Derby Prep Races Avoid Snowstorm, Not Rain

February 05, 2010 | Gary Quill

UPDATED 02/06/10 12:40pm: The Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct will be run as scheduled, but a rainstorm in southern California has forced the cancellation of the Santa Anita card (whimps), which included the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. The rescheduling of this race has yet to be determined. Also, in the Whirlaway, #1 – Turf Melody has been scratched.   


As the Mid-Atlantic States brace for their second major snowfall of the winter season, it appears that Mother Nature may have a say in whether or not one of the two Derby prep races on tap for Saturday, February 6th will be run or delayed until next Saturday.


The 31st running of the $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct (NY), the feature race, uncharacteristically scheduled as the 3rd race on the card, probably an attempt to get it in before the weather turns too bad? The New York area anticipates 4-8 inches of snow. The other Derby prep, $150.000 Gr. 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita (CA) will have clear skies and a fast (synthetic) track.


If the card at Aqueduct gets cancelled, the one week delay in running the Whirlaway will be a blessing in disguise for Gary Contessa, trainer of 2-5 Morning Line (M/L) favorite #2 – Eightyfiveinafifty, who would welcome another week to get his start 3 year old to prepare for his first two-turn test. All indications from his A.M. drills suggest he’ll handle the added distance (1 1/16th  mile) just fine versus just five (5) opponents.


With a 2-5 favorite in a small field, there isn’t much value in the race, unless you want to try to beat him…but I won’t. The closest challenge should come from #3 – Peppi Knows (15-1 M/L), a surprise runner-up last Fall in the Gr. 2 Remsen to a legitimate Top 5 Derby prospect, Buddy’s Saint. Other contenders include second choice, Todd Pletcher trained, #5 – Three Day Rush (3-1) who needs to prove himself at this level; #1 – Turf Melody (8-1) disappointed just 2 weeks ago in finishing a dull 6th in the LeComte Stakes at Fairgrounds and #4 – Afleet Again, son of Afleet Alex and owned by his daddy’s syndicate, Cash Is King, who put up a Supplemental Fee to get him in this race, finished 5th in the Count Fleet Stakes followed by an Allowance race score.


If you absolutely need to have action on this race, try a $2 Part-Wheel Trifecta #2, #3 w/ #2, #3 w/ #1, #4, #5 (cost: $12).

Reminder: 3rd race Post Time for The Whirlaway Stakes is 1:26pm (EST).


On the left coast at Santa Anita, approximately 5½ hours later (7:07pm EST), the Robert B. Lewis Stakes contested at 1 1/16 mile attracted a talented field of 7, led by 8-5 Morning Line favorite #6 – American Lion. This bay son of Tiznow makes his 3 year old debut with Julien Leparoux in the irons, was aboard for both his maiden and Gr. 3 Hollywood Prevue victories. American Lion’s half-brother, #3 – Tiz Chrome (5-2) puts his perfect 2-for-2 record on the line, stretching out from sprints for trainer Bob Baffert, who also saddles front-running #1 – Macias, a minor stakes turf race  winner in his most recent outing after finishing 4th, 2½ back in the Hollywood Prevue.


Others to consider are John Sadler trainees, #2 – Dave In Dixie (7-2) and #7 – Domonation (6-1). Both exhibit a nice, late kick that will require a fast early pace here, which may not materialize. After a 6 furlong maiden win at first asking, Dave In Dixie took on 2 year old Eclipse Award winner Lookin At Lucky  in the Gr. 1 Norfolk, finishing 6th, but only by 2½ lengths, and gets in 7 lbs. lighter for this contest. Domonation was victim of a slow pace going a mile in the San Rafael last out, and should show improvement off that effort.


Undefeated in four starts, #4 – Caracortado (12-1) is a CAL bred who faces his toughest task to date, while probable longest shot on the board, # 5 – Tango Tango (20-1) should be showing the way early with Macias at his side.


The fact that Julien Leparoux is travelling from south Florida (Gulfstream Park) indicates he’s confident that American Lion is in top form for his 3 year old debut and is a strong Kentucky Derby candidate. But strictly through a strict handicapping stand-point and hopes of quick, early fractions, go with #2 – Dave In Dixie over #6 – American Lion and #3 – Tiz Chrome for an Exacta play, and add  #4 – Caracortado and #7 – Domonation to a Trifecta ticket.


Enjoy a great day of thoroughbred horse racing. Share the fun with a friend.