There are three Derby preps on Saturday: the San Felipe at Santa Anita, the Gotham at Aqueduct, and the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. We’ll have previews of all three on the site in what should be a very interesting day on the Derby trail.
(We also owe you recaps of the Risen Star, Southwest, and Fountain of Youth and those will all come out, along with recaps of Saturday’s races, beginning on Sunday).
We’ll start with the San Felipe, which probably has the most star power but is also, at least in our opinion, the least interesting of the three races from a betting perspective.
Let’s take a look at the field.
#1 Bolt d’Oro (2-1) – First of all, we agree with the morning line that has this horse, who was third with a very wide trip at 3-5 in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, as the second choice and McKinzie as the 8-5 favorite. Bolt d’Oro, who does bring in Javier Castellano to ride for this race, missed a scheduled start in the seven furlong San Vicente and has apparently has been a bit up and down in his training for his first start in four months. Plus, among trainers, we’ll tend to trust Bob Baffert over the inexperienced Mick Ruis. Bolt d’Oro did draw well and he does get some pace to attack, but we prefer McKinzie to win.
#2 Lombo (8-1) – Lombo stretched out from 6.5 furlongs to win the Lewis going 8.5 furlongs last month, setting a strong pace and wiring the field. That said, he beat a far weaker field than this one and has to deal with other pace in this race.
#3 Ayacara (8-1) – We liked Ayacara last time and he ran pretty well, making more of a grinding move in a race won wire to wire. Still, he was inside all the way saving ground, and the pace was fast. It was a decent effort and he is improving. We’ll have a few McKinzie / Ayacara exactas, but it’s hard to see him jump all the way up and win.
#4 McKinzie (8-5) – Bob Baffert’s runner took strides in the January 6th Sham and has been freshened up for this spot. The one concern we have is that he’ll have to track fractions faster than he’s had to before, but is obviously talented and should get a great trip tracking the pace and getting the jump on the closers.
#5 Aquila (15-1) – He wired a maiden race but set moderate fractions (24.01, 48.07) in earning an 88 Beyer Speed Figure. This is a big step up in class and he’ll have to deal with extra pace in this race. He appears to be overmatched.
#6 Calexman (30-1) – He got cooked in a speed battle in the El Camino Real Derby on the Golden Gate synthetic surface last time. He was also dusted by McKinzie in his lone dirt try, beaten 18 lengths in a Santa Anita maiden race.
#7 Peace (15-1) – Peace was 2-1 in the Lombo-won Lewis last time but did zero running despite getting a fast pace to attack. It’s likely a good sign that Peace’s Hall of Fame trainer, Richard Mandella, brings him right back, and he’ll be about seven times the price in this race. That said, it after his 88 Beyer maiden loss to Shivermetimbers (who also has come back to run poorly), Peace has failed to break 80 in his two subsequent starts.
#8 Kanthaka (4-1) – The third choice on the morning line, Kanthaka got a massive pace to attack and took advantage en route to a 3 length win and a 99 Beyer. That said, he will never get a better set-up than that, and being by Jimmy Creed out of a Noonmark mare, it’s hardly a guarantee that he’ll be able to replicate that around two turns.
The Pace – It should be fairly solid and since we’re not sold on likely pace-setter Lombo, the closers should have a fair chance.
Final Analysis – We prefer McKinzie to Bolt d’Oro, and they are the two obvious likely winners. The horse we are against is Kanthaka, who took advantage of a great pace set-up last time. Of the others, we prefer Ayacara and will play a McKinzie / Ayacara exacta. In multi-race wagers, we’ll single McKinzie as an A, use Bolt d’Oro as a B, and Ayacara as a C.