Derby Preps at Tampa, Santa Anita and Golden Gate on Saturday

February 11, 2011 | Gary Quill

Last weekend the quest for the blanket of roses on the first Saturday in May (aka Kentucky Derby) began in New York and Kentucky. At Aqueduct (NY) the 1 1/16 mile $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes was captured Toby’s Corner. The Florida-bred son of Bellamy Road rallied from last to win by 2 lengths as the 9-2 4th choice in the field of 5, paying $11.20 on a $2 WIN ticket. Meanwhile in Florence, KY at Turfway Park, 3-2 favorite Twinspired stamped himself a KY Derby contender by disposing of his 11 foes rather easily with a 4 length victory in the $50,000 WEBN Stakes.   


This weekend there are three (3) Derby prep races on tap… The $225k Gr.3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, the $250k Gr.2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and the $200k Gr.3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.


Analyzing these races as they will occur, we start with the Sam F. Davis which is race 10 at Tampa, run at a distance of 1 1/16 mile. Scheduled Post Time is 4:25pm EST. The last time Ramon Dominguez was seen in the irons at Tampa Downs was last years Tampa Bay Derby… guiding the prohibitive favorite to a disappointing 3rd place finish. Who did he ride that day? It was the 2010 KY Derby winner (Super Saver). Well, Dominguez returns to the scene of the crime to ride yet another favorite (#9 – Brethren) for Todd Pletcher, again. Am I the only horse player who questions, “How is it that one of the leading riders in the nation can NEVER obtain a Derby mount?! For this reason, and the fact that Brethren’s regular jock (Garrett Gomez) opted to stay in CA to ride Tapizar for Steve Asmussen in the Robert B. Lewis, I’ll pass on the short price bettors will get on Brethren, thinking he might need this race to return to his top 2 year old form. But who will beat him? I have three in mind… #3 – Washington’s Rules (9-2), #7 – Beamer (5-1) and #8 – Monzon (3-1). All three are Deep Closers who need a decent early pace to have a shot in the final furlongs, which there should be with front-runners #1 – Reprized Halo (20-1), #2 – Adulare (12-1), #5 – Watch Me Go (8-1)  and #9 – Ribo Bobo (20-1) willing to contest the lead in the early stages. After examining the replays of the 3 Closers most recent race, #7 – Beamer gets my nod because his final furlong fractions were better than the other two, he lost by 12 to a legitimate Derby contender (Soldat) and the way he strides out beyond the wire indicates he’s best suited for this distance and already owns a win over this Tampa Bay dirt surface.     



Next up is the Robert B. Lewis, a 9 furlong (1 1/8 mile) event, is race 8 on the Santa Anita card. Approximate Post Time is 6:06pm EST. This is today’s NO SH-T SHERLOCK (NSS) Pick. C’mon man! Eight 3 year olds are entered, but it’s likely that only six (6) will go postward. #3 – Comma To The Top (5-2) will be scratched as he’ll run in the El Camino Real Derby at GG. While #7 – Quail HIll’s (20-1)  trainer (David Hofmans) is on record saying he’ll scratch unless BOTH “Comma” and Tapizar scratch. So with all of that being said, I’ll be Capt. Obvious putting #4 – Tapizar (4-5) on top with #2 – Anthony’s Cross (6-1). With the scratch of Comma To The Top, you’re looking at 1-5 on Tapizar, but there’s enough speed here to pressure him early. If the pace is quick, then the pretenders should fade leaving a Closer to pick up the pieces late to claim the runner-up slot, which bodes well for a Deep Closer like Anthony’s Cross. He lost to Tapizar by 9 in the G3 Sham Stakes last month, when both were coming off a 30+ day layoff. I don’t see him making up 9 lengths in this race, but might get closer to pulling the upset. He has improved his speed figure in each of his 5 races and with the addition of Blinkers might be the missing link to taking a huge step forward in his 3 year old season.

BTW – Jock Garrett Gomez elected to stay at Santa Anita (SA) to ride Tapizar instead of travelling to Golden Gate (GG) to ride 2nd choice Silver Medallion or to Tampa to ride likely odds-on favorite Brethren. Don’t go nuts, but a $5 4-2 Exacta might pay you 4-1, if it hits.    


Rounding out the trio of races is the El Camino Real Derby, race 8 at Golden Gate Fields with Post Time scheduled for 7:22pm EST. #6 – Anthony’s Cross was an early scratch as he was cross-entered in the Robert B. Lewis at SA, and will run in that race instead. I like #5 – Positive Response (7-2) who comes into this event riding a 3 race win streak, all at Golden Gate Fields. The buzz around his barn is that he continues to mature with each workout and appears to have figured out his reason for being… to run… fast and far. The latter is what will be his biggest test versus the likes of 6-5 favorite #1 – Comma To The Top who is in search of his 6th consecutive victory and So. Cal invader and two-time winner on the turf #4 – Silver Medallion (5-2). Even though Positive Response often likes to be on the lead early, he has shown the propensity to be able to sit just off the lead, which should be huge in here. The fact that the pace should be honest, if not quick with #1 – “Comma” and #7 Jakesam (8-1) vying for the early lead, with #3 – Formula Gold (30-1) and #4 – Silver Medallion just behind them, will test Positive Response‘s maturity to patiently bide his time until he’s asked to give it his all when the field turns for home and the real racing begins with 2 furlongs to the wire.


2011 Derby Prep race Scoreboard


Date        Prep Race              GQ’s Pick               Order of Finish

Jan. 30th Holy Bull                  Dialed In                   Dialed In, Sweet Ducky, Gourmet Dinner

Feb. 5th    Whirlaway             Preachintothedevil   Toby’s Corner,JJ’s Train,Preachintothedevil

Feb. 12th Sam F. Davis          Beamer

Feb. 12th Robert B. Lewis    Tapizar

Feb. 12th El Camino Real      Positive Response


These selections and more from Laurel Park for Saturday are available at GQ’s No Chalk Zone.


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