2017 Kentucky Derby Trail

Gunnevera is the Class of the 2016 Delta Jackpot (G3)

The top four finishers in the 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot (G-3) will earn points towards the Kentucky Derby. But so far, the race is just a blip on the Derby trail.  Only two colts have finished in the top three in the Jackpot and in the Triple Crown races.  Closing Argument was the 2005 Kentucky Derby runner-up, and who could forget this year’s Preakness champ Exaggerator, who finally got revenge on his nemesis Nyquist in the classic event?   

The million dollar purse and a chance for the horses’ connections to indulge in some Cajun cuisine aren’t the only attractions to the Delta Jackpot.  The 1 1/16 mile race is an official Kentucky Derby Prep race, a chance to earn precious points towards a start in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. The Delta Jackpot hero will earn ten points, with a 4-2-1 point system for second through fourth place.

This year, a full field of ten two-year-old colts are scheduled to run 1 1/16 miles over the Delta Downs oval. The weather should be clear and sunny with a fast track. Six of the contestants won their last race on the lead or pressing the pace.  Four colts have traveled 1 1/6 miles, but only two have been successful at the distance. Three are stakes winners.


2016 Delta Downs Jackpot field

Winning Candidates

#6 GUNNEVERA (Dialed In – Unbridled Rage, by Unbridled) is the only confirmed stalker in the field. He used this running style to chase down the speed in the Saratoga Special to win by a length. However, next start out, his regular jock Florida-based Jesus Rios, moved too soon in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, taking the colt off of the rail to go very wide around the turn. Gunnevera had a good turn of foot, but and flattened out a little in his two-turn debut. Still, he recorded the final 1/16 in 6.84, the third-fastest time in the race. Javier Castellano was on the Chestnut colt in the Saratoga Special and jumps back on for the Jackpot.  Trainer Antonio Sano has been putting Gunnevera through his paces in morning works at Gulfstream Park, recording two pre-race five-furlong bullet moves.

Pedigree: Gunnevera has the pedigree to handle longer distances. Read the full analysis.


#1 PAT ON THE BACK (Congrats – Accomplished, by Awesome Again) is a steady win machine on the New York state-bred circuit. The Chestnut colt can win from on or off the pace, and the Jackpot will be his two-turn debut. The Ken McPeek trainee was last seen capturing the Sleepy Hollow Stakes over a muddy Belmont surface.  He’ll be ridden for the first time by Robby Albarado, who gives up the mount on J Boys Echo.  Last year, Sunny Ridge invaded from New York to finish a desperate neck behind Exaggerator in the Jackpot.

Pedigree: Pat on the Back has miler speed over stamina pedigree. He is a half brother to the New York state-bred juvenile stakes winner ARAH ACCOMPLISHED.


Dark Horses

#10 TIP TAP TAPIZAR (Tapizar – Counterpoise, by Storm Cat) has never finished out of the money in five-lifetime starts, and he’s a true road warrior.  He beat Our Stormin Norman in their debut, placed third behind Classic Empire in the Bashford Manor (G3), and was beat up in the Saratoga Special, but still hit the board. In his last start, the Asmussen trainee closed for second place behind Line Judge in the  Jean Lafitte Stakes. Veteran jock Gerard Melancon pilots Tip Tap Tapizar.   Melancon rode in three of the last five editions of the Jackpot Stakes. He won the Jackpot in 2011 and 2013 and finished third last year.

Pedigree: Tip Tap Tapizar has a sprinter/miler pedigree. He is a half brother to SP sprinter Devine Music. His dam is a half-sister to the multiple SW & sire PEAKS AND VALLEYS, plus she’s a half-sister to the multiple SW ALTERNATE, who is the dam of multiple GSW ALTERNATION.


#7 BALANDEEN (Bernardini – Mamma Kimbo, by Discreet Cat) is ready to take the next step. After beating maiden claimers and allowance runners, the Chris Hartman trainee placed second in the Street Sense Stakes at a mile.  Balandeen has been posting strong works at Churchill and outworked a stablemate in his second to last breeze, a bullet five-furlong move. Interesting prospect to hit the board, if he steps up.

Pedigree:  Balandeen has the pedigree to handle 1 1/16 to maybe 1 1/8 miles. He is the first foal out of a G2 SW. 


#3 THIRSTFORLIFE (Stay Thirsty – Promenade Girl, by Carson City)  is making his third start at 1 1/16 miles and finally gets a fast track. He was a determined winner over allowance foes in his last race at Keeneland, getting the distance in a slow 1:46 over a good track, although he got his final 1/16 in 6.07.  The Mark Casse trainee owns the highest late pace speed figure in the field at 102.

Pedigree: Thirstforlife has stamina over speed pedigree. He’s a ¾ brother to CAVORTING, winner of Adirondack (G2) & multiple G1SW (Test, Ogden Phipps, & Ruffian S.). Their dam is a multiple SW miler.


#8 HOT SEAN (Flatter – Stormy B, by Cherokee Run) is one of two California shippers. Bob Baffert has brought this colt along nice and easy. After losing his 5 ½ furlong debut by a ½ length, Hot Sean added a furlong and got the job done. He returned to beat allowance foes at a mile last time out in his third start. Oddly, the colt’s Bris Speed Figures are an identical 87 in each race.  Hot Sean rallied from off the pace in his debut but fought it out on the front end in his last two starts.  Baffert gave the bay colt two very strong pre-race works, including a bullet five furlongs. Could be dangerous if left alone on the lead, but he’ll be low odds and hasn’t beaten much.

Pedigree: Hot Sean has a sprinter/miler pedigree. He’s a half-brother to Fountain of Youth winner ITSAKNOCKOUT & multiple SW sprinter STORM POWER. Dam is half to turf router RUSH BAY & SP sprinter MISS INCLINED.


Slim Chance

The rest of the field hasn’t run fast enough to be competitive here. 

#2 LINE JUDGE  – puts his three-race win streak on the line in the Jackpot. After losing his debut by a neck, the colt has overwhelmed his rivals by a combined 12 ¾ lengths. He was an easy winner of the Jackpot prep race, the Jean Lafitte Stakes.  Jackpot rival Tip Tap Tapizar made a move from off the pace to finish second, but couldn’t keep up with his loose on the lead rival.  Line Judge’s speed figures have improved in each start, but other than Tip Tap Tapizar, he hasn’t beaten anyone noteworthy, and his speed figures are ehhhh.


#4 OUR STORMIN NORMAN – finally won his maiden in his fifth start. To be fair, his last three starts were on turf.  By Blame out of a daughter of Stroll, the bay colt has a classy, Claiborne-bred pedigree, but he may be slower to mature. Keep an eye on him for next year.


#5 DANGERFIELD – ships in from California for Doug O’Neil. Dangerfield has developed a bad/good race cycle. He won his maiden last time out in the Oak Tree Juvenile after stretching out from a sprint.


#9 J BOYS ECHO – is a promising young colt. He’s a last-out maiden winner and outclassed maidens by 5 ½ lengths after some trouble.  He has a wonderful pedigree, by Mineshaft out of a G2SW sprinter. His half brother Unbridled Outlaw placed in Iroquois S.(G3) as 2YO. A half sister bore SP miler DEPUTY’S ECHO. So what’s the problem?  With only two starts under his girth, the Dale Roman’s trainee isn’t as experienced as the rest of the field, and he’s had problems in both starts.  He’s owned and trained by the same connections as BC Juvie runner-up Not This Time.  I’ll say not this time for J Boys Echo, but he’ll be one to watch next year.



Favorites have hit the board in the last five editions of the Jackpot.  GUNNEVERA shows consistent numbers in all of his races and is the only graded stakes winner in the Jackpot.  He’s the lone stalker in the field, so if they drag race on the front end early, he’ll benefit.  PAT ON THE BACK has also been steady, albeit against state-breds, but there are no world beaters in here. His pace-setting style will benefit from a rail trip. TIP TAP TAPIZAR is the hard luck horse of the race. He’s a hard trier and gets a jock who knows his way around this track.  HOT SEAN is California Speed. He took advantage of a slow early pace to win last time out and could be a dangerous foe if they do the same thing here.


#6 GUNNEVERA (5-2)

#1 PAT ON THE BACK (10-1)

#10 TIP TAP TAPIZAR (10-1)

#7 BALANDEEN (10-1)


2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – Who is Our Next Champion?

When the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is contested at Santa Anita, anything goes.  Two last out maiden winners have captured the Juvenile this century – both at Santa Anita.  In the six years that the Southern California track has played host, two Champagne Stakes winners, two Frontrunner (previously known as Norfolk S.) and a Gran Criterium Stakes winner, plus the two last out maidens, have stood in the Juvenile Stakes winner’s circle.

The winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will not only gallop off into the sunset with a pretty wreath of flowers, he will almost certainly be named Champion 2YO Colt and installed as the favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby.  Never mind that only two colts in the history of the Juvenile actually won the Derby and less than half of the colts that race in the Breeders’ Cup make it to the Triple Crown Trail. But I digress.

Let’s review this year’s Juvenile field. Here’s a chart summing up important points.

2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Colts

#1 KLIMT (Quality Road – Inventive, by Dixie Union) This guy was 4 for 5 going into the FrontRunner Stakes.  Up to that point, Baffert had the best 2YO colt in training on the West Coast.  Klimt broke a little slow in the FrontRunner and found himself vying for last place in the early stages, someplace he’d never been before. Meanwhile, Gormley was winging it up front, about a length in front without serious pressure.  Bejarano swung Klimt into action around the turn, but had about 6 lengths to make up. Not a place to on a speed favoring track with an easy-moving pace setter. Klimt tried hard and closed some ground, but wasn’t going to get to Gormley.  Klimt’s final quarter was run in 32.09, the exact final quarter as Gormley.  

Klimt had his key pre-race breeze on Oct. 25, traveling 6F in 1:11.80 in company with Big Gray Rocket, who had finished fourth in the Champagne Stakes. The pretty gray Rocket started off a length in front. Around the turn Klimt moved to his stablemate and urged slightly to draw even. Big Gray Rocket gave a good fight and the two finished on even terms.  Nice work by both colts, but would have liked to have seen Klimt not have to work as hard to stay with his speedy workmate.  

If he breaks well, Klimt will either contest the lead from the rail or sit directly behind the pace setter in the Juvenile. He has a miler/middle distance pedigree, and a long stride. He’s on his home turf and will be tough to beat. Read Klimt’s pedigree profile. Contender.


#2 SYNDERGAARD (Majesticperfection – Magic Belle, by Gold Case) is a short nose away from a perfect 3-3 record.  He’s led every step of the way in all three starts. His last start in the one-mile Champagne Stakes ended with a thrilling stretch battle the undefeated Practical Joke.  Syndergaard blazed through fractions of 22.74, 44.63 and 1:08.75 before being collared by Practical Joke in the straight. Despite being softened by his early pace, Syndergaard fought hard on the rail, his nose in front just before and just after the wire. Syndergaard ran his last quarter in 25.89. The final time of 1:34.68 was a blink off of the stakes record of 1.34.20 recorded in 1983 by Devil’s Bag and narrowly missing the 1:34.40 set by Seattle Slew in 1976. 

Syndergaard had a slow canter at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. He moved easily without antics or pulling. The colt expressed interest when someone breezed by, but didn’t act up. He appears to have a good mind, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pletcher takes a page from his mentor, D Wayne and switches tactics last minute tor rate the colt behind the speed. Pletcher has done this before with varying success.

Pedigree: Syndergaard has a sprinter/miler pedigree 1 1/16 miles may be at or beyond his scope. He breaks next to Klimt and will fly to grab the rail.  If he throws down fast fractions in the Juvenile, Syndergaard will be flatter than leftover champagne. Pass.

#3 TERM OF ART (Tiznow – Miles of Style, by Storm Cat) won his maiden by a nose last time out at a mile in a very professional fashion. He was in rush hour traffic three wide the entire way, had to alter course slightly in mid-stretch and got the nose bob in the middle of a blanket finish. His final quarter was a slow 26.31, but his final 1/8 was 13.04, the fastest final fraction of all BC Juvie entrants who last raced at a mile. Yes, comparing times between tracks is apples and oranges, but this guy could be starting to improve at the right time. His last two gallops looked more like breezes, especially his last work on  Oct. 31   Not worried about the maiden angle. Term of Art has 3 races under his girth and two last-out maidens have won the Juvenile since 2000 – both at Santa Anita. Action This Day raced twice, winning his maiden at 1 1/16 miles by a nose and New Year’s Day won the Juvenile after capturing a mile maiden race. I’d feel better if Term of Art had “Day” someplace in his name, but he isn’t facing a tough crowd here.

Pedigree: Classy Classy Classy! Term of Art’s dam is an unraced full sister to G1SW turf miler MR SIDNEY & to multiple SP SAVE BIG MONEY. His second dam is multiple G1SW TOMISUES DELIGHT, who is a full sister to HOY MINESHAFT. His third and fourth dams are graded stakes winners and blue hens.  Could be an interesting long shot to hit the board if you’re feeling flush. Otherwise, watch for this guy on the Triple Crown trail.

#4 THEORY (Gemologist – Gem Sleuth, by Officer) won the 6F Belmont Futurity by 3 ½ lengths in his last start, getting his final quarter in 24.34. He’s raced twice, both times in sprints and is now stretching out for Todd Pletcher.  The trainer has a 2-17 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His only victories were with the stand-out favorites Uncle Mo (2010 CD) and Shanghai Bobby (2012 SA). Theory breezed a bullet 4F 49.40 with the 3YO allowance winner Ready Dancer on Oct. 29 at Belmont. The pair finished up well and Theory showed athleticism cutting the corner.

Pedigree: Theory has a miler’s pedigree. His dam is SP and there is minor blacktype in 2nd generation. 3rd dam is multiple G1SW TALLAHTO (Oak Tree Inv. Vanity, Santa Barbara, etc.,). Tallahto is the second dam of Artie Schiller. As mentioned before Pletcher doesn’t have the best record at Santa Anita. Theory’s SF are solid low 90’s, but this looks like a tough assignment for him. Pass.  

#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE (Pioneerof the Nile – Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief) enters the Juvenile with three races under his girth, varying in distance from 4 ½ furlongs to 1 1/6 miles. He could be consitered undefeated if we draw a line through the Hopeful Stakes.  Classic Empire took a sharp right turn coming out of the gate and was declared a non-starter.  Mark Casse equipped the colt with a set of shiny new blinkers for the Keeneland Breeders’ Futurity. The colt broke from post 11, sat 2 – 3 wide just of of the pace for much of the race. He took command at the top of the stretch and won by 3 lengths under a hand ride. His final quarter was 32.26, not the fastest of times, but he was under a hand ride. Classic Empire stretched his legs with a moderate gallop at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.  He moved fluidly, not tugging or acting up, and when another horse joined Classic Empire on the outside briefly, he ignored the interloper and continued his steady gallop.

Pedigree: Classic Empire is bred along the same lines as American Pharoah. Both by Pioneerof The Nile out of a daughter of a Storm Cat stallion. The colt’s half brother  Anytime Magic captured a set of state-bred juvie stakes in his first two starts. His half sister Uptown Twirl  placed in a state-bred juvie stakes and as a 3YO, captured the Surfside Stakes and Pleasanton Oaks, both sprints. Classic Empire has the pedigree and conformation to handle classic distances, yet was precocious enough to capture his debut in May at 4 ½ furlongs.  I really, really like this colt. In fact, I like him so much, I don’t want him to win the BC Juvenile, simply because so few winners of this race make it to the Kentucky Derby trail and only two have stuck around to win the classic. Win Contender.

#6 THREE RULES (Gone Astray – Joy Rules, by Full Mandate) has been galloping under the radar, dominating the Florida state-bred races while the other colts have been fighting for graded stakes status. A lot of people have dismissed this colt. He hasn’t beaten anything; his times are slow.  When you’re 10+ lengths in front of everybody else, how fast do you need to run?  Remember Awesome Feather?  Wait, his times are slow?  Three Rules set a new stake record in the Dr. Fager, 6F in 1:09.49. The track record is 1:08.12 set by Big Drama as a 4YO.  The In Reality Stakes at 1 1/6 miles was the distance test for Three Rules. He answered with a resounding ten length victory, the widest winning margin of his career. Oh, and he got his final quarter in 31.84 the second fastest final quarter among the Juvenile contenders who prepped in a 1 1/6 mile contest. Three Rules was gate schooled at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Then jogged with the pony. The colt looked good, nice body weight, moving along proudly with his neck arched. The lead pony had some issues, but Three rules was calm and more professional.

Pedigree: Three Rules has a sprinter/miler pedigree, yet he may handle 9F with maturity. His sire Gone Astray is a multiple G2 – G3 SW at 8F – 9F.  Three Rules’ dam is a half-sister to multiple SP sprinter ROY’S RUCKUS. The 3rd dam DARK IMP is a SW sprinter.  Three Rules isn’t a one-dimensional sprinter. He sat behind horses in his second start and appears professional enough to handle whatever is tossed at him. Include him in your bets. I will.

#7 GORMLEY (Malibu Moon – Race to Urga, by Bernstein) is now 2 for 2. He outclassed maidens by 4 ¼  lengths in a slow 1:17.79 and 27 days later, scored a front-running victory in the Front Runner, upsetting Klimt. Gormley earned the fastest clocking for 1 1/16 miles, 1:43.57, of the juvie contenders who have raced at this distance. Gromley breezed 6F in 1:16.40 with a stablemate on Oct. 26. He’s a big, athletic colt with high knee action. Gormley sat a couple of lengths behind his workmate, but was relaxed, with ears flopping. Nearing the other horse, Gormley was suddenly all business, ears back, lengthening his stride while under a light hold. But once Gormley passed his workmate, the very pretty, curly ears went back up and he was looking around.  This is a sign of a mature, intelligent colt, who, despite having raced only twice, knows his job.

Pedigree: Gormley has a miler/middle distance pedigree & may go longer with maturity. His distaff line is filled with turf oriented stakes class. Gormley is the first foal out of a stakes winning turf mare. His second dam is an Irish SW.  He has a strong turf pedigree and descends from 1986 Champion Grass Mare Estrapade.  Trainer John Shirreffs isn’t noted for condition precocious youngsters, so this colt is one to keep an eye on. Gormley won both races on the lead, but doesn’t appear to be a speed freak. Contender.

#8 STAR EMPIRE (GB) (Foxwedge (AUS) – Celestial Empire, by Empire Maker) won his first two starts, over dirt and Tapeta. Tossed into stakes competition, he’s finished third in the AW Futurity and chased Theory in the Belmont Futurity. Per Trakus, Star Empire wasn’t getting any closer to his rival, his final quarter for six panels was 24.77. Star Empire galloped three times at Santa Anita. He has high knee action. In his Nov. 1 gallop Star Empire had trouble around both turns, cocking his head and moving sideways. Most likely because he was wearing blinkers and had trouble seeing where he was going. In the straight, the colt evened out and moved well under a light hold.

Pedigree: Star Empire has the pedigree to handle middle/classic distances and there’s a ton of turf affinity in his background.  His dam’s half-sister bore a multiple SP turf miler. There’s no other blacktype in the first 2 generations of his distaff line. Star Empire’s second dam is a half-sister to the G2 SW turf router Academy Award. Ashland Stakes heroine Well Chosen, the Two-time Sword Dancer Inv.(G1) champ Telling and Travers Stakes winner Golden Ticket are descended from Star Empire’s third dam. Star Empire should love the extra distance of the Juvenile. He has a later-maturing pedigree and at this point, appears a cut below the best.  

#9 PRACTICAL JOKE (Into Mischief – Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor) is undefeated in three starts. He prefers to sit off the pace and make one run. The Chad Brown trainee captured the Hopeful and Champagne Stakes, by a neck and a nose. He’s game and his speed figures have improved.  Practical Joke ducked in at the start of the Champagne Stakes, which in the long run, was a good thing for him. It enabled the colt to sit behind very fast fractions set by Syndergaard. He still had trouble putting away that rival in the stretch and won with a nose bob, getting his final quarter in 25.39. Practical Joke’s final breeze for the Juvenile took place at Belmont, on Oct. 29, where he traveled 5F 1:01.40 in company with the well-bred maiden Devine Union. Bruno de Julio couldn’t have stated it any better in his commentary of the breeze “ Practical Joke was strangled as rider did best imitation of bobble head doll on turn. Workmate Devine Union was under a loose rein late to finish heads up, but Joke has a ton left at the wire. Wasn’t as impressed with gallop out.”  That about sums it up.   

Pedigree:  Practical Joke has a sprinter/miler pedigree. His dam is a SP sprinter and half-sister to Louisiana Futurity winner CUBERA No other blacktype in 3 generations. Read his pedigree profile. Practical Joke may find 1 1/6 miles at the top of his distance range, however, he is aided by his running style and talent. This colt is aided by a quick pace and if he gets that, he’ll do his best running late. That is, if he doesn’t have to go too wide on the turns. This is a talented colt who likes to win and historically, the Champagne champ does well in the Breeders’ Cup. Practical Joke may depend on a good trip, but you won’t be laughing if you fail to add him to the contender pile.

#10 NOT THIS TIME (Giant’s Causeway – Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi) is the wow horse of the field. After losing his debt by 10 lengths sprinting, he came back to beat foes by the same amount at a mile. For an encore, Not This Time scored an 8 ¾ victory in the Iroquois. He clocked the fastest final quarter of the BC Juvie contenders, with a 30.51 – over a muddy track.  Not This Time has won from on and off the pace and his speed figures have jumped in each start. Dale Romans worked the colt at Santa Anita on Oct. 29, going 5F 1:01.60.  He has a good leg extension and a long reach. He galloped the distance under a loose rein without being asked. Not This Time is a muscular colt

Pedigree: Not This time has a miler’/middle distance pedigree. He’s half to BC Dirt Mile hero LIAM’S MAP & to SW sprinter TAYLOR S. Their dam Miss Macy Sue was in the money 19 of 25 starts as a dirt sprinter. She captured mostly listed stakes, and her lone graded stakes victory was the Winning Colors (G3). This is a hard-knocking mare and she was multiple graded stakes placed, including a third place in the 2007 BC Filly & Mare Sprint. Not This Time is a serious win contender.

#11 LOOKIN AT LEE (Lookin At Lucky – Langara Lass, by Langfuhr) Had a nice start to his career. After a toss out debut, the son of Lookin at Lucky successfully sat mid-pack/pressing when capturing his maiden and Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes. The colt had a different rider in his trio of starts. Then Ricardo Santana Jr. climbs on. Lookin At Lee is wrangled to the back of the pack and forced to take the scenic route both times, resulting in runner-up finishes. In the Keeneland Breeders’ Futurity, the colt was 14 lengths off the pace in the early stages. He clocked his final quarter in 31.81, just a tick faster than Classic Empire.  Lookin At Lee has been logging gallops at Santa Anita/   After his visit to the gate on November 3, the colt was a handful, doing his best Lipizzaner impression while jogging next to the pony. The Chestnut lead pony was not amused. Finally let loose, Lookin at Lee literally sprang into action, galloping along under a tight hold. Rider had a ton of horse and Lee’s misbehavior isn’t concerning, he’s just feeling good.

Pedigree: Lookin At Lee He has a miler/middle-distance pedigree. He’s half to SW turf miler BATTLEFIELD ANGEL & their dam is a multiple SW sprinter. Langara Lass is full sister to G3SW miler (8F – 9F) MADEIRA PARK & half to SW milers AMBLESIDE PARK & OVERACT. Lookin At Lee’s early races show that he has enough early speed to sit closer to the pace. If forced to sit far back early, Lookin At Lee will have no shot of winning this, unless he sprouts wings. He does have a shot of hitting the board. It would take a perfect trip to win.


11 of the last 16 winners won their prep for the Breeders’ Cup.  Two placed and three finished third. None finished worse than third.  Nine Juvenile heroes raced between 3-4 times.  Three started only twice and three started 5+ times.  Colts that haven’t had their prep race within a month are at a disadvantage.

A case could be made for just about every colt in here.  Most of the BC Juvie winners at SA don’t wire the field. Syndergaard will be winging it up front. Klimt to his inside may go too or just settle directly behind the pace setters. Star Empire and Gormley may press the pace.  Three Rules is an interesting one. He has the speed to keep up, but could take back and sit third or fourth. The rest will pile in behind while Practical Joke and Lookin At Lee watch the action from the back of the pack.


#6 THREE RULES (8-1)

#10 NOT THIS TIME (7-2)


#1 KLIMT (6-1)


#11 LOOKIN AT LEE (20-1)

#7 GORMLEY (5-1)


Future Champions in the 2016 Rags to Riches Stakes?

The Rags to Riches Stakes was inaugurated in at Churchill Downs 2013.  The most accomplished filly to have exited the Rags to Riches was Tepin. The youngster placed third. Tepin later found her calling on the lawn and was last year’s Champion Turf Mare.

This year seven juvenile fillies will contest the 2016 Rags to Riches Stakes.  My Sweet Stella was scratch from of the one mile contest.

farrellTrainer Wayne Catalano captured the 2014 edition of the Rags to Riches with West Coast Belle. This year, his hopes lie in recent maiden winner FARRELL (Malibu Moon – Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song). The dark brown daughter of Malibu Moon captured her maiden victory at 6 ½ furlongs over Churchill’s wet-fast track. After pressing a moderate pace, Farrell opened up under a hand ride by jockey Channing Hill. She ran away from the field by five lengths in 1:17.39.    24.65 6.66

Pedigree Notes: Farrell is a half sister to three stakes winners and a stakes placed runner.   Carpe Diem, winner of the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and second in the BC Juvenile. Carpe Diem  won the Blue Grass Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby as a three-year-old;   J. B.’S Thunder also captured the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland; Doncaster Rover is a multiple stakes winner in England.  And Semper Fortis, second in the Los Alamitos Derby (G2). The classy Farrell should enjoy a fast track the extra distance of the Rages to Riches.

CHINA GROVE (City Zip – Gatorette, by Distorted Humor) is the most experienced filly in the race with six starts under her girth.  After winning her debut and placing in the Astoria Stakes, the Ben Colebrook trainee went off form, in her next three starts.  In her last start, China Grove placed second to Lovely Bernadette after racing from off of the pace. China Grove appears one paced and simply outlasted a group of fillies that were going nowhere fast. 25.68, 6.73

Pedigree Notes: China Grove has a miler’s pedigree. She owns the only blacktype in her immediate family, but her dam is a half-sister to the stakes winning turf miler Sooonerette.  The second dam Gigis Skyflyer won a sprint stakes.

LOVELY BERNADETTE (Wilburn – Inlovewithlove, by Bernstein) tracked the pace in her last two starts and cleared the field each time. She’s hit the board in all three starts. The James DiVito  trainee has very high knee action and was drifting down the lane. The fillies behind her were staggering, and it wasn’t an impressive race.

Pedigree Notes: Lovely Bernadette is bred to be a sprinter/miler. Her first crop sire Wilburn was a miler who captured the Indiana Derby (G2). He has 39% 2YO winners from 113 starters.  Lovely Bernadette is a first foal. Her dam was a claiming level mare who was ITM in 5 of 21 starts, mainly as a dirt sprinter, but she also won one of four starts on the lawn. There’s no blacktype in the first two generations of her distaff line.

SAILOR’S VALENTINE (Mizzen Mast – Sortilege, by Tale of the Cat) won her debut with authority, traveling 7F in 1:23.74 at Keeneland. The second place finisher won next time out.  Sailor’s Valentine had a strong post race work of 4F in 47.4 breezing  with a stablemate. She followed up with an easy pre-race maintenance move, giving indications that she can move forward off of her debut. 25.43  13.22

Pedigree Notes: Sailor’s Valentine is a second foal. Her half sister is a sprinter/miler on dirt. Their dam is a half sister to a stakes placed sprinter. Dam’s half sister bore three stakes placed runners. The third dam Coup De Fusil set a new track record of 1:59.80 in the 1 ¼ mile Delaware Handicap (G1) and was one of the leading competitors of her generation.  Sailor’s Valentine may handle middle distances (9F) as she matures.

malukuMALUKU (Street Cry (IRE) – Javanese, by Medaglia d’Oro) gets her first opportunity to run on a fast track in the Rags to Riches Stakes. In her previous start, Maluku raced wide most of the way. She looked like a winner in the stretch, but surprisingly, the winner, who had an easy rail trip, came back in the shadow of the wire to nip Maluku by a head. The Michael Stidham charge was previously racing well on turf. Maluku receives Lasix for the first time.  12.01 12.69

Pedigree Notes: Maluku is a second foal. Her dam is an unraced half-sister to the multiple graded stakes winning sprinter/miler Drill, who captured the Del Mar Futurity (G1)as a two-year-old and the San Vicente (G2) and  Lazaro Barrera Memorial (G3) the following year. Maluku has the pedigree and conformation to handle middle to classic distances.

HOLIDAY’S ANGEL (Harlan’s Holiday – Senorita Corredora, by El Corredor) finished third in her sprint debut. She won her maiden by 5 ¼ lengths a month ago over a wet-fast track at Churchill after stretching out to a mile. 12.29 13.34

Pedigree: Holiday’s Angel is the first foal out of an unraced mare. Her dam’s half-sister bore Kentucky Juvenile (G3) winner Lou Brissie.  Holiday’s Angel has the pedigree to handle 8.5F, and possibly 9F when she matures.

NAUGHTY LITTLE NUN (Songandaprayer – A Little Evil, by Deputy Minister) was off of the board in her first two starts once over mud and the other on turf. Third time on a fast track was what she was praying for. The Bernie Flint trainee took the lead at the start of the 1 mile 70 yard race and never looked back, flying home by 7 ¾ lengths.  Her speed figures have improved in each start.

Pedigree Notes: Naughty Little Nun has plenty of speed and class in her pedigree. She’s a half sister to Bad Hombre, who placed in the 1 1/8 mile Curlin Stakes. Their dam A Little Evil is a half sister to 1997 HOY & Champion 2YO Favorite Trick.  A A Little Evil’s half sisters bore stakes winning milers Fury Kapcori (Precisionist S. G3); Tizfiz (San Gorgonio H. G2 9F); Favorite Tale (Smile S. G2 6F).  Naughty Little Nun may be distance challenged beyond 1 1/16 miles.


FARRELL looked good in her last and came back with a pre-race bullet. SAILOR’S VALENTINE exited a strong race and can move forward.  MALUKU really stepped it up in her last start. She was wide the entire way and fought down the stretch. One thing I didn’t like to see is that the tenacious winner Heir Apparent (entered in Race 2) didn’t let Maluku by at any point on the gallop out & Maluku looks like she’s still figuring things out. Still, she received the highest late pace speed figure in this race and will improve with racing.

#7 FARRELL (6-1)


#2 MALUKU (10-1)



Best Pal

2016 Best Pal Stakes – Ready for the Big Leagues

The Best Pal Stakes was named in honor of the Three-time California Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame Inductee Best Pal.  The gelding won graded stakes races from the ages of two to seven at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles, and the surface didn’t matter.  After compiling a 47-18-11-4 racing career and earning $5,668,245, Best Pal hung around the track as a stable pony.   

The Best Pal is a prep for the Del Mar Futurity (G1), yet the event has an illustrious roll call of colts who have done well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Triple Crown series. Last year, Nyquist and Swipe finished first and second, as they later did in the BC Juvenile and Kentucky Derby.  Other Best Pal competitors include Lookin at Lucky, Creative Cause, and Kentucky Derby/Preakness hero I’ll Have Another,

The 2016 Best Pal Stakes (G2) attracted five colts and a ridgling.  The youngsters will line up in Del Mar’s starting gate and travel 6 ½ furlongs.  Four of them enter on the high note of having won their last race.


Heavy Hitters

Trainer Bob Baffert has taken home the Best Pal trophy six times; the latest was in 2009 with Lookin At Lucky.  This year, Baffert is represented by KLIMT (Quality Road – Inventive, by Dixie Union).  In his second start, Klimt briefly stalked the pace, challenged the pacesetter, and then drew away to a 5 ¼ length score over a full field of two-year-olds.   Klimt has shown the usual quick morning works expected by the Baffert horses. In his third pre-race breeze, Klimt recorded a bullet working with graded stakes winner TOEWS ON ICE.

Pedigree: Half-sister West Coast Chick (Malibu Moon) placed in the 6 ½ F.  Vagrancy H. (G3).  Klimt’s dam is a multiple stakes placed miler. This is the direct female family of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) hero CONCERN.    


Doug O’Neill has conditioned the Best Pal Stakes winner in two of the last four years, including last year’s champ Nyqyist. This year’s 1/3 of the Best Pal is comprised of O’Neil trainees Secret House and Rinse And Repeat. 

After winning his debut at 4 ½ furlongs, SECRET HOUSE (Tiznow – Mega Dream, by Medaglia d’Oro) finished fourth, just missing third place by a short neck in the Santa Anita Juvenile Stakes.  Secret House will be fitted with a shiny new set of blinkers.  He gets his third jock switch in as many starts, this time to Santiago Gonzalez, and the colt.  O’Neil & Gonzalez have teamed for a dismal 0-15 in the last three months.

Pedigree:  Secret House is a first foal. His dam won a stakes at 6F on dirt and placed at a mile on the turf in the Royal Heroine Mile (G3).  This is the distaff line of 1991 Eclipse Award Turf Male TIGHT SPOT, and the multiple graded stakes winning warrior PREMIUM TAP.  Secret House is bred to handle classic distances and also has turf affinity throughout his pedigree. He should improve with maturity.


O’Neil’s second contender RINSE AND REPEAT (Square Eddie – Electric Daze, by Gilded Time) found the third start to be to his liking.  After chasing the pace setter Rim Ditch for much of the race, Rinse and Repeat took over in the stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths. 

Pedigree: Rinse and Repeat’s full brother Electric Eddie placed 3 times, twice in juvie stakes. Their dam was 1-7, failed to hit the board at SA and HOL, but got the job done at Fairplex. The second generation of his female family didn’t earn blacktype, but his third dam NORTHERN FABLE is a graded stakes winner and she’s also the third dam of BERNARDINI. Class could be skipping a generation here.


Ready to step up

In his debut, BIG LEAGUE (Speightstown – Reunited, by Dixie Union) dueled on the lead for much of the race, and then pulled away in the stretch to win by 3 ¼ lengths. The dark bay colt has been training smartly for Perter Miller, who is seeking his first Best Pal victory. 

Pedigree: Big League has a precocious sprinter’s pedigree. His dam is a G3 stakes winning sprinter. There are some nice blacktype earners in the female family.  Reunited’s ¾ brother DEAL BREAKER is a two-time stakes-winning sprinter, as is a half-sister, WIND TUNNEL.  Another half-sibling Ok Nothanksforaskn is Grade 3 stakes placed.  Big League’s second dam TIVLI is also a stakes winner.


Race Invaders

THIRSTFORLIFE (Stay Thirsty – Promenade Girl, by Carson City) ships in from Kentucky. The son of first-crop sire Stay Thirsty made his debut in the five-furlong Kentucky Juvenile Stakes three days before the Kentucky Derby. The colt finished third but came back to win at the same distance a month later, running away from an over-matched field of maidens by 6 ½ lengths.  Mark Casse ships in and Joe Talamo will ride.

Pedigree: Thirstforlife has a miler’s pedigree. He’s a ¾  brother to CAVORTING (Bernardini), who won the Adirondack (G2) as a juvenile. Later Cavorting captured a trio of Grade 1 races, the Test, Ogden Phipps, and Ruffian. While she was at it, Cavoting added the Prioress (G2) to her resume along with numerous second and third place finishes in other prestigious graded stakes. Their dam Promenade Girl is a multiple stakes winning miler who earned almost $700,000 in 28 starts. Thirstforlife’s fourth dam Dumbfries is a blue hen and a half-sister to the great stallion LYPHARD.


DRAFTED (Field Commission – Keep the Profit, by Darn That Alarm) flashed his heels to a young group of babies in April at Keeneland, winning his debut by 2 ¾ lengths. Barely a month later, he jet-setted to Royal Ascot and took the scenic route, finishing 17 lengths behind the winner in the Windsor Castle Stakes.  Now Drafted is back in California.  He’s recorded a couple of energetic breezes at Del Mar, and Gary Stevens will attempt to earn his second Best Pal trophy.

Pedigree:  Drafted ‘s sire, a grandson of Deputy Minister, is a multiple graded stakes winning sprinter over dirt and turf. Drafted has a very modest distaff family with no blacktype in the first two generations, and very little in the third and fourth generations.



It all comes down to speed.  Well, yeah, I guess every race does. But this year at Del Mar, either pace setters or pace pressers find their way to the winner’s circle most often. Those who sit midpack (2+ lengths back) and closers don’t fare so well. 


#6 BIG LEAGUE (2-1)

#5 KLIMT (9-5)

#1 SECRET HOUSE (12-1)



Handicapping maidens

Keys to Handicapping Maiden Races

Del Mar and Saratoga are gearing up for another year, and well-bred babies will be making their highly anticipated debuts.


Many handicappers get out the dart board when faced with the mostly blank past performance section of maiden races.  Some horse fans scan the entries and then pick the Baffert, O’Neil, Pletcher or Ward horse.  If the race is part of a vertical combo like a Pick 4, 5 or 6, the top two or three with the lowest odds are tossed onto the ticket.

Sometimes the handicapper gets lucky. Most often not.  Doing your homework can lead to lucrative payoffs in maiden races.  My eyes light up when I see a field of first-time starters. I concentrate only on two-year-olds and follow them through the Triple Crown. Once they’ve crossed the finish line in the Belmont Stakes, I’m done with them and go back to the next generation.  So call me a cradle robber.

Betting MaidensA difficult part of handicapping maiden events continues to be data, or rather, the lack thereof.  Past performances don’t give the crucial detailed info needed to select maiden winners properly.  Compiling the data for a maiden race can be a frustrating process.  It takes time, effort and most importantly, knowledge of where to find the information.   Then comes the skill learned through trial and error to pick the runners most likely to finish in the money.


Last year, Del Mar and Saratoga combined carded over 150 races for two-year-olds during their meets. Usually, these events are part of the Pick 5 or Pick 6 sequence.


So what is the beleaguered handicapper to do?  One of two things. Either follow the steps below and spend hours finding and sorting data or get it all at Bruno de Julio’s website. Bruno With The Works now includes all of the pedigree info needed to conquer the maiden races confidently using easy to read reports.


There are several components to pedigree handicapping.  They include the four components of pedigree handicapping, work reports, trainer/jock stats, post position and prior experience.

Reviewing the starter’s lineage, plus the sire and dam’s percentage stats in the PP’s won’t tell you a whole lot.  Besides the pedigree, one must determine precocity, class, distance and surface. How the horse is breezing in the morning is another vital key.   Here’s a quick run-down of what is needed to determine accurately which entrants have the best chance to put money into your pocket.


Yes, sire stats do come into play here. Percentage of 2YO winners is a start, but what percentage of them won first time out? That’s the statistic you need to know.  A stallion’s 25% two-year-old win rate from starters is pretty good, but not if 5% win first time out. 

The female family is an important clue to precocity. How many of the siblings won or placed in their first two starts, and if our contender is a first foal, did the dam and her siblings exhibit win-early tendencies?  This information is tough for the average handicapper to find unless they have a subscription to produce records or other handicapping product. 


Yes, class can be determined before the babies run. Immediate family members who have won or placed in stakes races (a/k/a black type) is an indication of class.  But – what about the family without blacktype?  The important question is – does this family win?  If our maiden is modestly bred, yet the majority of his/her siblings won a good portion of their races, this is a good sign.  Become familiar with the auction abbreviations, such as OBS, KEE, BARR, and FTF. Look at the sales prices of two-year-olds in training. Speed sells and these babies do well in the early maiden races.

Next, figure out the average class level of the siblings or dam, if this is the first foal.  Allowance/Claimers at an “A” rated track like Saratoga or Del Mar face better competitors than those at, say, Evangeline Downs. Yes, it’s a pain to look up all this data, but if that 4-1 horse you’re eyeing doesn’t have the same class level as the rest of the field, it will show.


The summer’s events for two-year-olds are sprints, and distances don’t lengthen until late summer, early fall.  California is heavy on dirt sprints. Saratoga has a dearth of turf sprints.  Often, when a baby is ready to run, the optimal race hasn’t been carded or has filled. Some trainers just want to get some experience into their youngsters and winning the debut isn’t the goal.

A horse bred to win at middle or classic distances is obviously at a disadvantage against sprinter/miler types, especially during the summer. Their conformation is different, and it takes longer for them to develop physically.   The offspring of A.P. Indy, Empire Maker, Pioneerof The Nile, and Medaglia d’Oro to name a few, rarely win shorter sprints.  American Pharoah found the 6 ½ furlongs of his debut too short but won the Del Mar Futurity at 7 furlongs.



The same situation as distance applies to surface.  A maiden bred for turf might win on the dirt in their debut with raw talent, but not usually.  Turf-bred horses can sometimes have a different conformation than their dirt counterparts. The hoof is broad and flat and pasterns tend to be longer.  A horse bred for dirt can have a narrower, tighter foot, and shorter pasterns.  This isn’t always the case, but it is something to consider when looking at the pedigree and viewing horses in the paddock.


Knowing how the horse breezed is more important than knowing how fast he went.  Would you rather back a horse who out-worked a stablemate in hand or a horse that was pushed hard to keep up? This factor applies to every type of race, not just maidens. Work reports are one of the most valuable tools a handicapper can use for any race condition.

Physical Demeanor

confident horseBefore betting a maiden race, it is crucial to see how the horses are behaving. Or not. A little sweat never hurt anyone, especially on a hot, humid day. A first-time runner looking like a shampoo commercial can be tossed. Look for a horse that has a bounce in his step, he’s eager, maybe prancing, but not kicking, rearing or causing general havoc. There’s a shine to his coat, and you can tell he’s feeling good.

Handicapping maiden races require a ton of research. A full field of maidens can take upwards of an hour or more to thoroughly explore all of the factors and nail down the most likely runners to hit the board. Unless you’re a handicapper who loves to delve into the minutiae of handicapping maiden events, a subscription to a quality publication specializing in work and pedigree reports is a must. If you think that you don’t need one, try a trial supplement and compare your before and after ROI.