Three weeks from Saturday is the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby and there are only a few more races between now and then for 3 year olds to crack into the Top 20 of the Derby Points System List. The Derby is limited to twenty (20) starters, and the pecking order is based on the number of points accumulated via the inaugural year of this new system.
Drawing by Mel @dailyracefunies. To see more of Mel’s work, click here.
This Saturday is ideally the latest that any colt or gelding should race if they are to be in top condition to run in the Derby on May 4th. On Saturday, there are two…the $750,000 G1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, KY and the $1,000,000 G1 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 Sport during a 90 minute telecast which starts at 5:00pm EDT.
The Blue Grass Stakes (Post Time 5:40pm EDT) attracted fifteen (15) entries even though the race is restricted to fourteen (14) starters. So #15 – Divine Ambition (50-1) will only run if one of the other 14 scratch by Saturday morning, but he is cross-entered in the Arkansas Derby, and will likely run there. Based on the Morning Line oddsmaker, there is no clear cut favorite as #7 – Uncaptured is the lukewarm 7-2 favorite with #4 - Java’s War and #13 – Rydilluc are both 4-1.
HOW I SEE IT: WOW! If a horseplayer could hand pick a race to be a prime example of a “great betting race”, this one would have to be it. Fourteen starters, no prohibitive favorite, all carry 123 lbs., you can make a case for any of the 14, and there’s a good mix of running styles. Bottom line: The best horse (on this day) wins. Six of them have already tested the 9 furlong distance, but only one (Uncaptured) hit the board. Assuming the Keeneland oval is playing ‘favor’, I’ll lean on the Brisnet All-Weather surface figures and workout patterns for my Top 3, which include two huge prices.
The Blue Grass “Go Big or Go Home” Play: $10 WPS on #9 – Tesseron (50-1)
$2 EX BOX 7-9-10 (Uncaptured – Tesseron – Footbridge)
At approximately 6:28pm EDT, a field eleven (11) will break from the starting gate for the Arkansas Derby. Bob Baffert has been golden in graded stakes in the past at Oaklawn Park and this year was more of the same when Super Ninety Nine destroyed the field in the Southwest Stakes but was a beaten favorite in the Rebel. Not to worry. Bob rolls back into Hot Springs with the 2-1 M/L favorite #2 – War Academy, a very impressive winner in his 2-turn debut last out, against allowance company.
Baffert will also start #5 – Den’s Legacy (6-1) who was third in the Rebel Stakes while D. Wayne Lukas will give a leg up to jockey Gary Stevens on the 5-2 second choice #10 – Oxbow who was nosed out of a win in the Rebel by stablemate Will Take Charge. The 4-1 third choice #9 – Overanalyze will try to give Todd Pletcher another Derby starter if he finishes in-the-money. Calvin Borel puts his Kentucky Derby mount hopes on #7 – Texas Bling (20-1).
HOW I SEE IT: This field is not lacking speed, but is short on a proven Closer that can compete at this level. Oxbow, has broken from the 10 or 11 post in 4 of his last 5, so he’ll be right at home breaking from #10 and will certainly get to the front, with #3 – Divine Ambition, #4 – Falling Sky and #6 – Heaven’s Runway keeping him company early. There should be a log-jam of runners in the second flight, so whoever can get the cleanest trip may get to the Winners Circle. Only two starters have previously covered the 9 furlongs distance… #8 – Frac Daddy (7th in FL Derby two weeks ago) and #9 – Overanalyze (won Remsen in Nov.).
The Arkansas Derby Play: $10 WPS on #9 – Overanalyze (4-1)
$2 EX BOX 2-9-10 (War Academy – Overanalyze – Oxbow)
The JockeyWorld.org racing term of the day is #103… “Figure Eight”
Recapping Pimlico’s Friday 9-race card posted had 6 winners (1 Top Selection in BOLD type) from 7 races, as in 2 of the races taken off the turf, resulted in all 3 selections being scratched. With the fields depleted by scratches due to sloppy track made for some chalky$2 WIN pay-offs of $3.40 (1st race), $10.40 (2nd), $5.20 (4th), $3.40 (6th), $5.20 (8th) and $9.80 (9th).
The BEST BET of the Day (5 3-0-1) Empedrado (R6 #5 3-5 PT; 5-1 M/L) took on the role of favorite after when scratches cut the field to four (4). He was last by 7 lengths at the quarter pole, but in a blink of an eye he swooped by his 3 rivals at the head of the stretch, and won by 9 ¾ while geared down approaching the wire to return $3.40 to WIN and $2.20 to PLACE as there was no SHOW wagering.
The LONGSHOT PICK (5 1-0-1) Francesco Punch (R3 #7 n/a PT; 15-1 M/L) was scratched along with many others in this race originally scheduled on the turf.
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day, $24 on War Relic (R7 #13; n/a PT, 3-1 M/L) was a NO BET as he was also scratched when all turf races were taken off and run on the main track sloppy surface. No worries, there’s always another day. Day 7 in fact.
Selections for the Day 7 Pimlico Saturday, April 13th card are on Page 2.