Triple Crown Prep Analysis
By Michael Patricks
It was a Florida Derby to remember last weekend from Hallandale, Florida where Audible assumed command entering the stretch and pulled away to an impressive three-length score. Audible was my selection in the race and performed according to expectations, but he did what he was supposed to do in this spot, especially given the torrid splits set by Strike Power and Promises Fulfilled leaving the gate. :21.4, :46.1, and 1:11.3 to the ¾’s were set by the aforementioned embattled duo, giving Audible the ideal circumstances in which to benefit. As a highly-respected friend in the industry pointed out to me after the race last week, ‘Where is the accountability to Luis Saez and Robby Albarado’ for riding their mounts like quarter horses in a Grade I race? Their backers deserve better than that—at least an explanation should be provided in the written record before a much more scrupulous review is undertaken.
It was a good weekend on the prognostication front. If you followed me into the fire of the Florida Derby with a 10-cent superfecta box of $2.40 then you cashed in with a $46.30 return. I’ll try and keep the positive vibes flowing in triplicate this week with a thumbnail examination of the major prep races to be run on Saturday: The Wood Memorial from Aqueduct, Blue Grass from Keeneland and Santa Anita Derby in southern California.
Aqueduct Race 10
The Wood Memorial
1 & 1/8 Miles on Dirt for 3 Y/O
Purse: $750,000 (Grade II)
Post Time: 2:55 PST
The Wood Memorial analysis centers around # 5 Enticed at 6/5 in the program. He came into 2018 as a horse to watch off his narrow victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club which was run in slow time but the race has churned out several next out winners ironically. He was blown to smithereens in the Holy Bull at 9/5 in his first run of the season but bounced back nicely to capture the Gotham over this course in a one-turn mile. Enticed is safely in the Derby field with 63 points so it’s difficult to envision him in a situation where his connections will demand he lay his body down in order to raise the Wood Memorial trophy triumphantly above their heads with bigger fish to fry in just four weeks.
# 8 Restoring Hope is the horse who needs points in the worst way and so I’ll make him my selection at 4/1. Trainer Bob Baffert has been extremely high on this colt for quite some time and wisely separates him from Justify (SA Derby) and Solomini (Arkansas Derby next week). Also, given the fact that Flavien Prat passes on a 13-race card at Santa Anita in order to go ride Restoring Hope at Aqueduct should sound all the bells and whistles that this horse is LIVE. Obviously, this is a big step up as he faces winners for the first time while shipping, but there are no real monsters in this spot and he appears primed for a top effort.
I’ll tip # 4 Firenze Fire at 6/1 to follow Restoring Hope home and give him some consideration to hit the ticket based on four scores in eight races. As for # 9 Vino Rosso, I’ve seen enough and the divorce papers are signed. I know he’s got talent, but at this point the brain has not united with his running ability so I’m stepping off of the train tracks in front of him.
Selections: 8-4-5 in the 94th Wood Memorial.
Keeneland Race Course
The Toyota Blue Grass
1 & 1/8 Miles on Dirt for 3 Y/O
Purse: $1,000,000 (Grade II)
Post Time: 3:23 PST
After tabbing Good Magic at 3/5 in the Fountain of Youth and watching him leisurely stroll home (at best), I want nothing to do with him at or about 2/1 in the program. Perhaps he bounces back with a redeeming performance on Saturday that has him in the conversation on the first Saturday in May but he needs to prove to the Doubting Thomases of the world that he’s for real, myself included. I’m not sure he’s matured as required and if you know the jury is out on him, how can you possibly swallow the 2/1 in a 14-horse field?
I’ll be swinging for the fences with # 7 Blended Citizen at 15/1 in the program for trainer Doug O’Neill. He’s a half-brother to Lookin at Lee and should appreciate every ounce of the nine furlongs of the Blue Grass. What’s more, the tempo could be quite brisk and his jockey Kyle Frey will have him motoring at the end. Blended Citizen must prove he is the same horse on dirt as he’s been on turf and synthetic to this point and Saturday is his proving ground to do so. If you’re willing to forgive his first three dirt starts (2 of them sprinting-including a rail debut) then you can build a case for him. The Blinkers helped sharpen his turn of foot tremendously in his last start and don’t be deceived by the Mid 80’s Beyers on synthetic since those numbers are often much lower than dirt Beyers; he’s got a shot with plenty of pace to chase and will be a healthy number.
I’ll leave # 12 Flameaway at 5/1 on my ticket as well. He’s such a hard trier and always gives a solid account of himself. Trainer Mark Casse will have him ready and he should get a stalking trip in the clear and to the outside. I said nothing but flattering things about # 5 Quip 6/1 last time out in the Tampa Bay Derby and then like a genius didn’t pick him on top and was slapped in the face with a $40 win mutuel. If he can take a little cover and scout a trip through the lane, he will be tough to deal with. However, he must avoid bouncing and the price drops today. # 4 Kanthaka chased McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro home in the San Felipe and obviously gets out of their shadows today by transitioning to Kentucky. His San Felipe was his two-turn debut and local hero Julien Leparoux draws the assignment. Jerry Hollendorfer doesn’t run them just for fun. Kanthaka could be sitting on a big effort even though Prat opts for Restoring Hope at Aqueduct (see above).
Selections: 7-12-5-4 in the Toyota Blue Grass
Santa Anita Park
The Santa Anita Derby
1 & 1/8 Miles on Dirt for 3 Y/O
Purse: $1,000,000 (Grade I)
Post Time: 3:30 PST
I’ll make this a rather quick summation. I believe that # 6 Justify at 4/5 is the most talented three-year-old in training and that he will show it on Saturday in a signature performance that we will long remember. Justify needs to finish first or second in the Santa Anita Derby in order to move on to Louisville and Run for the Roses so Bob Baffert and Assisant Trainer Jimmy Barnes will have him on edge and primed for a peak performance.
On paper, # 3 Bolt d’Oro is his primary competition at 6/5 but he’s safe on points with 64 and I know his connections are thinking primarily about the first Saturday in May and keeping him on track for that, rather than asking him for his life at the ¼ pole in order to run down Justify. Bolt d’Oro will do enough to run second with the added furlong in mind that he’ll undoubtedly crave next month. # 1 instilled Regard is 5/1 in the program but was very ordinary at 7/5 in the Risen Star back in February. He could bounce back here and garner some Grade I black type (someone has to run third) but I’m not thrilled about him ((plus his pilot flees to Bolt d’Oro)).
# 7 Core Beliefs can complete the trifecta at 20/1. He garnered his diploma in his third start in front running fashion while defeating next out winner Longden in the process. He’s got room to improve in just his fourth start. His obvious problem is that he shows up in the ultimate steel cage match with basically just exhibition match experience on his resume. Eternal optimists would say that he doesn’t know he’s 20/1 when he walks into the gate however, and so I guess that’s a fair point too.
Selections: 6-4-7-1 in the Santa Anita Derby
Below are the top Kentucky Derby point earners heading into the weekend included for your reference. The top 20 horses in points will be eligible to run in the 144th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 5th.
|2.||Noble Indy||Todd Pletcher||110||$640,000|
|4.||Bolt d’Oro||Mick Ruis||64||$780,000|
|6.||Bravazo||D. Wayne Lukas||54||$359,913|
|7.||Promises Fulfilled||Dale Romans||52||$266,480|
|8.||Magnum Moon||Todd Pletcher||50||$540,000|
|9.||Runaway Ghost||Todd Fincher||50||$520,310|
|11.||Lone Sailor||Tom Amoss||42||$273,347|
|15.||Good Magic||Chad Brown||34||$1,238,400|
|17.||My Boy Jack||Keith Desormeaux||32||$502,000|
|19.||Firenze Fire||Jason Servis||29||$582,500|
|20.||Free Drop Billy||Dale Romans||24||$497,200|
|21.||Catholic Boy||Jonathan Thomas||24||$378,000|
|22.||Snapper Sinclair||Steven Asmussen||22||$321,810|
|24.||Blended Citizen||Doug O’Neill||22||$129,644|
|26.||Strike Power||Mark Hennig||20||$209,560|
|27.||Dream Baby Dream||Steven Asmussen||20||$176,000|
|29.||Old Time Revival||Kenneth Decker||20||$80,000|
|30.||Instilled Regard||Jerry Hollendorfer||19||$196,000|
|34.||Gold Town||Charlie Appleby||10||$251,342|