Saturday, April 27, 2013

139th Kentucky Derby Preview

As Keeneland closes their gates to the Spring Meet, a track just an hour up the road prepares to open theirs up. It is always a down weekend in Lexington come the the end of April but fans can take solace that the Kentucky Derby is only week away. It sometimes seems like Derby Day will never come but it aways does just as October will be here before you know it for Keeneland's Fall Meet.

Well, the Derby preps are all but wrapped up, many of the horses are already on Churchill Downs' grounds and that first Saturday in May has almost arrived which means it is time to focus in on which of these three-year-olds are the legitimate contenders in this years 139th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Mystified Ticket's Derby Hi-5

1) Revolutionary

-Watching him come from near last at the top of the stretch to win the Withers got me on board. Followed up that performance with another come from behind win in the Louisiana Derby (G1) and posted a 105 BRIS Speed rating in the process. Has the pedigree to go the distance and definitely has shown he has the talent despite his goofy nature in the races. Tends to break slowly from the gate and seems to always find traffic but has emerged at the end despite these question marks. With Calvin Borel aboard trying to nab his fourth Derby in seven years, look for him to guide this immature but promising colt to stardom next Saturday. 

2) Normandy Invasion

-Just missed by a nose in the Remsen (G2), 1 3/4 lengths in the Risen Star (G2) and 3/4 lengths in the Wood Memorial (G1). Comes closing fast as he just missed catching the undefeated Verrazano in the Wood last time out. Might be due as he is still looking for his first stakes win. While history is against him since you have to go all the way back to November 2 to find his first and only win don't write him off your tix because he will be there in the end. 

3) Orb

-Enters the Derby on a four-race win streak which includes wins over Revolutionary in his maiden win to close out his two-year-old campaign, the talented Violence (recently injured) in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Itsmyluckyday (posted the top speed rating of any three-year-old so far) in the Florida Derby (G1). Is trained by the popular Shug McGaughey and has the red-hot jockey Joel Rosario aboard. Both are looking for their first Derby win and this colt is one that could take them to the winners circle under the twinspires. 

4) Verrazano

-Undefeated in four career starts will be the morning-line favorite. Took an optional claimer by 16 1/4 lengths in his second start, won both the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G1) along the way. But just like Bodemeister last year, he faces the curse of Apollo (1982) and looks to erase the 130 plus years of history as he tries to become only the second horse to win the Derby without a start as a two-year-old. Don't let history deter you from this guy as we saw last year that I'll Have Another made headlines by becoming the first Derby winner to break from the 19TH post. Figures to be in the mix and could easily be better than the rest but the classic distance might just be out of his reach and I see him getting beat at the wire. 

5) Oxbow

-Longshot that many have already written off after that abysmal performance in the Arkansas Derby (G1) even though he broke last and got dirt thrown in his face. Mark through that race and you have a Lukas horse who has been game in his starts against graded company as a three-year-old. Despite extremely wide trips in the Risen Star (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) he only got caught at the wire by a half-length and a head respectively. His only decent post draw came in the LeCome (G3) where he put away the field by an astounding 11 1/2 lengths. Has an ace up his sleeve in that he is only one of two in the Derby field that has a win over the Churchill Downs track. All eyes will be on this horse on Wednesday come the post draw. If he gets a decent post position include him in your exotics because he is bred to run all day, will be up on the lead, if not the lead and will be there in the end with a good price on his head. 

Don't Count Out...


-Will certainly be one of the favorites after his win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Enters the Derby with the highest last race BRIS Speed rating and is one that will contend if he can control his speed. Questions surround this colt about who he has beaten and will he be able to go the 1 1/4-mile distance. 


-Winner of the Arkansas Derby (G1) that is flying under the radar entering the Derby. Posted a 104 BRIS Speed rating as winner of the Remsen (G1) back in November. Did not run as a three-year-old until March where he finished fifth in the Gotham (G3). With only two starts in 2013 he could be peaking at right time but needs to return to his Remsen form to have a shot because he posted speed figures that are well below par in his last two races. 

Palace Malace

-Had to add this son of Curlin who looks more and more intriguing and will jump in final rankings if he draws well on Wednesday. Has hit the board in five of six starts and you can throw out his Louisiana Derby due to the pitiful trip he had to endure. Gets blinkers for the first time and might just be a sleeper in the race. 


-Posted the top speed figure (111) of any of the three-year-olds this year but he got run down in the stretch of the Florida Derby (G1) by Orb. Like many of the others entered in the Derby, there are questions if he will be able to get the distance. 

Java's War

-Winner of the Bluegrass Stakes (G1) likes to come from the back of the pack. His preference is the Polytrack as he finished sixth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in his only start over the Churchill track but Dullahan (winner of last year's BG) hit the the board in the Derby last year. His speed figures are also well below par entering the Derby and his slow break from the gate could be his undoing in a field this large.

*Govenor Charlie 

-Lightly-raced son of Midnight Lute exits off an impressive five-length victory in the Sunland Derby (G3). Like Verrazano, will have to overcome history and the curse of Apollo since he did not run as a two-year-old. Currently the lone Baffert horse entered in the Derby will certainly be a wildcard. Did not have any competition in the Sunland but if he continues to improve in his fourth start who knows what will happen. Dealing with a foot issue so will be interesting to see how he works out leading up to the race.

*Not likely to run. Looks like Baffert might be without a Derby horse this year

-Check back at the end of the week to see my final Derby rankings after the post position draw and morning-line odds are set....

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Closing out the "Championship Series"

The Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn and the Bluegrass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland close out the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series" this Saturday as the horses scramble to earn enough points to load the gate in the Derby. On paper the 10-horse field in the Arkansas Derby looks predictable while the full field of 14 in the Bluegrass is anyone's guess.

Oxbow already has 36 points to his name and is most likely already in the Derby but he can't seem to catch a break after drawing another outside post in the Arkansas Derby. The one to beat as his pedigree suggests he can run all day. Veteran jockey Gary Stephens is aboard this promising colt for the first time and Lukas hopes he can keep him from making another premature move to the front. Den's Legacy has hit the board in all but two of his eleven starts and figures to contend. He needs to hit the board one more time if he wants to make the trip to Louisville since he is currently sitting on only 20 points. Bob Baffert brings optional claiming winner War Academy to Oaklawn to attempt to snag Derby points.

The Bluegrass is a jumbled mess as Uncaptured is one of the two graded stakes winners entered. That was back in November in the KY Jockey Club (G2) and the rest of that field has been anything but impressive. Rydilluc is the other graded stakes winner in here but that was over the grass in the Palm Beach (G3) and has posted below average speed figures. Dynamic Sky and Java's War return to the track for the first time since their second and third place finishes respectively in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) over the Keeneland Polytrack last Fall. Pletcher brings Palace Malace back to the races in a desperate attempt to round up points at the last minute following a disastrous trip in the Louisiana Derby (G1) just two weeks ago.

Arkansas Derby (G1)

4/13 6:28 EST
Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/8m

10 Oxbow 5-2
In a class above the rest here. No excuse if he doesn't put this one away regardless of the post position.

5 Den's Legacy 6-1
Finished third in the Rebel (G2) over this track last out and figures to be there in the end. Not good enough to take down Oxbow but always finds a way to hit the board. 

2 War Academy 2-1
Not sure why he is the morning-line favorite since he finished fourth in his only graded start in the San Vicente (G2). Nice win last time out is making first start outside California. 

9 Overanalyze 4-1
Looking to regain form he showed by winning the Remsen (G1) in November. Could improve in his second start as a three-year-old.

Ex/Tri Bx: 10,5,2,9

Bluegrass Stakes (G1)
4/13 5:40 EST
Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/8m

5 Palace Malace 8-1
Would not be entered here if Pletcher didn't think he would contend. Don't like taking horses that have never run on the Poly but this time last week Emollient proved it didn't matter if you are just better than the rest. Has the talent to emerge from this deep field as long as he doesn't encounter another terrible trip. 
13 Rydilluc 4-1
Lightly raced colt has won his last three over the turf. Turf to Poly usually is not issue and should finish with a good closing kick. 

7 Uncaptured 7-2
Runner-up in the Spiral (G3) over the Turfway Park Poly last out, figures to be in the mix. 

4 Java's War 4-1
Runner-up to Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) makes his second start over the Poly. 

Ex/Tri Bx: 5,13,7,4

*Had the exacta in the Wood as Verrazano pulled off the win and Normandy Invasion was a closing second. 
*Flashback was second and is off the derby trail. Tiz A Minister came in fourth but was not in the picture. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Keeneland/Wood/Santa Anita


In Lexington, it might be hard to find someone who thinks the first Friday/Saturday in April isn't as prevalent as the first Saturday in May. April has finally arrived and Keeneland will open it's gates for four weeks of racing tomorrow. If you haven't been to Keeneland before then you will not begin to comprehend the logic behind the prestige that this track carries. Opening Saturday brings patrons the Ashland Stakes (G1) for three-year-old fillies, while the following Saturday is the Bluegrass Stakes (G1) for derby hopefuls. Now only if they would rip up that Polytrack and go back to conventional dirt....

Last weekend we saw a talented horse named Revolutionary take down the Louisiana Derby in order to punch his ticket to the Derby. This Saturday, Normandy Invasion is going to need to pull off the upset over one of the two unbeatens, Verrazano and Vyjack, in the Wood Memorial (G1) to claim one of the 20 starting spots. 

Over on the West Coast, Hear the Ghost is the only one heading into the Santa Anita Derby (G1) without any pressure. Flashback and Goldencents are currently on the edge of the fence with 30 and 29 points respectively and certainly can't afford to throw in a clunker if they want to make the trip to Louisville. These top three will have to hold off the late charging Tiz a Minister who came from way back in the San Felipe (G2) to capture third and is looking to crash the Derby party. 

Wood Memorial (G1)
4/6 6:28 EST
Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/8m

2 Normandy Invasion 5-1
Was off slow in the in the Risen Star (G2) but ran out of track and still managed to finish only 1 1/2 lengths back in fifth. The added distance will allow him to pull off the upset just before the wire and secure a spot in the Derby field. 

8 Verrazano 4-5
Looked superb in his three starts but who has he beaten. Will be the heavy favorite but this lightly-raced colt can be upset here. 

5 Vyjack 4-1
Impressive come from behind victory in the Gotham (G3) was flying down the stretch. Can't overlook as a possible winner. 

4 Elnaawi 12-1
Third in the Gotham last time. One that keeps improving and certainly can't be dismissed. 

Ex/Tri Bx: 2,8,5,4

Santa Anita Derby (G1)
4/6 Santa Anita 7:00 EST
Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/8m

4 Tiz a Minister 
Likes to come from far back and there is pace in here to track. We find out just how good he might be as he has hit the board when put to the test outside state-breds. Will hit the board but I like him to run down the field at the end to upset. 

1 Flashback
If he gets caught up in another speed duel you might as well count him out. If he can sit mid-pack and come from off the pace breaking from post 1 then he has no excuse this time and could be the one to emerge. 

3 Power Broker
With Hear the Ghost suddenly off the Derby trail, he becomes even more interesting. Making first start since his disappointing trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. 

Ex/Tri Bx: 4,1,3
*Hear the Ghost off the Derby Trail...

*Revolutionary booked a ticket to the Derby by taking the Louisiana Derby. Code West didn't fire, while Palace Malice couldn't have had a worse trip. 
*Hit the exacta in the Florida Derby as Orb was impressive and Itsmyluckyday was in perfect position but just got beat. Looks like Itsmyluckyday might have problems with the distance.