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Industry Profile: Jockey David Cohen

David Cohen — enjoying a banner season after resuming his promising riding career following an injury-induced hiatus spanning almost four years — is the recipient of’s fourth annual Comeback Jockey of the Year Award, presented by Red Brand Fence.

Cohen will receive the award during the Jockeys’ Guild Assembly luncheon Tuesday at Top Golf located adjacent to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Irad Ortiz will be honored as JockeyTalk360 Turf Jockey of the Year, with Drayden Van Dyke recognized as JockeyTalk360 Breakthrough Jockey of the Year. The JockeyTalk360 awards are in addition to the honors handed out at the luncheon by the Jockeys’ Guild at their annual assembly.

The 34-year-old Cohen has won 109 races and almost $6.5 million in 2018 purse earnings through Friday, according to Equibase statistics. That’s the jockey’s most wins since 2012 and most purse earnings since 2010. In taking the Grade 2 Hill Prince on Have At It and the Grade 3 Matron on Lonely Road, Cohen won his first graded stakes since Golden Ticket’s historic dead-heat for victory in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Travers Stakes six years earlier.

Cohen was among the sport’s rising stars when he was kicked in his lower right leg by his mount in the paddock at Aqueduct on Feb. 1, 2014. His badly fractured fibula and tibia required surgery involving a plate and six screws to repair.

“It was never a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when’ I was going to return,” Cohen said. “If you’re not right mentally, it’s going to show. I wouldn’t do that to people trusting me with the horses and giving me an opportunity if I wasn’t 100 percent ready, not just physically but the mental state as well. It was just wanting to do it the right way.”

Cohen spent much of his childhood in Las Vegas and says the return for the Jockeys’ Guild Assembly provides a memorable homecoming. “The year has developed over time to becoming a very good year,” he said. “You’re always honored if you’re recognized for something. I’m just very fortunate for the support I have from the owners and trainers I rode for and am blessed to be back in the sport I love so much.”

The cancer-related death of his father, California horse owner Morry Cohen, several months after the paddock mishap had the jockey struggling to heal not only physically but emotionally. He rode six races in late 2014 but was determined to have a torn meniscus in his right knee. Cohen suffered another personal loss a year later with the death of his sister, Dana.

He did not ride again Nov. 30, 2017, at the Fair Grounds. That proved the first step toward a big winter meet at Oaklawn Park, where he finished third in the standings with 37 wins, before rejoining the New York circuit last spring.

“David had to deal not only with his initial injuries and subsequent complications, but then the devastating double toll of losing his dad, who was his best friend and got him into horse racing, and his sister,” said C.J. Johnsen, publisher of “Being a race-rider requires far more than physical ability. The mind strength of jockeys is really under-appreciated. Riding races is extremely challenging, not just physically but mentally. David knew he had more to mend than just his leg. But his perseverance to come back, and to come back the right way, just shows his strength, passion and respect for the game.”

Career Started in 2004

Cohen has won 1,347 races and almost $50 million in purses in a career that started in 2004.

“My leg now, I can’t even tell,” the jockey said his injuries. “It came back better than I ever could have hoped for. My agent, Bill Castle, is very tactical and we really wanted to come back and do well and win right away, not just pop up and say, ‘Here I am’ at Saratoga. I was very fortunate with the support I had in my return at Oaklawn Park. That return was very well thought-out. I could have returned maybe six months earlier. But I just took a long time in the gym getting my body strong and getting my weight down over the time, the healthy and right way.

“My father was an owner and breeder, so I respect that people are giving me their business, their money on the line, their opportunity that they could give to someone else. I’m coming back with the best riders in the world and saying, ‘Give me an opportunity.’ It’s not a sport that people can just put up money and say, ‘Let’s hope it works.’ The trainers, the exercise riders, grooms, everyone working their tail off day in and day out, I wouldn’t do that to them. I wanted to make sure I was in the right place, and I believe it showed. I had a lot of good feedback from horsemen. If it was the opposite way, I don’t think I’d have had the year I’ve had.

“I’m riding for a lot of high-end trainers and getting opportunities I didn’t get prior. Probably for the first six, seven months of my return, I didn’t take one day off from going to the track working horses in the morning. I just went out there, rode hard, rode to the wire on every horse and just showed that I was here for my love of the horses and what I was doing. It was more of a blessing to get back to doing what I love than worrying about how well I was going to do.”

press release

Industry Profile: Jockey Harry Hernandez

It’s been a competitive jockey colony at Arlington International Racecourse so far this meet due to the addition of a few new faces in the jocks room. One of those is Harry Hernandez, who has enjoyed a solid beginning of the 2018 meet with six victories in 29 mounts.

Hernandez, 21, is currently tied for fourth in the standings with Sophie Doyle, who also is riding her first full season at the Chicagoland oval. He has finished in the money at a rate of 48%.

“I’m really excited and I’m really focused on my job,” Hernandez said. “Just trying to stay focused on winning races. I thank God and thank my agent [Ben Allen] and the owners for the opportunities that they have been giving me. I’m just trying to show off my experience.

Hernandez began his riding career in his native Puerto Rico and attended the Escuela Vocacional Hipica, graduating in the same class as leading riders Jose Ortiz, Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Eric Cancel.

Arlington Park racetrack“That school is such a nice school,” Hernandez said. “Before you graduate they make sure that you’re a hard worker and that you’re professional and respectful. Most importantly, they make sure you’re watching your weight because that’s the most important. They teach you how to gallop, teach you how to position. It’s awesome.”

Upon moving to the United States, Hernandez began riding at Finger Lakes in New York where he was consistently finishing in the top of the jockey standings.

“When I graduated I wanted to start riding in Puerto Rico since that’s where I’m from and that’s where my family is from,” Hernandez said. “But I always have wanted to come to the United States. This is where the good money is, it’s where the good owners and trainers are and you’ll learn more riding with good jockeys. This is where you learn more. I always wanted to ride in the United States and make a name for myself here.”

Check out other AGOS Jockey Profiles

It was good friend and accomplished rider Jose Ortiz, however, that gave him some encouragement to give Arlington a try this summer.

“I want to thank God for giving me these opportunities with the trainers and the owners,” Hernandez said. “My family always have supported me. I want to thank my really good friends, especially Jose Ortiz. He was the one who called me up and said ‘Hey, [Ben Allen] is a good agent’. He told me to go try it out.”

Source: Press Release

Industry Profile: Jockey Santo Sanjur

While all eyes were recently on Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., as Justify trained up for his bid for the Triple Crown, one man was been busy making headlines for himself 100 miles North of the Twin Spires. Santo Sanjur, a native of Panama City, Panama, has taken the Indiana Grand jockey colony by storm in his first year riding in the Hoosier state.

Although the track’s meet started only 37 days ago, Sanjur has picked up 108 mounts so far, and has already 22 wins under his belt. This ties him for Indiana Grand leading rider standings by wins ahead of local veterans such as Rodney Prescott and Marcelino Pedroza.

What’s more? This is only the 22-year-old’s fifth year riding competitively. With an in-the-money percentage of 53% this meet, many have taken notice of the new kid with those numbers. Others have taken notice of Sanjur for another reason: his name.

While officially taking the last name “Sanjur,” Santo is no stranger to having family in the racing business. Indiana racing natives will recognize the name of Sanjur’s cousin, Juan Saez, a rider who was killed tragically in an accident at Indiana Grand in October of 2014.

Though he was on a path nearly identical to that of Santo, Juan is not the young rider’s best known relative. His most famous cousin is Luis Saez, pilot of horses such as Will Take Charge, Gunnevera and, more recently, Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon.

Just like his two well-recognized cousins, Sanjur also attended Panama City’s famed Laffit Pincay Jockey School.

It was a perfect fit. According to the school motto, it is directly in the heart of “the cradle of the best jockeys in the world.” During his two years at a school he considers to be “one of the best,” Sanjur said he learned the basics of being a successful jockey, though it was his desire for more that brought him to the United States.

“I had always wanted to come and ride here and make my family proud,” Sanjur said.

With his record so far, he is doing just that.

Despite being new to Indiana, Sanjur is by no means new to racing in the Midwest. He spent the first four years of his American riding career at Arlington Park in the suburbs of Chicago, where he had much of the same impact as he has had at Indiana Grand. From May of 2017 to September of the same year, Sanjur rode 452 horses and picked up 57 wins that totaled almost $1.5 million in purse money. He finished second that year in the Arlington jockey standings.

The impression those four years in Illinois gave him carried over across the border to Indiana, where horsemen of all types cannot get enough of him. Michelle Elliott, trainer and daughter of the well-known Indiana breeder Jim Elliott, is one of them.

“I think he’s the new up-and-coming rider. He’s going to be amazing,” Elliot said of Sanjur, who she met through his agent, Jeremy Acridge. A short time before the Indiana Grand meet began, Acridge called Elliott, asking her to “give his guy a chance.” Sanjur brought Crossed, a filly in Elliott’s barn, home first in the sixth race on Indiana Grand’s opening day card, and has been riding for her ever since. “I really like this kid,” Elliott said. “I’d put him on just about anything.”

Where he continues to experience days where he rides three or even four winners on the same card, it is easy to see why Sanjur continues to make news in the Midwest. Though he doesn’t see himself moving out of the Hoosier state anytime soon, Sanjur does have a few races in mind that he would really love to win more than anything: the Kentucky Derby and a Breeders’ Cup race. And if his current success is any indicator, it won’t be long before we see Sanjur on a bigger stage.

Source: Press Release

Industry Profile: Jockey Antonio Gallardo

Two seasons ago, Antonio Gallardo rode a 3-year-old first-time starter named Imperial Hint to an eye-opening victory in a 7-furlong Tampa Bay Downs allowance in a sizzling time of 1:22.39. The Luis Carvajal, Jr.-trained Florida-bred colt lowered that time to 1:22.15 in his next start with Gallardo in the irons, the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes.

“That is the dream of every jockey every year, to have a nice horse like that,” said Gallardo, who watched Imperial Hint race to a second-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint last month under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano. “In this game, you stay positive because you can find a good horse anywhere.”

The 30-year-old Spaniard, whose meteoric rise upon moving to the United States resulted in three consecutive riding titles at both Tampa Bay Downs and Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., has shown a knack for winning all kinds of races, including five graded stakes the last two years.

But while Gallardo’s quest to secure another “big horse” continues at full speed, he’s a devoted family man who strives for the right balance between his professional and personal lives.

Gallardo’s early-meeting Oldsmar performance, with 17 victories, has earned him the SenÞor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month Award.

When the 2017 season at Presque Isle Downs in western Pennsylvania ended in early October, Gallardo, his wife Polliana and their two children, Carlos, 9, and Christa, almost 4, traveled to his hometown of Jerez in Cadiz, Spain for about a month to visit his relatives.

Gallardo’s ambition to be known as one of the world’s best jockeys hasn’t changed. But the pull of home, both in Spain and Tampa, helps charge his batteries to succeed on the track.

“That (traveling to Spain) helped me a lot. My family is real close, and I was able to have fun with them and forget about the horses for a while,” said Gallardo, who got to visit his parents, his sister, his grandmother and other relatives. “If one of us is crying, everybody is crying, and if one of us is happy, everybody is happy.

“It was good for me mentally and good for my muscles and my bones. If I have a chance to go next year, I’m going again,” he added.

After riding in New York last season, where he finished seventh in the 2017 winter meeting standings at Aqueduct with 19 victories, Gallardo has returned to his home away from Spain on Florida’s west coast.

Gallardo, who finished second in North America in victories in both 2015 and 2016, riding 652 winners during that two-year period, recently bought a home on a farm a few miles from Tampa Bay Downs. The property includes a seven-stall barn, several paddocks and a riding arena.

Gallardo said the reasons he has returned to Tampa Bay Downs are “simple. It’s my home, my family is here and the weather is good. I was making more money in New York, but I wasn’t as happy.

“As a jockey, you risk your life every day. Yes, you have to make money, but you have to have fun and enjoy your family. Money comes and goes, but when time leaves, it never comes back to you.”

Gallardo finished third in the Monmouth Park standings this year with 50 victories. On Dec. 16, he won the inaugural $125,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on 3-year-old gelding Mo Cash with a bold move between rivals on the turn.

Among his five graded-stakes victories is the 2016 Grade II Nashua at Aqueduct on Hemsworth. He also won the $400,000 (ungraded) Poseidon Handicap last winter at Gulfstream on Imperative on the Pegasus World Cup Invitational card and finished fifth on War Story in the $12-million Pegasus.

It appears Gallardo’s next major assignment is a matter of “when,” not “if.” Whoever it happens to be with, the connections can rest assured their jockey will know the way home.


Source: Press Release

Industry Profile: Drayden Van Dyke

23-year-old jockey Drayden Van Dyke recently met with Santa Anita’s Zoe Cadman and Alexis Garske for observations from one of So-Cal’s brightest young stars, well on his way to becoming one of racing’s signature riders.

Much has been made of the mentors who have guided you, but what have you learned on your own?

“I’ve definitely had to learn some things first-hand. You have to make some of your own mistakes that teach a lesson you couldn’t be told. That’s the kind of stuff you have to learn on your own.”

What’ one of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made?

“Not showing up for workers when I was an apprentice. I was working with Tom Proctor and had rented a house with Mike Smith in Del Mar. It was my first summer and I was excited. I had spent a lot but unfortunately, I had to stay in the tack room for a week as punishment.

“At least I could see the moon from my bed (laughing).”

Favorite racehorse of all time?

“There are a lot of them but definitely Justify is up there for me. To be involved in the history that he made and to be able to break his maiden and work him is really cool to me.”

Have you ever wanted to play another sport?

“I would love to play basketball, if I had the size, definitely. Second behind that would be golf. I don’t have a handicap but I shoot in the mid-80’s.

“Even when I play for fun, I like to be competitive. I’ll play for fun but the fun goes away and I’m definitely trying to win. I enjoy it, but I’m definitely always trying.”

Beer or wine?

“Wine. Definitely.”

Cardi B or Nicki Minaj?

“(Laughs) Well, who won the fight the other day?”

Football or Baseball?


What did you eat last night?

“Scrambled eggs with avocado and broccoli. Yes, eggs for dinner. I love eggs.”

Are there other jobs in racing that look interesting or that you could see yourself doing one day?

“I think I’d enjoy TV. Maybe as an analyst. Similar to what Jerry Bailey is doing and what Gary did. I think I would enjoy doing something like that.”

What’s a dream day off for you?

“Not waking up to a phone call, sleeping in and waking up naturally. Just taking my time, having some coffee and not really making any plans.”

What’s a little-known, fun fact about yourself?

“I like rap music. I’ll memorize entire songs so when I go out and we’re dancing I can get into it and rap along (laughing).

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

“I’d like to have dinner with my dad one more time.”

What gets you out of bed that early every day?

“Love of the game definitely but also fear of missing out. I always feel like I’m missing something if I’m away for more than just one day. I don’t like to be away more than that. I don’t want to miss a new horse coming along.

“Also, the feeling of winning a race and breezing really nice horses is very addicting for me.”

Do you have any pets?

“I do, Gucci, is my mini German-Australian Shepard. He just turned two and he’s like a little human. He was just a little fur ball when I got him.”

Gucci? Why that particular name?

“I’m a Gucci guy. I mostly like their shoes and watches. The clothes are still a little out of my price range and size, but I like to mess around with the accessories.

“I wasn’t really into fashion when I was growing up in Kentucky and Arkansas. One, I didn’t have the money. And two, I didn’t know of the brand back then. I got into all of that when I came to California and was around Mike (Smith.)”

That’s a great segway into talking about ‘Money Clip’ – your first winner. Take us through that first ride. (Money Clip broke his maiden at Hollywood Park on Nov. 11, 2013, under Van Dyke).

“Gary Stevens was originally supposed to ride that horse for Tom Proctor. I was living in Tom’s tack room and just hanging around the barn. It had rained so they took it off the turf and moved it to the Polytrack.

“Tom called Gary and said, ‘Why don’t you stay home? I don’t want you comin’ out and having to get wet. I’ll put the bug boy on. The horse needs a race anyway, he’s not ready.’ So that’s how I got my chance to ride, and I won.

“Tom is more of an old school-type trainer, as his father Willard was, and they usually give a horse a few races to mature. He schools them the right way and always looks toward the future. My instructions were to take him back and make one run. I was told, ‘If he finishes well, so be it. If not, we’ll get ‘em next time.’

“He made a run but I didn’t do much. I was green and shocked at what was going on. I just got up in the knick of time.

“I watched the replay the other day and I thought, ‘Man, Drayden, do something! I didn’t do much of anything. I was just thinking come on wire, come on wire.’

“After winning, I definitely got ‘initiated.’ I was caked with eggs, ice water, powder, you name it. Everything you get when you win your first race. But it was a little different for me. I had to hurry up, take a shower and get back to cool the horse out.

“I think I gained other trainers respect by seeing me do that and watching how Proctor brought me along the right way.”

Talk about Proctor and his impact on you.

Trainer Tom Proctor gives Van Dyke a leg up in the Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita Park on September 29.

“He’s definitely kept me grounded and still keeps me grounded. I recently rode for him at Kentucky Downs and did something he told me not to do and he let me know. He told me I did it wrong. I’m very lucky to have him.”

Fast forward to getting on Justify in the mornings. What were your initial thoughts of him?

“Obviously, he’s talented but what really stood out to me was Bob’s reaction when I first worked him. Bob just said, ‘Wow, that’s a serious horse right there.’

“I kept working him and he was just doing things effortlessly. We were just crushing every horse we worked with and I wasn’t moving on him. He was barely even trying.

“I was really looking forward to riding him in the afternoon and breaking his maiden, which I did, and I was very lucky to be involved with him.”

How did it feel getting taken off Justify, even though it was for Mike? Bittersweet?

“It was. But, there’s nothing I can do and that’s just the business. You just have to keep smiling and keep working hard. That’s what I’ve done and I was rewarded with being leading rider at Del Mar this summer.

“I was happy to see Justify win the Triple Crown and I wouldn’t have wanted it for anyone more than Mike, so it was great to be there. I even helped his mom get to the Winner’s Circle. She was having trouble getting there, and security wouldn’t let her in, but we got her in. I didn’t, but I was there to see it, so that was really, really cool.”

Did it fuel your fire? Did you think, ‘I’ll get my shot’?

“Of course. A lot of people have horses continually coming in so Justify won’t be the last Triple Crown horse. He might be actually, I mean whoever really knows, but there are plenty of horses coming in, so hopefully, I can be there to ride them.”

What do you do for fun? Did you have any fun this summer?

“I have fun! I was really busy this summer, though. I think I had two mornings off the entire meet. I was keeping straight so no, I didn’t go out much. I was riding about seven or eight a day and working about six each morning. I’m working serious horses and very expensive horses, so I respect that.

“After the last day, I had a good time and went out with my friends.”

With so many good trainers putting you on good horses and you and your agent, Brad Pegram, known for picking your spots, did you have an inkling that Del Mar would be as successful as it was?

“It’s funny because my agent and Flavien Prat’s agent, Derek Lawson, have a bit of a rivalry and they’ll go back ‘n’ forth. There’s a bit of a rivalry between me and Flavien as well so we were both a little like, ‘We’re coming for you. We’re loaded so be ready!’

“We had a lot of good horses, a lot of 2-year-olds, so I was looking forward to having a good meet.

“Flavien doesn’t always say much but if he does it’s always after a race and he gets on you for a move or something. But, he’s a friend of mine, we play golf together. He’s a fierce competitor. He makes me ride better and I’m sure I help him ride a better race sometimes as well.

“I wish there were other riders who had that same level of competitiveness, it makes you ride better. I like it, I love it.”

How big of an accomplishment was earning the leading riding title by five at Del Mar?

“It was a big accomplishment for sure. I’ve been leading rider at Los Alamitos a couple of times but not all the big riders are there, trying their hardest. To get it at Del Mar, when everyone is trying to win everything they can, is huge for me and my agent. I’ll never forget it.

Has anything changed since winning the title, or the seven races in one day?

“I feel like I’m really starting to do more things now. The types of races I’m winning, the number of races I’m winning. Even Mike and Gary haven’t won seven in a day. Winning the title on top of that meant a lot.

“I’m getting a fan base now. Even at the coffee shop the other day I was recognized, it was cool.

“It makes me stay on track. The better I do, the more opportunities I get and the better I do. I get in a zone. That momentum helps me to do even better.”

Do you find yourself thinking even more about your late father with your recent success?

“The day I won seven races, yes. On the gallop out, I looked up and talked to him for a minute. I was hoping he saw it. I wish he was around to see it now because he was seeing how well I was doing when I started and I still had no clue what I was doing.

“Now that I’m riding at the top of my level I wish he was a part of it, for a lot of reasons. I know he’s still watching and still proud of me, though.”

Van Dyke points out a few of his accomplishments, including a 2014 Eclipse Award honoring him as the nation’s Outstanding Apprentice.

So many names come to mind that have helped you on your path, is it especially nice to consult with them all for more than just riding advice?

“That fact really helped me after my dad passed away. Without them, I would have been more of a wreck and maybe even now still. Who knows what direction I would have gone in or what could have happened to me?

“Mike and Gary especially were there for me, and they’re still always there for me. I can call them any time. They’re my best friends. I golf with them, hang out with them, work out together. I don’t only see them as my mentors but as my friends. I’m really, really lucky.

“I can go to them for anything. As I got older and grew some hair on my chin, I didn’t know how to shave. I asked Gary what to do and he just said, ‘Come here. I’ll show you.’ He got me a razor and some cream and showed me how. It stuck with me and I think those moments have meant a lot to him, too.”

Favorite racetrack?

“I love the history of Santa Anita. I used to watch Seabiscuit three times a week. Santa Anita was like a character since so much was filmed here. I couldn’t believe I was here when I arrived. The mountains…I was struck by it.”

What are you looking forward to most this meet?

“Hopefully keeping my streak going, my ‘hotness.’ Hopefully winning a lot of races and stakes races and I’m really looking forward to riding at Breeders’ Cup.”

Some of Drayden’s mentors and their thoughts on him:

Bob Baffert:

“I was watching him before he got hurt. I was looking for new talent and told his agent that he’s got a lot of potential. I watched him come up under Proctor and loved the fact that he really made Drayden appreciate everything. He learned to love the horse first and that’s so important when you become a horseman. That’s what really caught my eye.

“He’s little, he’s light and horses run for him. He was patient and I saw him getting stronger.

“When he started working horses for me I liked that he didn’t mind wearing a radio. Some guys don’t like that. I really think that Proctor created a great foundation.

“I’ve always told him that you’ll learn from the good horses because they’ll get there with or without you. He’s handled some high-pressure situations. That’s the hardest part. It’s easy to ride a horse that’s 10-1 but when they’re 2-5, everyone’s expecting a win. You become a target and he’s learned to cope with that.

“He listens, he’s learning. He’s a student of the game. I’ll give him pointers. He’ll get off a horse that’s not even mine and I’ll tell him, ‘You could have done this or that,’ and he listens. He’ll take it in. He wants to be the man, the go-to guy and he’s going to get there. He’s got a good head on his shoulders.

“I was really happy to see him be leading rider at Del Mar, I knew it meant a lot to him.

“Mike Smith has been a big help and Drayden really looks up to him. What I really like is that he’s competitive. He’s not going to do something crazy, or impede someone because he wants to win himself, I like that. He loves the horse, he really does, and I can tell. It makes a difference and it’s pretty cool.”

Gary Stevens:

“He’s a great athlete and he’s always been a great athlete. He’s always wanted to learn and he continues to want to learn.

“You’ll see some guys get to a point where they just stop improving but Drayden improves every day. He’s turned into a student of the game. He loves the game and he loves what he’s doing. That’s what you’ve got to be to be successful.

“I’m proud of him. He’s like another son to me. He’s got myself, Mike Smith, Tom Proctor, he’s got a big support group that always stands behind him. The thing I’m most proud of is that he hasn’t let it go to his head. He’s respectful of his elders and he’s kind of a throw back. He’s always confident but he’s not cocky and that’s cool.

“It’s nice to have someone young that listens and wants to learn. There’s so many who you’ll try and help and they don’t want it. They think they know it all and that’s understandable being young. But Drayden, his ears and eyes are always wide open.”

Brad Pegram:

“There are definitely similarities between my two jocks, in addition to differences. Their dedication to staying fit to ride, their work ethic, and their mental approach. Drayden has learned all Mike’s good habits.

“Mike has taught Drayden how to be the ultimate professional and how to be best prepared to ride. He’s learned a lot but he’s also open to learning and he listens. He’s a student of the game, just as Mike is still. Mike is still learning and will talk to riders that are retired about different races so, yeah, Drayden is taking all of that in.

“They make my job very easy. They’re both ultimate professionals so it makes it very easy on me.

“I’ve always noticed Drayden’s talent. I admire Tom for the way he brought him up and the way he taught him. It was awesome to watch.

“He’s a genuinely good kid. In a great way, he hasn’t changed. He’s a very mellow, humble guy.”

Mike Smith:

“I’ve seen him grow up, been through the growing pains with him. To watch him get over that hump and to see him really focus in on his career and watch him ride right now, it’s great. He’s riding with so much confidence. He’s not a teenager anymore and he knows what he wants. He’s just getting better and better and it’s a lot of fun for me to watch. It makes me proud.

“To be riding extremely well, at the top of the level, and the competition he’s riding against isn’t easy, makes me a very proud older brother.

“I think his work ethic comes from Mr. Tom Proctor. They instilled all of that in him and it’s so important. The work isn’t over until you get to my age and then maybe you can back off a little.

“He does a good job in the morning and teaches them well, gets along with them. And again, a lot of that comes from getting to work for Proctor back at the farm. The rest of it is just learning from riding. I truly believe that you don’t get really good at riding until you’re in your thirties. To see him come along now, just give him another 10 years. It’s incredible.

“I remember I was told that when I was his age and I thought I was riding on top of the world. But it is so true and you learn so much, about how to handle yourself as well. A lot of not only representing yourself but also the sport comes later in life.

“I’m extremely grateful I’m not coming up in this era of everyone seeing everything you do. I think he’s done a pretty good job with it.

“He still has a lot to learn of course but he knows it. He truly understands that. This game can humble you very fast and to just stay even keel.

“The great thing about this sport is that even when things aren’t doing that well, they’ll always come around.”

Source: Santa Anita

Underrated Jockey Scores Milestone at Arlington Park

Racehorse Booked Up owned by Rich Nilsen

Booked Up won back to back races with Emigh at AP in 1997

Jockey Chris Emigh became the third-winningest rider of all time at Arlington International Racecourse when taking Saturday afternoon’s seventh race aboard Sea Diva ($8.80).

Emigh, 47, captured win number 1,079 at the Chicagoland oval when guiding the 4-year-old daughter of Midshipman to victory to surpass Carlos Silva (1,078) for the title. He now trails only Hall of Fame riders Earlie Fires (2,886) and Pat Day (1,330) as Arlington’s all-time winningest jockeys. Later on the card, Emigh added Arlington victory number 1,080 to his record when taking the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie aboard Into Trouble ($30.40).

“It’s an honor and very humbling,” Emigh said. “I was always told that when I first came here that it would be tough to catch some of the guys that have been doing so well. It’s a great feeling. To be in the same sentence as two Hall of Famers is pretty nice.”

Emigh, a native of Portsmouth, Virginia, resides in Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb of the Chicago area. He began riding in 1989 and has captured 16 graded stakes events in his career, eight of which took place at Arlington. Emigh was Arlington’s leading rider in 2006 and has secured a total of seven riding titles at Hawthorne Race Course.

A big shout out and congratulations to jockey Chris Emigh.

High-Tech Jockey Silks Part of Mike Smith and Justify’s Successful Triple Crown Victory


Coady Photography

Amarillo, Texas – June 13, 2018  —  Jockey Mike Smith was wearing a new type of high-tech silks in all three legs of his 2018 Triple Crown bid. Speed Silks® brand jockey silks are made entirely of an aerodynamically-engineered, patented technical fabric that’s already used in speed sports like cycling, speed skating and downhill skiing.

WinStar Farms —whose colors Smith wore aboard Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G-I) and Preakness Stakes (G-I)— has been buying and using Speed Silks since the spring of 2015. China Horse Club became a customer in the spring of 2017; Smith wore their colors in his 2018 Belmont Stakes (G-I) win.

The 2018 Triple Crown wins are the latest in a number of very high-profile wins by jockeys in Speed Silks. Since the product launched in August 2013, Speed Silks have been on the winners of two Kentucky Derbies, two Preakness Stakes, two Belmont Stakes and one Breeders’ Cup Classic (G-I).

“I’m flabbergasted by the amount of success our owners have had in such a short amount of time,” says Speed Silks inventor and owner Matt Darby. “We knew we had a great idea when we started the design process several years ago, but we weren’t sure how readily the industry would accept it. But more people in Thoroughbred racing are adopting the philosophy of ‘marginal gains,’ and thankfully they’re now starting to pay attention to the importance of aerodynamic drag. It’s critical. More important than weight, in fact.”

Justify winning the Belmont – AP source

Speed Silks were designed from the ground up with two priorities: reducing aerodynamic drag, and jockey comfort. A key to both is the patented technical fabric Aero Dimplex®. The textile is dimpled —much like a golf ball— which reduces both form drag and skin friction. [Darby can explain both at length; his contact information follows.] It also allows the use of dye sublimation to apply the colors and markings of each owner’s specific silks; that eliminates the need to sew the markings piece-by-piece. Instead, they are dyed directly into the fabric. Built with a form-fitting pullover design, Speed Silks are entirely seamless, further reducing weight and drag.

“The seamless design was adopted entirely with aerodynamic drag in mind,” Darby says, “but it also gives the silks a very distinctive, high-end look that owners love. That was a surprise early on: a lot of owners seemed more excited about the way the silks looked than their aerodynamic properties! I’m not complaining, mind you.”

Aero Dimplex is thin, very breathable, moisture-wicking and very stretchy. “Regarding comfort, jockey feedback has always been overwhelmingly positive,” Darby adds. Speed Silks this summer will add a new feature to its products: Coldblack®, a patented textile treatment that blocks and reflects ultraviolet light, keeping the garment and the wearer cooler in the sun.

Previous major wins in Speed Silks include 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern (jockey Martin Garcia/owner Kaleem Shah), 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Mario Gutierrez/Reddam Racing), 2016 Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator (Kent Desormeaux/Big Chief Racing) and 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit (Jose Ortiz/Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners).

Darby’s inspiration to build better silks came at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona. He had just accepted a marketing position at the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, Texas. Most of his work was on behalf of the racing department, and so the Association regularly sent him to tracks across the country. During his visit to Turf Paradise —the first horse race he had ever attended— he asked a co-worker why the jockeys were wearing such baggy silks.

“He almost didn’t understand the question,” Darby remembers. “That gives you a good idea of the mentality we’ve had to overcome with this product. People in this business haven’t traditionally thought about wind resistance. They always think about weight, but it turns out that’s much less important than aerodynamic drag. I studied the subject a lot when I was knocking around the idea of better silks.”

“Anyway, I kept asking around, and I always got the same answer: ‘I don’t know, they’ve always been like that.’ I discovered that “aero” silks showed up in the early 90’s, but they were never terribly popular with jockeys because those Spandex silks are heavy and they don’t breathe. That’s another reason we went with Aero Dimplex fabric: it’s very comfortable for the jockey.”

“So, once I was convinced the concept was valid, I got to work designing the first round of prototypes. I had the help of a Quarter Horse jockey, G.R. Carter, Jr. He was the biggest name in the business at the time, but that’s not why I picked him; he was the only jockey I knew personally. He was incredibly helpful and made the perfect “model” jockey. Plus, he’s a bit larger than your average Thoroughbred jockey, and I’d rather the silks be a little too large than a little too small. They need to be form-fitting without restricting movement,” Darby says. Speed Silks are available in two sizes: Regular and Large. Regular is the default size for North American jockeys.

The first set of Speed Silks was sold in August of 2013 (to Wes Melcher’s Double Infinity Ranch). Two important things happened quickly: Bob Baffert’s office called to order Speed Silks for a couple of their owner-clients, and the Australian horse racing retailer horsefabulous inquired about representing Speed Silks in the Asia-Pacific region.

“So right away, we had one of the biggest names in the business buying our stuff, and we get a foot into the Asia-Pacific market,” Darby says. Both of those relationships are going strong today.

Speed Silks are patent-pending. The product lineup includes silks jackets, racing helmet covers, jockey pants and boot sleeves – a product unique to Speed Silks. Examples of the product can be seen at Matt Darby is available for comment at (806) 570-6920 or Customers wishing to inquire about Speed Silks can e-mail or call (806) 333-8589.  Asia-Pacific customers e-mail

Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Day Two, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017

by Craig Spencer

I have gone back and looked at the winner of each Breeders’ Cup race since 1999.  I will look at each of the races and discuss historically successful prep races and other interesting things to keep in mind as you begin to look at past performances and formulate your wagering strategies

As you read through this you will see in the tables for each race an “Angles” field.  The legend for that field is:

In 2016, the qualifiers performed quite well with 9 of the 13 winners being “qualifiers”, the exceptions being:

  • Oscar Performance who became just the second winner in the Juvenile Turf not to make their final prep start in Europe
  • Champagne Room who surprised everyone when winning the Juvenile fillies and returning $69.20 after finishing 4th in the G1 Chandelier
  • Finest City who did not run in the Thoroughbred Club of America but did come into the race off a second place finish in the G2 Finest City and a good final workout
  • Queen’s Trust did come out of a decent Group 1 performance to win the Filly and Mare Turf but the qualifying requirement is a 1st or 2nd in a Group 1 and she had finished fourth

One final preface, you may hear that foreign shippers run better when the BC is held on the East Coast due to the heat and/or the closer proximity/less travel time.  That is just not true.  7 times since 1999 the BC was held at SA, 157 horses who made their last start outside of North America raced taking home 25 winner’s trophies (15.9%).  In the 11 years when other venues hosted the Cup there were 18 foreign winners from 173 starters (10.4%).



14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies: Last Race Graded Stakes Winner:

Just a year after Songbird snapped us back to reality Champagne Room lit up the toteboard.  How will this year’s Juvenile Fillies play out?  The two years prior to Songbird’s victory Take Charge Brandi and Ria Antonia broke a few longstanding requirements to get to the winner’s circle. One rule that both Ria Antonia and Take Charge Brandi broke was winning the race after finishing out of the money in their final prep, Champagne Room became the third.

Prior to the last 4 years, horses coming off Graded Stakes Victories were about the only fillies that could win this race.  The times are changing.  I would still consider horses coming out of grade 1 races to have a distinct advantage.  The pace scenario’s and fitness element is likely to play a very important role and can help turn the tables for those who were not victorious in their penultimate race.

The Darley Alcibiades was won impressively by Heavenly Love who broke her maiden on the turf in her second career start but had shown enough on the dirt for trainer Mark Casse to put her in the G1 Alcibiades and she did not disappoint.  She is out of a stakes winning mare who has already produced another Graded Stakes wining filly in Forever Darling. 

The Frizette was won by the favorite Separationofpowers, who was making her third start after breaking her maiden in her debut and finishing third behind Lady Ivanka and Maya Malibu in the Spinaway.  The Chandelier (formerly Oak Leaf) had Moonshine Memories stretch her unbeaten streak to 3 with a pretty convincing victory over Alluring Star and Piedi Bianchi.  Only 5 of the last 18 victoresses made their last start at the host track but 4 of those 5 were when the host track was in California.  None are trying it this year but the Santa Anita shippers might have a similar advantage since they are used to the heat and most have had a race or two over the surface.

Gio Game who made her first start in an off the turf maiden sprint event at Saratoga and finished a respectable second after being pinched at the break.  She came back and ran a troubled third in her second start on the Saratoga turf and was subsequently moved up to second place via disqualification.  She is a half-sister to Isotherm who did all of her winning on the lawn and being by Gio Ponti it would make sense for them to assume turf was her preferred surface, but in her third start they ran her in a dirt Maiden Special race at Keeneland and she won by 9 lengths as easy as could have been done.  Her figure was not quite the same as most of the graded stakes final figures but it wasn’t too far off for as easily as she won.

My main selection in this event is Moonshine Memories with a bit of a sneaky value play of Gio Game.



Turf Sprint: Track affinity – not surface affinity but track affinity:

The American’s have dominated this race!!  If you have read much about what it takes to win this race you surely have heard that a horse needs to have demonstrated an affinity for the course.  That is absolutely what history would suggest, not just at Santa Anita, no matter the venue in which the Breeders Cup is held, EVERY WINNER except Mongolian Saturday two years ago (who attempted to get a start over the course before the Breeders’ Cup, but the Woodford was taken off the turf) has shown an affinity (60% in the money) on the grass course at the host track (TA in the Angle(s) listed below), the TA (s) you see next to Mongolian Saturday indicates that there were no starts at the venue but he met the 60% hurdle for all starts on the turf no matter the location.

As mentioned above, this race typically requires an affinity for the track.  The horses that were pre-entered that meet this criteria are:

  • Richard’s Boy (4 for 4 in the money over DMR Turf)
  • Stormy Liberal (2 for 3 in the money)
  • Paquita Coqueta (2 for 2 in the money)

Notice that the one exception to the “track affinity” requirement was when the race was held at Keeneland.  Keeneland and Del Mar are similar in that they are both tracks that hold “boutique” meets limiting the opportunities for top class turf sprint specialist to race over the surface.  Because of that, I would be more forgiving than usual for horses who have not raced over the track.  Even though I start the commentary on this race with a statement on American’s domination in this race, to be fair only 9 foreign invaders have tried the Turf Sprint, with 1 (Diabolic in 2008) hitting the board.

The favorite this year will likely be Lady Aurelia who has made her last two starts in England for American trainer Wesley Ward.  She is a world traveler running 4 times in England, once in France and only twice in the US.  She has not raced since August 25th but the 5 furlong distance of this race and the fact that she has won Group 1 stakes overseas with similar layoffs should really be little concern.  She is a must use and could be a single in horizontal wagers, but she will be a low price so if you want to try and beat her or at least use some other horses defensively, I can’t blame you.  If you can beat her the pick 5, which ends on this race, will pay out significantly better than it will if she wins.

If Marsha makes the trip over she was able to get the best of Lady Aurelia in that August 25th race at York by a nose and could be one to consider.  They have raced twice together with each one winning one of those events.  Marsha has had one race since they faced off in August when finishing second in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly on October 1st.

Washington DC tried this race last year and finished 7th at Santa Anita.  He has had a very inconsistent year since that race winning 2 out of 9 tries in 2017, neither of his wins were of the Group 1 or 2 variety and both Marsha and Lady Aurelia have taken their turns beating him consistently.

While you would think that the 5 furlong distance of this race would be conducive to speed horses, my data tells me that the Turf Sprints at Del Mar have been very fair to speed horses, stalkers, and closers and on Saturday’s it actually plays to the horses who have shown more late run than early speed.  There is no pace information available on foreign races, of the horses who have raced in the US Disco Partner and Pure Sensation are easily the best late pace horses pre-entered.

Pure Sensation finished 3rd in this race last year at Santa Anita but brings in a victory in the 5 furlong G3 Turf Monster at Parx in early September.  Disco Partner is one that will absolutely enjoy a hot pace scenario which we are almost certainly going to get.  This race might be a little bit short for him, he prefers the 6-8 furlong distances but has not embarrassed himself when running 5 or 5 ½ furlongs winning one and finishing third in the other attempt he made at those distances.  I think he’ll be a bit overlooked because of the short distance in this race and his running style but I think he also is where the best value in this race will be found.

Turf Sprint are tricky to handicap due to the overwhelming role post positions can play.  At Del Mar in 2016-2017 there have been 60 turf races, with 33 of them were won by the inside 3 posts.  There are only 2 stakes races ran annually while sprinting at Del Mar.  They are the Green Flash  and the Daisy Cutter, in those 4 races the #1 post won one, #2 won one, and the #3 won the other 2.    Because of that I will only use Disco Partner who drew the #1 post and Lady Aurelia who drew #3 as A’s in my horizontal wagers.  At 20/1 and with his running style, I will use Pure Sensation as a C in what is turning out to be a fairly challenging sequence.



Filly & Mare Sprint: Thoroughbred Club of America winner or TCA top 3 with a good last work:

This race shouldn’t take a lot of time to handicap if 5 of the last 8 editions are any indication of the win contenders.  The Thoroughbred Club of America (TCA) at Keeneland 4 weeks out has produced the winner.  In 2014, Judy the Beauty showed that you can be successful coming off a bit of a layoff when she won and last year Finest City also won off of a break of more than a couple months.

The only pre-entrant that comes out of Keeneland’s TCA is the winner, Finley’sluckycharm, who has won 5 out of her 6 2017 starts.  For the rest of the field the main criteria that you can clearly see in the table above is that an out of the money finish in the prior start has never been successful.  That would immediately tell you to toss, from the list of pre-entrants, Bar of Gold and Paluassilverlining. The worktab should be considered strongly, 6 of the 8 winners of this race have turned in a “good last work” leading into the event.

Other non TCA horses to consider are the likely favorite in Unique Bella who made her return from a long layoff in the G3 LA Woman an promptly won by a commanding 3 ½ lengths and it wasn’t really that close.  She broke her maiden at Del Mar by 10 lengths, so the venue might actually favor her.  She is out of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unrivaled Belle which would make her, what I believe to be, the second horse in the past 18 years to win a Breeders’ Cup race and be out of a mare who also won a Breeders’ Cup race.  Ami’s Mesa who will be making her first start on traditional dirt after winning all four of her 2017 races on polytrack at Woodbine and Presque Isle Downs.  She will have to improve on dirt from a BRIS ratings perspective to be close to competitive against this bunch.  By the Moon ran in this race last year coming out of a close second place finish in the G1 Ballerina at Saratoga, she brings in a head victory out of the same event this year but last year she received a 102 BRIS figure and this year she only received a 95.  Since it didn’t work last year, I wouldn’t bet that this is the best recipe for a victory for her in this race this year either. Skye Diamonds is 2 for 2 at Del Mar and exits a winning performance in the G3 Rancho Bernardo in August, which was the race that Judy the Beauty used to win the 2014 edition of this race.  Highway Star and Carina Mia bring a one two finish out of the G2 Gallant Bloom to Del Mar to try and take home the winner’s trophy.

My selection here is Unique Bella, but would strongly consider also using Finley’sluckycharm, and Skye Diamonds, especially in horizontal wagers.


Filly & Mare Turf Trends:  1st or 2nd in G1 prep race – and demonstrated strong early or late pace presence for North Americans. Last race within 5 weeks is a big plus:

The Filly & Mare Turf has been less dominated by European shippers than some of the other turf races with only 6 of the last 18 winners making their last start across the pond, Dayatthespa met the requirement of a win or second in a Grade 1 prep within 5 weeks in 2015 and returned $13.00 when she was successful.  Similarly Stephanie’s Kitten also met the requirements and successfully won this race returning $17.60 two years ago.

With the exception of last year, horses who have not finished in the money 3 out of every 5 races on the grass have not been successful in this event.  Only three instances in the past 18 renditions have been won by a horse that did not finish in the top 3 in their penultimate race.  For North American contenders, they have to either have a shown a distinct early pace advantage or a distinct late pace advantage to be a win contender.  These advantages are an indicator of having a good acceleration, or turn of foot, that is a huge asset in these international turf races with large fields.  Since 1999 ZERO horses who last raced on the west coast have won this event.  That is 0 for 44 in that timeframe, only 4 have finished second or third.  By contrast, Leopardstown (LEP) has only been the last start location for 4 starters and 2 out of those 4 have been victorious (and the other two finished second and third).

In the past 18 running’s, only five winners have made their last start more than 5 weeks prior.  Of the entrants the following horses meet the requirement of finishing first or second in a Grade/Group 1 event within 35 days of the Breeders’ Cup:  Avenge (1st in G1 Rodeo Drive), Dacita (2nd in G1 Flower Bowl), Rhododendron (1st in G1 Prix de l’Opera), War Flag (1st in G1 Flower Bowl), and Zipessa (1st in G1 Fast Lady).

Since O’Brien settled on Rhododendron here and Roly Poly in the mile, if Rhododendron goes off at 9/2 or higher, smile and make your way to the window.  I would dare say it would be worth butting in line to make that play. The main reason I have for this strong opinion is that War Flag came stateside to win our major prep race in the Flower BowlWar Flag was a solid Group 3 filly in Europe.  The two Coolmore fillies are Group 1 fillies in Europe.

Lady Eli will likely have some strong US backing but her last race was over 2 months ago and in a winning Grade 2 effort, both the time away and the grading of her prep leave me doubtful in her ability to win this race.  Queen’s Trust who won this race last year for Sir Michael Stoute, was pre-entered to defend her title.  She brings in a similar final prep in terms of beaten lengths but it was a couple of weeks further away from the race and she was beaten in that event by Rhododendron pretty soundly.  Wuheida was only beaten a ½ a length by Rhododendron in the Prix de l’Opera and only a little over a length when second at Newmarket in July to Roly Poly.  She is much more lightly raced than either of Coolmore’s fillies leaving me to think there might be some significant upside to this filly and believe she will absolutely be worth using at what will likely be a square price.

My selection in this race is either Rhododendron.  I would not walk away from the window without ensuring I had some coverage if Wuheida were victorious and would ensure I have these two keyed strongly in my exactas.


TwinSpires Sprint– Top 2 finisher in prep, track affinity or surface affinity if no starts at the track with a good last work:

No worries about a foreign invader picking up the winners share in this event.  It is incumbent on the contenders to have ran well (60%+ in the money) at the track or on the surface if no starts at the track. Twelve of the last eighteen winners won their last out, four finished second in their most recent race, leaving just two winners that did not at least place in their final prep race.


You might expect early speed to be at an advantage over the six furlong distance, while eight of the last eighteen winners appeared to be early pace types, six winners also did their best running late.  One of these (Orientate) actually had both good early and good late pace presence prior to the BC.  The remaining 5 winners, including Drefong, were more one paced.  As you can see by the number next to each horses name (their age), 6 of the 18 winners were 3 year olds, so don’t immediately toss the sophomore’s just because they are facing older horses, potentially for the first time.

Neither American Pastime nor Drefong are technically qualifiers having only hit the board in 1 out of 2 Del Mar appearances.  I will give Drefong a pass, however, because his one defeat at Del Mar was when he lost his jockey early in the Bing Crosby when he ducked into the gap after breaking from the #2 post position.  He drew the #2 post with a non-speed horse to his inside which I feared and kind of expect expect Mike to be a little bit too cautious early hoping to avoid a recurrence.  Mind Your Biscuits and Ransom The Moon both finished worse than second in their final prep race making both of those horses non-qualifiers.  Fifteen of the last eighteen editions, and all of the previous twelve, have had a Good Last Work.  Assuming none of the horses will hit the worktab between Saturday, October 28th and November 4th, Roy H, Practical Joke, and B Squared do not meet the Good Last Workout requirement.  If you like B Squared then you might be forgiving because he raced 14 days prior and won the restricted California Flag Stakes which is probably just as good as a “Good Last Work”.  It seems more likely that he will run in the turf sprint.

Defending champion Drefong is the likely favorite and is deserving to be with his only two defeats occurring due to issues early in the race in his debut and ducking into the gap in the Bing Crosby. Imperial Hint has been extremely impressive in his last 5 starts, winning them by a combined 22 lengths and running figures consistently on par with Drefong’s figs.  Both of these horses, as well as Takaful and, possibly, Roy H all have speed and will pretty much guarantee a fast pace.  In those situations I like to play the best of the speed, which in this case is Drefong as his late pace numbers are better than Imperial Hint.  Since Drefong drew the #2 post position I think it would be wise to hedge a little with Imperial Hint.  The way they have been training him guarantees that he will be fresh and on the lead. So you  need the best of the speed as well as the strong late pace horse(s).  Whitmore, who was amazing early in the year, had a couple of poor showings, rebounded in his last start to win the G2 Phoenix and Mind Your Biscuits will be picking up the pieces late.

My selections in this race are to play Drefong, Whitmore, and Mind Your Biscuits on my horizontal tickets and to use those same horses in my vertical plays, using Whitmore and Mind Your Biscuits a little more prominently in the win position due to value and pace setup and to use Imperial Hint as a “C” in case he shakes loose on the lead.

Mile – Grade/Group 1 exiters:

Because of the domination of Wise Dan and Goldikova in this race in 5 of the last 10 years it is a bit difficult to really pinpoint winner’s profiles to look at.  But in the 13 renditions since 1999 that were not won by either of those two greats, only three were won by foreign horses.  Since most of the morning workouts in the US occur over the dirt surfaces, a good last work does not appears to be inconsequential.

BC Mile

The Shadwell Turf Mile has given us the winner of 3 of the last 5 renditions of this event.  Two of them came from the great Wise Dan.  This year the foreign invader Suedois came into Keeneland and took the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile with an explosive turn of foot down the lane.  The 6 year old had a solid European form but was definitely not one that struck fear in his opponents.  Heart to Heart and Ballagh Rocks finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, both of them running the same type of race that they seem to always run but neither are super imposing either.  Heart to Heart has quite a bit of early speed so he will likely have some say in the pace scenario.  Can they hit the board?  Sure, but I think the winner probably comes from a different prep and probably from a foreign shipper.

Other North American Grade 1 exiters entered for this race are World Approval who has won his last two Grade 1 events including a win in the G1 Woodbine Mile over highly regarded foreign invader Lancaster Bomber.  Midnight Storm, who finished third in the Mile last year, finished second in the G1 Awesome Again at the end of September on the Santa Anita dirt course, which would be a very unconventional final prep for this race.  I believe the great Wise Dan is the only winner to have not made his final prep on turf when he finished second in the Shadwell Turf Mile in 2013 after that race was moved from the turf to the Keeneland polytrack due to inclement weather.   None of the rest of the North American pre-entrants are coming out of Grade 1 events.

Other foreign Group 1 exiters who are entered here are: Lancaster Bomber who was beaten 30 lengths after pressing the leaders in the QE II at Ascot finishing well behind Churchill who is trying his hand in the Classic and Ribchester who beat Churchill by ½ a length;  Ribchester brings in 5 straight first or second place finishes in Group 1 events while demonstrating ample early pace ability; Roly Poly who was last seen winning the Sun Chariot at Newmarket and is a half-sister to Juvenile participant U S Navy Flag; Zelzal brings in a sixth place finish, but beaten less than two lengths, in the Prix de la Foret which has produced a few winners of this race, she finished a length behind third place finisher Karar who was also pre-entered.  Lancaster Bomber is a half-brother to $2.6M earner Excelebration.

I would suggest using Ribchester and World Approval as your key horses in this event.



Sentient Jet Juvenile: Top 3 finish in final prep and shown strong early or late pace ability; Good Last Work is a plus

Three years ago, Texas Red, became the 4th winner in 18 running’s to not finish in the top 2 in his final prep. But no winner in that time has finished worse than third.  Two of the last three winners came out of the Front Runner Stakes (formerly the Norfolk) at Santa Anita.  Although last year’s winner, Classic Empire, was based on the East Coast, the East Coast contingents have only won Six of the last Eighteen editions.

Foreign horses have performed admirably here, but since the advent of the Juvenile Turf in 2008, only Vale of York has successfully tried this event.  Most of the highly regarded Euro shippers now have the option to stay on their preferred surface, only 4 horses have tried the Juvenile in that timeframe.  Only one foreign horse was entered this year in Aiden O’Brien’s best 2 year-old U S Navy Flag in kind of a surprise as I expected him to enter Beholder’s little brother Mendelssohn but apparently the stable felt that U S Navy Flag’s seasoning made him more likely to be able to handle the toughness of this field.  He is a full to double pre-entrant Roly Poly both being by War Front and out of the Galileo mare ($1.1M earner) Misty For Me.

In 11 of the 18 events shown, the winner last raced within 4 weeks of the Breeders’ Cup.  You would think that this is a firm requirement, but 7 winners made their last start beyond 28 days out with 62 horses attempting this feat (one winner out of every 8.9).  There have been 156 starters come back on 4 weeks or less rest (one winner out of every 14.2) and with the change in schedule for the key prep race events in New York, Kentucky, and California the key preps are now held five weeks out.  Of those pre-entered that fit the qualifications (top 3 final race and strong early/late pace presence), my numbers point to the following qualifiers:

  • Bolt D’Oro (Strong early and late pace, undefeated winner of the G1 Front Runner)
  • Firenze Fire (Solid late pace, winner of the G1 Champagne)
  • Good Magic (Decent early pace, 2nd in both career starts, most recently the Champagne)
  • Solomini (Decent early pace, non-threatening 2nd in the Front Runner)

Bold D’Oro is absolutely the most likely winner on the card on Saturday.  He has been nothing but professional and impressive in all of his races and two of those races have come over the Del Mar oval.  While there are a few nice colts in this race, the other US based horses just do not match up with him.  If he is upset it will probably be the stranger in U S Navy Flag that provides the upset.  I think that is very unlikely, but O’Brien is a magician, probably worthy of a “C”.



Longines Turf – G1 exiter within 5 weeks:

Can you say “European Domination”?  14 of the past 18 years this race has been won by a European shipper.  There have been 19 winners (in 2003 there was a dead heat) in that time frame.  Six of the successful foreign shippers were from the O’Brien barn (including 4 of the past 6 years), 3 from the Stoute barn, 2 from Suroor (Godolphin).  Seven made their prior start in France in the Prix de L’Arc de Triumph, seven from other foreign locales (Ascot, Newbury, Newmarket, Leopardstown, Doncaster, and York).

Longines Turf

Thirteen of the nineteen winners last ran within 5 weeks of the Breeders’ Cup with only one winner not making their last start in a Grade/Group 1 event.  Every winner except for Magician has been in the money 60% of the time either on the lawn at the host track if they have any starts over it or over turf in general if they have no starts at the host track.

Every one of this year’s entrants have shown track/surface affinity except for the following:  Bullards Alley who brings in a career best performance by winning the G1 Canadian International by a widening 10 lengths over a soft Woodbine turf course.  He obviously loves Woodbine and the soft going, which he will not get on Saturday, probably helped matters.  Cliffs of Moher also does not qualify finishing in the money in only 3 of his 8 lifetime starts, all on lawn. Fanciful Angel who has finished second in two of our best North American turf races, the Arlington Million and the Turf Classic both Grade 1’s, but his European form is nothing to write home about and the fact that he finished so close in our two best races is likely an indictment of the gap in the talent of our turf horses compared to Europe’s.   Itsinthepost is only 4 for 8 in the money at Del Mar with zero wins in those 8 tries. Seventh Heaven has hit the board in 5 out of 12 turf starts and appeared to be in much better form last year when finishing fourth in the F&M Turf, this seems rather ambitious.

The qualifiers (G1 exiter within 35 days and has track/surface affinity) are:  defending champion Highland Reel who made his first start in nearly 3 months just two weeks before the big day when running a very respectable 3rd in the G1 Champion Stakes at Ascot.  Unlike the U.S.-based trainers, the Europeans understand that horses tend to run back very well off a relatively short break, the great mare Found used the Champion Stakes as her final prep before taking home Breeders Cup glory two years ago.  Ulysses is also a qualifier off his third place finish in the Prix l’Arc de Triumph, he finished fourth last year rounding out an all European superfecta.  He comes into this year’s Turf more mature and in better form winning two Group 1 races in his last 4, the other two were 2nd and 3rd place finishes behind the great Enable who would be 9/5 in this field if not lower.  Beach Patrol who was the romping winner of the G1 Turf Classic at Belmont Park on September 30th and who also won the Arlington Million in August.  He has been unstoppable since teaming up with Joel Rosario for his last two races and, in reality, is the main hope the home team has of winning this race.  Sadler’s Joy was a well beaten 4th in the Turf Classic but will be running late if the pace melts down and should be considered strongly underneath in any vertical wager.  Oscar Performance who was the victor in last year’s Juvenile Turf brings in a third place finish in the turf classic after dominating the 3 year-old turf scene.

It’s not every year we get an Arc winner to run in the Breeders Cup.  Arc winners have not fared well in the BC Turf with Dancing Brave, Trempolino, Saumarez, Subotica, Dylan Thomas, Golden Horn and Found not being able to parlay wins at Longchamp into BC Glory.  Arc winner Sakhee did come to the US and ran great to finish a close second to Tiznow in the Classic.

You might infer from the above info that the Arc is not a good prep for the Turf, however Highland Reel (2nd in ’16), Found (9th in ’15, but finished second at Ascot in the Champion Stakes between the Arc and winning the Turf), St. Nicholas Abbey (5th in the Arc), Conduit (4th in ’09 Arc), Shirocco (4th in Arc), High Chaparral (3rd in both ’02 and ’03), Daylami (9th), Pilsudski (2nd in ’96), Miss Alleged (13th in ’91 – but finished 5th at Laurel between the Arc and winning the Turf) and In The Wings (4th in ’90) are horses who did not win the Arc but made a successful trip stateside to take the Turf.  This bodes well for morning line favorite Ulysses who, as mentioned earlier, finished 3rd in the Arc.  

I think it’s a near surety that the winner will come from the five qualifiers.  My selection is Ulysses but think to feel safe to get out of this race alive into the Classic in any horizontal wagers you need to also use Highland Reel and Beach Patrol.  Budget permitting, Oscar Performance and Sadler’s Joy in that order would be the other two to consider using in some form or fashion.



Classic: Awesome Again, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup are the key races; top 3 finishers in prep that have track affinity or surface affinity if no starts at the track:

The best foreign horses usually stick to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf or the Mile depending on their distance limitations.  There have been a couple notable exceptions but only Raven’s Pass has been able to successfully invade and win this event (and cost me the consolation in the pick 6 that year after hitting the first 4 legs).  There have been 6 horses with decent early pace presence win, 3 horses with decent late presence, 6 horses that had decent early and late pace numbers, 2 that were more one pace plodders (Drosselmeyer and Tiznow in his first victory as a 3 year old), and Raven’s Pass (no data to support pace presence).

Sixteen of the 18 horses had track affinity or surface affinity (if no starts at the host track).  If you last finished worse than 3rd you probably aren’t picking up the big check.  Of late, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has been the key prep with the Awesome Again (formerly the Goodwood) recovering three years ago from its recent losing streak but it produced the winner 3 of 4 years from 2000-2003.  The Travers gave us the last two winners and the last three were saddled by Mr. Baffert (if you win 3 of these in a row, you have earned the Mr. title.)  For older horses you need to have won the Awesome Again or Woodward or if you haven’t finished in the top 3 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, you probably won’t be on my radar.

The last three renditions of this race were won by 3 year-olds, which hadn’t happened in the prior 5 editions.  The last three winners also came from Baffert’s barn.  Bob is stacked again this year with four of the eleven entrants.

Arrogate will try and right the ship from losing his last two races.  He was being compared to Secretariat after his ultra-impressive run in Dubai but spun his wheels a bit this summer at Del Mar.  His last two workouts have been getting better but he will have to be on his A game to win.  If he brings his A minus game there are 2 or 3 in here that will be ready to pounce.  People talk about him not liking Del Mar.  That might be true but with the Pegasus World Cup only a couple months away and with the timing of that race being such that he could make both the PWC and the breeding shed next year, I think we might have a case of the Unbridled’s Song bad feet coming out in him.  I will still use him but I cannot promote singling the big grey colt.

War Decree and Churchill are going to attempt to do their best Raven’s Pass impersonation but there are three major differences between the two.  The first being that Raven’s Pass was coming in off of a Group 1 victory in the QE II at Ascot.  The second being that the 2008 edition was held on the all-weather surface at Santa Anita. And the third being that John Gosden brought I Raven’s Pass and Frankie Dettori was in the irons, both War Decree and Churchill come from Aiden O’Brien’s barn, he is one of the best trainers in the world but he is only 2 for 41 in Breeders Cup dirt races and one of those was in the now defunct BC Marathon.

Top 3 finishers in G1 Prep that have demonstrated track affinity if they have made a start on the Del Mar dirt, or surface affinity if they have never raced at Santa Anita are:

  • Arrogate (2 for 3 in the money at DMR)
  • Gun Runner (15 of 15 in the money on dirt, winner of last 3 G1 races including the Woodward by over 22 lengths)
  • Mubtaahij (10 for 16 in the money on dirt, won the Awesome Again)
  • West Coast (8 for 8 in the money on dirt, won the G1 Pennsylvania Derby)
  • Gunnevera (8 for 11 in the money on dirt, second in the Travers)
  • Pavel (3 for 4 in the money on dirt)
  • Collected (1 for 1 at DMR)

If Arrogate does not rebound to his old self, there are 3 horses to consider in the next 3 morning line favorites.  Gun Runner has been very impressive since returning from his defeat in Dubai.  West Coast is the likely 3 year old champion after putting together a string of 5 victories in a row and will attempt to be the 4th straight Bob Baffert trained 3 year-old and third straight Travers winner to win the Classic.  Collected has also been very impressive in his last 3 races, the latest being a ½ length victory over Arrogate in the Pacific Classic but he is undefeated since being beaten a mile in the Preakness in 2016 winning all 4 2017 starts.

Pavel is interesting and on paper would be a little shocking, but he has continued to run improved races and one more step forward puts him in contention if Arrogate of old does not show up.  Reddam/O’Neill have been very high on this horse since day 1.  High enough to run him against the Derby and the Preakness  winners in the Jim Dandy.  He finished a game third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the top 2 finishers will not be racing on Saturday.  At his 20/1 Morning Line price he is the value in this race. He is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Caracortado and by a bit better sire so he has a license to be a Grade 1 caliber colt.

Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Day One, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017

 By Craig Spencer

I have gone back and looked at the winner of each Breeders’ Cup race since 1999.  I will look at each of the races and discuss historically successful prep races and other interesting things to keep in mind as you begin to look at past performances and formulate your wagering strategies

As you read through this you will see in the tables for each race an “Angles” field.  The legend for that field is:

In 2016, the qualifiers performed quite well with 9 of the 13 winners being “qualifiers”, the exceptions being:

  • Oscar Performance who became just the second winner in the Juvenile Turf not to make their final prep start in Europe
  • Champagne Room who surprised everyone when winning the Juvenile fillies and returning $69.20 after finishing 4th in the G1 Chandelier
  • Finest City who did not run in the Thoroughbred Club of America but did come into the race off a second place finish in the G2 Finest City and a good final workout
  • Queen’s Trust did come out of a decent Group 1 performance to win the Filly and Mare Turf but the qualifying requirement is a 1st or 2nd in a Group 1 and she had finished fourth

One final preface, you may hear that foreign shippers run better when the BC is held on the East Coast due to the heat and/or the closer proximity/less travel time.  That is just not true.  7 times since 1999 the BC was held at SA, 157 horses who made their last start outside of North America raced, taking home 25 winner’s trophies (15.9%).  In the 11 years when other venues hosted the Cup there were 18 foreign winners from 173 starters (10.4%).



Juvenile Fillies Turf Trends:  Group 1 exiters from Foreign shippers. For North American entrants: Top 2 in a Graded Stakes last out, 60%+ top 3 finishes in their turf outs, and last raced within 5 weeks. The Miss Grillo Stakes has been a key race for North American entrants:

The US representatives have been successful the last three years after being beaten by foreign invaders in ’12-‘13.  I still wouldn’t ignore the Group 1 exiting foreign horses.

The two traditional key East Coast prep races are the Grade 3 Miss Grillo where Significant Form brought in only a win in her career debut but promptly extended her unbeaten string to two and the Grade 2 Natalma where Capla Temptress rallied to get a victory in her first North American try after winning two out of three across the pond. She was transferred to Bill Mott’s barn for the Natalma.  While in the UK she finished 3rd in her only defeat in the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket finishing a length behind Juliet Capulet who is pre-entered in this race for John Gosden and followed up her second place finish in the Sweet Solera by winning the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfell Stakes at Newmarket.  Juliet Capulet, will retain the services of Frankie Dettori and that is never a bad thing.

Of the rest of the foreign contingency, September is coming off a nose defeat in the Group 1 Bet365 Fillies Mile Stakes, but she finished nearly 4 lengths behind Happily when third in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.  Happily followed up that victory with another victory on the Arc undercard at Chantilly when winning the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Stakes.  The European trainers do not typically send their best over for this race.  Once again, all Group 1 exiting filly should be looked at closely even no matter where they finished.  The other foreign pre-entrants coming out of Group 1 races are Madeline and Now You’re Talking.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Best Performance finished reasonably close to Significant Form in the Miss Grillo. Orbulation was not too far back behind Best Performance while not having the best trip in the world.

Rushing Fall is a non-qualifier that you might still consider, she rallied very impressively in both of her starts to date.  In her most recent start she was a convincing winner of the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland where she ran a BRIS figure of 91, which is the tops of the pre-entered US based fillies.  In the Jessamine she rallied from 9 lengths back to win by a widening 3 lengths.

My top selection in this event is Happily who is a half to four time Group 1 winner Gleneagles  (Irish 2000 Guineas, British 2000 Guineas, St. James Place, Vincent O’Brien).


Las Vegas Dirt Mile Trends:  last raced within 6 weeks in a Grade 1 or Grade 2; a good last work is a plus.

The first five winners of this race all were 6-1 or better, the next three were a bit easier to figure.  Last year we returned to a more chaotic result.  If you are a horizontal player, I would truly suspect this race to be one in which you should consider going a bit deeper in than the others.   Only once had a horse won this race off more than a 6 week break and 6 of the 9 winners had a good last work (top 1/3rd at the distance, within 14 days of the race), so watching the workout tabs heading into the Breeders’ Cup seems like a good idea.

Dirt Mile

Pre-entrants exiting a Grade 1 or Grade 2 race within 6 weeks of BC Weekend include Cupid (4th in G1 Awesome Again), Giant Expectations (5th in the G1 SA Sprint Championship), Midnight Storm (2nd in G1 Awesome Again), Sharp Azteca (1st in G2 Kelso).

Mor Spirit last raced in June when winning the G1 Metropolitan.  His trainer, Bob Baffert, is exceptional with horses coming back off layoffs of any duration.  Practical Joke, last raced in the G1 Jerkins at Saratoga at the end of August.  His trainer, Chad Brown, has a very similar success rate as Baffert.

If one wins this race after being defeated in the Awesome Again, that horse would join the company of Albertus Maximus won the inaugural Dirt Mile after finishing third in the Goodwood, which is now known as the Awesome Again and Dakota Phone who also raced in the Goodwood prior to his success in the Dirt Mile.

I would like Mor Spirit more than I do had he had a race since early June.  If he wins I will probably not cash a ticket in this race or in any multi-race wagers involving this race.  The main horses I was interested in are racing in different spots over the big weekend.



Juvenile Turf: Foreign Shippers Reign.

The European contingent have been deadly in this race with 7 winners in the 9 Running’s (Foreign Tacks are shaded).  Four of the 7 European winners last raced at Newmarket (Hootenanny was US based, trained by Wesley Ward, but last start was across the pond).  One of the two US based winners, Pluck, didn’t make his last start in the US either, although I wouldn’t call a race at Woodbine a real foreign test.

Most of the best US talent at this stage of their 2 year-old year are still trying to make a name for themselves on the dirt so they can make a run at the Triple Crown.  The European shippers are definitely at an advantage in this race.  Not only have they been racing on turf against the best 2 year olds that Europe has to offer, they are trained over turf in the mornings and are well prepared to handle the lower rate North American talent that they will typically face.

If O’Brien brings U S Navy Flag to Del Mar, he will be the first winner of the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst, a race that has sent us two victors from horses who were not good enough to win at Newmarket but were easily good enough to win stateside.  He would be heavily favored and would be the most likely winner on Friday’s card if he makes the trip.

Top 3 finishers (either European or from at least a US based G3) include Catholic Boy (1st in G3 With Anticipation at Saratoga, which is probably a little bit too long between races to strongly consider), Flameaway (Winner of the off-the turf G3 Bourbon), Hemp Hemp Hurray (2nd in the G2 Summer Stakes), James Garfield (1st in G2 Mill Reef at Newbury), Masar (3rd in G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lugardere at Chantilly), Mendelssohn (2nd for O’Brien in the historically significant G1 Darley Dewhust at Newmarket), Nelson (2nd for O’Brien in the G2 Royal Lodge at Newmarket),  Untamed Domain (1st in the G2 Summer Stakes), Voting Control (2nd in the G3 Pilgrim), Tap Daddy (3rd in the G3 Bourbon), Tip Two Win (2nd in the G3 Tattersalls Stakes  at Newmarket), Tangled (who finished a nose behind Tip Two Win in the Tattersalls)

Pedigree information to consider:

Mendelssohn is a half to Beholder and Into Mischief, both of which did their running on the dirt.  Into Mischief’s offspring have been solid on both dirt and turf but based on that pedigree I would think they might try the Juvenile on Saturday and not the Juvenile Turf on Friday.

US Navy Flag is a full to double pre-entrant Roly Poly both being by War Front and out of the Galileo mare ($1.1M earner) Misty For Me.

Aiden O’Brien has had at least one starter in this race in each of it’s 9 running’s, after going 0 for 3 in the first 3, he has won 3 of the last 6 renditions.  Based on the strength of his stable my selection will be whichever horse he enters in this race between U S Navy Flag and Mendelssohn.  If he leaves U S Navy Flag home and runs Mendelssohn on the dirt, his third possible starter Nelson will have to be used on the ticket but likely with some others as backup.  Those would include Untamed Domain and Voting Control.



Longines Distaff: Zenyatta and Beldame are key prep races, a race within 5 weeks is a plus, but historically either decent early or decent late pace presence is required.

In the 18 running’s of this event since 1999, we have had only two winners that last raced over 5 weeks out, however they were in two of the last three years.  I wouldn’t bet on that trend continuing but might extend the requirement a week so the Cotillion can be included as a major prep race.  With the Beldame and the Zenyatta (formerly the Lady’s Secret) providing 8 of the last 10 winners. A good last work (GLW) does not appear to be of much importance, as five of the last 10 winners did not have a “good last work.”

Either a decent early pace presence or the best late pace ability seems to be a requirement with Pleasant Home and Unbridled Elaine being the only victors to not meet one of those requirements.  The last 5 had shown decent early pace presence, with Life is Sweet, Zenyatta and Ginger Punch all being monsters in the final stages of the event.

Distaff profile

Elate’s last two victories were extremely impressive to see.  Her win in the G1 Beldame paired the same figure with her Alabama and is the best BRIS figure given to any horse in this race this year. She should be a pretty low priced favorite and not one that I would leave off any horizontal wagers I made.

Forever Unbridled is a sneaky horse in this race, as she is the late pace presence.  It’s been a while since she last raced at Saratoga when winning the G1 Personal Ensign but if the pace is hot up front and Elate is unable to get clear to get first run on the leaders or gets embroiled in the pace duel, don’t be shocked if she is able to rally at a good price.  If the layoff doesn’t get the better of her, she will be picking up some of the pieces late.  Don’t leave her out of your exacta’s and trifecta’s.

Paradise Woods returned to form when romping in the G1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita.  This was after two very poor performances in the Kentucky Oaks and the Torrey Pines, which was held at Del Mar.  The real question mark with this filly is whether or not she can win anywhere but in Arcadia since she has yet to succeed in doing so.  No other participants in the Zenyatta will be running in the Distaff.

As for the other 3 year old fillies in this race, Kentucky Oaks heroin Abel Tasman got a very strange ride by Mike Smith being allowed to rally to the lead approaching the final turn before tiring from that early move.  The most interesting longshot possibility in this field is Champagne Room who has only raced twice since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies last year at 33 to 1.  She ran a tiring 3rd to Unique Bella in February and then returned in September to win the Remington Park Oaks convincingly and she continues to impress in the mornings.  This year’s “Champagne Room” might indeed be Champagne Room again.

If Stellar Wind races, I think she is a play against.  She hasn’t raced since the end of July and her worktab has not been very flattering.  Sadler doesn’t usually work his horses fast, so maybe that shouldn’t be concerning, but for this type of a test I believe she needs to be working significantly quicker to be ready.

My main selection in this race is Elate with the value plays being Champagne Room and Forever Unbridled.

Craig Spencer former jockey

  • Craig Spencer is a former jockey who has ridden at numerous tracks around the country including Saratoga, Finger Lakes and Turf Paradise. The second part of Craig’s BC preview will be available later this week at


Keeneland Trainer Profile: Steve Asmussen

When one combines these categories, it accounts for close to 70% of Asmussen’s wins.

Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

The 51 year old trainer comes from a racing family in Texas, which includes his brother Cash who won an Eclipse Award and then enjoyed a successful career in Europe. Steven Asmussen has won several of the country’s great races. His biggest wins have been the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup. He has also won the Eclipse Award as the most Outstanding Trainer.

Asmussen wins with a variety of angles but is very dangerous with his two year olds in their first start and he excels with second time starts of any age. The same can be said of his layoff horses, either first or second race back. When one combines these categories, it accounts for close to 70% of Asmussen’s wins. The trainer pretty much works his horses 6-7 days apart and most of his winners have their last work 6-8 days prior to race day. One should look for a gate work from his debut juveniles, usually in one of the last two workouts before race day. The last work for a two year old will come at Keeneland.

Of particular note is, that compared to most trainers, Asmussen has his horses working a little more in a 30 days period leading up to race day. He will have 15 furlongs of racing or work at a minimum and often his horses will go more than 20 furlongs within a 30-day period prior to race day. The trainer rarely produces a repeat winner at Keeneland.

Asmussen, surprisingly, delivers with some ‘price’ horses at Keeneland and approximately two-thirds of his Keeneland victories have come in the fall meet. He will ship horses from many different tracks in the fall, but for the spring meeting look for those coming from Churchill Downs or Fair Grounds.

Asmussen has won for a long list of owners but his top owner is William Heiligbrodt. Jockey Ricardo Santana is his ‘go-to’ rider, having ridden more than 50% of Asmussen’s Keeneland winners. He has also successfully used Shaun Bridgmohan, Julien Leparoux, Robby Albarado and James Graham.

The following is an excerpt of the trainer stats found in Art’s book, now available for download at

Steve Asmussen (25 wins)

  • Two year old debut horses show works 6-7 days apart, at least one from the gate, usually the last work 6-8 days prior to race day.
  • Look for horses that have worked and/or raced 15-20 furlongs within 30 days of race day.
  • Winners have shipped from 8 different tracks, but more than two-thirds have logged their last work at Keeneland.
  • More than half of winners were ridden by Ricardo Santana.
  • Has won for 17 different owners.
  • Approximately half of the winners paid in double digits.
  • More likely to win with turf-to-main surface switches than main-to-turf.

Art’s book is available here