Someone’s Dreaming of Roses in May!
CD R12 (Post 6:46 Eastern) The Kentucky Derby (Grade 1), 1 and 1/4 miles (10 furlongs)
Yes, it’s time for the Kentucky Derby again, and the prep season probably left all horseplayers and racing fans with more questions than answers. Minor injuries to Classic Empire and McCracken, Mastery’s retirement, Irap winning the Blue Grass as a maiden, Thunder Snow not committing to running in the Derby, and Girvin developing foot problems the week of the Kentucky Derby and training in bar shoes seem to give everybody in the field a chance. Here are my top six (in order):
1st – #5 Always Dreaming (5/1) 2nd – #14 Classic Empire (4/1) 3rd – #8 Hence (15/1)
4th – #13 J Boys Echo (25/1) 5th – #17 Irish War Cry (6/1) 6th – #15 McCraken (5/1)
There are several things I like about ALWAYS DREAMING. First of all he’s fast, and if you saw his Florida Derby he was very explosive and finished extremely well. He’s has three blow-out wins going two turns, but to show he is no a plodder he also put up a 96 Speed figure at Saratoga last August at the age of two. I also think it is notable that Dominick Schettino trained him at two – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s futility in getting a Kentucky Derby winner is well documented (1 out of 46), but the fact this horse wasn’t “Pletcherized” until very late in his 2yo year may have helped in his 2017 development, somewhat similar to how Arrogate did not race at two or in the Triple Crown for Bob Baffert.
CLASSIC EMPIRE has the best speed figure over the field, the 108 he earned in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. If he runs that number back, this race is over, BUT his two 2017 races only came back 92 (with a foot problem) and 96 (with significant traffic trouble). This horse had other good races at two and this is the race he is meant to peak, but I can understand why horseplayers would not have him in the top three.
HENCE is looking better and better to me all week. I think his trainer, Steve Asmussen, realizes now he “babied” Gun Runner in his pre-Derby preparation last year, and that left the horse unprepared for taking on Nyquist and Exaggerator. Here is Hence’s work tab since he got to Churchill Downs: April 10th 47.4, April 17th 1:00.2, April 24th 1:00 and May 1st 48.4. This horse hasn’t missed a beat. He also got a large speed figure from BRISnet for his Sunland Derby win, and if the track is wet he will handle it just fine – take a look at his maiden breaker in the slop.
J BOYS ECHO’s Gotham Stakes effort is good enough to win this, and in the Blue Grass Stakes he hung in there after getting knocked around at the start. At 25/1 he is an interesting play in the exotics. IRISH WAR CRY is arguably the “quality speed,” and I am glad he drew outside Fast and Accurate, who hopefully won’t get in the way when he starts to back up. I like that Graham Motion is very confident, training this horse in a very similar manner to Animal Kingdom’s pre-Derby preparation. McCRAKEN is a very consistent horse that needs to plain run faster to win. If he doesn’t put in a triple-digit BRISnet speed figure he’s off the board.
The Humana Distaff is a HUUUUUGE Sprint for the Mares!
CD R6 (Post 1:13 Eastern) The Humana Distaff (Grade 1), 7 Furlongs, F&M
1st – #5 Finest City (8/5) 2nd – #6 Lifestream (5/1) 3rd – #7 Carina Mia (2/1)
FINEST CITY is cross entered into the La Troienne on Friday (an 8.5 furlong, two-turn Grade 1 against fillies and mares), but I have heard she will run in this spot at her preferred 7 furlongs. She faces very tough opposition here but I think she is a deserving favorite. LIGHTSTREAM is 2 for 2 wins coming into a race fresh, and I am going to ignore that last race at Santa Anita – it just does not seem she was at her best that day. She has a great record at the distance (5-3-1-0) and I expect a top effort on Saturday. CARINA MIA is the quality speed and she is one year older, so she might be even better this year with more maturity. I just do not want to take only 2.1 to find out.
The Churchill Distaff Turf Mile is a Great Spot for the Turf Mares!
CD R7 (Post 1:55 Eastern) The Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Grade 2), 8 Furlongs – turf, F&M
1st – #1 Linda (5/1) 2nd – #2 Miss Temple City (9/5) 3rd – #3 Hillhouse High (10/1)
LINDA is a hard knocker that has never been out of the money on the turf (5-3-1-1) and I think the last race was meant to get her race fit for this race. I am expecting big things out of this Gal on Saturday. MISS TEMPLE CITY always barely wins or barely loses, she is a very logical winner but I do not think she is the type of mare to take a short price on. HILLHOUSE HIGH loves this distance (10-3-3-2) and if she can duplicate her last performance she’ll win again. It’s allso a good sign to have Javier Castellano in the irons on a price!
The Pat Day Mile is a Great Spot for the 3yo Males!
CD R8 (Post 2:45 Eastern) The Pat Day Mile (Grade 3), 8 Furlongs, 3yo
1st – #12 Bobby On Fleek (10/1) 2nd – #1 Local Hero (5/1) 3rd – #11 Sonic Mule (10/1)
BOBBY ON FLEEK and LOCAL HERO put in strong works this week with Kentucky Derby contenders Practical Joke and Hence, respectively, and also have good race records in their own right. It is not certain that “Bobby” wants a strongly-paced mile, but I think he can settle from his outside draw and make a run on the turn. Local Hero may have trouble getting away from the inside, which is why I made him my second selection. Sonic Mule is not a two-turn horse, but he’s never been off the board going one turn on the dirt (7-4-0-3).
The American Turf is a Great Spot for the 3yo Turf Males!
CD R9 (Post 3:37 Eastern) The American Turf (Grade 2), 8.5 Furlongs, 3yo
1st – #4 Oscar Performance (7/2) 2nd – #2 Big Score (6/1) 3rd – #10 Good Samaritan (5/1)
It’s time for OSCAR PERFORMANCE to put in that big run we know he can do second off the layoff and get the job done. BIG SCORE beat the top pick last time without having to run faster than his 2yo numbers. He may have more to give on Saturday. Good Samaritan was a dynamite two year old, just losing by 1.5 lengths to the top pick in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. If his trainer Bill Mott has him ready he can certainly win.
The Churchill Downs Stakes is Always a Top Quality Sprint!!
CD R10 (Post 4:28 Eastern) The Churchill Downs Stakes (Grade 2), 7 Furlongs, 4up
1st – #12 Denman’s Call (8/1) 2nd – #1 Awesome Slew (4/1)
3rd – #5 Clearly Now (6/1) 4th – #2 Masochistic (5/2)
Probably the first thing I will do on this race is box my top three in the exacta. DENMAN’S CALL put it all together in his last race (and earning a career top speed figure) to run by Masochistic, who appeared to be on the way to a good win. I like the outside draw in post 12 for Denman’s Call on Saturday, and I think Tyler Baze will be able to decide when to attack. AWESOME SLEW was quite awesome at Keeneland, but he needs to work out a trip from the rail. The extremely hot Joel Rosario has the mount. CLEARLY NOW looked like a new horse overwhelming restricted allowance company at Gulfstream. Today we will see if he can do it against real horses. MASOCHISTIC is the speed of the speed, he will take the field as far as he can.
The Turf Classic is Classic!!
CD R11 (Post 5:25 Eastern) The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (Grade 1), 1 and 1/8 Miles (9 Furlongs), 4up
1st – #4 Conquest Panthera (8/1) 2nd – #8 Beach Patrol (5/1)
3rd – #6 Bal a Bali (6/1) 4th – #9 Enterprising (12/1) 5th – Ballagh Rocks (10/1)
CONQUEST PANTHERA has been right there at a mile and maybe stretching out to 9 furlongs might do the trick. BEACH PATROL tends to run second a lot, but he has had time to mature and he could be a win threat. BAL A BALI is a Grade 1 winner at Santa Anita going a mile, his overall turf record is good and he keeps Javier Castellano. ENTERPRISING has been a world-beater in New Orleans, gets the acid class test today. BALLAGH ROCKS just got going too late in the Maker’s Mark Mile last time. He’s second off the layoff Saturday, and a little sharper rally could get him in the winner’s circle.