In recent memory, I cannot recall a Derby field being loaded with runners having so many question marks as to whether they have the ability to win on Saturday. One of the biggest questions being debated is… Can the horses that have exclusively run on the synthetic surfaces in California and specifically at Keeneland, run just as well on the natural dirt surface at Churchill Downs? (See Colonel John, Bob Black Jack, Adriano and Cowboy Cal)
That question is quickly followed by… Did horses that ran well on natural dirt, but put in a less than stellar performance in their final Derby prep race on a synthetic surface, simply not care for it or have they fallen off the top of their game? (See Pyro, Cool Coal Man, Big Truck, and Visionaire)
It appears that even the jockey’s aren’t quite sure what to make of it. Looking at the Past Performances there are seven (7) starters whose jockey for the Derby WAS NOT in the irons for his last race. It’s almost as if it is a game of “Musical Horses”. Check this out… Leparoux is off Denis Of Cork but on Cool Coal Man thanks to Desormeaux’s decision to go with Big Brown; Coa exits Big Truck for Tale Of Ekati due to the vacancy caused by Prado to ride Adriano who was ridden by Dominguez who is now on Monba previously ridden Prado and Gomez who rides Court Vision instead. Meanwhile, the biggest loser in all of this mess may turn out to be a jockey without a Derby mount… Jeremy Rose of Afleet Alex fame. Why? Because it was Rose who guided Big Brown to his 11 length maiden score on the turf at Saratoga last September. Gosh… what did he do wrong Dick (Dutrow)?!
Recapping Day 9 (May 1st) of the Pimlico Spring Meet …
Best Bet, The Student (# 2; 4th race; 5-2) got caught up in a speed duel with Wire Whip and wasn’t up for the challenge. Both were run down 100 yards from the finish by Undaunted Spirit, with my 3-1 Best Bet finishing 3rd by a half length.
Longshot, Crypto Prime (# 6; 3rd race on the turf; 10-1) trailed the field as expected early on, but made his move through the lane picking off horses one by one, but ran out of real estate, finishing 3rd at 7-1, paying $3.40 for the SHOW.
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day, $20 on Shining Punch (# 4; 6th race; 6-1) stalked the early pace, staying in striking distance of the leaders, but was forced 3 wide entering the stretch and flattened out for a 5th place finish.
Here’s what I like for the Day 10 (May 2nd) of the Pimlico Spring Meet…
: Smart Bluff
(# 5; 1st
There’s a woeful group of trainers with runners in the Friday Opener, except for Smart Bluff. Jockey/Trainer combo is winning at a 28% clip. Add the fact this 4 year old gelding won here on Opening Day in his most recent outing makes him the one to beat.
Longshot: Miss Matty (# 8; 4th race; 6-1)
She could find herself alone on the lead early. If that happens, she’ll go wire-to-wire. If not, she could still hit the board at a nice price. Nancy’s Grace should be the 3-5 favorite, even though she’s been on the shelf since last July, and is the only one who is capable of pressing Miss Matty early. If she gets a tardy start, it enhances Miss Matty’s chances.
SHOW Parlay available bankroll: $20.20
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day
: $20 on Setonwinn
(# 9; 7th
OK, we’re down to Sudden Death with this SHOW parlay. It’s harder than one would think to sustain it. So, when the chips are down, go for a sure thing to get your confidence back, right?! That’s why I’m going with a first-time starter…huh?! He’s bred for the grass and the trainer does well with his turf runners.
My Derby Selections and Analysis blog will be posted on Saturday morning and I’ll join The Fighting Unger’s Show on Saturday (via phone) for a bit. Good Luck with your selections today!