Three weeks from Saturday is the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby and there are only a few more graded stakes races between now and then for 3 year olds to crack into the Top 20 of the Graded Stakes Earnings List. The Derby is limited to twenty (20) starters, and the pecking order is based on Graded Stakes Earnings.
This weekend is ideally the latest that any colt, gelding or filly should race if they are to be in top condition to run in the Derby on May 1st. On Saturday, there are two graded stakes races. The $750,000 Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, KY and the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, AR. Both races are run at the distance of 1 1/8 miles and will be broadcast live on NBC-TV 5-6pm EDT. Next week there is one final prep race, the Lexington Stakes, but racing two weeks prior to running in the Derby rarely produces a serious Derby contender.
The Blue Grass Stakes, race 9 on the card, attracted nine (9) colts and should be a good betting race because the Post Time favorite most likely will be at odds of 7-2, and that could be #1 – Odysseus (M/L 7-2) head-bob winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, #6 – Pleasant Prince (3-1) runner-up by a nose in the FL Derby, #8 – Aikenite (4-1) stakes placed in multiple Grade 1’s or #9 – Interacif (4-1) runner-up to SA Derby winner Sidney’s Candy in the Grade 2 San Felipe.
The race is short on early speed, as only #1 – Odysseus and #2 – First Dude (8-1) have interest leading the way early. In reviewing the races run on the synthetic oval during the first 2 days of the Keeneland Spring Meet, all winners were either on or within a few lengths of the lead at any point in the race. This fact greatly enhances the chances for these two and #8 – Aikenite and #9 – Interacif who usually display tactical speed, and possibly #7 – Paddy O’Prado (10-1) who changed tactics from a Closing-Style to running just off the lead and winning by open lengths in a Grade 3 turf race.
Go with #2 – First Dude who could be ignored by the betting public and go off higher than his 8-1 Morning Line as I believe jockey Ramon Dominguez will dictate a moderately slow early pace and have enough left in the tank to hold off challengers, #1 – Odysseus, #7 – Paddy O’Prado and #9 – Interacif in the final furlong.
The $1,000,000 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby is the 9th race on the Oaklawn Park card and also features a field of nine. The 9-5 Morning Line favorite is (surprise) trainer Todd Pletcher’s #1 – Super Saver, a speed merchant who will get plenty of company early from #5 – Uh Oh Bango (15-1) 4th by 6 ¾ lengths to Lookin At Lucky in the Rebel Stakes; #6 – New Madrid (20-1) fresh off his maiden victory but prior to that was 2nd to surprise winner of the Sunland Derby (Endorsement) prior to that and #8 – Line Of David (15-1) a CA invader whose 5 career starts have been on turf or synthetic surfaces.
If the early fractions resemble 23.20, 46.00 and 1:09.80, the first one under the wire will likely be in the back of the pack until the leaders enter the stretch. Candidates possessing a nice finishing kick are #2 – Dublin (7-2), #7 – Berberis (30-1) and #9 – Pulsion (15-1). Berberis just broke his maiden thanks to a sloppy track and there’s no chance of rain on Saturday at Hot Springs, AR. Pulsion has disappointed his backers in both of his 3 year old starts, but sheds Blinkers for this contest while Dublin is a consistent competitor who has taken to the Oaklawn dirt oval like a fish to water.
There are two (2) middle-of-the-pack runners. #3 – Noble’s Promise (2-1) has never been off the board in 7 lifetime outings and will turn out to be a very good Miler! That’s correct, his bloodlines do not possess the stamina for 1 1/8 mile let alone the 1¼ mile Kentucky Derby, and this fact will get exposed in his final Derby prep race. Then there’s #4 – Northern Giant (8-1) who is has game as they come, but needs to step it up here to finish in the top 3.
Go with #2 – Dublin as the jockey switch back to the hot local rider (Terry Thompson) should pay dividends as long as he waits to make one big run in the stretch. Others to consider in your exotics should include #1 – Super Saver, #3 – Noble’s Promise, #6 – New Madrid and #9 – Pulsion.
Enjoy a great day of thoroughbred horse racing. Share the fun with a friend.