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Derby Trail Trifecta 4.8.23
Three races on tap for the final big prep day of 2023
(Updated 3:03PM for the scratch at Santa Anita)
With all due respect to the Lexington Stakes next weekend - for all intents and purposes this is the last hurrah for the Derby Preps.
And as important as this weekend is, Forte’s win in the Florida Derby and likely huge favoritism in Derby 149 is as big a story as what these preps show us Saturday.
The final Kentucky Derby future pool came and went over the weekend and well - we whiffed. Missed the deadline for getting in a few bets. Would have loved to grab Angel of Empire at 29-1 or Disarm at 33-1. Even Slip Mahoney at 99-1.
The public once again hammered Forte - if you bet him in this pool you’ll get $7.78 for every $2 wagered if he wins.
That will be the story of this Derby - are you willing to take a stand against what might be the biggest Derby favorite of our lifetime?
We have four weeks to figure that out.
Three races this week so let’s jump right in- with help from Mohegan Sun’s Brad “Bomber” Bryant.
The Bluegrass Stakes (5:15 EST; NBC COVERAGE 4PM EST)
Team Todd Pletcher shows off another Derby contender when Tapit Trice (#1) lines up as the favorite in the Blue Grass. In fact Pletcher trains the top three favorites in the final Derby pool listed above. Strong hand in a three-year-old crop that has not looked all that scary this spring.
Tapit Trice is a good horse. He doesn’t have a lot to prove here as far as his talent goes. Hell, make him the favorite for the Belmont Stakes right now!
Is he a great horse? We’ll see.
His competition on the other hand…some questions to answer as far as their actual talent level goes.
Verifying (#3) could end up the favorite. Second in the Champagne last year, he ran a fast race in his 2023 debut, then did not fire as the favorite in the slop in the Rebel. Was that fast race his ceiling? Was the wet track the issue in the last? Traffic issues to blame? Like I said questions.
Even bigger questions for Blazing Sevens (#8). He had a strong two-year-old campaign then did no running in the Fountain of Youth. Super Trainer Chad Brown adds blinkers for a horse that ran too poorly to believe last time. What happened? Did he not go forward from two to three? Blinkers the answer?
NYRA’s Andy Serling pushed Raise Cain (#10) at 23-1 on Gotham Day. Nice call. Came home strongly in a race where we had a loose horse. Closers 1-2 in that race. He improved his Beyer figure by nine points in that win. Was that the set-up? The muddy track?
And why does his trainer Ben Colebrook come here rather than stay in NY for the Wood Memorial - when Colebrook also has Scoobie Quando (#6). Scoobie Quando ran a good race last time - had some traffic issues and still ran second - but that was on synthetic. Bullet work at Keeneland … Uncle Mo on top…if he was really good would Colebrook enter another in here?
Sun Thunder (#7) is coming out of a race where he had no shot given the pace. He needs things to pick up early to set up his late kick. He didn’t get it. I think there is talent here but like the favorite in this race - needs a set up and to avoid traffic.
Like I said a lot of questions for this group after the ML favorite.
Major Blue (#9) might hold the key to this whole puzzle. He is going to the front based on the pace figures. His trainer is not afraid of letting his horses use their speed. If they go, that should allow Verifying to have a target and get first run on the closers.
Hoping the real Sun Thunder show up late.
3-1 Verifying (#3)
5/2 Tapit Trice (#1)
10-1 Sun Thunder (#7)
6-1 Blazing Sevens (#8)
Back again for a pair of these races…BOMBER BRAD. And I kinda like his bomb here.
#6 Scoobie Quando (15-1)
Scratched from the Jeff Ruby for this spot. Fantastic work one week ago.
The Santa Anita Derby (5:43 EST; NBC COVERAGE 4PM EST)
I just can’t pick the favorite in here Practical Move (#5).
Maybe he’s the goods. Has a 100 Beyer speed figure - a rarity in this three-year-old crop. He gets a field where half could win and half could finish 30 lengths back.
But then you watch his last two races. Small field in the Los Al where he sat off and got a sweet rail run late. Then in the San Felipe same sort of deal - top of the lane the rail just opens up for him and he gets the sweetest trip of all time.
A horse he keeps beating in Fort Bragg went to Florida and faded to fifth in the Florida Derby after setting the pace. Don’t think the West Coast has much this season.
All of this and 8/5 on the line? No thanks.
Tim Yakteen has always trained this one. National Treasure (#6) is listed under Yakteen but is another of these former Bob Baffert horses. Hard for me to bet - even with the fast races and Johnny V aboard. One who could win but my bias against these former Bafferts is strong.
Skinner (#7) is slow early. But he’s going to make his run late. I just don’t see the pace heating up enough for him to win but he’s coming.
Manadrin Hero (#8) has the buzz of being the first Japanese horse to run in the Santa Anita Derby. Breaks slow and had a super slow workout this week. Japan is winning everything but pass for me….well if he takes a ton of money it might be a sign he’s legit we’ll see.
That leaves me with Geaux Rocket Ride (#3). Stretched out in the San Felipe and sent off at 5/2 fresh from his maiden win. Was sitting just off the lead with a horse to his outside most of the race. When the rail opened for Practical Move this guy got pushed out a bit - then ducked over to the rail.
From there most horses making their second career starts would probably call it a day. But this guy seemed to reengage in the lane and ended up holding second. I thought it was pretty impressive.
Nice work since. Might be able to set the pace today rather than chase. I think there is something here. At 3-1 or so I have to pick and bet.
Wish I had a fun longshot here but the rest of the group looks SLOW. I guess the rail horse I Don’t Get It (#1) for a piece late if I had to pick one of the slow ones.
3-1 Geaux Rocket Ride (#3)
4-1 Skinner (#7)
8/5 Practical Move (#5)
3-1 National Treasure. (#6)
EDIT 3PM …So my top pick and best idea is out. Will not have a bet on this race now. One in Vermillion (#4) can get the lead if he wants it. Doubt Yakteen wants to fire off with National Treasure. Yeah, no bet for me.
Let me know who you’re betting in the comments below or on Twitter @MikeMutnansky
The Wood Memorial (615 EST; FS 1)
As someone who loves Aqueduct and has donated hundred of hours and thousands of dollars to the New York racing product - I hate seeing the Wood Memorial become an afterthought. But that’s what it is.
Todd Pletcher and Brad Cox are sending their backups and maidens here at this point.
Cox has the favorite in Hit Show (#13). Three for four lifetime…easy work in the Withers…but woof that post position. Have to be real good to win from there. Maybe he will be?
We picked and bet Slip Mahoney (#5) in the Gotham. I thought he was going to the front. Instead he was taken way back, made a big move but was second to the aforementioned Raise Cane.
Al Gold his owner noted the trip this week.
“We weren't expecting him to break that badly and be so far behind the field,” Gold recalled. “Hopefully, this time we break sharper and stay with the field and he makes a good account for himself. He did run well and pass all except the winner from the top of the lane home. He's training well and we expect good things from him.”
I take that as “We’re changing jockeys and we’re not going to be that far back.” As a handicapper that’s what I’m hoping here. This horse just missed two back against Tapit Trice. He’s run well at Aqueduct. And in a big field I think he’ll be a square price.
The field is so “meh” that a maiden is 7/2. Dreamlike (#1) is the son of the great Gun Runner. Hung pretty badly last time so they add blinkers. Owner Mike Repole has put a shitload of money into the game so good for him taking a shot here. His Timeform 110 puts him squarely in the mix even as a maiden.
The other for Repole- Crupi (#9) - has one fast race but will be coming late.
Artic Arrogance (#7) might get a good trip here. Has speed. They missed the Gotham when he got sick so the plan was going to be cut back to the 7F Bay Shore. Instead they end up here trying to get enough points to go to the Derby.
Blinkers off here - and according to trainer Linda Rice they’ve been off for the most recent works.
The replay makes Classic Catch (#11) interesting. Big lunge at the break. In traffic. Came running late. A move forward and he might be right there.
In the end the favorite Hit Show is the clear horse to beat. Will be an “A” on my late Pick 5 tickets. But at 6-1 I have to go back to a horse who should get a better trip than last and will be a fair price. The “other” Brad Cox for me.
6-1 Slip Mahoney (#5)
5/2 Hit Show (#13)
7/2 Dreamlike (#1)
6-1 Artic Arrogance (#7)
Bomber Brad’s Take
#10 Uncle Jake (20-1)
Give me an Uncle Mo colt at this price anytime! Great work on 3/31. Leary of jumping on winners first time.
Big day. Safe trips for all.
Let me know who you’re betting in the comments below or on Twitter @MikeMutnansky
We send it out with my last Wood Memorial winner.