Last weekend the quest for the blanket of roses on the first Saturday in May (aka Kentucky Derby) made stops at Gulfstream Park for the Palm Beach Stakes on the turf, then at Tampa Bay Downs for the Tampa Bay Derby and Santa Anita for the San Felipe Stakes over natural dirt racing surfaces. In all 3 races, the Post Time favorite failed to cross the line first as the winners in each provided a handsome return for their backers. In the Palm Beach Joes Blazing Aaron paid $26.20 on a $2 WIN ticket while in the San Felipe Premier Pegasus romped by 7+ lengths at 7-1 ($16.60) and the biggest price came in the Tampa Bay Derby when Watch Me Go (43-1) nosed out Crimson Knight (86-1) to light up the toteboard paying $89.40 to WIN while the $2 exacta returned $2,194.20!
This weekend there are two Derby prep races but only one, the Gr.2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park carries the all important “graded stakes” label which often determines which twenty (20) 3 year olds will break from the starting gate at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby. The other race for 3 year olds is the $75k Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park.
The $300k Gr.2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park is contested at 1 1/16 miles. Scheduled Post Time is 6:56pm EDT for this 10th race on the Saturday card. The Morning Line and likely Post Time favorite is #6 – The Factor (2-1), winner of his last 2, the Gr.2 San Vicente at Santa Anita and a track record breaking maiden win. He’s the front-running speedball who hasn’t gone beyond 7 furlongs in 3 lifetime starts, but will need to carry his speed 8.5 to capture his 3rd consecutive victory. I don’t think he can go beyond a mile, but in this field of 13 I only see one or two (#11– Glint ;20-1 and/or #8 – Saratoga Red (30-1) who would even entertain running with him early. If neither do, then The Factor will be able to conserve energy early and save some for later to hold off the late runners like 1 – Archarcharch (8-1) winner of the Gr.3 Southwest stakes, #2 – Alternation (12-1) winner of 3 straight, #9 – SwayAway (5-2) fast closing second to The Factor in the Gr.2 San Vicente and #10– Elite Alex (8-1) 3rd in the Southwest. The wild card is #5 – J P’s Gusto (5-1) ridden by Ramon Dominguez who in the Southwest encountered traffic after being further back early on than he had been in previous races. If “JP” is closer to the lead in this race, it just might put enough pressure on The Factor to get leg weary in the last furlong. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the betting public make The Factor 7-5 and Sway Away 9-5 while all others sit handsomely at 8-1 and higher. Hopefully I’ll be wrong but correct in betting on #9 – SwayAway and get rewarded by sticking with him as the races he competes in continue to grow in distance.
Onto the Laurel Park feature, the $75k Private Terms Stakes. The race is named in honor of the colt raced in Maryland as a 2 and 3 year old, took his undefeated record to NY and won the Gotham and Wood Memorial, and was the 7-2 betting favorite in the 1988 Kentucky Derby, but finished 9th. I have fond memories of this guy because prior to the age of simulcasting, a friend and I drove up to New York (Aqueduct Race Track) to see and bet Private Terms in the Gotham, where he beat the undefeated 3-5 favorite Seeking the Gold to return $23 on a $2 WIN ticket.
Private Terms Photo: Courtesy Claiborne Farms
There will be 8 runners in the 22nd running of the Private Terms Stakes at one mile. None will find themselves at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May for the Derby, but you might get to see the winner run on Preakness Day (May 21st). Unlike the Rebel Stakes, this race has no shortage of early speed. The Morning Line favorite #3 – Tap Star (2-1), co-second choices #1 – Rush Now (3-1) and #8 – Bandbox (3-1) as well as #4 – Joe Vann (6-1) will want to be on or near the lead. Longshots #5 – No Easy Answer (8-1) and #7 – Ram (12-1) have the best chances among the late runners to score if the early fractions are too quick, which I believe they will, so the play here is#5 – No Easy Answer. This will be only his 4th lifetime start, but his speed figures have improved every time he races.
For the rest of the Laurel Park Saturday card, here are a few plays …
Best Best: #4 – Shoe Freak Marlene (9-2) 4th race – 6 furlongs – $5k Claiming
Only in horse racing could a male horse have a name like this. He’s a 6 year old gelding who will be making his 4 start this month! A rarity with thoroughbreds, who typically run no less than 2 weeks between races. But “Marlene” won on March 5th, just 2 days after finishing second. Now just 3 days after his worst finish (6th) in his past 10, he’ll break form the gate again, but this time against a level of horses whom he has been a picture of consistency. The addition of apprentice jockey Stephanie Korger makes this one even more attractive at this price.
Longshot: #5 – No Easy Answer (8-1) 9th race – 1 mile – $75k Private Terms Stakes
As mentioned above in the analysis of the featured race at Laurel Park, he is the longest priced runner I like on the card.
EARLY DOUBLE (1st & 2nd races): 4, 6, 7 w/ 5
PICK-3 (4th, 5th & 6th races): 3, 4 w/ 3, 6, 7 w/ 2, 6
LATE DOUBLE (9th & 10th races): 5, 7, 8 w/ 3, 6
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’sCorner JJ’sTrain,Preachintothedevil
Feb. 12th Sam F. Davis Beamer Brethren, Too Experience, Watch Me Go
Feb. 12th Robert B. Lewis Tapizar Anthony’s Cross Riveting Reason,Quail Hill
Feb. 12th El Camino Real Positive Response Silver Medallion,Jakesam,PositiveResponse
Feb. 19th Risen Star Santiva MuchoMachoMan,Santiva,RogueRomance
Feb. 20th San Vicente Sway Away TheFactor,SwayAway,PremierPegasus
Feb. 26th Hutcheson Black N Beauty Flashpoint,TravelinMan,LittleDrama
Feb. 26th Fountain of Youth Bowman’s Causeway Soldat,GourmetDinner,ToHnrAndServe
Mar. 5th Gotham Stay Thirsty StayThirsty,NormanAsbjornson,TobyCorner
Mar. 12th Palm Beach (turf) Ari C JoesBlazingAaron,Queen’splatekitten,Newsdad
Mar. 12th Tampa Bay Derby Beamer WatchMeGo,CrismsonKnight,Brethren
Mar. 12th San Felipe Jaycito Premier Pegasus,Jaycito,Bench Points
Mar. 19th Rebel Sway Away
Enjoy a great day of thoroughbred horse racing. Share the fun with a friend.