Friday, April 11, 2014

Blue Grass Stakes/Arkansas Derby

Only one more weekend to go and we can start piecing the Kentucky Derby puzzle together. The major Derby preps wrap up on Saturday with races at Keeneland and Oaklawn Park. Both preps offer 170 points and a potential starting gate in the Derby. Tapiture is the only three-year-old running this Saturday that has already secured enough points which makes these two races all that more intriguing.

The historical Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland drew a full field of 14 with one also-eligible. Harry's Holiday and Vinceremos both sit on the Derby bubble with 20 points. A first through fourth-place finish in here for either of these two colts would certainly give them enough points. Coastline sits in the 24th position with 13 points, Dance With Fate has 8 points and Casiguapo with 5. Those three will probably need to hit the board if they want to move on to Louisville. All others would need to claim one of the top two spots if they want a shot at the roses in a few weeks.

One could argue that the Blue Grass might just be the most prestigious Derby prep race out there. A total of 23 Derby winners have come from this race, with the last one being Street Sense in 2007 (the first and only to do so over the Keeneland Polytrack). The track is switching back over to dirt this coming summer. So, it shouldn't be long before the next Derby winner emerges from the Blue Grass again to join the likes of Whirlaway, Northern Dancer, Forward Pass, Spectacular Bid, Northern Dancer, Strike The Gold and Thunder Gulch. 

The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn is represented by Tapiture, who has already claimed a gate with 42 points. Ride On Curlin is currently sitting in 22nd place with 15 points and has to have a top four finish. Strong Mandate enters with 11 points and Commissioner with 10. Both need to hit the board if they want to be racing on the first Saturday in May.

The Lexington Stakes at Keeneland next Saturday is the only other  prep left and that is a hail mary attempt to get into the Derby with only 17 total points given out.

Blue Grass Stakes (G1) 1 1/8 m
4/12 Keeneland 5:45 EDT

13 Medal Count 9-2

After fading in the Fountain of Youth (G2) two starts back, came back in the Transylvania (G3) just last week with a victory over the Polytrack. Will be a tough task coming back within a week but the move he made turning for home in that race was pretty impressive. 

5 Bobby's Kitten 3-1

Has shown promise on the turf and will try to continue that success in his first start over the Polytrack. The always dangerous Kitten's Joy offspring will try to give the Ramsey's their first Blue Grass victory. 

14 Gala Award 5-1

Sold as a yearling for $1550K at the Keeneland September sale and shouldn't have a problem with the 1 1/8 miles. Won the Palm Beach (G3) at Gulfstream last month at this distance and is another that is making his first start over the Poly. 

11 Coastline 8-1

Returns to the track that he broke his maiden at as a two-year-old. Exiting a third-place finish by a neck at this distance in the Spiral (G3) at Turfway Park, which is also a Polytrack.  Likes the surface and tough to write off. 

$24 Blue Grass Bankroll

$0.50 TRI BX: 13, 5, 14, 11

$1 EX BX: 13, 5, 14, 11 

Arkansas Derby (G1) 1 1/8 m
4/12 Oaklawn Park 7:07 EDT

1 Bayern 9-5

The much anticipated stakes debut of Bayern, who Baffert has dubbed as the next Bodemeister. Has not raced since winning an allowance at Santa Anita by 15 lengths in February. If he can get the distance, just might be too fast for the rest of this field. 

6 Commissioner 8-1

Has proven that getting 1 1/8 miles will not be an issue. Flopped in the Fountain of Youth and came back in the Sunland Derby (G3) only to get third after stumbling out of the gate and losing a shoe.  Still unable to throw in the towel on this guy and he should hit the board here. 

3 Tapiture 9-5

Has not finished off the board in six lifetime starts, but the added distance may be stretching it for him. Should give another solid effort and it wouldn't be a surprise is he wins. 

$12 Arkansas Derby Bankroll

$2 TRI BX: 1, 6, 3 

*Hit the TRI in the SA Derby winning some of the bankroll back from last week. Did not have Wicked Strong in the Wood on my ticket. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April has arrived

The first Friday in April is finally here and so is the opening of the much anticipated Spring Meet at Keeneland located in Lexington, KY.

This will definitely be a unique meet for the historic race course as it will be the last time racing is run over the Polytrack. It was just announced this week that the track will change back over to dirt this summer, marking the end of an eight year run that Keeneland had with the all-weather surface. Hate it or love it, the switch should certainly bring the Bluegrass Stakes back from the dead.

It is hard to imagine that we are only one month away from the Derby and yet there is still no consensus on the Derby favorite. Top Billing and Honor Code were once at the top of lists but have since fallen off due to injury. Cairo Prince was the next to be dubbed the favorite after his performance in the Holy Bull (G2), but he came up short in the Florida Derby (G1) last week.  It looks to be California Chrome's turn following his impresive run in the San Felipe (G2). He will get a chance to cement himself as the leader if he can tackle the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday. Of course there is also the Wood Memorial (G1) being run at Aqueduct. If Samraat were to win again, it would be tough to not put him near the top heading into the Derby undefeated.

Wood Memorial (G1) 1 1/8m
4/5 Aqueduct 5:40 EDT

8 Samraat 7-2

Just keeps on winning. Carried 123 lbs. in the Gotham and that didn't stop him. Hard not to back this colt on his home track. 

11 Social Inclusion 2-1

Blew away Honor Code and an allowance field at Gulfstream Park last month and could be a monster. That being said, I need to wait until he shows he can repeat that performance on another track. Can he wire at Aqueduct going 1 1/8 miles?

4 Harpoon 8-1

Takes one last shot at the Derby and has been training well. Had trouble with his outside post last time and draws near the inside here. Don't count out the Pletcher colt. 

10 Uncle Sigh 5-1 

Continues to play second fiddle to Samraat. Had chances to beat him in the Withers and Gotham but couldn't. Don't see him turning the tables here but figures to be in the mix. 

$30 Wood Bankroll

$6 W: 8

$1 TRI BX: 8, 11, 4, 10 

Santa Anita Derby (G1) 1 1/8m
4/5 Santa Anita 6:30 EDT

3 Hoppertunity

After a difficult trip in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds he traveled to Oaklawn and won the Rebel (G2) in eventful fashion. This lightly-raced colt is still learning and continues to improve with each start.  If he pulls off the upset, the curse of Apollo will be the talk leading up to the Derby. 

5 California Chrome

One of the more seasoned three-year-olds on the Derby trail comes off a 7 1/4-length win in the San Felipe. The early Derby favorite for many will get a chance to prove himself going 1 1/8 miles.  

6 Candy Boy

Returns after an almost two-month layoff. Has been training well and should be in contention in the end. Will have to hit the board if he wants to make the trip to Louisville. 

$20 SA Derby Bankroll

$8 W: 3

$2 TRI BX: 3, 5, 6

*It has been a rough start to the year in trying to figure out these unpredictable three-year-olds. On to the Wood & SA Derby.