Weekend Winners Club

May 17 2017

Preakness Post Positions drawn. Final field of 10 revealed. Grid PP’s and longshots

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Wednesday, May 17
Pimlico, MD
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In what may be the final Preakness Stakes ever run at Pimlico, the final field has been determined with post positions and morning lines.
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Not surprisingly, Kentucky Derby favorite and champion Always Dreaming is the favorite, with 4th place finisher Classic Empire the 2nd choice.
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Preakness 2017 field and Grid snapshot

Preakness 2017 field and Grid snapshot


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What may surprise some is that the only other early runner in the field, Conquest Mo Money, is listed at 15-1. Despite a strong Arkansas Derby in which he was eventually caught by only the 2yo champ Classic Empire, he skipped the Derby to point to this race.
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Clearly the most dangerous and only other speedster in the field, his odds will not be double digits at post time, and he will likely be the 3rd betting choice. However, he also may be the only one that can actually beat the entire field including Always Dreaming.
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 Arkansas Derby duo Classic Empire and Conquest Mo Money are the two that can beat Always Dreaming in the Preakness

Arkansas Derby duo Classic Empire and Conquest Mo Money are the two that can beat Always Dreaming in the Preakness


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This year’s Preakness is almost devoid of speed besides these two. Classic Empire and Cloud Computing will press the pace, but neither has ever been in the lead at first call in a race, because that’s not their style.
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With the pace scenario as it is, it’s difficult to go beyond these 4 for the superfecta, but there are a couple others that have shown both the speed (overall not necessarily early) and class to get a piece of the pie.
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Lookin at Lee is obviously one of them, by virtue of his 2nd place run for the roses, but this doesn’t look like his race to win at all. Nor does it for the other late runners.
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However, Multiplier and Hence are two that have put up performance figures speedy enough to possibly beat Always Dreaming, even in his last race. Plus, a late running winner in either the Sunland Derby or Illinois Derby deserves close inspection.
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For Hence, the Sunland Derby opened up with a suicide pace that even Conquest Mo Money couldn’t keep up with. Hence took advantage and won that race, but 2 weeks ago, ran into too much trouble, and perhaps a disliking of the Churchill surface.
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In the Illinois Derby, about a month ago, Multiplier didn’t mind another mediocre pace, and won anyway in his 4th career race and 1st after finally breaking his maiden. So those are the 2 closers that I give the best chance at the purse to.
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Download Preakness Grid right here free.
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Looking at the field right now, I’d have to pick 3 early runners and 1 closer for the superfecta, because that’s usually how it ends up. In this case, there are only 3, maybe 4 early runners depending on you how you chart it anyway. The other common option is 2 early runners and 2 closers.
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It also normally ends up with 3 Derby runners and 1 non Derby runner, as covered in the prior Preakness articles. This shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, it’s just a matter of history.
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The most logical conclusion then, is for the two fastest Derby runners to finish in the money: Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. It actually would be a bit shocking to not see them both in the super, because neither has ever finished worse than 4th. They are both great champions already.
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For the newcomer, it’s hard not to point to Conquest Mo Money to finish in the superfecta. He’s the closest thing to a true frontrunner in the field and displayed devastating speed and durability in his last 2 races. He’s in my super.
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The last one in the top 4 gets tricky. We have Lookin at Lee, Gunnevera, and Hence from the Derby. One had his best career race, the latter had his best career race one before that at Sunland, beating Conquest Mo Money. Gunnevera is looking to bounce back from one of his worst career races.
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But I can’t overlook Multiplier, and it could be one of those years where 2 outsiders take up part of the super. Plus, we need to consider 5 horses at a minimum for the Super High 5 Score.
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Multiplier has improved by an average of almost 10 points in each of his 4 career races, the latest being his first stakes race. His path and style maybe not conventional, but he’s shown the class to get it done.
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I may include Lookin at Lee somewhere below in my exotics, just to not be stupid about it, but he’s most likely the odd one out, after 10 career races and coming off undoubtedly his best lifetime performance, he may be a bit spent.
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Another I’ll include towards the bottom of the exotics is Cloud Computing, because he’s done well in his 3 career races and 1 of the only 4 in the field that’s not a late runner, in a field devoid of speed. With only 3 career races, he has the right to improve.
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Right now if I had to pick that SH5, I’d do it like this:
Always Dreaming, Conquest Mo Money, Classic Empire as the key horses, then Hence, Gunnevera, Cloud Computing and Multiplier somewhere below. That probably won’t change much.
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I’d like to bet my entire paycheck that at least 2 of my top 3 finish in the top 3, but they don’t offer such bets, so that’s why we need to use the others in the exotics.
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Full Preakness and Black Eyed Susan Day Grids available here.

May 15 2017

Preakness Stakes 2017 Early Look and Grid PP’s

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Monday, May 15
Pimlico, MD
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Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming is not surprisingly the almost-even-money favorite for the Preakness Stakes this weekend, but the issue won’t be settled until then.
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Could this be another Lookin at Lucky type of year? Because it’s clear that out of 20 quality 3yo’s that competed on the first Saturday in May, most didn’t have a real liking to the sloppy/sealed racing surface on that day.
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It could well be that Lookin at Lee repeats in his sire’s footsteps at Pimlico after a solid Derby, even tho the track usually doesn’t favor such closers. Classic Empire also turned in a good performance at Churchill.
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What stands out boldly in this field so far however, is the almost complete lack of early/speed runners. Conquest Mo Money is the only up-front challenger to Always Dreaming, and is coming off 2 solid runner-up finishes in his preps.
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Always Dreaming is the horse to beat in the Preakness, with Johnny V up.

Always Dreaming is the horse to beat in the Preakness, with Johnny V up.


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Together, the Kentucky Derby champ and Arkansas Derby runner-up are the only 2 scheduled to lead the way in the Preakness. Classic Empire and Cloud Computing will be chasing the pace, and the others are all late runners.
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This gives Always Dreaming a serious advantage over most of the field, but we can’t rule out the speedy Conquest Mo Money, who will likely have to be run down from behind.
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As covered in a prior early historical analysis, however, the top 6 Kentucky Derby finishers have an excellent history of winning the Preakness. This group includes Lookin at Lee and Classic Empire along with the champ.
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Download Preakness Grid PP’s here now

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May 09 2017

Preakness 2017 Probables Early Analysis and Easy Historical Handicapping Method

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Tuesday, May 9
Pimlico, Baltimore, MD
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I saw a silly post on Facebook right after the Kentucky Derby asking “Can Always Dreaming win the Preakness?” to which various people chimed in their 2 cents worth, including one ridiculous answer of “not a chance.” I replied something sarcastic like “Impossible. No Derby champ has ever gone on to win the Preakness.”
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The point of this is that the question itself is ridiculous; because the fact of it is that the Kentucky Derby champion goes on to win the Preakness just as often as it does not. It is almost the norm nowadays. Consider the chart below, indicating that the Derby champ has won 10 of the past 20 Preakness Stakes.
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How Kentucky Derby top 4 fared in Preakness, 1997-2016

How Kentucky Derby top 4 fared in Preakness, 1997-2016


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In addition to the great 50% winning mark over the last 20 years, the Derby champ is NEVER a throwout in the Preakness, finishing in the top 3 80% of the time. That figure would be astounding for any other horse. The Derby champ must ALWAYS be reckoned with in the Preakness if he runs in it.
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When the champ is also an early or early-presser (E/EP) type runner, it has even a better winning percentage, with 9 of the last 12 going on to win the Preakness. The running style for Always Dreaming is thus perfectly suited for the Preakness, like many of his predecessors who won both.
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Always Dreaming is the horse to beat in the Preakness, with Johnny V up.

Always Dreaming is the horse to beat in the Preakness, with Johnny V up.


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Further, you must look at the rest of the top 4 Derby finishers closely as well. With those, you add 4 more Preakness champions, making it 70% of Preakness winners coming from the Derby superfecta. In fact, the Derby top 4 have finished in the Preakness super 35 times out of the last 46 runners.
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Which Derby champions typically don’t win the Preakness? Normally those that come from way off the pace. Yes it’s true that Exaggerator and Lookin at Lucky won the Preakness, but they were not Derby champions, they were great closers, and they took advantage of the pace scenario on that day.
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The norm, however, is for early and early/presser (E/EP) running types to win the Preakness, to the tune of 15 of the last 20 Preakness champions. Finishing 2nd-4th in the Preakness is a conglomeration of all types of runners, including some of the best closers in history like Derby champions Monarchos, Fusaichi Pegasus and Street Sense, who did not win the Preakness.
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See Exhibit B: The other side of the coin. Top 4 Preakness finishers and where they finished in the Kentucky Derby, if they actually ran in it. You can see that all but 3 of the last 20 came from the Derby, all of which finished 6th or better in the run for the roses. So top 6 Derby horses account for 85% of the past 20 Preakness champs.
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How the Preakness top 4 previously fared in the Kentucky Derby, last 20 years

How the Preakness top 4 previously fared in the Kentucky Derby, last 20 years


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In addition, over 50% of Preakness place, show, and 4th place horses also came from Kentucky Derby runners, including about 40% of the place and show horses coming from the Derby top 4. This shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the Kentucky Derby is the first place you need to look not only for the Preakness champ, but also to formulate your Preakness exotics.
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The bottom line is that only 3 of the last 20 Preakness champs did not run in the Kentucky Derby, and less than 50% of each of the Place, Show, and 4th place horses did not run for the roses. But each year is different, and it also means that we will have to investigate the Derby ‘outsiders’ since they typically put 1 and sometimes 2 horses into the Preakness superfecta. (In 2008 only 1 Derby horse dared run against Big Brown in the Preakness and failed miserably.)
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We shall inspect those horses further as the field narrows down, but certainly horses such as Conquest Mo Money and Malagacy, both of which ran a big Arkansas Derby, could make some serious noise in the Preakness after resting up on the sidelines while others were exhausting themselves in the slop at Churchill. Cloud Computing also points to Pimlico.
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Horse Last Race Odds
Always Dreaming 1st Kentucky Derby 1-1
Classic Empire 4th Kentucky Derby 6-1
Irish War Cry 10th Kentucky Derby 7-1
Lookin at Lee 2nd Kentucky Derby 12-1
Gunnevera 7th Kentucky Derby 14-1
Battle of Midway 3rd Kentucky Derby 14-1
Cloud Computing 3rd Wood Memorial 16-1
Conquest Mo Money 2nd Arkansas Derby 16-1
Malagacy 5th Arkansas Derby 16-1
Royal Mo 3rd Santa Anita Dby 16-1
Practical Joke 5th Kentucky Derby 20-1
Hence 11th Kentucky Derby 20-1
Multiplier 1st Illinois Derby 20-1
Senior Investment 1st Lexington Stakes 25-1

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For now, your key Preakness horses are Always Dreaming, Lookin at Lee, Battle of Midway, and Classic Empire. It wouldn’t surprise me to see at least 1 of those skip the Preakness, especially Lookin at Lee, on a track that seldom favors late runners at this distance. But it also shouldn’t surprise anyone if 2 or 3 of those finish in the top 4 in the Preakness, especially the Derby champ.

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May 08 2017

Kentucky Derby Aftermath: Quarterbacking began weeks beforehand

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Monday, May 8
Churchill Downs
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In the aftermath of the Kentucky Derby, there are plenty of Monday morning armchair quarterbacks with hindsight of 20/20. But why don’t you listen to somebody that knew what he was talking about beforehand, and won a 50 cent trifecta for $4100 (before they took out taxes sigh) instead of those who are pretending to know what they were talking about now that they know the results.
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For this, we’re just going to go back through my Kentucky Derby articles, from the most recent and on back to a couple weeks beforehand, and you tell me who actually knew what they were talking about BEFOREHAND. So pay attention here, and you might just learn something.
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Always Dreaming, Lookin at Lee, and Classic Empire all ranked highly in ALL PRE-DERBY HRBW analyses.

Always Dreaming, Lookin at Lee, and Classic Empire all ranked highly in ALL PRE-DERBY HRBW analyses.


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The very last article pre-Derby was the Kentucky Derby 2017 Pace Scenario Analysis.
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In this article, I outlined that the race seemed to be devoid of pace, giving edge to those running near the pace.
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My final paragraph began, “Based on the current pace scenario as is, I would have to pick a top 5 of Classic Empire, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Irap and Gormley. I’d even give Thunder Snow and Battle of Midway a shot to finish in the money.”
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As it turned out, the pace ended up quite speedy up front, and although Irish War Cry couldn’t hold on, the winner did, and so did Battle of Midway, mentioned as a long shot that nobody else gave much credit to. Classic Empire also got into the mix, and as usual, a random closer finished in the mix, as Lookin at Lee apparently loved the sloppy sealed surface at Churchill.
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The article before that was titled: 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Sires and Sirelines
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In this article, I outlined the sires and sirelines, as indicated by the title. One of the first points made was that the Raise a Native (RAN) sireline had won 13 of the last 24 Kentucky Derby editions. As it turned out, RAN also finished 1st-4th in the Derby this year.
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I described the sires and lines in order of what I felt was most relevant to least relevant. The first 5 horses I listed were Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Lookin at Lee, and Battle of Midway. Note that 4 of those finished 1-4, comprising the Derby superfecta. Enough said.
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The article prior to that was called: Major Kentucky Derby Preps 1997-Present.
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In this article, it was described how the Derby champion and other top finishers normally come from the top 2 in a major prep race, and lists those races. The article concluded that the top contenders based on prep races were, in order of relevance:
Arkansas: Classic Empire, Lookin at Lee, and Sonneteer
Florida: Always Dreaming and Gunnevera
Wood: Irish War Cry
Blue Grass: Irap and Practical Joke
Louisiana: Girvin
Sunland: Hence (and Irap already mentioned)
(Santa Anita was mentioned as a throwout race with no good contenders)
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From here, I can see 3 of the top 5 Derby finishers in the first 4 horses listed. Enough of that one.
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The previous article was entitled: 2017 Kentucky Derby Final ¼ Mile Times in Contender Preps.
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As the title indicates, this article provided the last ¼ Mile fraction calculations for the contenders in their final prep races, a calculation which I failed to find elsewhere on the internet, so I may be the only free provider of such info in the world.
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The results here also give you a good idea of who the top late runners in the field were. The Kentucky Derby 1, 2, and 4 finishers Always Dreaming, Lookin at Lee, and Classic Empire were 3-4-5 on this, part of an elite group of 6 with final quarter-mile fractions of less than 25 seconds. Once again, enough on that matter.
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The last relevant article prior to that was Doug’s Double Derby Dozen April 17 created after the final prep races were over. .
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This was simply the final rankings that we came out with for the Derby contenders. The 1st, 2nd, and 4th place Derby finishers Always Dreaming, Lookin at Lee, and Classic Empire were ranked 4th, 8th, and 1st. Now I don’t know of anyone else who even had Lookin at Lee in their top 10 at any time all year.
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Again, we didn’t rank Battle of Midway very highly, but felt that the Santa Anita Derby itself was kind of a throwout, void of any top contenders. Battle of Midway either really liked the surface, or took a step up in class, or both.
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The point of this article isn’t to brag, but if you got better information, analysis or rankings elsewhere, please let me know. This is just to show you a stark difference between the Monday morning QB’s, and those that were quarterbacking every day leading up to the Derby with good solid information and analysis.
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Note that 3 of the top 4 Derby finishers were mentioned and highly ranked repeatedly in EVERY article. The other one, wild card Battle of Midway was mentioned highly in the pace analysis and sire analysis, fortunately, even if he didn’t rank highly in some other categories. Again, show me one source that has all 4 top finishers ranking highly in all their analyses. Not happening.
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May 04 2017

Kentucky Derby 2017 Pace Scenario Analysis

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Thursday, May 4
Churchill Downs
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It seems like I find myself saying this a lot in recent years, but once again, this year’s Kentucky Derby doesn’t have a whole lot of pace in it. Such has been the case the past 3 years when early running types won the Derby, and a couple long shot frontrunners even managed to get into 2nd.
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There were 3 key defections over the past month that led to this: Malagacy, Battalion Runner, Conquest Mo Money all bowed out, making it 2 true front runners and an very early runner that are out even though they had the points to get in.
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Here is the field in terms of their running style and Quirin speed points.
Note E= Early runner, EP= Early Presser, P= Pace Presser, S= Sustained runner
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1 Lookin At Lee 20-1 S0
2 Thunder Snow 20-1 EP5
3 Fast And Accurate 50-1 EP7
4 Untrapped 30-1 P2
5 Always Dreaming 5-1 EP7
6 State Of Honor 30-1 E7
7 Girvin 15-1 P1
8 Hence 15-1 S1
9 Irap 20-1 EP6
10 Gunnevera 15-1 S0
11 Battle Of Midway 30-1 EP7
12 Sonneteer 50-1 S1
13 J Boys Echo 20-1 P1
14 Classic Empire 4-1 EP6
15 Mccraken 5-1 S3
16 Tapwrit 20-1 P2
17 Irish War Cry 6-1 EP8
18 Gormley 15-1 EP5
19 Practical Joke 20-1 P2
20 Patch 30-1 P3
A Royal Mo 50-1 E7

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The Derby is now left with no true frontrunners and only 4 that actually vie for the lead at an early part of the race. Two of these now have a great chance: Irish War Cry and Always Dreaming, and 2 that probably still have no chance at the purse but might: Fast and Accurate and State of Honor. Regardless, they will all likely be part of the pace scenario going into the stretch.
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Irish War Cry gets big Wood

Irish War Cry should get a good pace setup


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This sets up well also for Classic Empire, Irap, Gormley, Thunder Snow, and Battle of Midway as fellow early running types that press the pace throughout the race. Of those, the first 3 have shown the class to actually win a Grade 1 race.
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Others that come from mid pack such as Untrapped, J Boys Echo, Tapwrit, Practical Joke, Girvin and Patch are all offered a decent chance to hit the board under this scenario. Of these, I would give the last 4 a chance based on class.
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Sustained runners like Hence, Gunnevera, Sonneteer, Mccraken, and Lookin at Lee will have a hell of a time getting up to the wire in time if the pace is soft and they gallop around for the first half mile or so. These are the best closers in the race, but will likely need to be a bit closer than usual to have a chance.
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Of course, we’re not the only people that study this. The jockeys and trainers are all aware of the current situation and most will have their contingencies set. That almost never includes changing a horse’s running style completely, but that has happened. See Mine That Bird.
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Some will have little choice in the matter. The closers will have to gallop around for at least half a mile or so before even thinking about making their big move. If they move too early they’ll flatten, so the riders have to gauge how fast the frontrunners are going.
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The early running riders will be focused on keeping their horse reserved and relaxed early to have plenty in the tank for the stretch run in a race longer than any of the horses have had before. But since none of them are true frontrunners, they are unlikely to get in a suicidal speed duel early.
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The most likely change would involve the pace pressers putting a lot more pressure than usual on the pace if the riders feel that there is too much lollygagging on the front end. This results in a large group vying up front in a more heated pace, and a better scenario for the closers.
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Based on the current pace scenario as is, I would have to pick a top 5 of Classic Empire, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Irap and Gormley. I’d even give Thunder Snow and Battle of Midway a shot to finish in the money. The later runners will have their work cut out for them, unless there are some significant deviations from this pace scenario.
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Get the full 2017 Kentucky Derby Grid Here with over 80 different factors including pedigree, performance, and historical criteria!

May 03 2017

2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Sires and Sirelines

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Wednesday, May 3
Churchill Downs
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Today we’ll look at a brief analysis of the sires of this year’s Kentucky Derby. Judging the relevance of the sires in this race goes way beyond what the sires cost or even how many winners they have. For example, Storm Cat was the most prolific, and at one time the most expensive sire in North America, for decades, and never had a Kentucky Derby winner.
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Get the full 2017 Kentucky Derby Grid Here with over 80 different factors including pedigree, performance, and historical criteria!
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The graphic below shows you something more relevant: How the actual sires did in Triple Crown races and other major races during their own career. For the discussion, we’ll start with the most relevant sires overall and work down from there.
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2017 Kentucky Derby Sires and their accomplishments

2017 Kentucky Derby Sires and their accomplishments


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Irish War Cry: Curlin (Smart Strike, RAN) is one of the most successful young sires in North America and commands a heavy stud fee. The reason is that he is already from a successful sire line, and proved his worth on the track. He finished 3rd, 1st, and 2nd in his Triple Crown series, won the BC Classic and other Grade 1 races. He was horse of the year honors as a 3yo and older male, and is the quintessential Triple Crown sire.
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Note: The RAN sireline is responsible for 13 of the last 24 Kentucky Derby champions, and typically has about 25% of the field. This year there are a whopping 7 in the Derby field. His last win was American Pharoah who became the first Triple Crown champion since 1978.
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Raise a Native, founder of sireline with 20 Kentucky Derby champions

Raise a Native, founder of sireline with 20 Kentucky Derby champions


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Always Dreaming: Bodemeister (Empire Maker, RAN) would have won Kentucky Derby and Preakness if it hadn’t been for a horse called I’ll Have Another, catching him just in time in both races. His sire finished in the money in all 3 TC races and won the Belmont. Bode was retired before ever racing again.
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Classic Empire: Pioneerof the Nile (Empire Maker, RAN) was all set to follow in his father’s footsteps, winning the Santa Anita Derby, then finishing a disappointing 2nd to long shot Mine that Bird in the Kentucky Derby. However, he struggled in the Preakness and was retired 2 months later.
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Lookin at Lee: Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike, RAN) was a solid 6th in the Kentucky Derby, and turned the tables to win the Preakness. He skipped the Belmont and went on to win the Haskell and Indiana Derby, and retired before the BC Classic. However, he still won 3yo American horse of the year honors, to go along with his 2yo champion award.
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Battle of Midway: Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector, RAN) was not a heavily raced horse and retired early due to injury. However, as evidenced by his sire and his offspring such as Curlin, he has passed on some good classic racing genes here and there.
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Gormley: Malibu Moon (AP Indy, BR) is a top 5 North American sire, who finally proved he was a direct descendant of AP Indy by spawning Kentucky Derby champion Orb a few years ago. He did nothing on the race track and was retired early, however clearly still has some great TC genes.
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Hence: Street Boss (Street Cry, RAN) was dangerous as a sprinter, winning two G1 races and finishing 3rd in the BC sprint. His half brother Street Sense was a 2yo champ who also won the Kentucky Derby. His sire is from the formidable Mr. Prospector branch of the RAN sireline.
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Sonneteer: Midnight Lute (Real Quiet, RAN) was a successful sprinter on the track, and wound up as the year’s sprint champion after winning the BC Sprint. People sometimes forget that his sire Real Quiet came within a nostril of becoming the first Triple Crown Champion since 1978 after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and losing the Belmont in a photo finish. Real Quiet was also a champion older male with several G1 wins.
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Patch: Union Rags (Dixie Union, ND) finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, then redeemed himself by winning the Belmont Stakes after the defection of I’ll Have Another. He is a young sire with potential.
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Girvin: Tale of Ekati (Take of the Cat, SC) finished a strong 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 6th in the Belmont. He also won the Wood before that, and afterwards won the Cigar Mile. As mentioned, no horse by Storm Cat has ever on the Derby, but many have finished in the money.
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Gunnevera: Dialed In (Mineshaft, API) was the Kentucky Derby favorite after winning the Florida, but wound up finishing 8th, then racing 4th in the Preakness. Regardless, it gave Mineshaft crops Triple Crown hopes. We’ll cover Mineshaft in more detail below.
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J Boys Echo: Mineshaft (AP Indy, BR) is the latest great one in the Bold Ruler sireline that included Seattle Slew and AP Indy. Mineshaft got a late start in US racing after transferring from Great Britain, and was busy breaking his maiden while others were running in TC races. In his 4 year old season he dominated and won US horse of the year and champion older male honors.
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Irap: Tiznow (Cee’s Tizzy, IR) was another late bloomer, missing his 2yo year with a leg injury, and finally breaking his maiden after the Derby was already run. Later on that year he won the Louisiana Super Derby and BC Classic and won 3yo horse of the year honors anyway. The next year he would win more races and the BC Classic again, making him the only repeat champion in Breeders Cup history. Despite his on-track success, he has been mostly a non-factor as a sire in TC races, other than lucky Belmont winner Da Tara.
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McCraken: Ghostzapper (Awesome Again, ND) was another late blooming horse, running primarily in sprint races as a 3yo. However, as his distance increased he proved just as formidable, becoming unbeatable at distances up to 9f. In fact, he proved to be occasionally great at 10f as well, winning the BC Classic and HOY honors as a 4yo. He currently has no relevance as a TC sire, but could soon.
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State of Honor: To Honor and Serve (Bernardini, API) was not a factor in Triple Crown races, however he did go on to win big races, including the Penn Derby, Woodward, and Cigar Mile. His sire Bernardini won the Preakness following the injury of Barbaro, making him a relevant TC sire.
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Thunder Snow: Helmet (Exceed and Excel, ND) is also from the Danzig line of Northern Dancer, with a branch that ended up in Australia. He was a multiple Group 1 stakes winner in another hemisphere. Helmet is a relative unknown in America.
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Practical Joke: Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) was successful as a 2yo in winning some futurities. His sire Harlan’s Holiday was favored in the Kentucky Derby but finished 7th, and then 4th to War Emblem in the Preakness, then later won the Penn Derby and G1 Donn Handicap.
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Tapwrit: Tapit (Pulpit, API) was one of the most overrated TC horses ever, being hyped up greatly after winning the Wood, before finishing 9th in the Derby. He has been a successful sire thus far, with his overhyped Tapwrit being the most expensive auctioned colt in the field at $1.2 million.
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Fast and Accurate: Hansen (Tapit, API) was another highly overhyped horse of modern times. Once called The Great White Hope (Hype), he was very impressive as a 2yo, later finishing 9th in the Kentucky Derby just like Tapit.
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Untrapped: Trappe Shot (Tapit, API) was another overhyped Tapit horse that was not a factor in the Tripe Crown. However, he did bloom enough to win a prep en route to finishing 2nd in the Haskell. They keep selling this Tapit line of API but I’m not buying it.
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Royal Mo is listed here last because he’s an alternate: Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie, In Excess) was another overhyped sire with lots of sprinters running around the US, until Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby last year in a field that featured 2 other Uncle Mo colts. Uncle Mo was the 2yo champ and favored in the Wood at odds of 1-10, and was eventually diagnosed with a liver disorder, which was his main excuse. His sire Indian Charlie finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby and was an excellent sprinter and miler.
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Local Hero (2nd alternate): Hard Spun (Danzig, ND) is from a sprinter sire line not normally associated with Triple Crown or classic pedigree, but again let’s look at what he did on the track. He’s only other sire in this year’s field to finish in the money in all 3 TC races, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. He also finished 2nd in the BC Classic and won some other graded stakes races.
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Key:
API: AP Indy sireline (from Seattle Slew/Bold Ruler)
IR: In Reality sireline (Intent)
ND: Northern Dancer sireline
RAN: Raise a Native sireline
SC: Storm Cat sireline
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May 01 2017

Major Kentucky Derby Preps 1997-Present

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Monday, May 1
Churchill Downs
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Major Preps for the Kentucky Derby
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I wanted to do a short video about this but maybe I’ll roll it into just one Derby preview video with some other factors involved. Time is limited right now leading up to the Derby. It’s definitely worth some coverage.
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The graphic below is very telling, and mostly self explanatory. Let’s start with the major purpose of the article: that by far, most Kentucky Derby champions finished 1st or 2nd in their final preps, most of which were major preps, meaning the top 6: Florida, Arkansas, Santa Anita, Louisiana, Wood, and Blue Grass.
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Major Preps winners and runners up 1997-2017

Major Preps winners and runners up 1997-2017


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We’ll start with the key stats, from the 20 years 1997-2016:
18 Derby champions finished 1st or 2nd in final prep
12 winners and 6 runners up
The 2 remaining finished 4th in their final prep
Of these final preps won by Derby champs, only 4 of them were not major preps: Lexington, Spiral, Sunland, and Illinois, and of those 4 only 1 did not win that prep (Mine that Bird, 4th in Sunland Derby, which did not even matter because he had already been invited to the Derby, pre-points system)
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So what exactly are we looking at? 12 possible winners of the Derby? Most likely but not exactly. The Lexington and Illinois winners aren’t in the field. The Spiral winner is, but he’s a throw out. Slowest horse in the field but may not finish last because of running style.
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That leaves us the Sunland Derby, now a semi-major that is part of the Derby Championship Series. The winner, Hence, got 50 points which was more than enough to get into the Kentucky Derby this year. The runner-up of that race also qualified, beating all but 2yo champ Classic Empire in the Arkansas, including 3 others in the Kentucky Derby field.
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So we need to look at the Sunland as a serious Derby prep, and Hence as a legitimate Derby contender. We would include the aforementioned runner-up, but Conquest Mo Money will not be racing again until the Preakness, which he’ll probably win.
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We’re not done yet, however. It’s actually possible, as aforementioned, that a horse finished as far down as 4th in his final prep and won the Derby. I don’t think any horse has ever won that didn’t finish top 4 in his final prep. But this would add almost every horse in the field, after we just narrowed it down to about 13. That’s why we need to look at the relevance of the final preps.
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Prep relevance, from least to most:
Wood Memorial: has become almost irrelevant since 2003, producing no Derby champs and only 2 that finished in the money. We don’t want to believe it this year with the great Irish War Cry, but he’s the only one running for the roses from that race.

Blue Grass: Although just about an hour away from Churchill, this prep has been losing relevance since Street Sense prepped there in a meaningless race for him, having already a Derby ticket. Before and after that, no Derby champions. Regardless, we have to give it some credibility this year. Irap finished 4th to Hence in the Sunland, but improved greatly. Practical Joke is no joke. The top 3 could all theoretically hit the board.
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Louisiana Derby: Increasing in relevance the past decade, with 3 that finished in the money in the Kentucky Derby, but still no champions. Girvin has done little wrong and keeps improving. He leads in Derby points, and you have to win some major preps to do that. Only 4 lifetime races.
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Santa Anita Derby: The 2nd most prominent prep in recent years, giving us 2 Derby champions in the last 4 years, including super horse California Chrome who won the Dubai World Cup. Last year Exaggerator was 3rd and won the Preakness. Regardless, I’m not giving any of them a shot this year, because they haven’t beat anyone else in the Derby field.
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Florida Derby: The most important prep of this century and the past 2 decades, producing 5 Kentucky Derby champions and 2 runners up, including when it was spaced early enough that great champions like Empire Maker and Monarchos ran in the Wood also. This year’s Always Dreaming needs to be taken seriously. I also give Gunnevera some credence but not runner-up State of Honor.
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Arkansas Derby: Increasing in relevance the past 20 years, several Derby, Preakness, and Belmont champs and runners-up, and finally American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown Champ since 1978. It is this year’s most relevant prep, because not only does it have 4 in the Derby field, but 3 of those have a legit chance to win it. It would have had 6 in the Derby field, but 2 of them dropped out that had qualified, including the runner up, and Malagacy who faded to 5th. Those that finished in the top 4: 2yo champ Classic Empire, Lookin at Lee, and Sonneteer, all have a good chance. The last 2 mentioned have never been passed in 19 combined career races. Good closers.
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Classic Empire makes classic comeback in Arkansas Derby

Classic Empire makes classic comeback in Arkansas Derby


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So to sum up the above relevance analysis, I managed to narrow it down to 10 based on final preps:
Arkansas: Classic Empire, Lookin at Lee, and Sonneteer
Florida: Always Dreaming and Gunnevera
Santa Anita: Mastery was a legit leader in So.Cal, but got injured, leaving nobody worthwhile.
Wood: Irish War Cry
Blue Grass: Irap and Practical Joke
Louisiana: Girvin
Sunland: Hence (and Irap already mentioned)
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Get the 2017 Kentucky Derby Grid, including scores of critical factors like those covered above.

Apr 30 2017

Santa Anita Sunday April 30 Pick 6 Jackpot $315K Grid PP’s

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Sunday, April 30
Santa Anita
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Santa Anita’s Pick 6 jackpot continues to grow this weekend, up to $315k carrying over into Sunday. There are 9 races to the Pick 6 will begin with race 4.
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Santa-Anita-Park
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Today’s featured races is the Santa Barbara G3 for fillies and mares on turf going 12f.
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Download today’s Santa Anita Grid free to get the edge
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Apr 28 2017

Churchill Downs Opening Day Grid PP’s April 29 2017

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Saturday, April 29 2017
Churchill Downs
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Legendary Churchill Downs will have its opening day as usual, a week before the Kentucky Derby. Check out the Grid for free this weekend, and stay tuned for great Derby articles all throughout next week.
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Nyquist Kentucky Derby fan pic

Nyquist Kentucky Derby fan pic


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Download Churchill Downs April 29 Grid now

Apr 24 2017

2017 Kentucky Derby Final 1/4 Mile Times in Contender Preps

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Monday, April 24
Churchill Downs
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We’re doing things a bit differently and will be sharing some new tidbits of information every day leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
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One of the factors in the Derby Grid is the Final 1/4 mile times in the final preps of the Derby contenders, which is used by serious handicappers.
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The official criteria is “Ran final 1/4 mile in less than 26 seconds,” but like all of the other criteria, 1 missed criterion doesn’t eliminate the horse.
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For example, Irish War Cry came in at 26.1, which is real close and shouldn’t be used to disqualify him. However, I am throwing out all horses that were above 26.5 altogether, as I didn’t like them to begin with, and there’s not way they’ll hold up in the final quarter of the 10 furlong Derby.
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Fortunately, this crop is quite competitive, and the average time they scored was 25.7. The winner of this contest is Sonneteer, who many of us believe is the best closer in the field. He came home in an astounding 23.9 in the Arkansas, and would be the only maiden in the field if he gets into the race.
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Sonneteer is the fastest closer in the Derby field if he makes it

Sonneteer is the fastest closer in the Derby field if he makes it

OK enough babble. Here are the numbers:
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Rank Horse Final 1/4
1 Sonneteer 23.94
2 Gunnevera 24.23
3 Always Dreaming 24.53
4 Lookin At Lee 24.54
5 Classic Empire 24.81
6 Hence 24.99
7 Thunder Snow (IRE) 25.02
8 State of Honor 25.13
9 Girvin 25.3
10 Practical Joke 25.39
11 Patch 25.4
12 Irap 25.54
13 Malagacy 25.56
14 McCraken 25.69
15 Untrapped 25.89
16 J Boys Echo 25.91
17 Irish War Cry 26.1
18 Gormley 26.6
19 Tapwrit 26.74
20 Cloud Computing 26.84
21 Battalion Runner 26.86
22 Battle of Midway 27.03
23 Royal Mo 27.06
24 Fast and Accurate** 27.33

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As you can see, if we’re talking about closing speed, Fast and Accurate needs a name change. Continue Reading »

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