S.A. Derby, Blue Grass and Wood Make It Good

5 Apr

By Lucky Kalanges

Looking at the three big Kentucky Derby preps this weekend, I figure we might as well get the easiest one out of the way first, that being the $1 million Santa Anita Derby. With a compact field of six, it quickly boils down to Game Winner’s race to lose.

He had some excuses in his last race, trying to reel in Omaha Beach in second division of the Rebel Stakes after a tepid half mile of 47 1/5 while coming off a 90+ days layoff. He should be tighter for this one, gets the favorable outside post for his mid-pack style, and a primary target to chase in Instagrand breaking immediately to his inside.

Based on his lifetime record of four wins and a second in five starts, it seems difficult to envision him not finishing first or second at even money odds or worse.

An interesting pace scenario will play out between Game Winner’s stablemate Roadster (5/2) and Instagrand (3/1). I think the latter has the most pure speed, but it will be interesting to see whether Flavien Prat decides to send for the lead or stalk of off Roadster, who breaks from the rail. I think Instagrand’s best shot is to go to the lead. If he lets Roadster get a loose lead, he might be tough to run down.

Lastly, Nolo Contesto (6/1) chased Roadster home in his season debut after bobbling at the break and owns a win over Omaha Beach who beat Game Winner in the split division of the Rebel.

Final Verdict:

I don’t see a ton of value in here. I think Game Winner could be beaten, but I’m confident about who is going to pull the upset, so I’ll sit back and watch this one. One thing to keep in mind is that Game Winner doesn’t need to win to get into the Derby for Baffert, while Roadster needs a first or second place finish to get on the Derby Points list.

Don’t forget they are forcing out the Rainbow 6 Jackpot on Saturday at Santa Anita, so there’s a juicy $815,939 in dead money in the 20-cent Pick 6 pool.

Wood Memorial

With a not a lot separating the top contenders in this field of 11, I am going to give the edge to one of the better tacticians in John Velazquez aboard Outshine (6/1) for Todd Pletcher. Last we saw this guy, he finished second after chasing a hot pace in the Tampa Bay Derby, which was one by Tacitus (5/2), who is the morning line favorite here. He gets a tough post, but has experience in larger fields have won and finished second in his two starts this year. Hoping third off a layoff is a charm.

In keeping with the recent history of big races being won by maiden-breakers, I am going to give a long look at Hoffa’s Union (6/1) breaking from the three hole. He romped by 15 1/2 lengths in his debut, and I think he can use his early speed to cut the corner and attempt to steal this race on the lead. He’ll need a little luck, however, with a few other early speed types like Not That Brady (20/1) signed on.

Speaking of Not That Brady, he seemed to lose all chance when failing to break in the Gotham, but his Withers effort puts him squarely in the mix against these horses and he’s bound to be forgotten in the betting.

I am going to key both Hoffa’s Union and Not That Brady underneath my top choice in the Exacta, hoping that one of them fails to break and lets the other get a semi-comfortable lead.

Closers Tacitus (5/2) and Haikal (7/2) could get the setups they need here and certainly neither has done much wrong, having combined for 5 wins and a second in seven starts. However, I’ll take a stand against the closers at short prices in this spot.

Tax (9/2) is another one I’ll give a long look at given his tactical speed and rail post, which should allow him to save ground and get a decent trip.

The Verdict:

$20 Win bet on 10 Outshine or 1 Tax, whichever goes off at 6/1 or better.
$5 Exacta Box: 1 Tax and 10 Outshine
$2 Exacta 1 Tax and 10 Outshine with 3 Hoffa’s Union and 7 Not That Brady.
$1 Trifecta 1 Tax, 10 Outshine with 1 Tax, 10 Outshine with 3 Hoffa’s Union, 4 Haikal, 5 Final Jeopardy, 6 Overdeliver, 8 Grumps Little Tots.

Blue Grass Stakes

I don’t like the morning line favorite Vekoma (9/5) much at all in this full field of 14, so I will take a shot at beating him with the rail horse Somelikeithotbrown (10/1). While the latter’s figures are a little light in here, they’ve come over the Turfway polytrack and since he’s out of Big Brown I’m not seeing any reason why he won’t take to the Keeneland dirt.

Breaking from the rail, he has no choice but to fly out of the gate and try to wire this field, which doesn’t have an abundance of early speed. A couple who could pressure my top choice are 10 Lucky Lee (20/1) and 14 Aquidini (30/1). Since the former hasn’t won outside Parx and the latter must fly from the 14 hole, I’ll take my chances with the rail speed and hope for the best.

One horse who might be of interest in exotics is #6 Dream Maker (12/1). He dusted the talented Courtyard in his race two back, and threw a clunker next out when bumped out of the gate. In his two wins he’s virtually circled the field so it seems like he wants to be wide, outside the kickback. He’ll need a clean break and trip to be a factor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes running at double-digit odds.

The Verdict:

$20 Win on 1 Somelikeithotbrown at 8/1 or better.
$.10 Superfecta – 1, 6 with 1, 6 with ALL with ALL

It’s getting late and I have to shut down the OTB, so best of luck this Saturday!




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