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.
KENTUCKY DERBY – 2022
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THE LOCKER ROOM WITH BILLY SCHWEIM
SATURDAY, MAY 7TH AT 11:30 am
My favorite time of year. First Saturday in May. The Kentucky Derby to be run before a capacity crowd at Churchill Downs, just like old times. I am so excited!
This year the field of the twenty best three-year-old thoroughbreds did not disappoint. A wide-open race with no clear favorite. Makes handicapping the race so much more fun… and difficult. There is some rain in the forecast on race day, so watch for that important track condition variable which may impact race strategy for some in the field.
The good news about handicapping and betting this year’s Derby is that the winning payout, irrespective of who the winner may be, will be very good, if not very lucrative. No clear-cut favorite to dominate the field and lower the proceeds of a winning ticket. I suspect the favorite will be at odds no less than 5/2 or 3/1.
Now, to find the Derby winner is difficult on a good day given the Calvary charge of 20 inexperienced horses. In a wide-open field like this, it is almost impossible. In other words, any horse can win. Best to select your favorite name, number, or silks design rather than spend hours analyzing this race, as I have done.
No matter what horse you settle on to win or key in your exotic bets, be sure to include an “ALL” bet because anyone in the field can finish in the money.
Having fairly warned you, here is my synopsis of the field and selections:
1-MO DONEGAL: Right off the bat, we find one of the top contenders. A beautiful, strong colt, and one of three in the field trained by Hall of Famer and two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher. This one may be Pletcher’s best. A $250K yearling purchase sired by the great Uncle Mo, with a pedigree to run the lengthy Derby one and quarter mile distance. Most impressive was this colt’s last race, the Grade 1 Wood Memorial which he won by a neck, with a brilliant speed rating. He likes to run off the quick pace and charge forward down the stretch. His lone downside is his inside post position. That may not be a significant factor if his outstanding and experienced jockey Irad Ortiz can rate him early, then make a stretch run. His final quarter time in the Wood Memorial was the fastest I have ever seen. Watch this horse to close fast.
2-HAPPY JACK: At long odds here, this colt was based in California and has comparatively little to boast. His lone victory came in his first and maiden race. Since then, he has two third place finishes to his credit. In his last race, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, he finished third, in six-horse field, twelve lengths behind 12-TAIBA and 6-MESSIER. Given that history, looks like this horse does not measure up against the others.
3-EPICENTER: Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s lone entry and it’s a good one. Could trainer Asmussen finally win the Kentucky Derby? Maybe. This horse is primed to run a big race as he has continued to improve in each of his six prior starts. After a dismal first race last September, EPICENTER has won four races and finished second, with improving speed ratings along the way. In fact, in February, he beat the Derby favorite 10-Zandon by 3+ lengths. This horse likes to run in front, and without a lot of competition for the early lead, I can envision a wire-to-wire run/victory for this colt, similar to Medina Spirit’s winning race last year… and without an illegal substance to help (sorry, could not resist).
4-SUMMER IS TOMORROW: This colt ships in from Dubai where he ran seven races, finishing in the money in five. It is very hard to gauge how a horse will fare after a long trip. In fact, no foreign invader has ever won the Derby. However, since landing in the US, the colt has been training at Churchill Downs and, according to reports, looks great. His Dubai jockey has made the trip too, so the ownership has invested a lot to be here. Interesting outsider.
5-SMILE HAPPY: Another horse that is improving with each race. Four prior starts, with two wins and two second place finishes. His last race, the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, was his best, although he did finish behind Derby favorite 10-ZANDON. I note that he finished in front of 10-ZANDON in the race prior. What I especially like about this horse is that he ran a terrific race on the Churchill Downs course last November, in a competitive Grade 2 stakes race, and won that race handily. The colt likes to run from behind and could be fighting to the end.
6-MESSIER: So, trainer Bob Baffert is excluded from the Derby because he cheated the year before, with later disqualified winner, Medina Spirit. That doesn’t mean Baffert’s horses cannot compete in the 2022 Derby. This year’s “Baffert” entry is this $475K yearling purchase. Now “trained” by Tim Yakteen, successful in his own right, MESSIER has finished first or second in each of his six prior starts. With champion jockey John Velasquez taking the reins here, the colt is clearly worthy of being one of the favorites in this race. His speed ratings are consistently stellar, especially in his last three starts. What's most intriguing is that while the horse likes to run in front of the pack, he also is very comfortable sitting behind the leader, stalk, then pounce at the wire. Perhaps his only blemish concerns his last start in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. In that small field of six, he stalked the leader as expected, then passed by the leader at the top of the stretch, only to be caught and run over by 12-TAIBA. He finished second to TAIBA by 2+ lengths. Question in that race is whether he moved too early or simply beaten by a better horse? If anyone can properly rate this horse this time around, it is his jockey Velasquez.
7-CROWN PRIDE: From Japan, then Dubai, this horse wins the frequent miles award. However, he didn’t need those miles to pay for his flight to Kentucky because he is fresh off a stunning victory in a $1 Million Dubai race in which he beat 4-SUMMER IS TOMORROW by 2+ lengths. That race was back in March. Since that time, this colt has been training well at Churchill Downs, so I suspect no remnants of jet lag. The owner/trainer connections are from Japan and, as previously stated, no foreigner has won this race to date. Given how well he is training though, it would not be impossible here.
8-CHARGE IT: A lightly raced colt, trained by Todd Pletcher. His entire three-race career consists of two maiden races, then a big second place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. He finished second to 15-WHITE ABARRIO that day with modest speed ratings for both. However, it is noted that in that Florida Derby race, CHARGE IT showed his inexperience by running green. That race may have offered the experience and set the table for a bigger and better Derby challenge. And despite the lack of a convincing record, I am intrigued by this colt’s outstanding pedigree. Sire Tapit is one of the best, with a long list of offspring that have done well in this long-distance Derby race. Add the great jockey Luis Saez who has something to prove after last year's poor ride in the Derby on favorite Essential Quality, and you have a live longshot horse that should not be discounted.
9-TIZ THE BOMB: An expensive yearling purchase at $330K where the average sale price from horses sold from his sire is only $43K. So, something must have really impressed at the yearling sale in 2020. This horse has not disappointed. He has run eight times, winning five, and earning purses totaling $1 Million +. However, a deep dive into his record shows that most of his success was not on a dirt surface as we find at Churchill Downs. Rather, his success comes on a grass or synthetic track. In his one 2022 start on the dirt surface, he finished a distant 7th in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes, well behind 15-WHITE ABARRIO, 13-SIMPLIFICATION, and 1-MO DONEGAL. Still, this colt has potential given his impressive performance in his last race – albeit on a synthetic track surface – a Grade 3 stakes race where he rallied from behind to win.
10-ZANDON: Here is the soft early Derby favorite. A lightly raced colt trained by the successful Chad Brown. He is worthy of his favorite status given his improvement over his four-race career. His last race, the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, was nothing short of spectacular. Having lost to the likes of 3-EPICENTER, 5-SMILE HAPPY, AND 1-MO DONEGAL in prior starts, this colt walloped a very tough field in his fourth career race. Like a champion, the colt was dead last rounding the final turn, then cut through the eleven-horse field like a knife through butter. He rocketed down the stretch with an outstanding final quarter time, winning the race by 2+ lengths. Just wow! The colt has been training well in Kentucky since that race and appears poised to run a big race on Derby Day.
11-PIONEER OF MEDINA: Trainer Pletcher’s second of three entrants with NJ-based jockey Joe Bravo on board. This horse has a relatively modest record with two wins in six starts, and no stakes victories to his credit. Still, the colt has improved in each of his past four starts. He has run against several of the Derby entrants and has not beaten them, most recently finishing third to 3-EPICENTER and 19-ZOZOS in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. Needless to say, this horse will need to up his game if he is to win the Derby.
12-TAIBA: This powerful colt presents a handicapping dilemma. He was sold at a two-year old in training auction for $1.7 Million. Obviously, there was great buzz about this well-bred horse at the sale. He skips his two-year-old season and begins his career on a California track where he promptly crushes the maiden field by 7+ lengths. He then jumps way up in class to the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby where he squares off against one of the nation’s best, 6-MESSIER. With California’s best jockey and two-time Derby winner Mike Smith in the saddle, TAIBA follows the two leaders around the oval. Then, as MESSIER made his move, so did TAIBA and he flew past the two other horses as if they were standing still. His speed rating that day matches the highest of any other horse in this race. Just an awesome performance by a very expensive horse with only one race under his belt. So, here is the dilemma… no horse in the history of the Kentucky Derby has ever won the race with the inexperience of having run only two prior races. Yet, if this horse improves off that fabulous effort in the Santa Anita Stakes, he may win the Derby and any race he runs thereafter. His owner was the owner of last year's (disqualified) winner, Medina Spirit. The owner claimed to have the Derby winner in his barn. And that was claimed before TAIBA's first race. History vs. Talent. That is the question for this colt and handicappers.
13-SIMPLIFICATION: At one point during the early preps this colt was considered the Derby favorite. Beginning with his 16-length maiden win last year to his victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth stakes earlier this year, this horse was on trajectory to outshine all three-year-old competition. In fact, he was the favorite for the Grade 1 Florida Derby. But that Florida Derby was a flub. He appeared to recede in ability, finishing a weak third to 15-WHITE ABBARRIO and 8-CHARGE IT. The problem that day? He simply-fication ran too fast during the early going and ran out of gas down the stretch. So, with that experience in hand, we can expect return jockey Jose Ortiz to rate the horse early on, track the leaders early going and save some juice for the stretch drive. If he does, this colt has a chance to be in the mix in the end.
14-BARBER ROAD: Here is the horse that many of us modest horse owners dream about. Purchased as a weaning for a meager $15K, this colt has earned purses more than $650K during his eight-race career. That is quite the haul considering the horse has only won twice, a maiden claimer and allowance race. He has been extremely competitive in some stakes, including his last race, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby where he finished second to 16-CYBERKNIFE. BARBER ROAD likes to trail the pack before kicking it in gear down the stretch and some of his stake race stretch drives have been impressive. Still, the past performances do not measure up compared to many of the favorites here.
15-WHITE ABARRIO: Another dream come true for the modest horse owner. Sold as a two-year-old in training for a reasonable $40K, this grey colt has won four of his career five races. The most recent victory was the most impressive, a gutsy 1+ length win in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. On that day, he beat 8-CHARGE IT and 13-SIMPLIFICATION. In the race prior to the Florida Derby, this colt defeated 13-SIMPLIFICATION AND 1-MO DONGAIL, winning that race at 6-1 odds by 4+ lengths. WHITE ABARRIO’s only blemish came last November when he finished third to 5-SMILE HAPPY and 17-CLASSIC CAUSEWAY. However, in that race, he did not get driving until it was too late. Ownership quickly changed jockeys to Tyler Gaffalione who has Derby experience, leading the horse to victory in the two stake races that followed. In this race, we can expect Gaffalione to hold WHITE ABARRIO off the lead, perhaps mid-pack, then make a strong run down the stretch.
16-CYBERKNIFE: Trainer Brad Cox is one of the best big-race trainers in the nation. That alone gives this horse, the winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, a chance. This colt is extremely well bred with pedigree to run the long Derby distance. Having said that, CYBERKNIFE has not shown great speed in the final quarter in any of his career six races. That would concern me more if this colt was not training so well on the Churchill Downs track since mid-April. Another horse that will sit mid-pack till the stretch, he has the chance to be very competitive here.
17-CLASSIC CAUSEWAY: Unlike virtually every other horse in the race, this colt has regressed over his past two races. Before that, CLASSIC CAUSEWAY was on a role. He won a Grade 3 stakes race in Tampa with an excellent run and speed rating. He followed that with a wire-to-wire victory in Grade 2 Tampa Derby, with a modest speed rating. Then, he flubbed the Grade 1 Florida Derby, finishing dead last. Hard to know what happened that day. He ran to the lead at a pace much faster than his usual front running style. Perhaps he tired. Perhaps he was injured. Whatever happened, his workouts at Churchill have been fair. For this horse to be competitive in the Derby, he will have to regain his earlier form. Even then, others in the field seem better situated to win.
18-TAWNY PORT: Trainer Brad Cox’s second entrant. This colt qualified for the Derby because of his upset victory in his last race, the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes. That was a surprising come from behind win and his first from the synthetic track surface. His other try on the dirt surface did not go as well. Earlier in the year, in the Grade 2 Risen Star, he finished a distant fifth, behind 3-EPICENTER, 5-SMILE HAPPY, and 10-ZANDON. Again, any horse trained by Brad Cox will be ready to run and despite the lack of great racing credentials, this horse will be no exception. He will sit off the pace and hope to catch the leaders down the stretch.
19-ZOZOS: The third entrant by trainer Brad Cox and the same thoughts about this horse as with his two others. In three career races, he has two wins and a second, all with improving speed ratings. Impressive, for sure. His last race, the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby was good, considering it was his first shot against stakes class company. He tried to wire the field but fell short to the more experienced 3-EPICENTER. Two concerns. First is pedigree. He is not bred to go a longer distance, as here. Second is the far outside post position. Although the gate structure has changed, only one horse has ever won the Derby from the 19th post position.
20-ETHEREAL ROAD: Last, and maybe least, is the horse that drew the unlucky post of the far, far outside. Trained by the Hall of Fame, but way past his prime, Wayne Lukas. You get the sense that this horse has been entered just to allow Lukas to have his annual run for the roses. Seven career races, with one victory coming after his fourth try to win his maiden race. He qualified for the Derby thanks to a 16-1 second place finish in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. Other than the potential to have Wayne Lukas win a big race, there is nothing compelling about this horse.
HOW THE RACE WILL BE RUN:
The most notable factor upon review of all entrants is that there is no clear front runner. That suggests that the early speed will not be blistering fast. I suspect that some entrants will try to seize the moment and attempt steal a victory with a wire-to-wire effort, similar to Medina Spirits run last year.
Lack of early speed impacts the closers because the leader, and in turn, those who track close behind, will not run expend their energy heading into the stretch. That gives advantage to the leader and those who track.
With that scenario projected, I look to see which of the serious contenders will be in front or close by as they round the final turn.
The group of 3-EPICENTER, 6-MESSIER, 8-CHARGE IT, and 13-SIMPLIFICATION should be at or close to the lead. Followed by 10-ZARDON, 12-TAIBA, 15-WHITE ABARRIO. Behind them will be 1-MO DONEGAL and 16-CYBERKNIFE. Any of these can win the race.
I am selecting 10-ZARDON to win. A soft favorite here, but probably will have odds at 3-1 or greater come race time. If he can get close to the leaders at the top of the stretch, he has the proven (and improving) ability to slip past the front runners as they cross the finish line.
I like a longshot to finish second, with the possibility of pulling off an upset win… 8-CHARGE IT. Watching the Florida Derby, only this colt’s third race, he was ready to surge past 15-WHITE ABARRIO, only to be awkwardly distracted and lugging in down the stretch. In other words, he was like a teenager who needs focus. I suspect trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Luis Saez will work their magic to find focus. Add that Tapit is his sire, and I am convinced.
For third, any of the above can show. I am selecting 3-EPICENTER based upon his consistency.
MY SELECTIONS ARE:
EXACTA: 10/8 BOX. PLUS 10/8 with 1, 3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 16.
TRIFECTA: 10/8/ALL – BOX. KEY 10/8 with 1, 3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 16.
SUPERFECTA: KEY 10 with 8/3/ALL and KEY 8 with 10/3/ALL
KENTUCKY OAKS SELECTION: 1-SECRET OATH
Danny Dimes : 16-CYBERKNIFE
Super-excited for this year's Derby. My top pick is CYBERKNIFE at 20-1. Don't listen to the naysayers who thought this year's Oaklawn class of horses is weaker than others. I watched the Arkansas Derby live and this horse pulled away from the field after a blistering 46 seconds at the half. That is the typical pace at the Derby and last year's top finishers were right there. Looked super-fresh after the race and I love the Jockey-horse relationship. Regarding maturity issues, Cyberknife is the kind of bratty (horse) kid who finally figured it out is now a tech billionaire. And I get a Brad Cox-trained horse at that price? Too much to pass up. I am also looking hard at the other horses have never raced in wet conditions, so we have no idea what to expect. I am throwing out all of the California and New York horses except for TAIBA. Worth a flier bet, but he has to pass 19 horses versus 5. BARBER ROAD, who finished 2nd in the Arkansas Derby. This horse has hit the board in his last 4 major races and had terrible trips in all of them. This is a big closer who you should absolutely use in your exotics, and maybe more. If he is mid-pack on the back stretch and avoids traffic issues on the way home, watch out. I also like the Florida horse SIMPLIFICATION, but it is boom or bust. If you love favorites, consider ZANDON. Another closer who won the Bluegrass off of a really, really slow pace. That is hard to do and if the track is wet, which now is likely, the conditions will favor him. It will also favor Barber Road.
For the Oaks, I am going with SECRET OATH. This filly challenged the boys in the Arkansas Derby, so points for that. At 6-1? Great value. Good luck and win big!
BRIAN THE BUG BOY: 6-MESSIER
May 7th is almost here and it’s time for the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. In my opinion, this is a wide open field compared to prior years. Zandon was made the 3/1 morning line favorite, however, I firmly do not believe he will be the favorite come post time. To find my selection I first looked at the pace of the race due to the fact that with a 20 horse field pace is far more important than in a standard size field. Looks like it should be a fast pace up front with two long shots in Classic Causeway and Summer is Tomorrow firing out front. My top selection will sit off that pace and look to pass the tiring duo in the stretch. My selection for the 148th Running is Messier. A Bob Baffert Trainee now in the Tim Yakteen barn is morning line 8/1 and will be ridden by John Velazquez. Messier won Santa Anita’s Robert B Lewis earning a 103 Beyer and doing so by 15 open lengths. He then went onto the Santa Anita Derby running 2nd to Taiba, but did not run his best race, getting used up trying to chase the speed upfront. I think Johnny V will use Messiers’s tactical speed to his advantage this time around and later be walked through the winners circle this Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Looking at the Kentucky Oaks, I found one horse that I am absolutely impressed by. Nest! Todd Pletcher Trainee with Irad Ortiz up, need I say more. The connections of this horse and the impressive last few starts lead me to believe she is the real deal. She will get the distance, get the trip and get the win!!
Howie the Horse: 15-WHITE ABARRIO
“Toss the Experts”
White Abarrio 10-1: Has flashed very impressive speed and versatility rating off the pace or going to the lead. He has beaten a number of the horses in this contest already. The morning drills are exceptional showing he is sharp and primed for another big race.
Crown Pride 20-1: Has produced 3 wins in 4 starts. Breezed a 46.1 four furlongs workout since arriving in the U.S. from Japan. Stalked the pace winning the $1M UAE Derby about 5 weeks ago.
Taiba 12-1: Lightly raced but is 2 for 2. After winning a 67k maiden race he followed up winning the Santa Anita Derby. Fresh off that 111 speed rating easily defeating Messier coupled with impressive drills he will be in the hunt.
Secret Oath: Ran 3rd as the favorite against the Colts in the Arkansas Derby. Bothered at the beginning raced wide and still got up for 3rd place. Plenty of competition in Echo Zulu and Kathleen O but enough said.