Sunday, April 29, 2012

138th Kentucky Derby Preview


Here we are, one week away from that first Saturday in May and the 2012 Derby field is still wide open. This year just has a different feel to it than in the past. For one thing, it doesn't seem as many of the Triple Crown Nominee's have dropped off the Derby Trail due to injury, especially compared to last year. Another thing, this year's Derby brings a record nine horses back to the gates that ran in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Classic on the Churchill dirt this past fall. That is just unheard of in the history of the Derby. Normally, on the week of the Derby the handicappers are just hoping that their top 3-4 horses don't get screwed on the draw come Wednesday afternoon. This year, not so much, as I and many others can give you more than a handful of horses that have just as good a shot as any to put on the bed of roses. With a field this deep in talent and/or uncertainty, however you look at it, the Derby should not disappoint this year as it will produce some nice odds at the window. If you are lucky enough to cash in on one of the exotics you might find yourself filling out one of those wonderful W2's.

Mystified Ticket's Derby Hi-5

1) Union Rags 9-2

- The early Derby favorite when the two-year-olds first took to the track last year. Had a wide trip and drifted out down the stretch in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here last fall. He still managed to finish second, just running out of track to catch the winner and eventual two-year-old champion, Hansen. Has taken a step back according to some after his third place finish in the Florida Derby. Boxed in and stuck in traffic for most of the race, he still managed to finish third while coming on strong at the end. The Derby is a race of confusion and anyone will tell you that you have to have some luck on your side and be able to overcome adversity, because odds are that you will not get the perfect trip. Union Rags has had things thrown at him that will give this horse the experience on Derby Day to be the one posing in the winners circle.

2) Creative Cause 12-1

- Been one of if not the top horse out on the West Coast on this Derby Trail. Has a resume that sports a G1 win, a triple digit speed rating in the San Felipe with a win over Bodemeister and has finished in the money in all eight of his lifetime starts. While his running style has been erratic at times coming down the stretch, this grey colt definitely has shown he has the talent to come out on top of this deep field of three-year-olds.  Is this kid going to step out and be the leader of its class or is he just going to be content hanging with the cool crowd and filling out some exotics? I have been on Creative Cause ever since watching him close in the 7 furlong Del Mar Futurity(G1) back in September when I was in Vegas. He finished third through disqualification that day but I knew this horse was going to be one of my early Derby favorites and I'm tempted to move him into the top spot the week of the Derby.

3) Bodemeister 4-1

- All eyes are on the potential M/L favorite for the Derby. Can he erase 130 years from horse racing history and be the first Derby winner since Apollo to not have a race under him as a two-year-old? Posted triple speed ratings in his last three starts. Being compared to Curlin (who finished third in the 2010 KY Derby) after his blazing win in the Arkansas Derby. I just can't pick against 130 years of history but records are made to be broken, so we will just have to wait and see. That being said, Bodemeister will certainly be in some of my exotics.

4) Gemologist 6-1

- Undefeated in five career starts. Improved speed figure in each of his five races. Held off Alpha down the stretch, pulling away toward the end to take the Wood Memorial. What's not to like about this horse? That is how deep of a field we are looking at this year, with an undefeated horse heading into the Derby, fourth on my list and will probably be third or fourth betting favorite come Derby day.

5) Dullahan 8-1

- Closer who comes off a big win over Hansen in the Blue Grass over the poly. Only speed figure in the 90's(98) coming from last race. Did finish 4th to Hansen, Union Rags and Creative Cause in the BC Juvenile over the dirt here at Churchill. There are some minor concerns with this horse but he has been improving with each race and could be peaking at the right time.

Don't Count Out...

El Padrino 20-1

- The horse no one is talking about. After his fourth place finish in the Florida Derby, many have written him off. Throw out the FL Derby and his resume looks like that of a legit Derby contender. Posted a triple speed figure at Gulfstream Park in an allowance race over a wet track and over the FL Derby winner, Take Charge Indy. Followed up that performance with a win in the G2 Risen Star. If it rains next Saturday in Louisville, watch out, as he is 2 for 2 over wet tracks in his career. Wet or dry, don't overlook El Padrino. For some reason I really like this horse and he could move into my top five as the week goes along.

Hansen 10-1

- I can't believe how far this horse has fallen after his defeat in the Blue Grass. It was disappointing to see him go straight to the lead and try to take his first race at the 1 1/8 distance wire to wire. If he tries that in the Derby, he is sure to fail. Would like to see him come from off the pace like he did in the Gotham and save something for the stretch. Looking like this horse just doesn't have the 10 furlong distance in him. Hansen, the winner of the BC Juvenile Classic and two-year-old champion you just don't write off, it's the Derby and anything can happen.

Rousing Sermon 50-1

- Closed out his two-year-old campaign with two second place finishes behind Liaison, at Hollywood Park in the Real Quiet and Cash Ball Futurity. Neither horse showed that same promise as three-year-old's as both horses rode their graded stakes earnings from the CB Futurity into the Derby. Rousing Sermon did manage to finish third in the Louisiana Derby which probably is why he gets a gate this coming Saturday. A closer who has posted not so good speed ratings has an outside shot as he did show some of that promise in his last race. He snuck into the derby and could sneak into some exotics if the race plays out in his favor.

I'll Have Another 12-1

- Winner of the Robert B. Lewis and Santa Anita Derby has vaulted up to the top of many lists. Proven he belongs as he beat Creative Cause by a nose last race out. Wouldn't be shocked if I'll Have Another comes in the money, but there are just that many others I like ahead of him.

Take Charge Indy 15-1

- Winner of the Florida Derby and I have him barely coming in my top 10. Has been game in all six of his lifetime starts. I just have a hard time seeing him get the distance if he takes off like he has in each of his two races as a three-year-old.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Derby Gates Almost Full After "WoW" Races in the Arkansas Derby & Blue Grass Stakes

Another weekend, another exciting day at the races. The last two major prep races on the 2012 Derby Trail, definitely did not disappoint on Saturday. The Gates for the Kentucky Derby are all but filled as there is one last "hail mary"(as I like to call it) race, know as the Lexington Stakes(G3) at Keeneland next weekend. There are plenty of horses on the outside of that Top 20, that are looking for that last ditch effort to sneak into the Derby. To date, there have only been 2 horses to have ever won the Derby after running in the Lexington Stakes(Charismatic 1999 & Swale 1984), so don't look for next weeks winner to have too much of an impact here in three weeks.

At Oaklawn Park, all eyes were on the M/L favorite, Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby. The talented, but lightly raced horse(no starts as a two-year-old) had one shot to make it to the Derby and secure enough cash to claim a gate. Wow, did he step up to the challenge by pulling away from the rest of the field to win by 9 lengths and vaulting himself into the conversation as one of the favorites for the Derby. A horse has not won the Derby without races on his resume as a two-year-old, since Apollo some 130 years ago. After that performance, many will be on the Bodemeister bandwagon come Derby Day, regardless of what history says.

In Lexington, KY the two-year-old champ was returning to run in the Blue Grass Stakes for the first time in 15 years. Whether it was Hansen, the first 12 race card in track history, the beautiful Spring weather or all of the above, the people came out. Keeneland absolutely demolished the single-day attendance record this past Saturday by almost 7,000 people. 40,617 showed up to the track to watch a card loaded with four graded stakes races, including the Blue Grass. Hansen and Dullhan certainly did not disappoint as they put on a show for the record crowd. Hansen tried to outrun the field and go wire to wire, but Dullahan picked off each horse one by one and ran down Hansen in the final furlong to pull off the upset in the Blue Grass. Both horses already had enough cash to go to the Derby before this race but, Dullahan has now made a case for himself as a legitimate contender, while if you still like Hansen you probably will get a pretty good price on him at the window.

Mystified Tickets Derby Super High 5(as of 4/15)
1) Union Rags
2) Creative Cause
3) Gemologist
4) Bodemeister
5) Dullahan

*Hit the exacta in the Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister and Secret Circle (that's why you always box as we had SC pegged to run forth). Bodemeister only new horse to jump into the top 20 this weekend. 

*Had the exacta in the Blue Grass dead on as we picked Dullahan to upset Hansen. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blue Grass Stakes(G1)/Arkansas Derby(G1)

It's hard to believe that we are already coming down to the last two, grade one stakes races on the 2012 Derby Trail. Many horses already have a gate waiting for them in Louisville, while others are on the bubble of the top 20 anticipating this coming Saturday to see how the rest of the field will play out. All eyes are going to be on Oaklawn Park and Keeneland this weekend.

The $1,000,000, 1 1/8 mile, Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park has a field of 11 set for this Saturday. Secret Circle and Sabercat already have enough graded earnings for a trip to Louisville, so those on the bubble would love to see these two finish 1-2. The nine others have other plans with an opportunity to jump into the Derby picture. Bodemeister, trained by Bob Baffert is the M/L favorite and needs to cash in here for a shot at the Derby.

Keeneland is heading into it's second weekend of racing in April and the $750,000, 1 1/8 mile, Blue Grass Stakes is set with a field of 13. Hansen, the M/L favorite will be making his last prep race before the Derby and will head into the Derby as one of the favorites if he is able to show he can go the distance. This is the first time in 15 years since the two-year-old champion has run in this race so the folks at Keeneland have something extra to be excited about this coming Saturday. It is supposed to be sunny and in the 70's in Lexington this weekend, which will make for a perfect day at the track.

Arkansas Derby(G1)
4/14 Oaklawn Park @ 5:45 CST

Bodemeister 6-5
Just beat out by Creative Cause in last months San Felipe(G2). Has the talent, but with no races as a two-year old under his belt, this is his one shot at the Derby.

Najjaar 15-1
Finished sixth here in the Rebel(G2) last month. Closer who has gained ground in each race, distance may be what this horse needs to show his talent.

Optimizer 30-1
Had a nice run in the Rebel and was closing fast on Secret Circle.

Secret Circle 5-2
Winner of the Rebel. Has the talent but does he have the distance.

Ex/Tri Bx: 11,3,7,5

Blue Grass Stakes(G1)
4/14 Keeneland @ 6:18 EST

Dullahan 6-1
Coming off a second place showing in the 1 1/8 mile Palm Beach(G3) last month on turf, so he can get the distance. Won the Breeders Futurity over this track back in the Fall. Finished fourth to Hansen in the BC Juvenile in only race run against each other, but was closing late.

Hansen 6-5
Two-year-old champion looks to show why he is the champ. Already has raced over the synthetic surface when he dominated the field at Turfway. A win here would make him one of the favorites for the Derby.

Ever So Lucky 12-1
Lightly raced, but has finished in the money all 3 starts. Had bullet 5f workout. The question with many of these three-year-olds this time of year is can he make the distance.

Prospective 15-1
Coming off a win in the Tampa Bay Derby(G2).

Ex/Tri Bx: 6,4,11,3

*Hit the exacta in the Santa Anita Derby as I'll Have Another barely beat Creative Cause. 

*Hit the exacta in the Wood Memorial as Gemologist held off Alpha down the stretch.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day @ Keeneland/Wood Memorial(G1)/Santa Anita Derby(G1)

This past weekend in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of experiencing history and watching the University of Kentucky Wildcats bring their 8th National Championship back to Lexington. In between games, on Sunday I hopped on I-10 and made the short trip over to the Fair Grounds Race Course to witness a different type of history. Hero of Order at 99/1 + odds decided to play spoiler on April Fools of all days, to take down the $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby. It was a surreal weekend to say the least and was well worth the trip. 

Back in Lexington, still riding high from the Cats first title in 14 years, what better to keep that high going than opening day of Keeneland. That's right it's Easter Weekend and the most prestigious track in the country opens tomorrow for racing. If you have never been to Keeneland, then you have no idea the aura this track has. It is one of those things in life that you just have to experience for yourself. Keeneland has many graded stakes races lined up, but the most anticipated race this Spring meet has to be the Blue Grass Stakes(G1). Hansen is making his next race on the synthetic surface and this will mark the first time since 1997 and Street Sense that the two-year-old champ ran in this race.

We are now less than one month away from that first Saturday in May and the three-year-olds are preparing for their final prep race before the Kentucky Derby. This weekend is locked and loaded with prep races all over the country. 

Out on the West Coast at Santa Anita Park is the 1 1/8 mile, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby. Creative Cause looks to continue his West Coast dominance in his last prep before making the trip to Louisville. This is a big race for I'll have Another, who is coming off a win in the Robert B. Lewis(G2). Currently sitting on the outside looking in on the 2012 Graded Earnings List, he needs to hit the board to guarantee a spot in the Derby. 

The East Coast's big prep race is the 1 1/8 mile, $1,000,000 Wood Memorial(G1) held at Aqueduct. Surprisingly, not one of the horses in this field of eight is currently in the top 20 in graded earnings. Although, Alpha, My Adonis and Gemologist are just outside, a finish in the money certainly would help their chances.

Also running is the 1 1/8 mile, $500,000 Illinois Derby(G3). This race is wide open as another horse looks to make the needed earnings. 

Santa Anita Derby(G1)
4/7 Santa Anita Park @  2:30 PST

Creative Cause 6-5
Considered the best out on the West Coast and could be one of the top three-year-olds in 2012. Just has to go out and prove it at 1 1/8 mile. 

Liaison 8-1
Cashball Futurity winner looks to regain last years form. Although he has yet to hit the board as a three-year-old, the distance may be what he needs. 

Midnight Transfer 10-1
Finished a competitive third to Creative Cause here at Santa Anita in the San Felipe(G2) last month. Looks like he might have more in the tank to go the distance.

I'll Have Another 5-2
Won the Robert B. Lewis(G2) on this track back in February.

EX/TRI BX: 1,2,8,4

Wood Memorial(G1)
4/7 Aqueduct @ 5:15 EST

Gemologist 8-5 
Undefeated in 4 life time starts. 

Alpha 5-2
2 for 2 as a three-year-old, not to mention both races were at Aqueduct. 

Street Life 4-1
Coming off back to back allowance wins over this track. 

My Adonis 8-1
Finished second to Hansen over this track in the Gotham(G3) last month. 

EX/TRI BX: 6,1,5,3

*Secret Circle padded his graded earnings by taking the Rebel Stakes(G2). Najjaar and Sabercat did not finish in the money.