Busy Saturday afternoon for Derby Points at three tracks from around The States. It looks like a pair of very competitive ones, and one not so much, and that one will kick the action off.
Surprisingly, the first Kentucky Derby Points Race will go at Santa Anita even though it has the latest first post time. Only five were attracted for the $150k Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis, going a mile and sixteenth as the 2nd race at 2pm MST. There aren’t any superstars in the bunch, and it is basically a non-winners of two allowance. ROYAL MO drew the rail and should be the horse to beat. He hasn’t run a bad race to date, and comes into his first stakes foray off of his maiden score. That win came in his first test at a mile, but it’s his versatility that is most appealing. ROYAL MO came from dead last two starts back to get up for 2nd after spotting the field lengths getting away slowly. He then got right to the front and never looked back in his latest, and may now be coming into his own. Trainer John Shirreffs is known to not rush his young horses, and it can pay off down the line. Now may be the time for ROYAL MO. IRAP is still a maiden, and is one of three from the Doug O’Neill barn. While still a maiden he is stakes placed, but hasn’t put much of a scare into any one of yet. Let’s see a win before getting behind him with stakes company. DANGERFIELD has finished 3rd in his last two, both graded stakes, but well behind the winner both times. And was well behind IRAP in the Los Al Futurity. This will be his three year old debut which he has been training forwardly for. TERM OF ART is the lone horse in this field with two wins to his credit. He scored for the second time in the off the turf Cecil B. Demille Stakes, and now will shed the blinkers for the first time in his career. Well behind two of the leading California horses in this division in The Sham, but is certainly the best of the O’Neill three in this one. SHEER FLATTERY handled his first try around two turns professionally, hanging on by a nose to break his maiden. Has to be looked at as a contender in this bunch as well.
1. ROYAL MO – 4. TERM OF ART – 5. SHEER FLATTERY
Moving to Aqueduct in New York the Grade 3 Withers goes at 2:20pm MST. A nice field of 10 has lined up trying to take down the $250k purse. The race starts with EL AREEB who romped in the local prep The Jerome. It was a muddy track that day, and he sure seemed to love it drawing off to win by more than 11. EL AREEB did get some generous middle fractions while racing on the front end in his first route and managed to take full advantage. Installed at 6/5 on the morning line, he should face more pressure this time, and will most likely be way over bet. There should be value elsewhere over a loose on the lead, sloppy track winner. APARTFROMTHECROWD can fit that value description, as can FILLET OF SOLE. APARTFROMTHECROWD goes for the Chad Brown and comes into this one off of a maiden score which was visually impressive. He was a little headstrong early in the race before settling into stride down the backside. He sat behind the leading group, and when he found room in the stretch he pulled away smartly. It looks like the light bulb has gone on for APARTFROMTHECROWD and he could make a stakes splash in this one. FILLET OF SOLE ships back to the Empire State after taking his talents to Parx to break his maiden. He has been off since that race in November, but that isn’t much of a worry with Todd Pletcher calling the plays. He is a late running type, and should get some speed to try and run down in this one. Stuck on the outside of the field of 10 is J BOYS ECHO. He hasn’t been seen since he had an interesting trip in the Delta Jackpot. He was saddled with an outside post there as well, but was rushed to the lead, then dropped back before making another run late to get up for 4th. He has win rider back aboard who may have a better feel for him. SMALL BEAR is listed at 30-1 on the morning line, but has a chance to outrun those odds. He has come home a winner in his last two starts, and while he may need to speed up, he should get an honest enough pace to try and run into. SMALL BEAR is one to look at for a slice in the exotics.
Let’s sum the race up like this, EL AREEB is the most likely winner but is a very strong bet against based off of his last win where everything went his way. It is probably not going to happen again – and if it does, he will be less than even money and not worth worrying about. Let’s take a shot with the quickly improving APARTFROMTHECROWD who should be at least 4-1 when the gates are sprung.
#2 APARTOFTHECROWD – #4 EL AREEB – #6 FILLET OF SOLE
On to Gulfstream Park where they have the Grade 2 Holy Bull going as race 12 at 3:35pm MST. All the attention will be on CLASSIC EMPIRE following his score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile back in November. He kept his streak alive of not letting another horse to the wire before him – don’t forget he suffered his only defeat after wheeling at the start and unseating his rider. As of now, he is the prohibitive favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but a lot can change before the first Saturday in May. CLASSIC EMPIRE appears to have been training forwardly getting ready for his three year old debut and should be a short price today. GUNNERVERA looks to be the most logical ‘other’ contender with a chance to knock him off. He is the only other graded winner in the field, and he has two of those to his credit. GUNNERVERA got a good setup when winning the Delta Jackpot after a quick half mile, and was able to rally from the back of the pack. Each of his five furlong drills for the comeback have been quick, right around a minute each time and with three bullets to his credit. TALK LOGISTICS is interesting in this field. He broke his maiden at first asking in July, and has come back to run in the money twice in listed stakes events. He has improved with each trip to the post, and it looks like the added ground should help his cause. IRISH WAR CRY is unbeaten through two starts, both at Laurel. He adds Lasix for his fire foray into stakes company, and around two turns. He hails from a barn that hits at high percentages with both of those moves, so he needs to be respects – having Rosario in the irons doesn’t hurt either. FACT FINDING is another who is unbeaten and will be sent out from the Pletcher herd. He broke his maiden easily sprinting before blasting an allowance non two field at Keeneland. FACT FINDING then stretched out to a mile and easily won the $75k Smooth Air at Gulfstream by seven lengths. He did defeat Fillet of Sole in his debut, so have a look how he runs at Aqueduct to maybe get a gauge. Either way, this runner still could be any type.
#3 CLASSIC EMPIRE – #5 IRISH WAR CRY – #6 FACT FINDING
Make sure to come down to Northlands Park Racetrack and Casino to watch and wager on not just these three, but plenty of other simulcast action. Make sure to check in next week as well, as we will preview the Sam F. Davis from Tampa Bay Downs – the next stop on the Road to the Roses.