Derby Trail Preview: San Felipe (G2)

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.

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Through the Card – Gulfstream Saturday

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Gulfstream has put together an excellent 14-race card on Saturday that features nine stakes races, and an excellent three-year old Maiden Special Weight.

Race 4 – The Very One (G3) – Fillies & Mares go 9.5 furlongs and #3 Daring Duchess (8-5), who wired a solid field when winning at this distance on December 30th, is the favorite. She’s the lone speed again here, with only #4 Holy Helena (7-2) and #5 Empress of the Nile (12-1) able to keep her honest. We are going to try #2 Westit (9-2), hoping she gets a little pace and an assist from one of Holy Helena or Empress of the Nile, and that the stretch out will help this daughter of Tapit. She seems to be heading in the right direction over her last few starts (she was very wide three-back, buried inside two-back, and last time maybe found the field a little too tough though she just ran ok there).

Race 5 – Sand Springs – #1 Celestine (3-5) is odds-on in her career finale but got beat as the favorite last time and is often overbet. We want to take a small shot with #3 Grizzel (5-1). As a three-year old, she ran a good race in the Belmont Oaks, pressing a fast pace and holding on for fifth. She had traffic in the stretch in the Colleen and then was thrown in against tough older rivals in the Canadian. Something went amiss in the Ontario Derby and she’s fresh for this one, plus she lures Javier Castellano. She might need one off the bench, but she’s the interesting alternative.

Race 6 – Palm Beach (G3) – #1 Speed Franco (3-1) won the Dania Beach last time and his two best races have been on turf with give in the ground, which he will not get today. #6 Therapist (5-2) is way too short a price (though Maraud will likely be the second choice). Therapist won the Awad with the most perfect of trips and might need one off the layoff. We’re not sure how good he is. #7 Hawkish (8-1) was very impressive in debut. The runner-up improved his figure two points in a win. The sixth place finisher improved 10 points in finishing second next out. We still, however, have some doubts about how good the field was that he beat and he could be the wise-guy horse. We’re leaning on #2 Maraud (3-1) in here. We really liked his allowance win on January 13th and while he got dusted by Speed Franco in the Pulpit, Speed Franco loved the soft going that day.

Race 7 – Herecomesthebride (G3) – #3 Thewayiam (2-1) hasn’t run especially fast and has won with two perfect trips in her two starts at this meet. We’re leaning on #4 Brattata (5-2) in multis. She had excuses in several of her starts at two (buried inside on October 7th, slow start, wide run on November 4th, and wide off good rail, wire to wire winner on December 3rd) before coming back to crush a maiden field on February 4th. This race starts the middle pick-4 and we’ll be leaning on Brattata.

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Derby Trail Preview: The Fountain of Youth (G2)

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Greetings from Hallandale Beach, home of Gulfstream Park and Saturday’s G2 Fountain of Youth. This stop along the Derby trail features the return of Good Magic, last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile winner.

It’s the last of 14 on a marathon Saturday card that features eight additional stakes races and a 3 year old Maiden Special Weight that features Orb’s full brother Personal Time. We’ll look at some other spots in our next post.

Let’s go through the field.

#1 He Takes Charge (20-1) – He’s taken a long time to get going but did register a nice win three weeks ago, leveling off very nicely in the late stages. He’s drawn perfectly, and this is only his second time going two-turns on a fast track.

“He’s the type that goofs off before, during, and after a race. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of time before things really start clicking for him,” said trainer Mark Casse (via DRF).

#2 Free Drop Billy (9-2) – Some news broke late Friday that trainer Dale Romans might scratch him to run next week in the Gotham.

We’ll see which way Romans decides. He ran pretty well in the Holy Bull, but Audible flicked him aside at the top of the stretch, so it wasn’t a very appealing finish. That race did, however, come up pretty fast. FDB is again drawn very well and is logical though as the second choice, he won’t offer any value.

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Sunday Key Horse – Fast Fact Can Bounce Back Off Tough Trip

We have just one horse at Gulfstream we’re looking forward to betting on today, and it’s #1 Fast Fact (10-1) in the 10th race. Fast Fact last ran in a similar race two weeks ago, and is #9 in the video below.

As you can see in the video, Fast Fact was tracking the pace in a pretty good spot but had to steady sharply and lost at least two, maybe three lengths as a tiring rival retreated in front of him.

From there, he got going again, moving 3-4 wide into the lane. He was then, for some reason, navigated back inside, when he should have gone outside. The rider then finally tipped him out and he was trying down to the wire. He would have likely won if not for the trouble. Further, today, Fast Fact gets a rider change to Luis Saez.

The 5-2 favorite is #5 Set Me Up, who did not finish strongly last time after getting a good trip stalking two 99-1 shots.

We do not expect to get the full 10-1, but at half that price, Fast Fact is worth a play.

Aqueduct Race 7 – Todd Pletcher’s first-time starter from the inside is going to take money but Pletcher is 0-14 with first-time starting maiden-claimers on dirt at Aqueduct, which indicates that he leaves his weaker horses here for the winter (no surprise there). 

#2 Freudian Analyst (6-1) has run his two best races on wet tracks, which he gets today. While he was beaten 16 lengths in his two-back race at this level, the two horses that ran 1-2 there would be 1-10 and 1-5 in here. Then he was wired last time in what was also likely a tougher heat than this one. He’s probably a little better than he looks on paper and can upset the field.

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Gulfstream Saturday Late Pick-4

GulfstreamPark-logo-final_newGulfstream has its typical strong Saturday card with a very interesting late pick-4 that includes two three year old Maiden Special Weight races, one on dirt and one on turf, and the G3 Hal’s Hope that marks the return of both Send It In, who hasn’t raced since April, and Irish War Cry, who hasn’t raced since the Pennsylvania Derby.

There are 13 races on the Saturday card, so this sequence covers races 10-13.

Race 10 – This seven-furlong three-year old MSW has a few ways to go but you have to start with #7 Ruler of the Nile (3-1). He cost $1 million as a two-year old in training but it’s probably not a great sign that he’s not debuting until the last weekend of February. He is the likely favorite, going out for Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. #8 Candygram (6-1) cost $300,000 out of the same sale, but will be a bigger price and Jimmy Jerkens lures Javier Castellano. #1 King Zachary (4-1) caught stakes-bound Principe Guilherme in his debut last November at Churchill Downs, though the rail draw probably isn’t ideal. #5 Bail Out (5-1) might take some money but he’s by Arch and the best recent sibling is turf stakes winner Reload (though he did win on dirt). Shug McGaughey has won with 9 of his last 99 dirt first time starters but three were short-prices that he shipped to easier spots in Maryland (and one was Honor Code). We could move him up if he takes a lot of money but mostly we expect him to need a race before improving stretching out (obviously typical of this barn). #12 Crafty Jack (15-1) will probably be shorter than his morning line price and comes out of a live race (the winner ran a 97 Beyer on debut and the runner-up came back to run an 88 in a win last week) but the stretch from 5.5 furlongs to 7 is a big one.

A – 1, 7, 8
B – none
C – 5

Race 11 – #4 Zefiro (4-1) is first off the claim for Bobby DiBona and gets Javier Castellano and the pair is 2-5 together at the meet. Zefiro had a brutal trip against similar last time and gets a nice rider switch. He’s our top pick and lean here. We also want to use two others. #12 Remembering Mickey (15-1) has back races more than good enough to win here and had a troubled trip – slow start, shuffled back on the bend – last time out. We’ll also use #2 Archvillain (6-1), who ran some decent races last summer. After a throw-out dirt race, he found himself on the lead at Gulfstream Park West last time and maybe didn’t like that style, but she’ll be able to sit off the pace today.

A – 4
B – 2, 12
C – none

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Fast Pace Could Lead to Southwest Chaos

OaklawnLogoThe annual President’s Day feature at Oaklawn is the G3 Southwest Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race. Mourinho comes in after winning last month’s Smarty Jones, but meets a much tougher test today with a lot more speed signed on in what is a very interesting race.

Points – While Bravazo earned 50 points for his Risen Star win at Fair Grounds on Saturday, this race is only worth 10 points to the winner as this is the first of three remaining preps at Oaklawn and the Risen Star was the penultimate prep at Fair Grounds.

Let’s take a look at the field.

#1 My Boy Jack (12-1) – This Keith Desormeaux charge was no match for the ultra-impressive McKinzie in the Sham but ran about as fast as most of the others in here. He will be farther off the pace today, but he’s won from there on the grass, and unlike some of the other closers, he’ll be able to save ground. He’s a part of the play.

#2 Sporting Chance (9-2) – D Wayne Lukas won the Risen Star on Saturday and can win this race with Sporting Chance, winner of the Hopeful. The problem is of corse that he hasn’t run since the Hopeful. He’s also drawn inside the speed and figures to be forwardly placed in a race that should feature a fast pace.

#3 Principe Guilherme (4-1) – He’ll scratch after running on Saturday in the Risen Star. Note that everyone’s morning line is effectively too high because of his scratch.

#4 Mourinho (2-1) – The Smarty Jones last month featured a very slow pace as we noted here. That certainly flattered the Bob Baffert-trained Mourinho, who set fractions that were slower to the half than all three other mile races that day including a $30k maiden claimer. Today, he has to deal with a lot of other pace. Granted, he’s probably not a pure “need the lead” type but he’ll be up on the engine and the pace last time makes him look a lot better than he probably is.

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Saturday Spot Plays

A very good Saturday around the country, including good cards at Fair Grounds and Laurel, was muted just a bit because of a quarantine at New York.

It’s still a strong day of racing and we have a few thoughts.

We previously previewed today’s Risen Star Stakes, a key Derby prep race to be run today at Fair Grounds.

Fair Grounds Pick-3, Races 6-8. For some reason, there is no pick-4 ending in the Risen Star, but there is a Pick-3 that incorporates the three races prior to the feature.

Race 6 (Stall Memorial) – #4 I’m Betty G (3-1) was close to a fast pace that fell apart in the South Beach at Gulfstream last time. #6 Mom’s On Strike (7-2) won the local prep with a strong close. But we also want to use #11 Susie Bee (8-1). Susie Bee was pace compromised last time at Houston and though she had a great trip two-back at Gulfstream, she did beat Truly Together, who ran very well in the Endeavor last week at Tampa. In her previous turf start, she was hurt by a moderate pace behind Grade-1 winners Miss Temple City and Zipessa.

Race 7 (Rachel Alexandra) – #8 Momomoy Girl (8-5) is the favorite, coming off a win on Thanksgiving weekend at Churchill. However, she might need this one off the bench and we want to lean on #4 Wonder Gadot (4-1) in here. Wonder Gadot might have to get a bit faster, but she ran very well last time in the Silverbulletday in pressing a very fast pace that collapsed. She was run down late by a deep closer and can take a step forward here.

Race 8 (Fair Grounds Handicap) – We’re going to try to beat #6 Mr. Misunderstood (3-1), who has won seven straight but they were in weaker fields against straight three year olds. He faces elders for the first time today. Our top pick is #8 Synchrony (9-2), who took a tough beat when wired in the Red Bank at Monmouth last May. It is his first start since then, so we’ll also use a few others. #5 Granny’s Kitten (8-1) may have needed his last start, which also came on soft turf. #9 High Noon Rider (6-1) has steadily moved up the allowance ladder. #3 Galton (5-1) was wired two-back and put in a good late run last time here for Mike Maker and Javier Castellano.

$2 ticket – 4, 6, 11 / 4 / 3, 5, 8, 9 ($24)
$2 ticket – 4, 6, 11 / 8 / 8 ($6)
$1 ticket – 4, 6 / 4, 8 / 5, 8, 9 ($12)

Laurel Race 9 (General George) – There are two key scratches – #9 Great Stuff and #10 Do Share, who probably would have been the top two choices in the betting. #8 Grasshoppin (15-1) is our pick for the upset. He’ll have to improve a little bit but he’s back at his best distance of seven furlongs and both turns back out of two-turn races and gets a big trainer change to Claudio Gonzalez. From his outside post position, he should get an ideal stalking trip outside the speed and get the jump on the late-runners.

Laurel Race 7 (Miracle Wood) – #7 He Hate Me (7-2) had no chance behind World of Trouble, who wired the Pasco setting a moderate pace. He’s drawn well outside today and is second off the long layoff for Horacio de Paz and will be a fair-priced alternative to #1 Still Having Fun (8-5).

Gulfstream Race 10 – There should be some pace in here and we want to try #10 Peru (9-2) as an alternative to favored Starship Jubilee. Peru beat that rival in the Claiming Crown Tiara and then rallied well behind a wire to wire winner at Sam Houston last time when hurt by a moderate pace.

Gulfstream Race 11 – #3 Page McKenny (6-1) gets a much weaker field than he faced last time and some pace. The short-stretch is a concern, but hopefully Irad Ortiz can put him in the second flight behind the leaders.

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Derby Trail Preview: Risen Star (G2)


The Derby Trail continues in New Orleans on Saturday as Fair Grounds runs a stakes-laden card that is headed by the G2 Risen Star Stakes and Instilled Regard, winner of the Lecomte last month for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Derby Points – This race is an 85 point race, with 50 to the winner. Thus, the winner is almost guaranteed a spot in the Derby starting gate. (Monday’s Southwest Stakes only offers 20 points to the winner, but there are three preps left at Oaklawn, including the Southwest. There are just two left – this Risen Star and next month’s Louisiana Derby – left at Fair Grounds.)

Here is our look at last month’s Lecomte, which features several of these horses. Let’s take a look at the field for the Risen Star.

#1 High North (15-1) – Brad Cox sends out this son of Midnight Lute for his first start since the Thanksgiving-weekend Kentucky Jockey Club. We liked his debut race at Saratoga, where he was wide off a gold rail, and then got wired by Withers winner Avery Island in his second start. After breaking his maiden, he was 4th in the KJC after having some trouble on the first turn behind a horse that had tossed his rider. He mostly had a good trip thereafter but was probably farther back than intended. It is, however, a concern that both Enticed and Tiz Mischief, who ran 1-2 in there, have come back to disappoint in the Holy Bull and Sam Davis over the last two weeks, but High North will be a big price for a good trainer and we’re using underneath.

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Derby Trail Race Review: Sam F. Davis

Flameaway pulled a 10-1 upset in the Sam F. Davis on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, going wire to wire and holding off Catholic Boy, the 3-5 favorite.

PreviouslyWithers, Lewis, Holy Bull

Fractions: 24.18, 47.73, 1:11.25, 1:36.06, 1:42.44
Race Flow: Moderate pace.
Winning Beyer Speed Figure: 92

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