Video Race of the Week: Saratoga’s Grade 1 Diana with Miss Temple City

Del Mar started last week and now summer is in full swing after the opening of Saratoga Race Course on Friday. The first Grade I of the meet is the Diana Stakes for fillies and mares traveling a mile and an eighth on the turf course.

Morning line favorite Miss Temple City returns from Royal Ascot and takes on four entrants from the Chad Brown barn.

 

Triple Crown Series 2016 Recap + Top 5 Three-Year-Olds to Watch

Now that the Triple Crown series is in the books, it is time to take a final look back at what transpired this spring and look forward to an exciting second half of 2016.

Nyquist

Kentucky Derby 2016 winner Nyquist – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Kentucky Derby

Nyquist tracked distance challenged Danzing Candy and the race was over when that one got tired. Exaggerator got on track too late to catch his nemesis but ran a quality race to finish a clear 2nd. Gun Runner was always in a good contending position but could not quite see out the trip and held off Mohaymen and Suddenbreakingnews to secure the show by a head.

Hard to believe that the Top 4 betting choices finished 1-2-3-4. The Derby has become a race for stalkers and the betting favorite has won every time since they switched to the points system.

Forwardly placed runners dominated the main track races at CD on Oaks/Derby Day. The Derby fractions seemed to be really fast but that was more a function of a lightning quick racing strip.

Preakness

Pace makes the race and everything pointed to Exaggerator turning the tables on Nyquist in Baltimore. Not that he needed the help, but Exaggerator moved up on the wet track and jockey Kent Desormeaux was the only rider brave enough to put his horse on the rail in the slop and his smooth inside/outside trip was bold and decisive. Kent D also put the versatile Exaggerator in the race earlier and he always looked like a winner.

Cherry Wine got past Nyquist late for the place. The Derby winner, while obviously a talented horse, was over hyped because of his unblemished record and people were spoiled by Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh last year. The Triple Crown is no easy feat and pretenders to the throne are usually exposed in one of the three distance tests. Nyquist came out of the Preakness with a fever and was forced to pass the Belmont Stakes.

Belmont

Everything worked out wonderfully for WinStar Farm. Gettysburg the rabbit did his job carving out honest splits and forcing Destin to work long and hard to get past him. Meanwhile, Creator was biding his time and getting an outstanding ground saving ride by Irad Ortiz Jr. In the last desperate stride before the wire, Creator got his nose down to edge Destin, who ran way too good to lose.

Japanese war horse Lani finished a wide 3rd and lost countless lengths running 80 feet farther than Creator.

Governor Malibu was blocked by a tiring Gettysburg and finished an unlucky 4th.

With different horses winning all three Triple Crown series races, the second half of the year is wide open and below are five horses worth following as the year progresses.

Jarrod Horak’s Top 5 3-year-olds to Watch (second half of 2016)  

(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) mohaymen silks 2016

Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Comments: He was my one and only top ranked Derby contender since the start of my list last September. He won his first five starts including four grade two scores. In the Florida Derby, he raced wide on a wet track he did not handle and ended up 4th in his first career loss as Nyquist ruled the day. It rained late in the afternoon on Kentucky Derby Day and he was not handling the track early and was much farther back than normal on a day when forwardly placed runners dominated. To his credit, he kept plugging away and ended up 4th, a head behind show finisher Gun Runner. After the Derby, McLaughlin said he would get a rest and point to the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga.

2. GIFT BOX (Twirling Candy – Special Me, by Unbridled’s Song) gift box 2016 silks

Trainer (Chad Brown) – Owner (W. S. Farish)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.58 (6/50) at Belmont Park on June 18.

Comments: He was on my early Derby list for a good stretch. He graduated vs. Matt King Coal, another horse I have liked for quite some time and currently on the sidelines with a non-displaced hairline fracture of his pelvis. After breaking his maiden, Gift Box finished 3rd to Mohaymen in the G2 Remsen last fall and did not resurface until easily winning an Optional Claiming race at Belmont Park on May 26. He received a 98 BSF for his win on May 26 and could make some noise in sophomore stakes races later this year.

3. UNIFIED (Candy Ride – Union City, by Dixie Union) unified silks

Trainer (James Jerkens) – Owner (Centennial Farms)

Latest Workout: 3f in :36.20 (2/14) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on June 16.

Comments: 3-for-3 lifetime with back-to-back stakes wins in the G3 Bay Shore and G2 Peter Pan. His patient trainer Jimmy Jerkens thought the Belmont Stakes was too much too soon and he opted to wait for the G3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday, June 19. It remains to be seen if he will be most effective routing or sprinting but he is fast and talented and appears to have a bright future.

(4) AMERICAN FREEDOM (Pulpit – Gottcha Last, by Pleasant Tap) american freedom silks

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Gary and Mary West)

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:11.80 (1/18) at Santa Anita on June 19.

Comments: Followed up a visually impressive maiden win on a wet track at Santa Anita with a very disappointing 6th place finish in the G3 Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs. He bounced back with a determined length victory (came again) in the Sir Barton Stakes (muddy, sealed track) on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico. I am not sure what Bob Baffert has in mind for his lightly raced, promising colt but he has won the Haskell many times and that could be his summertime goal.

(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) destin silks

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners)

Comments: He was very good in the Sam F Davis and Tampa Bay Derby this winter and his connections decided to enter the Kentucky Derby off an eight week freshening. He made a bid before flattening out and finishing 6th on the first Saturday in May. His next start would come in the Belmont Stakes and he battled WinStar Farms rabbit and former stablemate Gettysburg throughout but WinStar closer Creator nipped him in the final jump. He ran too good to lose in the test of Champions and he is still fresh for the second half of the year.

Belmont Stakes 2016 Video Preview: Preakness hero Exaggerator 9-5 Favorite

The 2016 Belmont Stakes field is set and Preakness winner Exaggerator will square off against twelve rivals in the Test of Champions.

Just like the Kentucky Derby set up perfectly for Nyquist, everything went right for Exaggerator in the Preakness. He got the wet track he loves and the fast early fractions took their toll on Nyquist, who lost second late to Cherry Wine.

Exaggerator was not nearly as far back in Baltimore and jockey Kent Desormeaux gave him a nice ground saving ride. He was always traveling smoothly and was much the best when the dust settled.

It is on to Belmont Park for the final leg of the Triple Crown and Exaggerator can take the lead in the race for 3-year-old championship honors with a victory at Big Sandy.

Belmont Stakes Field (in post position order, with comments)

#1 Governor Malibu (12-1) – Part of the Trifecta in all seven starts and was 2nd in the Peter Pan last time.

#2 Destin (6-1) – Two-time graded winner finished a respectable 6th in the Derby. He has stalking speed.

#3 Cherry Wine (8-1) – Late runner likes the slop and proved that statement true with a 2nd in the Preakness.

#4 Suddenbreakingnews (10-1) – G3 Southwest hero was a troubled 5th on the first Saturday in May.

#5 Stradivari (5-1) – Lightly raced and talented, he was a solid 4th in the Preakness and can move forward.

#6 Gettysburg (30-1) – Winstar entered the likely front runner to help their highly regarded late runner Creator.

#7 Seeking the Soul (30-1) – Recent maiden winner seems up against it but Stewart has surprised us before.

#8 Forever d’Oro (30-1) – Stewart’s second recent maiden winner graduated at Belmont.

#9 Trojan Nation (30-1) – Maiden was 2nd in the Wood Memorial and 16th in the Kentucky Derby.

#10 Lani (20-1) – Japanese warrior has competed in all three legs of the American Triple Crown.

#11 Exaggerator (9-5) – The fastest entrant was 1st in the SA Derby, 2nd in the Derby, and 1st in the Preakness.

#12 Brody’s Cause (20-1) – Keeneland specialist was an okay 7th in the Derby. Reminds me of Keen Ice.

#13 Creator (10-1) – Deep closer got up in the Arkansas Derby but was 13th in the Kentucky Derby.

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Preakness 2016 Preview: Nyquist 3-5 Favorite

The Preakness 2016 field is set and 3-5 morning line favorite Nyquist will break for post position 3.

The Kentucky Derby set up perfectly for Nyquist. He sat behind Danzing Candy and when that one threw in the towel as expected, Nyquist cruised to the front and the race was basically over.

preakness draw 2016

On the first Saturday in May, the main track at Churchill Downs played very fast and favored forwardly placed horses.

Fast forward to Baltimore and the pace scenario looks much different. Also, there is an 80% chance of rain (1/2 inch expected) on Preakness Day. The rain is expected to begin around 6am and persist throughout the day. Exaggerator won the Delta Jackpot and Santa Anita Derby on a wet track and figures to enjoy the wet conditions.

As for the Preakness pace scenario, Uncle Lino figures to be hustled away from the gate from post 2, with Nyquist, Awesome Speed, Collected, Laoban, Abiding Star, and Stradivari in close proximity.

Nyquist will have to work hard to keep his perfect record intact. He has beaten his main rival Exaggerator four times but the race shape and track condition might be enough to tip the scales.

Stradivari looks like the most interesting new shooter. He is light on seasoning but has plenty of raw talent and tries to give trainer Todd Pletcher his first Preakness win.

Cherry Wine, Lani, and Fellowship will try to get involved late.

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Kentucky Derby 2016 Recap + Early Preakness Preview

There was not much drama in Kentucky Derby 2016 and that has been the case the last few years. The Derby has become a stalker’s paradise and Nyquist took full advantage.

Nyquist

Kentucky Derby 2016 winner Nyquist – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Horses showing early/pressing speed dominated on the win end on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs and the main track played extremely fast, hence the rapid fractions and quickest Derby since 2003.

Nyquist and Gun Runner both stalked distance-challenged Danzing Candy and the latter was spent before the mile marker. Gun Runner tried to go with Nyquist but his light speed figures caught up with him and that left the Derby favorite alone in the lane without a challenger.

Exaggerator, Mohaymen, and Suddenbreakingnews were putting in late bids for minor awards but the race for the win was basically over at the top of the lane. Exaggerator finished with a nice head of steam and got to within a length and a quarter of Nyquist at the line. Gun Runner bravely held 3rd by a nose over a slow-starting Mohaymen, with Suddenbreakingnews checking in an unlucky 5th.

My Derby top Mohaymen will not compete in any more Triple Crown races. He will head to Saratoga and point to the Jim Dandy and Travers later this summer.

It is on to the Preakness and Nyquist’s tactical speed makes him a solid threat to take down the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

As of Tuesday, May 17, there is a 100% chance of rain on Preakness Day with a high temperature of 59. If that forecast holds up, mud lover Exaggerator would deserve extra consideration.

Gun Runner will not move on to Baltimore and it now looks like an eleven horse field for the second jewel of the Triple Crown: Abiding Star, Awesome Speed, Cherry Wine, Collected, Exaggerator, Fellowship, Lani, Laoban, Nyquist, Stradivari, and Uncle Lino.

I will be back after the Preakness post position draw later this week with a final look at the contenders.

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Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders: The Final “Exceptional Eleven”

Post positions have been selected for Kentucky Derby 2016 and this is my final update before the big dance.

The wild ride began with my first Derby contenders list last September and the more things change the more they stay the same. Mohaymen was my top contender last fall and Mor Spirit was right behind him at number three. They both made it to the big race and should be viewed as solid contenders. Brody’s Cause is the other horse to make it from my original list and he will try to get involved late under the Twin Spires.

Kentucky-Derby-2016_posts_615x400

I am once again offering my annual Derby Day full card from Churchill and details can be seen below. Good luck in the Derby! I’ll be back next week to recap the Derby and preview the Preakness.

Jarrod Horak’s Final “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders

(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) mohaymen silks 2016

Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (5/67) at Churchill Downs on April 29.

Comments: He has been my top ranked Derby contender all along and his lone career loss was a 4th place finish (wide trip on wet track) in his last start (Florida Derby). He is working well but has been too aggressive galloping and needs to relax early to have any chance on Saturday.

(2) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union) more spirit silks 2016

Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.80 (2/27) at Churchill Downs on May 2.

Comments: I have always been high on him and he has never finished out of the Exacta. He final Derby work was better than his first at Churchill and I do not think we have seen his best effort.

(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry) Nyquist

Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)

Latest Workout: 8f in 1:41 (1/3) at Keeneland on April 29.

Comments: The main concern is his one sprint/one route prep path. He has never lost, looked solid training at Keeneland and Churchill, and should be in the hunt throughout.

(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication) exaggerator silks

Trainer (Keith Desormeaux) – Owner (Big Chief Racing, LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.60 (48/57) at Churchill Downs on April 30.

Comments: He loves wet footing but it looks like a fast track on Saturday. He owns some of the best speed figures in the field and it would be a great story if he scored for Team Desormeaux.

(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer) destin silks

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.40 (29/53) at Churchill Downs on April 29.

Comments: He has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start in two months. The Tampa Bay Derby winner has tactical speed and tries to give trainer Todd Pletcher his second Derby win.

(6) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)

Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.60 (8/53) at Churchill Downs on April 29.

Comments: He has made a nice impression in his training sessions and is one of the better late runners in the field. He needs a fast pace to chase.

(7) CREATOR (Tapit – Morena, by Privately Held)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (WinStar Farm)

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.60 (47/56) at Churchill Downs on May 2.

Comments: He beat Suddenbreakingnews in the Arkansas Derby and is clearly on the improve for Steve Amsussen, who is looking for his first Derby win.

(8) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)

Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.20 (4/57) at Churchill Downs on April 30.

Comments: The Keeneland specialist broke his maiden at Churchill Downs and should be doing his best running in the stretch.

(9) GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride – Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney Farms)

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.40 (43/56) at Churchill Downs on May 2.

Comments: The stalker gives trainer Steve Asmussen a strong 1-2 punch. He won both of his Fair Grounds starts this year and is on the upswing.

(10) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)

Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.80 (2/17) at San Luis Rey Training Center on April 30.

Comments: He drew post 20 and figures to go straight to the front. He will certainly be there early but might not have the stamina to see out the ten furlong trip.

(11) MO TOM (Uncle Mo – Caroni, by Rubiano)

Trainer (Tom Amoss) – Owner (G M B Racing)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.60 (28/67) at Churchill Downs on April 29.

Comments: Look out if he finds clear sailing. He has had nothing but bad luck lately and will try to weave his way through a 20-horse field. His connections stuck with jockey Corey Lanerie and he is a very good pilot at Churchill.

THE NEXT NINE +2: (12) Outwork, (13) My Man Sam, (14) Whitmore, (15) Shagaf, (16) Tom’s Ready, (17) Lani, (18) Majesto, (19) Oscar Nominated, (20) Trojan Nation, (21) Laoban, (22) Cherry Wine

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Kentucky Oaks 2016 with Rachel’s Valentina & Cathryn Sophia (Video)

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