©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to the Empire State Saturday where Syndergaard has been tabbed as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the 146th running of the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. The Champagne Stakes (G1) is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race. Post time is 4:13 p.m. ET.
Syndergaard comes into this race with a 2-0-0 record in two starts for trainer Todd Pletcher including a blowout, 10-length win in the Funny Cide Stakes. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
SYNDERGAARD lightly coaxed from the gate, established the front crossing to show the way from the three path in hand through swift splits, tucked to the two path with seven-sixteenths to run, came under coaxing five-sixteenths out before getting set down spinning just off the inside for home, went clear under a drive and was under a vigorous hand ride through the final sixteenth to the finish.
Syndergaard set fast fractions in this race and looked like he had a lot more left at the end. However, it remains to be seen if he can carry that brilliant speed to a mile and still be the victor.
Majesticperfection, the sire of Syndergaard, was a brilliant sprinter that only raced as a four year old. During his brief career, he compiled a 5-0-1 record in six starts including wins in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) and the Iowa Spring Handicap.
So far at stud, most of his progeny have been competitive in sprint races. However, his daughter Lovely Maria has won the nine furlong Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and the 8½ furlong Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) and compiled 4-3-0 record in 11 starts with $1,003,000 in earnings.
Syndergaard has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® but his Behavior Index helps to make him competitive.
Big Gray Rocket (6-1) ships in from California for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert and he comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in two starts, including a 6¾ length win in his last race. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
BIG GRAY ROCKET dueled between horses then outside a rival midway on the turn, inched away off the rail into the stretch and won clear under a brisk hand ride while drifting in.
Tapit, the sire of Big Gray Rocket, was undefeated in two starts as a 2-year-old including a win in the Laurel Futurity (G3). As a 3-year-old, Tapit was troubled by a lung infection for much of the season but did win the nine-furlong Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to a ninth-place finish in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Big Gray Rocket is the best bred colt in his herd. He’s yet to win a stakes race but another move forward should him competitive in the Champagne Stakes (G1).
Favorable Outcome (2-1) comes into this race off of a six length maiden win for trainer Chad Brown. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
FAVORABLE OUTCOME came away in good order then established a nice early position, chased the pace, went two then three wide on the turn, advanced to make a bid at the quarter-pole, kicked clear in upper stretch, was given one crack of a right-handed whip just inside the furlong marker and drew away while kept to the task.
Flatter, the sire of Favorable Outcome, was a decent middle-distance horse who competed, mostly, in maiden and allowance races and in his only stakes start he finished third in the 8½-furlong Washington Park Handicap (G2). But in six starts, Flatter compiled a 4-0-1 record and was a winner from 7½-furlongs to 9-furlongs.
Favorable Outcome has yet to win a stakes race but another move forward should make him competitive in this race.
Honorable mention goes to Thirst for Victory (15-1) who comes into this race off of a three length win in his maiden debut to trainer Todd Pletcher. Here’s the video of that race.
This is the fifth consecutive year for Churchill Downs to use a point system to determine eligibility to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. A total of 35 races comprise the Road to the Kentucky Derby and a significant change to the schedule is that the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) will replace the Grey Stakes (G3) as a qualifying race.
In addition, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Under the tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine Kentucky Derby eligibility, the winner of the Frontrunner will receive 10 points while the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and 1 point will be awarded to the fourth-place finisher.