The Derby Trail heads north to the The Big Apple for its only legitimate prep race of the weekend, on Saturday (March 5th) for the $250,000 Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct race track. Most Derby prep race schedules also show the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park, but this is not a graded stakes race. The pecking order for contenders who want to run in the 137th Kentucky Derby is based on graded-stakes race earnings. So running in non-graded stakes races 2 months before the Derby might indicate the ones running in the Turfway Park feature on Saturday aren’t considered to be Derby contenders or their connections don’t have a case of Derby Fever. Whatever the case, it’s still one of the weekends higher profile races, so offer my opinion on it.
The Gotham Stakes is contested at 1 1/16 miles and features a field of 9 runners, 6 of whom won their last race. Only two (#2 – Nacho Saint 6-1 and #5 – Stay Thirsty 9-5) in here have previously competed in a graded stakes race, so this indicates the other 7 are Wannabe’s or late bloomers who could use this race as a stepping stone towards the Kentucky Derby. There isn’t a ton of early speed in here, so #1 – The Fed Eased (8-1), who recently broke his maiden by 7 going 6 furlongs on the lead should have no problem leading this group through at least the first three quarters. Whether anyone else wants to challenge him early could be suicide and spell doom for both. Longshot #8 – Norman Asbjornson (20-1) has gone to the front in both recent one mile races, as did probable odds-on Post Time favorite Stay Thirsty in his sprints prior to his 5th place finish in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last November. Those who have a shot to take advantage of a speed duel are Nacho Saint, #4 – Toby’s Corner (5-2) and #9 – Dawly (12-1). Go with Stay Thirsty as he might not be cranked up real tight for this race, as it’s his 3 year old debut, barring a gate-2-wire romp by The Fed Eased if given an easy lead and slows down the pace, Stay Thirsty should handle the rest.
- Stay Thirsty
Photo source: www.brisnet.com
In the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, run at a distance of 1 1/16 mile over the polytrack surface at Turfway Park, there are also 9 runners, mediocre ones at that, with the likely Post Time favorite being #9 – Twinspired (3-1), winner of the $75k WEBN Stakes at Turfway going one mile. After that victory, his trainer Michael Maker stated that prior to that race the owners had the Kentucky Derby as their goal for this colt, but running him back in a non-graded stakes will not help him get in the Derby starting gate, as he has no graded stakes earnings. Maybe the plan is to run in the G1 Blue Grass in 5 weeks at Keeneland which also has a synthetic racing surface. Winning that race could get him to Churchill Downs. But he needs to run well here, because M/L favorite #6 – Positive Response (5-2), 3rd place finisher in the El Camino Real Derby in his last outing and #2 – Blue Laser (7-2), winner of the Grade 3 Grey Cup at Woodbine as a 2 year old, have face much better. Blue Laser is the pick here. Owned by Winstar Farm, he’s 2 for 2 on the artificial dirt at Woodbine and should find the Turfway surface to his liking as well.
For Laurel Park on Saturday, here are a few plays…
Best Best: #6 – Heather (3-1) 7th race – 7 furlongs – $75k Wide Country Stakes
This is the feature race on the Laurel Park Saturday card for 3 year old fillies looking to possibly take the next step towards running against tougher competition in New York or Kentucky. Heather was runner-up to Red’s Round Table in her last race going 6 furlongs in the slop. They meet again today w/ Red’s Round Table the 1-1 Morning Line favorite. The favorite has only lost once in 6 career outings, but going an extra furlong here and on a fast, dirt track might provide Heather the opportunity to prevail in their rematch.
Longshot: #7 – Holiday Boy (12-1) 5th race – 1 mile – $10k Claiming NW4L
Was on a steady decline in class and bottomed out in most recent effort ($5k Claiming), but woke up to score by 4. That race may have been a turning point in his form, so even though he jumps up one class level, he’s worth a shot at a price.
EARLY DOUBLE (1st & 2nd races): 4, 7 w/ 1, 3
PICK-3 (4th, 5th & 6th races): 4, 7 w/ 1, 2, 7 w/ 1, 2, 4
LATE DOUBLE (8th & 9th races): 1, 4, 6 w/ 1, 9
Neither of last weeks Derby Prep race picks hit the board as something went a rye with Black N Beauty and did not finish in the Hutcheson while Bowman’s Causeway ran 4th at 13-1 in the Fountain Of Youth.
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 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 SilverMedallion,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,ToHonrAndServe
Mar. 5th Gotham Stay Thirsty
Enjoy a great day of thoroughbred horse racing. Share the fun with a friend.