When the Grade II Remsen Stakes for 2-year-olds is renewed at Aqueduct this week on the first Saturday in December, it will be 22 weeks until the 2023 Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
My early Kentucky Derby Top 10 is below:
1. Extra Anejo
2. Arabian Knight
4. Arabian Lion
5. Cave Rock
7. Giant Mischief
8. National Treasure
9. Echo Again
10. Instant Coffee
Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersch wrote this week that Extra Anejo is “among the most exciting 2-year-old maiden winners of 2022.”
How excited does Extra Anejo have me? Not only do I put him at the top of my early Kentucky Derby rankings, I am actually willing to venture way out on a limb and make this prediction: Extra Anejo is going to be America’s 14th Triple Crown winner.
When you read that you probably will think that I should be fitted for one of those jackets with the sleeves in the back. I really can’t blame you. But I assure you, I do not make this prediction lightly.
Below I list seven clues leading me to the conclusion that Extra Anejo is going to become a Triple Crown winner.
1. From what I saw of Extra Anejo is his only start so far, he appears to have the kind of rare talent required to accomplish a Triple Crown sweep.
A $1.35 million auction purchase, Extra Anejo won with ridiculous ease when unveiled in a Keeneland maiden race at about seven furlongs on Oct. 13. He was credited with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. But that figure really does not do the performance justice.
As I noted last week when writing about Extra Anejo, Beyers do not take into account how easily a horse wins. And how easily did Extra Anejo win his race? In his past performance line it says “clear 2pth, galloped.” That’s exactly right. He just “galloped.” Additionally, after Extra Anejo won by 9 1/2 lengths, he “galloped out much farther in front of his nearest rival,” Hersh observed.
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains Extra Anejo. Asmussen is on the verge of the mind-boggling feat of winning his 10,000th race as a trainer. While he has yet to win the Kentucky Derby, I believe it’s only matter of time before Asmussen sends out the winner of the Run for the Roses. It’s my belief that Asmussen will finally get the monkey off his back by winning the 2023 Kentucky Derby with Extra Anejo.
2. Extra Anejo, in my opinion, is a much better colt than Epicenter, with emphasis on the word “much.”
Asmussen probably should have won this year’s Kentucky Derby with Epicenter, who beat everybody he was supposed to beat in the 20-horse field, only to finish second. Epicenter ended up three-quarters of a length behind 80-1 longshot Rich Strike.
When the first two finishers in this year’s Run for the Roses met again in Saratoga’s Travers Stakes at the same 1 1/4-mile distance on Aug. 27, this time Epicenter won emphatically by 5 1/4 lengths. Rich Strike finished fourth.
As noted earlier, Extra Anejo received a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in his career debut. Epicenter recorded a 64 Beyer when he made his career debut last year in a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs on Sept. 18.
In Epicenter’s two subsequent starts at 2, he won a one-mile maiden race by 3 1/2 lengths at Churchill on Nov. 13, then took Fair Grounds’ 1 1/16-mile Gun Runner Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths on Dec. 26. He recorded Beyers of 80 and 87, respectively, figures still lower than Extra Anejo’s 92.
Asmussen told Hersh that the Gun Runner on Dec. 26 is the “most likely” spot for Extra Anejo’s second start.
3. I have never heard Asmussen speak so glowingly about one of his 2-year-old colts. And it’s not only what he has said, it’s the way he has said it.
4. A fast workout time for a horse trained by Asmussen is not something you typically see, particularly for a 2-year-old. Four of Extra Anejo’s most recent seven published workouts have been bullet drills. This, to me, is a huge sign of Extra Anejo’s immense potential. By comparison, only one of Epicenter’s first 24 published works was a bullet drill.
And Extra Anejo was quite impressive in one of his most recent seven published workouts that wasn’t a bullet drill, according to Hersh.
“He worked five furlongs at Keeneland during Breeders’ Cup week in a modest 1:03.00, but with a monster gallop-out.”
5. When it comes to winning the Triple Crown, I think it’s important for a trainer to be adept at being able to have a horse win with just two weeks between starts. This, of course, is because the Preakness is run only two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.
I believe that Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s tremendous ability in this regard is one of the reasons both American Pharoah and Justify were able to sweep the Triple Crown.
Asmussen has proven that he can win the Preakness with a horse coming back in 14 or 15 days. He won the Preakness in 2007 with Curlin 14 days after the colt finished third in the Kentucky Derby. In 2009, 15 days after Rachel Alexander’s sensational 20 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks, she won the Preakness for Asmussen.
6. Possessing the stamina to win the 1 1/2-mile Belmont is an important factor for a horse to win the Triple Crown. In Extra Anejo’s family tree is Affirmed, who had the stamina to win the 1978 Belmont and thereby complete a Triple Crown sweep. Alydar, who finished second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown events, also is in Extra Anejo’s pedigree, as are such European sources of stamina as Galileo, Sadler’s Wells, Urban Sea and Darshaan.
I know dosage has gone out of style, but it’s still something I feel is an indicator of how much, or how little, stamina a horse might have. According to pedigreequery.com, Extra Anejo’s dosage index is 0.75, which is outstanding in terms of stamina.
7. Times have changed and horses do not race as much as they once did. That’s why I’m not reluctant to predict a Triple Crown for Extra Anejo even though he’s made just one start to date and will have raced only twice as a 2-year-old if he does go in the Gun Runner.
Keep in mind the most recent Triple Crown winner, Justify in 2018, did not race at all as a 2-year-old. The only other Triple Crown winner since the 1970s, American Pharoah in 2015, started a mere three times at 2.
If Extra Anejo does sweep the Triple Crown in 2023, he will do so 50 years after a Triple Crown prediction I made in print came true.
On March 22, 1973, I wrote the following in my high school newspaper, the Lewis and Clark Journal:
“Going out on a limb and living dangerously I dare say that 1973 will be a historic year as Secretariat will become the first Triple Crown winner since the great Citation in 1948.
“The 1972 Horse of the Year made his 1973 debut an impressive one as he exploded to a 4 1/2-length triumph in the $27,750 Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct last Saturday.
“Ridden by regular jockey Ron Turcotte, Secretariat put on his usual late burst of speed to easily put away Champagne Charlie and Impecunious, who finished second and third.
“Running the seven furlongs in 1:23 1/5 over a sloppy track, the outstanding son of Bold Ruler appears to beat anybody anywhere, anytime and at any distance.
“Secretariat is owned by Meadow Stables and trained by Lucien Laurin, who produced last year’s winner of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, Riva Ridge.”
In a way, my prediction that Extra Anejo will sweep the Triple Crown is much bolder than when I did so with Secretariat. That’s because Extra Anejo has raced only once at the time of my Triple Crown prediction for him, whereas Secretariat had raced 10 times and was the reigning Horse of the Year when I predicted that he would become a Triple Crown winner.
There is no question that the odds most definitely are against my prediction of a Triple Crown for Extra Anejo coming true. But I do believe the clues are there for Extra Anejo to overcome the odds and achieve Triple Crown glory.
FORTE GETS RESPECT IN DERBY FUTURE WAGER
Forte, winner of the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile following Grade I scores in the Hopeful Stakes and Breeders’ Futurity, was the 10-1 individual favorite in Pool 2 of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) that closed last Sunday.
As expected, the “all other 3-year-old colts and geldings” option was the 4-5 favorite. This option also ended up the 4-5 favorite in Pool 1, which closed on Nov. 3. I made a large wager on “all others” in both Pool 1 and Pool 2.
Extra Anejo, the 12-1 individual favorite in Pool 1, was the 13-1 second choice among individual horses in Pool 2.
I did not bet Extra Anejo at 12-1 in Pool 1 when I was hoping for something in neighborhood of 20-1. But I did go ahead and put some money on him at 13-1 in Pool 2. Why? Because if I’m right about how good Extra Anejo is, I seriously doubt that he will be anywhere close to 13-1 in any of his future races.
Also, as I said last week that I probably would do, I made small wagers on Capture the Flag at 65-1, Verifying at 74-1 and Navy Man at 133-1.
There will be four more KDFW pools (Jan. 20-22, Feb. 10-12, March 10-12 and March 30-April 1. The lone 2023 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager will be offered March 10-12).
Below are the final odds reported by Churchill Downs for Pool 2 of the 2023 KDFW:
4-5 All Other Colts and Geldings from the 2020 Foal Crop
13-1 Extra Anejo
27-1 Giant Mischief
29-1 All Fillies from the 2020 Foal Crop
35-1 Instant Coffee
37-1 Blazing Sevens
45-1 Echo Again
47-1 Cyclone Mischief
60-1 Victory Formation
61-1 Curly Jack
64-1 Awesome Strong
64-1 Tuskegee Airmen
65-1 Capture the Flag
65-1 Corona Bolt
70-1 Expect More
80-1 Forbidden Secret
82-1 General Jim
90-1 Hit Show
94-1 Tapit’s Conquest
120-1 Mr. Ripple
131-1 Champions Dream
132-1 Rocket Can
133-1 Navy Man
179-1 Full Moon Madness
187-1 Ten Days Later
279-1 Joking Way
350-1 Practical Move
Scratched: Frank’s Honor
KENTUCKY DERBY SIRE WAGERING
The only 2023 Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager was offered at the same time as Pool 2 of the KDFW.
In terms of sire wagering, the “all other sires” option closed as the 5-1 favorite. Into Mischief, sire of Extra Anejo, among others, had the lowest odds among the 23 individual sires at 7-1.
Below are the final odds for the 2023 Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager:
5-1 All other sires
7-1 Into Mischief
12-1 Gun Runner
13-1 Uncle Mo
18-1 Bolt d’Oro
19-1 Quality Road
25-1 Good Magic
30-1 Candy Ride
45-1 American Pharoah
48-1 Hard Spun
50-1 Cairo Prince
60-1 City of Light
60-1 Not This Time
66-1 Street Sense
69-1 Practical Joke
91-1 Medaglia d’Oro
96-1 West Coast
98-1 Empire Maker
106-1 Pioneerof the Nile
111-1 War Front
126-1 More Than Ready
134-1 Malibu Moon
138-1 Union Rags
141-1 Sharp Azteca
146-1 Classic Empire
154-1 Cloud Computing