 80-1 he is a horse to respect. Unfortunately, the lack of pace will hamper his closing style. Fresh off the Derby win he has been training exceptionally well. A bullet 5f 59.0 shows he will be fit and dangerous on Saturday. The mile and a half should be no problem.
Ran a big race in the Wood Memorial and will be a factor if he runs back to that form.
BRIAN THE BUG BOY: WE THE PEOPLE
2022 Belmont Stakes, 8 head to the gate in New York with the Kentucky Derby winner, Rich Strike, returning to action after sitting out of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. This race looks like it will set up much different than did the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Derby pace was uncharacteristically fast with the 1/2 going in :45.3, helping closers out tremendously.
After looking at the pace setup in the Belmont Stakes there is no true speed and whoever finds themselves on the lead, has the opportunity to control the race. My pick for the Belmont Stakes is #1 We The People, Flavien Prat up for Rodolphe Brisset, has been made the morning line favorite at 2-1.
In my opinion, the only horse in the field that has shown any early speed, comes into the Belmont Stakes for his fifth career start after an impressive 10 length score in the Grade 3 Peter Pan. Prat should have no problem getting We The People to lead and setting soft fractions to win the Belmont Stakes in a wire to wire fashion.
I will play #1 We The People to win and box him in an exacta with #3 Nest and #5 Creative Minister.
Good Luck to all!
LEFTY LOUIE: MO DONEGAL
So, the big question, is Rich Strike for real? I think the answer to that question is yes. He had such a good race in the Derby against some very good horses that there can be no denying the horse’s capability’s. BUT, this race will Mo Donegal’s. His pedigree and his speed will prevail against the competition in this race. In addition, he is well rested. I think Mo Donegal and Rich Strike will be neck to neck going into the stretch with Mo Donegal pulling away heading across the finish line.
Third place is wide open in this field. I think both Creative Minister and We The People will be in the running to show.
WIN: 6 Mo Donegal
EXACTA: 6/4 Box and 6/all
SUPERFECTA; 6/4/1/5 Box
DANNY DIMES: BARBER ROAD
My pick is BARBER ROAD. If you look carefully at the overhead from the Kentucky Derby where everyone was focused on what Rich Strike did, you will notice that this horse was right behind him but did not get the same break to split horses and go up the rail, was forced 11-wide, and still finished 6th while gaining ground. I am betting against the breeding. Based on what I have watched with my own eyes since the Arkansas Derby, I think Barber Road has needed more distance and a better trip. He will likely get both here. I love the jockey switch to Rosario, who has continually delivered Belmont winners at great prices. I'm not exactly sure what to do with NEST, but I am including this filly somewhere because I never count out Todd Pletcher in any New York race. I personally think this horse (whose ride I hated in the Oaks) also needs more distance, and she will get it here. One final note. I think this year's field is weak and if Ethereal Road was entered, that would have been my pick. Good luck!
BUCKET LIST: MO DONEGAL
We are going with MO DONEGAL for the win. He got off a bit slow in the Derby and should be closing at the end. We like the short field and he likes Belmont Park. It is hard not to like Derby winner RICH STRIKE who will like the added distance. We round out our top three with BARBER ROAD who gets a jockey change and removes the blinkers.
Good luck to all...
PREAKNESS – 2022
JEFF NASH LIVE - HANDICAPS THE PREAKNESS
Tune in to the Museum of Sports radio- WWDB 860 AM
T THURSDAY, MAY 19 at 4:20 PM
Tune in to ESPN radio - The Locker Room with Billy Schweim - 97.3 FM SATURDAY, MAY 21 AT 11:30 AM
Before I move on to the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown series, I thought it important to recap what happened at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. First the good news… if you followed my pick on the Kentucky Oaks and bet SECRED OATH you won. Congratulations. Second, if you followed my advice and boxed “ALL” with Epicenter and Zandon, you won the trifecta, as I did. Congratulations. A 50-cent trifecta box with “ALL” paid $7,500.
With all that good news in hand, the bad news for Kentucky Derby handicappers is that Rich Strike’s unbelievable 80-1 victory proves once again… it is impossible to handicap the Kentucky Derby. As I stated in my Derby analysis, you are better off selecting the horse corresponding to your favorite name, number, silk design or color. But do not spend hours analyzing a race that defies traditional analysis.
On paper, there is NO way Rich Strike should have won the Kentucky Derby. Given his past race history, or even pedigree, NO way Rich Strike, ridden by jockey Sonny Leon (who, btw, never won a graded stakes race), could start the race from the furthest post position, leave the gate well behind most other horses, carve through a field of the best three-year olds in the world, and then zip past two significantly “better” horses dueling down the stretch. NO way. I have watched the race replay 1,000 times and still do not believe it.
Still, I hit the trifecta and readily cashed my $7,500 ticket. So, on to the Preakness, and a manageable field of nine, where traditional handicapping is a reality.
And the winner is… 8-EPICENTER.
No need for suspense or drama. EPICENTER is simply the best horse in the field. None of the other competitors should be able to beat him. He will be the heavy (and worthy) favorite.
Thus, there are three options for bettors: First, you could bet the favorite, and most likely score a win, with little return; Second, you could play the favorite to win and key him on top with others in exotic bets such as the Trifecta or Superfecta which is what I plan to do; or Third, you can take a chance on a longshot to upset the favorite ‘cause, as we saw in the Derby, anything is possible. Unlikely here, but possible.
Let’s look at the field:
1 – SIMPLIFICATION: He ran a nice race in the Kentucky Derby, saving ground for most of the race, then closing to finish an impressive fourth behind winner, Rich Strike. He is always competitive, having finished third in the Grade 1 - Florida Derby and second in the Grade 3 – Holy Bull Stakes against some good horses. A rider change to John Velasquez is viewed positively. He is expected to be competitive here once again. However, there is no compelling reason to select this horse to beat the favorite 8-EPICENTER, to whom he finished three lengths behind in the Derby. He would have to improve his game from his prior races. Tough to do with only a two-week rest between starts.
2-CREATIVE MINISTER: This is the horse in the field with the least amount of experience, and perhaps the biggest upside. In big Grade 1 races – with 100,000+ people in attendance to watch (and scream), it is a tough challenge for even the toughest and most experienced of horses. In his three prior races, this grey colt won twice, the last being a basic allowance race, albeit with a fast speed rating. Trainer Ken McPeek is one of the best and he has other horses in the barn who can enter this race. I raise an eyebrow because he picked this lightly raced horse to start showing great confidence. Just a gut sense that this colt will run a competitive race here.
3-FENWICK: So, this is the “Rich Strike” entry in the Preakness. On paper, the horse does not belong in this race. In his last race, the Grade 1 – Blue Grass Stakes, he finished dead last, behind winner Zandon by 36 lengths. His only win was a maiden victory in March. And that was after four attempts to break his maiden. If this horse wins, I am ripping up my handicap sheets and selecting my favorite number to win the Belmont.
4-SECRET OATH: Here is the intrigue. A talented filly enters the race. She won the prestigious Grade 1 – Kentucky Oaks (the Kentucky Derby for fillies) and now enters against the boys. Her prior run against the colts was in the Grade 1 – Arkansas Derby where she finished third. I want to point out that fillies can beat the colts. We saw that with Rachel Alexander and others. So, not impossible. We can certainly expert her to be competitive in the race. Just that based upon her race record and speed ratings, I do not see this filly defeating the best colts. But not impossible.
5-EARLY VOTING: Another lightly raced colt. Three prior races with two wins and one second place finish. In the Grade 1 – Wood Memorial, this horse lost by a neck with a super-fast speed rating. While experience matters, as described above, this horse is clearly very talented with the expectation that he will only get better. Trainer Chad Brown decided not to run this horse in the Derby in favor of this race. He has early speed, and we can expect him to run to the lead with the hope of winning the race wire-to-wire. If he runs to the form he displayed in the Wood Memorial, he may just do that, being well rested compared to 8-EPICENTER. I note that jockey Jose Ortiz decided to stick with this horse rather than ride 1-SIMPLIFICATION who he rode in the Derby. There is a balance here. Does an inexperienced, talented, fresh horse hold on to beat the experienced, talented, and recently exhausted favorite? Your call. A bit of deja vu, circa 2017, when trainer Chad Brown skipped the Derby with his lightly raced Cloud Computing in favor of winning the Preakness.
6-HAPPY JACK: I will file this under… while you’re on the east coast and eligible, why not give it a shot. Trainer Doug O’Neill had this colt shipped from California to Kentucky to run for the roses. He did and finished an uncompetitive 14th. So, rather than take the red eye back to California, the ownership decided to run two weeks later in the Preakness. No real logic to that other than the horse has finished in the money in the Grade 2 – San Felipe Stakes and Grade 1 – Santa Anita Derby. Not expecting anything more here. Still, finishing in the money here results in a nice purse check for the ownership. Why not?
7 – ARMAGNAC: Trainer Bob Baffert is banned from running his horses here. But that doesn’t mean his horses cannot compete with stand-in trainer, Tim Yakteen. That is the situation here. This horse was a $210K yearling purchase that has run with modest success in California. His best finish was fourth in the Grade 1 – Santa Anita Derby, although there were only six horses running in that race. His last race was impressive, an allowance race in which the colt won wire-to-wire. Another who is seeking some back-end purse money, but who does not look competitive with the top horses in the field.
8-EPICENTER: The winner of the Kentucky Derby. Oh wait, who is that passing him at the wire? Yep, hard to believe. Anyway, but for an improbable 80-1 shot, this fabulous colt would be (should be) vying for a triple crown. EPICENTER was a $260K yearling purchase who has won four of his seven lifetime starts, earning $1.6 Million. His Derby race was terrific, albeit behind the winner. Most impressive was how he fought off Zandon in that race; a horse that I thought was more talented on Derby Day. So, here EPICENTER returns to the track, sharp and ready to run. My only concern… and I may be just a bit too critical… is that on occasion his early fractions do not leave enough gas in the tank for that crucial closing quarter. If he chases 5-EARLY VOTING and 7-ARMAGNAC, he may not have the gas to pass them down the stretch. Only two weeks from his last race AND trainer Steve Asmussen gave him a workout this week, which I found strange. Who am I to question Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen? Having expressed that concern, I do think he is THE BEST horse in the race. And for that reason, I am confident that he will find himself in the winner’s circle.
9-SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING: Best name of a horse in the race. Not the fastest, but great name, for whatever that’s worth. Another longshot who has two wins in nine starts to his credit. He is clearly on the improve, with a good allowance victory and solid third in the Grade 1- Wood Memorial, three lengths behind 5-EARLY VOTING. Given his current form, he can find himself in the money. But that improve will need to be significant for him to defeat either 8-EPICENTER, 5-EARLY VOTING, or others. He had a nice workout at the Pimlico track, so he may match that improvement with a good feel for this track surface. Thus, he is my longshot to watch.
HOW THE RACE WILL BE RUN:
The Preakness is a 1 3/16-mile distance race, expected over a fast track. The 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby and 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes are longer races. Still the distance is a meaningful factor here.
We can expect front runners 7-ARMAGNAC and 5-EARLY VOTING to vie for the early lead. They may be joined by 3-FENWICK.
Sitting behind them down the backstretch will be 1-SIMPLIFICATION, 8-EPICENTER, and 9-SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING. The others will save ground.
The key to the finish is the speed in which the leaders have others follow. I suspect 5-EARLY VOTING will do what it takes to maintain that lead heading into the final turn and stretch. Another factor is how 2-CREATIVE MINISTER handles the pressure from tough competition. If SKIPPY continues to improve, he may not falter.
If the race runs to form, 8-EPICENTER will overtake the leaders as they head for home. 5-EARLY VOTING holds on and finishes 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. Any of the others can also finish in the money. 1-SIMPLIFICATION always finishes well; 2-CREATIVE MINISTER is getting better and fresh; 4-SECRET OATH is the best filly in the nation and should run a good race; and 9-SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING could squeeze himself in for a share in the exotics.
EXACTA: 8/ALL and Box 8/5
TRIFECTA: Box 8/5/9 and Key 8 with 5/9/ALL
SUPERFECTA: Box 8/5/9/1 and Key 8 with 5/9/ALL
LEFTY LOUIE: 5-EARLY VOTING
Jose Ortiz has decided to ride Early Voting instead of Simplification. Early Voting skipped the Derby and has been training to win the Preakness. He is a very fast horse as evidenced by his performance in the Wood Memorial. Early Voting is going to win this race.
Epicenter and Secret Oath will fight it out for second and third. All three horses will be very close at the finish and are an obvious boxed trifecta bet. The problem is the bet will not win a lot of $ because they will be the three favorites.
I will be looking to score in a superfecta with long shot Skippylongstocking finishing 4th. He finished third in the Wood Memorial and is the son of Exaggerator who won the 2016 Preakness.
My selections are 5-Early Voting to win. Exacta Box 5/all. Trifecta box 4/5/8. Superfecta Box 4/5/8/9, key 5 with 4/8/all.
DANNY DIMES: SIMPLIFICATION
Where Danny was right and where Danny was wrong on the Derby/Oaks. Secret Oath in the Oaks was the easiest money I ever made in a major race at 4-1. Should have been 2-1 or lower. Gift. So Right. Completely whiffed on Cyberknife. My fault, although Andy Serling at the NYRA should do a mea culpa too. lol! So Wrong. Not betting a 10-ALL Double in Race 11 and then the Derby was $1,350 of potential money I will never see. Per Jeff Nash, I have learned my lesson going forward. But trying to find value in the race before and after the Derby/Preakness/Belmont is a strategy I have used with much overall success. Nailed a 6-1 in Race 11 and cashed on the Double with the race before that. Don't ignore the undercard. So Right and Wrong. Btw, the winner, Rich Strike, is the son of Keen Ice, who I nailed years ago at the Belmont Stakes at 26-1. If I had seen that on Saturday as a late entry, I would have played him in some capacity. So Wrong on last-minute time-management!
That leads me to the Preakness. EPICENTER should rightfully be the favorite, and he will be in my bets. I am going with one of my Derby picks, SIMPLIFICATION. I thought this horse was boom or bust, but he showed me something in the Derby (going from 15th to 4th) that I did not expect during a really wide trip. If you adjust the speed ratings for final speed for distance traveled, Simplification had the second-highest raw speed in the race (54.9 feet per second), behind only Rich Strike. If Brisnet adjusted its speed figure for distance traveled, Simplification would probably have earned at least what Epicenter did, if not a little higher. Love the jockey switch to Johnny V. Incredible value at 6-1. Epicenter had the perfect trip in the Derby. And lost. Just sayin'. .
In my undercard, I am going with Time Limit at 6-1 in Race 7. Great value with Irad Ortiz on the mount.
HOWIE THE HORSE: SECRET OATH
Filly ran monster race winning the Oaks by 2 lengths easily running wide the entire race. That performance was coming off a 3rd place finish against the boys in the Arkansas Derby where she had trouble at the gate. Secret Oath was the betting favorite in the Arkansas Derby. Tactical speed will allow her to become the latest filly to wear the Black Eyed Susans.
Will be the clear betting choice deservedly so after the strong 2nd place effort in the Derby. Looked very much like the winner deep in the stretch run in that contest only to be upset by Rich Strike. Posses the class and credentials to contend for a win here
Has shown flashes of things to come. Lost the Wood Memorial by a neck in a strong effort. Early Voting has shown some eye popping workouts this year indicating the speed is there. A best effort could get it done today.