Friday, May 20, 2016

Preakness Stakes 2016

Pimlico  - May 21, 2016
Race 13 - 6:45 PM
Preakness Stakes.   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,500,000
Distance - One And Three Sixteenth Miles
Surface – Dirt

1 –  Cherry Wine
2 – Uncle Lino                                                   
3 – Nyquist        
4 – Awesome Speed                                                     
5 – Exaggerator                                                
6 – Lani                                                                
7 – Collected
8 – Laoban
9 –  Abiding Star
10 – Fellowship
11 - Stradivari

For anyone who missed #3 Nyquist victory in the Kentucky Derby see the video below.

Two things that caught my attention during the race -- 

This is the second straight race that Nyquist has gone VERY wide on the final turn, I believe this may be one of the only weak spots this horse has in his racing style at this time --- I’m sure his trainers are working on it – however his wide sweeps could make him vulnerable…..that is if there was a horse equal to his talents – and so far there hasn’t been.

Also you’ll notice that #5 Exaggerator really struggles to work through the wall of horses coming out of the final turn and does an admiral job of closing on Nyquist in the final furlong. 

Perhaps with less horses and a distance greater than a mile and 1/8 ….. Exaggerator may have enough space and distance to steal one from Nyquist.

Kentucky Derby:

Most experts consider the Preakness a two horse race – you either like Nyquist to keep on winning, at a distance he should be able to handle easily – or you’re hoping Exaggerator will be able to pull off an upset.

The Preakness, in my opinion, is Nyquist’s race to lose…Nyquist is undefeated in 8 races --- and in those 8 races he has defeated Exaggerator (the second favorite in this race) 4 times.

Overall there is less talent, fewer horses, and less distance in the Preakness compared to the Kentucky Derby -- this race is offering every advantage to Nyquist.....and he really doesn't need it.

The second favorite is #5 Exaggerator who has 4 victories in 10 races --- if Nyquist didn’t exist, he would likely have 6 victories in 10 races.

An interesting side note in this year’s Preakness is that Nyquist shares the same sire (Uncle Mo) with #2 Uncle Lino, #8 Laoban, and #9 Abiding Star.

Here’s a review of the rest of the field.
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
can't help but start humming
Spill the Wine by War
when he sees Cherry Wine.

 #1 Cherry Wine – has 2 wins in 8 attempts and has a tendency to fall back early and close late. His last race was a 3rd place finish 42 days ago in the Blue Grass Stakes.

#2 Uncle Lino – 2 wins in 7 races – his last race was a victory in the California Chrome Stakes in Los Alamitos – and he finished 3rd (behind Exaggerator) in the Santa Anita Derby.

#4 Awesome Speed – has won 4 out of 6 races – and is coming off a recent victory 42 days ago.

#6 Lani – has 3 victories in 7 attempts – however one of his victories was the very impressive UAE Derby  -- Lani showcased a great closing stride in the UAE Derby – however word on the track is that Lani is….eccentric -- or just crazy! Below is a portion of an article from Yahoo.

Lani isn't going to start delivering Pizza in Adult Films...
is he???
Looney Lani earned a reputation at Churchill Downs in the run-up to the Derby by being, shall we say, overly excited when he took to the track for morning workouts. The Churchill notes crew employed the euphemism "studdish," since he certainly appeared more interested in breeding than breezing on several mornings. Some publicity photos were even photoshopped to remove the protruding evidence of Lani's ardor.

Then there were the days before the Derby when Lani didn't feel like running. His exercise rider could not coax a gallop out of him on the day of his last major workout, and the move was postponed. Nobody seemed quite sure what he was going to do on any given morning.
#7 Collected – has 4 victories in 6 attempts – with his last race being a victory in the Lexington Stakes.  Collected will likely try to stalk Nyquist in the first turn and go stride for stride with him from there.

#8 Laoban – has never won a race in 5 outings…….he did finish 4th in the Blue Grass Stakes

#9 Abiding Star – has 5 victories in 11 races – and recently won the 2016 Parx Derby (in Philadelphia).

#10 Fellowship – has 2 wins in 12 races – with a recent 4th place finish in the Pat Day Mile

#11 Stradavari – has 2 wins in 3 races – with a recent Allowance Race victory.

Stradavari is currently the 3rd favorite in this race and there is some “buzz” around this horse – but I don’t think he’s ready for this kind of talent -- granted he may really only be competing for 3rd place (the Show).

Here is how I see the race playing out –

Cherry Wine will gladly fall back – I'm looking for Cherry Wine to stay on the inside and close strongly coming out of the final turn. If he got VERY LUCKY -- and Nyquist goes FAR WIDE in the last turn -- Cherry Wine may be in a position to stay close the the rail and steal one from both Nyquist and Exaggerator......lot of things need to happen for Cherry Wine though.

Uncle Lino will hope to keep up with Nyquist and prevent Nyquist from grabbing the rail……he may succeed….however Nyquist may bolt to the lead and cut Uncle Lino off before the first turn, leaving Uncle Lino boxed in.

There are two very interesting questions that will be answered in the first quarter mile – will Exaggerator attempt to run at the top of the pack and keep pace with Nyquist……and if he does --- what kind of pace will Nyquist set.

A great example of this is the San Vicente Stakes – granted this is only a 7 furlong race, but you’ll notice Nyquist runs a 22.5 ¼ mile…..and Exaggerator is right there with him.

San Vicente:

Exaggerator may also be looking to fall back to the middle of the pack in hopes that some of the other horses push Nyquist to a blazing early pace ….. and that Nyquist will be too spent to finish strongly and Exaggerator can fly by in the final furlong to steal a victory.

The problem for Exaggerator is that the strategy of “hoping Nyquist is spent” hasn’t worked yet……despite dangerous early speed, Nyquist (so far) has had plenty of endurance to finish races.

The other problem for Exaggerator is running at the front isn’t really what he does best… he’d be changing his own style in hopes of beating Nyquist at Nyquist’s own game……also NOT a successful strategy…..this of course is why Exaggerator is 0 for 4 against Nyquist.

***If Exaggerator decides to hang back in the middle of the pack and set himself up on the inside coming out of the final turn AND Nyquist sweeps wide or is pushed Wide in the final turn -- Exaggerator may be able to steal one on the inside -- I think it's possible, but unlikely.

Collected I believe will stalk Nyquist – Awesome Speed may also work to be in the top 4 horses.

Once they hit the final turn I believe Awesome Speed and Uncle Lino will fade -- Collected may be able to hang in there for a third place finish.

Closing Speed likes:  Nyquist / Exaggerator / Cherry Wine

I was given some betting advice many years ago that has served me well -- if you believe it's really only a two horse race -- split the favorites with a long shot --- it is rare that the race will favor both it's good to put a long shot in the middle.


If you're very confident that the favorite is going to win (and there isn't much money in it for you) the other way to go is to bet a Pick 3 / Pick 4 and have your "Sure Thing" anchor the Picks......I'm going with the latter advice.

If I’m betting $24  I like:

A pick 3 starting:

Race 11: 3/6/7/9
Race 12: 7/9/11/12
Race 13; 3

And two long shot $1 Exactas:

1,6,7,11 with 3 = $4

3 with 1,6,7,11 = $4

Friday, May 6, 2016

Kentucky Derby 2016

Churchhill Downs – May 7, 2016
Race 12 - 6:34 PM
Kentucky Derby (Grade I)
Purse - $2,000,000
Distance - One And One Quarter Miles
Surface - Dirt

1 –  Trojan Nation
2 – Suddenbreakingnews
3 – Creator                         
4 – Mo Tom                                                       
5 – Gun Runner
6 - My Man Sam
7 – Oscar Nominated
8 – Lani
9 –  Destin
10 – Whitmore
11 – Exaggerator
12 – Tom’s Ready
13 – Nyquist
14 – Mohaymen
15 – Outwork
16 – Shagaf
17 – Mor Spirit
18 – Majesto
19 – Brody’s Cause
20 – Danzig Candy
From what I’m seeing the 2016 Kentucky Derby is split into two groups – the first group believes that #13 Nyquist is a far superior horse to the rest of the field and this is “his” race to lose.

Why do haters gotta hate??
The second group might fall in the “haters gotta hate” group – that’s just looking for any way the heavy favorite could fail or because they’re hoping to make some money on a longshot.

Full disclosure (as a fan) I’m in the first group – Nyquist has been nothing short of amazing in his undefeated 7 race career. He’s won on four different tracks, in three different states.  He fearlessly was transferred to Florida to take on (perhaps) the second best horse in the nation #14 Mohaymen – on Mohaymen’s “home court” – defeating all in the Florida Derby.

Florida Derby:
(also featuring #14Mohaymen and  #18 Majesto)

Nyquist has all of the trademarks that make up a “GREAT” Kentucky Derby favorite – he possesses enough early speed that he can separate from a field of 12 to 19 horses and set his own early pace.

My “fear” for Nyquist is that while he has shown racing maturity he “could” fall for an early speed trap and burn himself out too early……but again, he’s shown maturity so far.

Nyquist also appears comfortable with longer distances and able to sustain enough endurance so that he doesn’t fade in the final furlongs.

In the Florida Derby you’ll notice he does go VERY wide in the final turn and he does waver in the final furlongs – which does indicate some fatigue – but, in my opinion, the undefeated Juvenile Champion looks like a fighter and I think once he hits the final stretch and builds two or three lengths on the other horses….it’s OVER.

However, for those looking for a surprise victory, there are a few interesting horses.

#3 Creator (currently going off at 10/1) is a story of Good News / Bad News – the Bad News is that this horse has only won 2 races out of 8 – however he won his last race The Arkansas Derby and Creator seems poised to be a bigger threat at longer distances – so additional good news is that this horse could be just getting into races he’s comfortable with.

As you watch the Arkansas Derby you’ll see that the Big Grey Colt likes to hang WAAAAAYYY back until he makes his final push…’s also interesting to see that both Creator and Suddenbreakingnews seem to be finding their stride late in the race......

Arkansas Derby:
(also featuring #2 Suddenbreakingnews & #10 Whitmore)

#5 Gun Runner – Winner of both the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star Stakes) has won 4 out of 5 career races.

*If Gun Runner can break from the gate well and take the rail – he could challenge Nyquist early – I think Gun Runner has a shot to land in the top three with some luck.

There’s also a chance that he could get swallowed in a swarm of horses and never have a chance to break out.

Louisiana Derby
(also featuring #4 Mo Tom & #12 Tom’s Ready)

#11 Exaggerator – was the winner of the Santa Anita Derby, and has 4 career victories in 9 attempts (one of his losses was against Nyquist in February). Exaggerator was sired by one of my favorites (Curlin) and he possesses a great late kick --- and I love that he’s comfortable in traffic – I don’t love him at 8/1 – I’d be more interested at 12/1 or higher.

Santa Anita Derby
(also featuring #17 Mor Spirit and #20 Danzig Candy)

 #15 Outwork has won 3 of his 4 career races – including the Wood Memorial --- his one loss was against #9 Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby.

I like Outwork but I think he received a tough luck post position – I believe he needed to be on the inside of Nyquist to have a solid shot and I don’t think this horse is going to be able to overtake Nyquist early or have a better late kick than some of the other horses – tough draw.

#9 Destin is a bit of a mystery – he hasn’t raced in 56 days – he’s won his last two stakes races – and I love his starting spot……but I HATE the long layoff and the fact that he hasn’t really competed against top talent. But a VERY intriguing longshot.

Wood Memorial
(also featuring #1 Trojan Nation and #16 Shagaf)

To round out the field –

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
wonders why they didn't name
the horse Oscar Winner?
I mean....they had a choice.
#7 Oscar Nominated – has won his last two races (including the Spiral Stakes) and has won a total of 3 out of 7 career attempts.  I like his starting spot…..but he strikes me as a horse that’s just happy to be there – I believe he’ll be overwhelmed by the level of talent in this one.

#8 Lani – I’m always VERY interested when the UAE Derby winner comes out of the Middle East to race in the Kentucky Derby – This horse has won in Japan and the Dubai – it appears to me that this horse likes to run in the middle of the pack – and closes out very smoothly.  That being said – while this horse has a premium post position - he hasn’t raced in 42 days and he’s dealing with a very difficult traveling transition.  Full disclosure – I always think the UAE Derby winner will surprise….and the only one that’s surprised is me when they finish so poorly.

#19 Brody’s Cause – he’s another quality horse that will strike very late in a race. He has won 3 out of 6 career races and if he can find a lane coming out of the final turn, he could certainly be an upset contender --- but only if Nyquist is fatigued.

#6 My Man Sam – finished 2nd to Brody’s Cause in the recent Blue Grass Stakes – but My Man Sam was driving in the final furlongs.  He’s got only 1 victory in 4 attempts….but he looks like he likes the distance…..I don’t love him at 20/1…..but if he hits 30/1 or higher…..he’s interesting.

Here’s how I see the race breaking down

#1 Trojan Nation likely gets swallowed up in less than one full second from a collapsing dune of horses and is likely never heard from again – meanwhile on the opposite side #20 Danzig Candy will have to make a very difficult decision – either Danzig Candy will burst out and hit the pace at a suicide level in hopes of grabbing a top spot and somehow sustaining it……or come out of the gate weakly and look to find a spot in the top half of the pack – either way I think Danzig Candy will have a very difficult time making this post work for him.

I believe Brody’s Cause, Suddenbreakingnews, Exaggerator and Creator will ALL fall back to the back of the pack – Creator will likely be the furthest back….and Exaggerator may work his way closer to middle of the pack.

Gun Runner could get swallowed up early – but I think he could make the first turn and be the early leader – I suspect he’ll be joined by Nyquist, Mohaymen and Outwork. Destin could also be there.

If Nyquist is pushing an early quarter at 21 or 22 seconds he could be in trouble – however if Nyquist has a clear path in front of him and he’s running a 23.5 second quarter --- I think EVERYBODY else is in trouble.

Nyquist may have to fight off getting boxed in by the other horses – in what I consider poor sportsmanship – sometimes the other jockeys will try to box the favorite in…..doesn’t translate into their horses winning as much as it does the favorite losing.

Coming into the final turn I believe Outwork and Mohaymen will likely begin to fade…..they may have run 5 or 6 wide the entire race and it will have been too much to maintain. 

We’ll see if Gun Runner is able to challenge.

Midway in the final turn I suspect we’ll begin hearing that Brody’s Cause, My Man Sam, Suddenbreakingnews, Exaggerator  and Creator are making their late pushes….IF one of these horses can find an open lane close to the rail or the inside track of Nyquist – I think any of these horses have a shot at an upset over Nyquist.

However if a lane through that wall of horses doesn’t open up early enough or if the late closing horses are forced AROUND the wall of horses (i.e. to the far outside)  – and Nyquist has built up a lead and still has enough strength to finish – I suspect Nyquist will be on his way to the Winner’s Circle.

Closing Speed likes: Nyquist / Exaggerator / Brody's Cause

If I’m betting $38 on this race I like:

$1 Trifecta Box: 11,13, 19 = $6
$1 Exacta: 5,7,8,9 w 13 = $4
$1 Exacta: 13 w 5,7,8,9 = $4
(Or just $2 -  5,7,8,9 to win = $8)

$1 Exacta Box: 2,,3,11,13 = $24

Friday, April 15, 2016

Arkansas Derby 2016

Purse - $1,000,000
Distance - One And One Eighth Miles
Surface - Dirt

1 –  Discreetness
2 –  Cutacorner                                
3 –  Creator                                        
4 – Suddenbreakingnews                                            
5 – American Pioneer                                                    
6 – Unbridled Outlaw                                                    
7 – Dazzling Gem
8 – Whitmore
9 –  Luna De Loco
10 –  Cupid
11 – Gray Sky
12 - Gettysburg

For the most part, the Arkansas Derby is a rematch of the Rebel Stakes in March – and in my opinion it’s likely that the Arkansas Derby will also be a replay of the Rebel Stakes.

In the Rebel, #10 Cupid went wire to wire to the Winner’s Circle holding off #8 Whitmore and a late charging #3 Creator.  

The remainder of the field included #1 Discreetness, #2 Cutacorner, #4 Suddenbreakingnews, and #11 Gray Sky.

As you watch the race – one item of note happens at the 1:28 mark – you’ll see Cupid have an awkward step near (or into) the rail  – the announcer doesn’t acknowledge it – but I believe Cupid would have finished much stronger had he come out of the final turn smoother.

The Rebel Stakes:

 To round out the field we have:

#5 American Pioneer  (NOT a close relation to Arkansas Derby Champion and Triple Crown Champion American Pharoah) – American Pioneer has 1 win in two races and has never contended against this kind of competition – I don’t like his inexperience here and I really don’t like his 8/1 odds – I’d think about it, if this horse were closer to 30-1.

#6 Unbridled Outlaw – he has 1 victory in 5 attempts – and finished 2nd in his most recent outing – at 10/1 I’m not a fan.

#7 Dazzling Gem finished 3rd in the Louisiana Derby and is back at the track after only 21 days off –  I believe Dazzling Gem is worth a look in this race – in the Louisiana Derby he was fading in his 3rd place finish – but it wasn’t the best trip for him and he’s the only horse with experience at this distance.

Dazzling Gem is well positioned to work his way into the middle of the pack --- and then we’ll see if he can finish stronger this time out. I don’t like him to win – but at 10/1 odds I like him to finish better than American Pioneer and Unbridled Outlaw.

#9 Luna De Loco – finished 13th (in a 14 horse race) in the Southwest Stakes – this horse tapped out around the ½ mile marker of his last race and hasn’t raced in 35 days  – perhaps the horse had a minor injury to get over or just needed more training – he’s had two victories out of four races – but I just haven’t seen anything to make me believe he can contend in the Ark. Derby.

And finally #12 Gettysburg finished 2nd at Sunland in his last race and has a career record of 1 win in 5 races – I don’t love him at 6/1.

The Arkansas Derby is (in my opinion) Cupid’s race to lose – HOWEVER starting in the 10th spot, the added distance and this quality field could test his abilities.

However Cupid does have a great song....and that should count for something....Ladies and Gentlemen Mr. Sam Cooke!!

Alright.....back to racing.....#3 Creator and #4 Suddenbreakingnews will likely drop to the back of the pack and cruise along there for the first ½ mile or so -- I'll be looking for both of these horses to make a strong late charge at the end of the race.

I’ll be very curious to see what #8 Whitmore will do with his inside position of Cupid.

Cupid will likely want to take the lead and set the pace – the question is - can (or will) Whitmore attempt to keep up the early pace with Cupid in hopes of coming out of the final turn with a better position than Cupid?

Or will Whitmore let Cupid fly by and position himself in the middle of the pack – hoping to finish stronger than his last outing?

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah likes
the idea of Cupid but is NOT
a fan of getting shot with his
All things being equal – Cupid is the horse to beat in this race – but with the added distance in this race and a less than optimal post position --- Cupid will have to earn this one.

I think Dazzling Gem (12/1) is a legit long shot possibility.

I’m looking for Suddenbreakingnews to rebound from a mediocre Rebel Stakes – but I think Creator is being overlooked at 10/1.

Closing Speed likes:  Cupid/ Creator and Suddenbreakingnews.

If I’m betting $10 on this race I like:
$1 Exacta Box: 3,4,10 = $6
$2 Win – #3 Creator

$2 Win – #7 Dazzling Gem

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Florida Derby 2016

Gulfstream Park – April 2, 2016
Race 14 - 6:48 PM
Florida Derby (Grade I)
Distance - One And One Eighth Miles

1 – Sawyers Mickey
2 – Fellowship                                  
3 – Majesto                                                       
4 – Nyquist                                                        
5 – Copingaway                                                               
6 – Chovanes                                                    
7 – Takeittotheedge
8 – Fashionable Freddy
9 –  Mohayman
10 – Isofass

#4 Nyquist and #9 Mohayman are considered by many to be the two best three year old horses in the country --- and (it’s possible) they could be starting a great rivalry here at Gulfstream Park in the Florida Derby.

#4 Nyquist is undefeated in 6 races including the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and the San Vicente Stakes.

#9 Mohayman is also undefeated – having won his last two races The Fountain of Youth and the Holy Bull Stakes here at Gulfstream Park.

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
thinks that having a Father
named Uncle Mo would be
very confusing. 

Nyquist (like his father Uncle Mo) has a tendency to set a demanding pace (he put up a 22.7 ¼ mile in his last outing) – he will, most likely, look to take the lead early – control the rail – and have enough stamina to finish before any late closers can catch him……and as I wrote before – so far no one has.

Mohayman will likely stalk the pace – he will likely position himself in the middle of the pack and look to have enough time and enough energy to close on Nyquist.

What will be very interesting is to see how much distance is between Nyquist and Mohayman going into the first turn and coming out of the second turn.

Mohayman doesn’t want to burn out too early trying to keep up with Nyquist in the first three quarters of the race --- he also doesn’t want to give Nyquist so much room that he doesn’t have time to catch Nyquist in the final furlongs.  

Currently Nyquist is the second favorite currently set at 6/5 odds --- Mohayman is currently at 1/1 odds – I don’t think I’ve ever seen odds this low AND this close in one race.

With a two dollar bet --

6/5 odds pays $4.40
1/1 odds pays $4.00

Just to look over the remaining horses –

#1 Sawyers Mickey is currently at 30-1 and has never won a race in 7 attempts

#2 Fellowship (15-1) finished 3rd in the Fountain of Youth against Mohayman and has two victories in 10 attempts.

#3 Majesto (20/1)  - 1 win in 5 Races
#5 Copingaway (50/1) 1 win – 14 races
#6 Chovanes (30/1) 1 win – 4 races

#7 Takeittotheedge (20/1) – he won in his only race, which was a 7 furlong race here at Gulfstream Park.

#8 Fashionable Freddy (30/1) – 1 win in 5 races
#10 Isofass (30/1) – 1 win in 4 races.

To give this some perspective Nyquist has 6 victories – Mohayman has 5 victories – and the rest of the field combined have 8 victories.

In my attempt to pick a winner in this race – I have gone back and forth several times –

Mohayman has never had to close on this kind of early speed – Nyquist may not have enough endurance to hold Mohayman off.

Mohayman has experience on this track – Nyquist is the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Champion.

I usually take the horse that has experience with the track, and Mohayman has won his last two races at Gulfstream Park…..but it is certainly not easy not choosing the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile that has quite a bit of racing experience already.

So Closing Speed likes: Mohayman,  Nyquist and Majesto

I would not bet on this race – this is a race you just sit back and hope to watch two young greats go at it.

However if you’re betting $18 I would go with a Pick 3 bet beginning in race #12

Race #12 – 3,5,6 with Race #13 – 4,7,9 with Race #14 4,9.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

American Pharoah - Finally the One

Feb. 2 is Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion American Pharoah’s birthday – and in honor of his birthday I thought that I would write (how I view) his story –

I think it’s best to start at the end of the 2014 Belmont Stakes – California Chrome had recently won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness – but (perhaps due to injury) California Chrome finished 4th in the Belmont – and on National Television Owner Steve Coburn proclaimed:

“I’m 61 years old, and I’ll never see in my lifetime, I’ll never see another Triple Crown winner ..because the way they do this”. *See Video ------------------------ >

After over 35 years without a Triple Crown winner – those who still paid any attention to the Sport of Kings, certainly understood Mr. Coburn’s sentiments.

What was it going to take to build another Triple Crown winner?

What if I told you that American Pharoah’s story begins on February 9th 1913 --- you read that correctly 1913…as in the year before World War 1 began in Europe.

Feb. 9 1913 – Hall of Fame Trainer John Andrew Nerud is born on a ranch in Nebraska.

The Great Race of 38!

1919 - Sir Barton wins the Triple Crown
1930 – Gallant Fox wins the Triple Crown

1935 – Mr. Nerud begins his career training Horses.

1935 – Omaha wins the Triple Crown
1937 – War Admiral wins the Triple Crown

1938 – Seabiscuit defeats War Admiral in the Pimlico Special

1941 – Whirlaway wins the Triple Crown
1943 – Count Fleet wins the Triple Crown
1948 – Citation wins the Triple Crown

1949 – Having returned from serving in the Navy in World War II – Mr. Nerud returns to training horses and has three significant victories (Hialeah Inaugural Handicap, Seminole Handicap and the New Rochelle Handicap)

Gallant Man & John Nerud
1953 – Trainer Bob Baffert is Born.

1957 – Mr. Nerud’s horse Gallant Man is beaten by a nose in the Kentucky Derby by Iron Leige – in what is a legendary misjudgment by Hall of Fame Jockey Willie Shoemaker:

Some Background - (link below)

Nerud’s response: 
“You can’t turn the clock back; Shoemaker just made a mistake and pulled him up,” Nerud said. “But what are you going to do? If you’re a gentleman, you say nothing; you eat it and go home.”

The 1957 Kentucky Derby can be seen here brought to you by Universal International News....(I love these old newscasts)

Gallant Man skips the Preakness and returns to win the 1957 Belmont Stakes.

1968 – Dr Fager – Trained by Mr. Nerud and named after the neurosurgeon who saved Nerud’s life after a fall from his horse, is perhaps Mr. Nerud’s greatest horse – this quote sums it up perfectly:

In 1968, Dr. Fager was acclaimed champion older horse, champion sprinter, champion grass horse, and Horse of the Year. In short, he was considered the best at literally everything an American racehorse is asked to do, except jump a fence. Then again, he never tried.

1972 – Jockey Victor Espinoza is born

1973 – Secretariat wins the Triple Crown (ending a 25 year drought in dramatic fashion)

1977 – Fappiano is born (Dr. Fager is his Grand Sire on the Mare’s side) – He is breed and trained by Mr. Nerud – and  while Fappiano’s racing career is somewhat modest (a Metropolitan Handicap Victory) – his most important contribution will be in producing Champions.....that eventually lead us to American Pharoah.

1977 – Seattle Slew wins the Triple Crown
1978 – Affirmed wins the Triple Crown
1979 – Spectacular Bid wins KY Derby and Preakness – (finishes 3rd in the Belmont).

1979 – John Nerud retires from Training Horses – but still continues as a Manager and Breeder. He is instrumental as a Founding Father of The Breeder’s Cup.

1981 – Pleasant Colony – Wins KY Derby and Preakness – (finishes 3rd in the Belmont)

1984 – Swale (sired by Seattle Slew) Wins KY Derby and Belmont (loses Preakness).

1984 – The first year of The Breeder’s Cup kicks off at Hollywood Park in California.

1987 – Alysheba wins KY Derby and Preakness – (finished 4th in the Belmont)

1989 – Sunday Silence – wins KY Derby and Preakness – (finished 2nd in the Belmont).
Sunday Silence goes on to win the Breeders Cup.

1990 – Unbridled – Sired by Fappiano wins the KY Derby and the Breeders Cup Classic.

1992 – Trainer Bob Baffert gets first major win with Thirty Slews in the Breeders Cup Sprint.

1994 – Thunder Glutch wins the KY Derby, finishes 3rd in the Preakness and then wins the Belmont Stakes.

1997 – Silver Charm – trained by Bob Baffert – wins the KY Derby and Preakness – (finishes 2nd in the Belmont).

1998 – Real Quiet – Grandsired by Fappiano, Trained by Bob Baffert – wins the KY Derby and Preakness (finishes 2nd to Victory Gallop who was also Grand Sired by Fappiano).

1999 – Charismatic – wins KY Derby and Preakness – (finishes 3rd in the Belmont).

2000 -- Thoroughbred Empire Maker is born – sired by Unbridled (1990) – Grandsired by Fappiano.

2001 – Victor Espinoza rides in his first Kentucky Derby and finishes 3rd on Congaree.

2002 – War Emblem – Trained by Bob Baffert and with Jockey Victor Espinoza aboard – wins the KY Derby and Preakness – (finishing 8th in the Belmont Stakes – after a nearly tragic beginning of the race with War Emblem falling to his knees coming out of the gate).

2003 – Funny Cide – wins KY Derby and Preakness – loses to Empire Maker in the Belmont Stakes.

**After victories in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial (where he defeated Funny Cide) Empire Maker was considered the favorite that year in the Kentucky Derby – but instead he finished 2nd. Nevertheless Empire Maker may end up living up to his name – as he is the Grand Sire to American Pharoah.

The 2003 Belmont Stakes I believe is worth watching because Empire Maker shows his ability to tackle the Distance and run well in Mud – something American Pharoah will also be able to master:
2004 – Smarty Jones wins the KY Derby and Preakness – and after having gone undefeated in all of his 8 lifetime races – he fades in the Belmont and finishes 2nd.
Heart break in NY - as he is a New York Bred horse and the Belmont is in NY!

2006 – After so many close calls for the Triple Crown I begin writing a blog on Horse Racing, determined to follow the sport into its greatest accomplishment…..the word on the track was that a horse named Barbaro looks to finally break the Triple Crown drought – Despite being relatively new to the sport, I was devastated watching Barbaro suffer an injury in the Preakness, especially after such a glorious victory in the Kentucky Derby. My Father offered some advice that year – Horse Racing can break your heart if you let it.

Barbaro's Jockey Edgar Prado moments after the injury in the Preakness.
Barbaro's saddle and blanket at his feet.

2006 – Pioneer of the Nile is born - sired by Empire Maker (Unbridled / Fappiano)

2008 – Big Brown – seemed unstoppable – he won the KY Derby from the 20th position, and won the Preakness with relative ease. The competition he faced in the Belmont was kind of a joke (he was the 3-10 favorite)…..but Jockey Kent Desormeaux sensed a mechanical difficulty and pulled Big Brown up for fear of injury. Big Brown didn’t even finish the race. 

**I thought Big Brown was a lock that year!
Baby Pharoah!

2012 – American Pharoah is born – Sired by Pioneer of the Nile (Empire Maker / Unbridled / Fappiano).

2012 – I’ll Have Another – wins the KY Derby and the Preakess – but an injury prevents him from running in the Belmont Stakes. He became only the third horse, after Burgoo King in 1932 and Bold Venture in 1936, to be scratched from the Belmont Stakes after having won the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

2014 – California Chrome – with Jockey Victor Espinosa aboard -- wins the KY Derby and Preakness – finishes 4th in the Belmont Stakes after sustaining an injury during the Belmont -- Owner Steve Coburn declares he'll never see a Triple Crown winner in his lifetime.

2015 – American Pharoah begins his march into Horse Racing history,

There's a few quirky tidbits in American Pharoah's background. 

The word Pharoah is misspelled in his name -- and there is some debate about whose fault that is? Interestingly enough the Triple Crown Blanket awarded to American Pharoah after his Belmont victory inadvertently used the "correct" spelling of Pharaoh -- so basically his misspelling was misspelled. 

As you will see in these Videos American Pharoah has a shorter tail than most of the other horses -- the "theory" is that a Stablemate of his Mr. Z chewed it can't make this stuff up.

The first race I'd like to look at is the Rebel Stakes -- at this point American Pharoah had lost his first race, and won the following two - this will be his second race at 1 1/16 miles.

You'll notice Tiz Wonderful hops in the air at the beginning of the race, you'll also notice the muddy track -- neither of these distractions phase American Pharoah -- he's able to remain focused and runs in the mud without any issues -- his ability in Mud will definitely become a factor down the road -- but this horse shows such incredible focus for a young three year old horse. 

In the Arkansas Derby what impresses me most is how poised American Pharoah remains even though a Long Shot tries to lure him into an early speed trap. A lot of quality horses (and especially young horses) have difficulty not being the front runner -- and even the best of horses will often chase down the early speedsters and fade in the final furlongs -- he shows remarkable poise in his early career.  

This is the first time American Pharoah has run in a 1 1/8th mile race, and he handles it beautifully -- American Pharoah bides his time -- and then proceeds to crush the competition -- this was a masterful performance. 

The following race was the Kentucky Derby -- and the poise he had shown in the Arkansas Derby would be tested again. Coming out of the 18th Post Position -- American Pharoah has an advantage in that he'll be able to avoid getting boxed in early -- however the disadvantage is that American Pharoah will be giving ground to the inside horses (and literally running a longer race than they are -- and as they come out of the final turn, I see him going nearly 8 Wide from the Rail -- that's a LOT of space) -- this is a test of his endurance and poise -- and in the end he's (somehow) just got more left in the tank than any other horse.

In Mid May Baltimore was still reeling from the Riots of late April -- There was a chance the Preakness would be cancelled, and while the events in Baltimore were far more important than a Horse Race -- it seemed like destiny might throw another wrench into a possible Triple Crown -- the race day was allowed but as the Preakness approached, dark, violent clouds encroached on Pimlico. 

It was a driving rain and it was just in time for the for the Preakness! Historically I've seen Owners with amazing horses purposefully "not" run their horses to their full potential for fear of injury. It was very possible the economics of Horse Racing could also end American Pharoah's bid for the Triple Crown -- would they actually let him run??

I've never seen a Preakness this sloppy before....and as they approached the gate -- I thought bad luck would once again strip us from a Triple Crown winner -- the weather, the atmosphere, even the horse (Mr. Z) who ate his tail was in this one -- it seemed all so bleak. 

But American Pharoah doesn't even skip a beat -- he BLAZES in the mud -- giving us a 22 second opening! Despite the pouring rain....despite the blazing 22 second 1/4 of a mile, in the MUD -- nobody is even close to him at the finish line -- in my opinion this is the horse Empire Maker could have been.

Thirty Seven Years had gone by since Affirmed had won the last Triple Crown -- 15 times (and twice in the past two years) Horses had won Two of the Races in the Triple Crown without being able to close the deal.

This would be the third time Jockey Victor Espinosa would have at winning a Triple Crown -- having been in the same position just the year before with California Chrome.

This would be Trainer Bob Bafferts fourth attempt at winning a Triple Crown -- Victor Espinosa had been his Jockey in 2002 on War Emblem.

It's no secret that the Belmont Stakes is about Endurance -- especially for any Triple Crown contender, because they are usually the only horse who has raced in ALL Three of the Triple Crown races -- and this is exactly why Owner Steve Coburn had gone on a rant the year before.

As you'll see --- American Pharoah takes an early lead and as he hits the final stretch I think everyone held their breath waiting for a long shot to dash any Triple Crown hopes once again. 

But just when it seemed American Pharoah might be fading (at the 2:20 mark).....he finds another gear -- simply remarkable.

I still get chills as I hear "American Pharoah is FINALLY the One!"

American Pharoah continued racing in 2015 -- winning his next race the Haskell Invitational before losing (finishing 2nd) in the Travers Stakes -- personally I think he was exhausted from the travel and too much racing in the Travers....but he still managed to finish 2nd.

He finished his career with a victory in the Breeders Cup Classic -- the first horse to ever win the Triple Crown and a Breeders Cup Race.

American Pharoah retired after the Breeders Cup -- and in three year or so we'll start to see another generation from the Fappiano / Unbridled / Empire Maker / Pioneer of the Nile bloodline.

California Chrome Owner, Steve Coburn, was alive and well to witness American Pharoah accomplish what Mr. Coburn stated he would never see in his lifetime only the year before. California Chrome continued to race in his 4th year, and from what I'm reading will continue running in 2016.

John Nerud (at 102 years old) also lived long enough to watch American Pharoah win a Triple Crown -- having been partially responsible for the success nearly 40 years before in breeding Fappiano.

Mr. Nerud had even contacted Trainer Bob Baffert before the race to wish him luck.

Mr. Nerud passed away, nearly a month after the Belmont Stakes, on August 15, 2015 --- perhaps one of the last people to have direct contacts with all of the Triple Crown winners since 1919.

Below is a great article on Mr. Nerud's life:

Where's the competition?

American Pharoah with Trainer Bob Baffert