Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we get another day closer to the best weekend of Kentucky Derby preps.
Obviously, everyone is waiting for Saturday’s $1-million Santa Anita Derby. One of the storylines as we head into the final preps is that an unraced 2-year-old, such as Justify, has not won the Kentucky Derby since 1882. We have a story that looks at why that may be and why that distinction may be a thing of the past. Give it a read. (Just click here)
Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10
Jon White’s popular Kentucky Derby Top 10 is here on its usual Friday. Lots of changes, so Jon, the floor is yours:
“Last week’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 stayed the same from the week before. But that certainly is not the case this week.
“To begin with, McKinzie is off the Top 10 because he is out of this Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby and the May 5 Kentucky Derby due to a minor injury to a hind leg (specifically a hock). He had been ranked No. 1 every week this year.
“And then there was Mendelssohn’s victory last Saturday in the $2-million UAE Derby at Meydan in Dubai. That electrifying performance has propelled the talented colt onto this week’s Kentucky Derby Top 10.
“Racing on dirt and farther than a mile for the first time, Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby by 18 1/2 lengths. The $3-million yearling purchase completed 1,900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) in 1:55.19 to break the track record.
“Mendelssohn’s UAE Derby tour de force unquestionably establishes him as a serious Kentucky Derby contender. But something to keep in mind is no horse to have started in the UAE Derby has ever finished first, second, third or fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Master of Hounds has done the best. He ran second in the 2011 UAE Derby, then finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
“Notwithstanding the poor record in the Kentucky Derby by UAE Derby starters, there certainly is much to like about Mendelssohn. He already has won an important race in the United States, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last year.
“Mendelssohn also has a great trainer in Aidan O’Brien. When O’Brien won 26 grade/group one races last year, he broke the world record of 25 set by Bobby Frankel in 2003.
“And then there is Mendelssohn’s marvelous pedigree. The Scat Daddy colt is a half-brother to both Beholder, a four-time Eclipse Award winner, and the very successful sire Into Mischief.
“Speaking of Into Mischief, his son Audible won last Saturday’s $1-million Florida Derby by a convincing three lengths. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Audible will be taking a four-race winning streak into the May 5 Kentucky Derby.
“With McKinzie now out of commission, his trainer, Bob Baffert, decided to keep Justify home and run him in Saturday’s $1-million Santa Anita Derby instead of shipping him to Oaklawn Park for the $1-million Arkansas Derby on April 14. Justify is undefeated and untested in two starts. In the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, Justify will be making his stakes debut and going farther than a mile for the first time against an exceptional equine athlete in Bolt d’Oro.
“I had a very difficult decision as to whether make Justify or Bolt d’Oro the Santa Anita Derby morning-line favorite. But Justify has won his two races so effortlessly and has so much hype that my gut tells me he probably is going be the favorite when they break from the starting gate. I think there is a good chance he will be odds-on. Consequently, I made him 4-5 on the morning line with Bolt d’Oro at 6-5.
“There is no question that Bolt d’Oro is going to get tremendous support in the betting as well. He certainly could end up being the favorite. That wouldn’t surprise me. He ran such a terrific race in the San Felipe Stakes. It was an outstanding training job on the part of Mick Ruis to have Bolt d’Oro ready to run the race that he did in the San Felipe to finish a close second before being moved up to first through the stewards’ disqualification of McKinzie.
“One of the reasons I made Justify the morning-line favorite is he was backed to favoritism in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool on March 11, the day after Bolt d’Oro’s race in the San Felipe. I thought another clue could be that Justify currently is the 6-1 favorite in Kentucky Derby future book wagering at the Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas, with Bolt d’Oro and Audible each at 8-1. The odds in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager and at the Wynn carry a lot of weight with me because in both cases, people are actually betting money.
“Will Justify win the Santa Anita Derby to justify the hype? Will the more experienced and battle-tested Bolt d’Oro prevail and head to Louisville with just one loss in his career? Can Instilled Regard rebound from his disappointing loss as the favorite in the Risen Star Stakes in Louisiana to get the job done in the Santa Anita Derby by defeating the ‘big two.’ Or will someone else step up and pull off an upset? The answers to these questions will be determined Saturday at Santa Anita.
“Meanwhile, there are two other important stakes races Saturday for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Good Magic, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and voted an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male of 2017, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in Keeneland’s $1-million Blue Grass Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. Enticed is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in Aqueduct’s $750,000 Wood Memorial at the same distance.”
Here are this week’s rankings:
1. Justify (3)
2. Bolt d’Oro (2)
3. Mendelssohn (NR)
4. Audible (5)
5. Magnum Moon (6)
6. Good Magic (4)
7. Solomini (7)
8. Quip (9)
9. Enticed (10)
10. Instilled Regard (NR)
Note: Last week’s ranking in parentheses
Santa Anita review
Speakers, at 7-1, pulled a last-to-first upset in Thursday’s 1 mile on the turf allowance for Cal breds. Speakers, of late, has been alternating good and bad races, and she finished eighth in her last race. She won by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths.
She paid $17.60, $7.40 and $6.20 for trainer Paddy Gallagher and jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
My Aunt Tillie edged out Almost Reality for third.
“When she’s able to drop back like that, she relaxes and she runs so much better,” Gallagher told Mike Willman of Santa Anita. “If she’s in a pack of horses closer to the pace, she seems to fight the jock and it takes the run out of her.”
Santa Anita preview
Friday’s eight-race card is interesting in an eclectic way. Half the card is on the turf, half the races are for maidens, half the card has purses in excess of $50,000, and half the card is for fillies and mares (OK, that’s only fair.)
The feature, I think, is the third, an allowance/optional claimer for 3-year-olds down the hillside course. Or it could be the eighth, 1 1/8 miles on the turf for maidens.
But the first race is interesting in that it’s a mile on the turf with nine horses, and four of them are eligible for the ship and win program. There is Jazaalah (post 2), Feeling the Heat (5), Meal Ticket (6) and Dhafeera (9).
And don’t forget Saturday has 13 races starting at 11:30 a.m.
Bob Ike’s SA play of the day
THIRD RACE: No. 7 Move Over (3-1)
Sophomore colt from the John Sadler stable had a very tough trip before finishing far behind talented winner River Boyne when going long last time. Now shortening up over the downhill turf course where he ran a good second in his U.S. debut, look for him to snap back with a top effort as the third betting choice on the morning line.
Thursday Result: Boy Howdy got a great trip but lacked any punch through the final 100 yards and wound up fifth in the first race.
Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of Horsebills.com (here’s a video) and the proprietor of BobIkePicks.com (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).
Los Alamitos weekend preview
This weekly segment is in the hands of Orlando Gutierrez, marketing and media maven at Los Al. So, the floor is yours, Orlando:
“Los Alamitos saw a record pool for a Friday night in its early pick four of $186,131. The pool was nearly $18,000 more than the previous Friday record, which was set on Feb. 2. There are seven races tonight, meaning the pick fours will start in the first and fourth races. There is a pick 6 carryover of $5,013, which should yield a total pool of around $20,000. First post is 7 p.m.
“The seventh race is an allowance with an $11,025 purse. Versatile stakes winner Maggie Durant will head the field. The mare has won at 400, 330, and 100 yards at Los Alamitos. Walk Around Blues and One Sweet Runner, recent allowance winners here, are among the other top contenders in this 330-yard dash.
“The $18,000 Mini Rock Handicap for mares and the first race for 2-year-olds of the season are the features on Saturday’s eight-race card. Designs by Dynasty, winner of the Terrific Energy Handicap on March 3, and Strawfinders Jessee, who won the Denim N Diamonds Handicap on Feb. 17, are among the top contenders. Designs by Dynasty is a perfect two for two in 2018.
“Jess Hawk, second in the Terrific Energy, is another top mare in this race. She finished third against males in the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Feb. 11. Jesus Nunez, the track’s leading thoroughbred trainer in 2017, is now training quarter horses for EG High Desert Farms and will saddle Jess Hawk. EG High Desert Farms was the meet’s second-leading quarter horse owner last year.
“Led by Conquering Marie, eight runners will go in the meet’s first race for 2-year-olds. The 300-yard dash is the seventh race. Conquering Marie had the fastest of 49 works on March 20 and the eighth-fastest of 23 drills on March 6. The filly improved nicely from her first to the next work, traveling 220 yards in 12.20 after working in 12.50 in her first drill.
“Starting today, Los Alamitos will have a Friday Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. at Rodney’s Bar on the main grandstand floor with $2 hot dogs and $2 beers.”
Ed Burgart’s L.A. play of the day
THIRD RACE: No. 4 Hedoesitinstyle (2-1)
He deserves another chance after breaking slow in last pair. He had plenty of run in the tank while blocked along the inside during the final 1/8 two outs ago and makes his second start for high percentage owner/trainer connections of Juan De Dios Gracian and Jesus Nunez. He lands apprentice rider Kellie McDaid, who is adept at getting horses to break well. She is winning at a 25% clip.
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And now the stars of the show, Thursday’s results and Friday’s entries.