Thursday, May 15, 2014

139th Preakness

California Chrome proved to all the doubters that he is definitely the best three-year-old of his class at this point in his career, by taking down the 19-horse field in the Kentucky Derby just two short weeks ago. This time around a filly, two Derby contenders and six newcomers will attempt to take down the newest Classic winner. It's a different day and a different track, but California Chrome should continue his reign in Saturday's Preakness and run his consecutive winning streak to six. Three weeks from now, the Belmont may be a different story and a more daunting task than what this weekend poses.

Preakness Stakes
5/17 Pimlico @ 6:18 EST

California Chrome 3-5

Tough to try to bet against in here. Unless there is a major mishap at the break or he gets caught up in the speed duel up front, he will head into the Belmont as the next Triple Crown hopeful. In a class above the rest of the field and don't see any of the other contenders posing a threat. 

Ride On Curlin 10-1

Finished seventh in the Derby despite a difficult ride and not being able to find much running room in the large field. Gets a new rider and with almost half the field size, he should fair better this time out. The 1 3/16-mile distance will not pose a problem for the son of Curlin and like him to be second best on Saturday. 

Social Inclusion 5-1

Gave a nice effort in his graded stakes debut last time out in the Wood (G1). Making just his fourth career start so he figures to continue to improve and also enters in here rested. Posted a bullet work over the track earlier this week and has an outside shot to pull the upset.

*Another Derby and another top pick (Danza) finishes third. Tried to beat the heavy favorite and lost.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

140th Kentucky Derby Preview

One of the most anticipated weeks of the year has finally arrived. Another year and another shot for one horse to run into the history books of the Kentucky Derby. The fastest two minutes in sports, racing's holy grail, call it what you want, on Saturday one three-year-old will garner the bed of roses and get his moment of glory under the Twinspires. The draw is done and the odds are set, so it's time to try and piece together the 140th running of the most prestigious race in the "Sport of Kings".

Derby Hi-5

1) #4 Danza 8-1

One fact that is tough to ignore about this colt is he is the only horse entered that posted triple-digit BRIS Speed and Late Pace figures in his last prep race. Ran twice as a two-year-old last summer before taking off the rest of the year to recover from an injury. After finishing third and getting beat by 7 1/2 lengths in his three-year-old debut in a strong allowance race, he came back with an impressive performance in his first start around two turns in the Arkansas Derby (G1). This lightly-raced colt has raced at four different tracks in four lifetime starts, never finishing out of the money and could be peaking at the right time. Not real high on one individual horse this year, but Danza makes his way to the top of my list in the final days leading up to the Derby. 

2) #14 Intense Holiday 8-1

Son of Harlan's Holiday was always game last year as a two-year-old but could do no better than fourth after breaking his maiden. His sophomore campaign has been a different story though. He has not finished off the board in three starts this year and has improved his BRIS Speed rating with each race. Exits a disappointing stretch run in the Louisiana Derby (G2) but still got up for second and received a triple-digit Speed rating. Put in an impressive work over the track this week and another that has experience running at multiple venues. I look for him to make one powering move turning for home to try and hit the board or even pull off the win.

3) #5 California Chrome 5-2

Has the most starts of any other horse in the Derby and is entering in here on a four-race win streak. Been dominating the West Coast and will be the heavy favorite. Tough to knock a horse with that resume but going 1 1/4 miles is a different task and his pedigree doesn't exactly scream 10 furlongs.  Will include in some exotics but I can't back the odds that he will go off at considering he has never run outside California and the last time a Cal-bred won the Derby was 1962. Dating back to 2000, only three Derby winners did not have a triple-digit BRIS Late Pace rating in their final prep (Super Saver, Mine That Bird and Big Brown). Chrome had a 93 and 97 Late Pace figure in his last two starts.

4) #19 Ride On Curlin 15-1

After breaking his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths at Ellis Park back in July, jockey Calvin Borel told everyone that we would be seeing this colt on the first Saturday in May. Calvin's prediction proved correct and while he hasn't ridden him since a third-place finish in the Southwest (G3) in February, he jumps back aboard on Saturday. Have never been too high on this colt, but his run in the Arkansas Derby made me take notice. Only one of three in here that had a triple-digit BRIS Late Pace figure in his last prep. The son of Curlin has two races over the track and has only finished out of the money once in nine lifetime starts. Could definitely hit the board if Calvin and him can overcome post position 18. 

5) #12 Dance With Fate 20-1

Closer that should benefit from a fast pace upfront. Comes off back-to-back triple-digit Late Pace ratings over all-weather tracks but horses in the past have proven you can carry that form over to the dirt in the Derby with those type of figures. In his only two starts over dirt he finished runner-up in the FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita in September and was not a factor in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after getting squeezed back at the start. Tough to discount with his closing speed and the price that will come with him on Derby day.

Don't Count Out...

#20 Wicked Strong 6-1

Winner of the Wood Memorial (G1) is currently sitting just outside my top five. Has not run a run bad race in NY but in his two races outside the state he finished off the board. The outside post might be difficult to overcome but the son of Hard Spun, 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up, wouldn't surprise if he came charging late to finish in the money. 

#18 Candy Boy 15-1

Has the pedigree to go the distance and will likely be coming on late due to the outside post. Has posted mediocre Speed ratings and would certainly have to run the race of his young career on Saturday to hit the board. 

*The curse of Apollo will live another year as Hoppertunity was scratched two days before the big race.