The Derby trail heats up again on Saturday with two more races: the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, which we’ll look at here, and the San Felipe at Santa Anita, which we’ll look at in our next post.
McCraken was the expected favorite in this race after a win in the local prep, the Sam F. Davis, but got hurt and is skipping this race. He’s pointing for the Blue Grass next month at Keeneland.
At least one runner, Beasley, has been re-directed here after the McCraken news. Beasley scratched out of last week’s Fountain of Youth to run here. Let’s go through the field:
(note we are doing this on Wednesday before the morning line is out, so there are no odds listed)
1 – Tale of Silence – This full brother to Tale of Ekati ships up for Barclay Tagg after a second place finish, albeit seven-lengths back, behind Rebel-bound Malagasy going 6.5 furlongs. I don’t think stretching out to 8.5 furlongs will be a problem for him, but he’s going to have to run a lot faster. In that last race, he missed the break and rallied late to be second, so it was a better effort than it looked, but none of his other races are nearly good enough. He’ll be an underneath use only.
2 – The Money Monster – He’s 2-2 after a win in the seven furlong Pasco over the track for trainer Rohan Crichton and now makes his first start for Bill Mott. In the Pasco, he was bumped at the start but mostly sat a great trip inside, came through a big opening on the rail, and out-gamed the wide-running favorite to just get up. He’ll have to move way up to contend in this race.
3 – Basha – He comes out of a five-horse restricted-stakes race going one mile at Gulfstream last time in which he was third behind Third Day. In that race, Basha sat a good trip stalking in the clear but was late to change leads and didn’t have a rally. He’d be a surprise.
4 – No Dozing – He’s a wild card in here. His races at two were very good including a wide trip with a good rally in the Remsen (though as noted here and elsewhere that has proven to be a negative key race). In the Sam Davis, he sat off the pace, which was strong, and did no running whatsoever. It was a puzzling performance, and maybe he’ll bounce back out of that and run well here. He has an excellent trainer (Arnaud Delacour), so it wouldn’t be a total stunner, but he’s awfully tough to endorse off his last race.
5 – Tapwrit – He’s the likely favorite for Todd Pletcher and Jose Ortiz. Last time, he was second in the Sam Davis behind McCraken, but we thought he had a very good trip. Here’s what we wrote in the Davis recap:
Tapwrit as noted above improved his figure by 15 points, which seems a bit much, but either way ran well. That said, he saved ground and angled out behind a solid pace. While it took him a few strides to get clear, overall it was a pretty good trip. Considering his previous race was a low-figure off-the-turf race in a weak field, we’d like to see him repeat his last race before we get too excited.
As the favorite, he’s one we have no problem opposing and if he beats us at a short price, so be it.
6 – Beasley – He scratched out of the Fountain of Youth last week to run here and is a promising runner for Mark Hennig. He won his debut for a trainer that usually gives his runners a start before they find their best (4-81 with his first-time starting dirt horses, DRF Formulator). After a second place finish in a strong allowance race, he was second stretching out to Pletcher’s Battalion Runner, a promising horse pointing to the Florida Derby, and earned an 89 Beyer. He can sit off the pace or go to the lead and we thought would have won his last race if he was inside of Battalion Runner instead of stuck inside in tight against the rail. This will only be his fourth start and he certainly seems to be heading in the right direction.
7 – Sonic Mule – After he won the Mucho Macho Man going one mile on January 7th, Pletcher said he thought he was more of a sprinter, so he pointed him to the February 4th Swale Stakes in which he was a middling third (albeit behind two very good runners). It should be noted that the runner-up in the Swale, Three Rules, ran a very good third in the Fountain of Youth last week, and the fourth place finisher, Impressive Edge, won an allowance race by eight lengths on Sunday at Gulfstream for Mark Casse (although he did not improve on his 74 Beyer). Still, Pletcher’s inclination was to run the horse short, we didn’t really like the way he ran last time, had a good trip in the Mucho Macho Man, and he’ll beat us today.
8 – State of Honor – After running on turf and synthetic last year, he made his dirt debut in the Mucho Macho Man two-back for Mark Casse and loomed up on the outside before just missing Sonic Mule. Then last time, he set a strong pace from the inside and was a solid third behind McCraken in the Davis. He definitely seems better on dirt, but he might have to be used early from an outside post here, though he can certainly stalk if necessary. My concern would be, as we said before, if the figure from the Davis was a few points high, which is possible, he’s a longer shot than it looks. Plus, the post won’t do him any favors, and I thought he should have won the Mucho Macho Man. He won’t be a total surprise, and he does deserve credit for being the best pace horse in the Davis, however.
9 – Wild Shot – He was our pick in the Davis and ran well. He was wide on both turns and just flattened out late like he needed a start off the layoff. We liked his race in the Kentucky Jockey Club where he set a fast pace and held well, only run down by McCraken (and he finished ahead of subsequent Smarty Jones winner Uncontested). However, he drew a poor post too, and could get caught wide again like he did last time. We prefer him to State of Honor based on their races before the Davis and that Wild Shot is now second off the layoff.
10 – Zion Valley – He ran a career-best Beyer last time in finishing third. However, it was a 46 Beyer earned in a $16,000 maiden claimer. He would be an all-time upset.
The Pace – Basha might be the fastest horse early but Sonic Mule, State of Honor, and Wild Shot might all have to be used a bit early to avoid losing too much ground. It’s possible they take State of Honor back but even if they do that, I think the pace should be decent.
Analysis – As you can probably tell from the write-ups, we like Beasley. He should sit a good trip just behind the pace for Irad Ortiz and we’re going to play everything with Beasley winning the race. If making 1-2-3 picks, behind Beasley we’d go with Wild Shot and No Dozing.
The Play – We’ll be Beasley to win (hopefully at at least 4-1) and on top of Wild Shot, No Dozing, and a little Tale of Silence in the exacta, mixing in State of Honor, Basha, and Tapwrit in the the third slot in trifectas.