Churchill Downs Racing Preview, Kentucky Derby Day – 5/1/21 – By Eric Solomon

Happy Kentucky Derby Day! This is always one day circled on my calendar every year and it’s nice to have it back in it’s traditional slot on the first Saturday in May. There are 14 races scheduled over ten hours this afternoon. Post time for the 147th Kentucky Derby is 6:57 Eastern Time. There are four total Grade 1 races, three Grade 2 races, and several tremendous betting races ripe with opportunities. Pour yourself a mint julep and hopefully it’ll taste even sweeter after cashing some large tickets! Good luck to everyone this afternoon.

Race A B C Exotics Menu
1 4,9   1 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 10 4,5 1 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 4,5 7 11 DBL, PK3
4 6,11 4,12   DBL, PK3, PK5
5 8 2,5   DBL, PK3, PK4
6 4,7 2,5   DBL, PK3
7 4     DBL, PK3, PK6
8 3,6,8     DBL, PK3, PK5
9 4,13,14 6 1 DBL, PK3, PK4
10 7,12,13 9 4 DBL, PK3, PK5
11 3 2,6,7   DBL, PK3, PK4
12 9,10,14 6 1 DBL, PK3
13 6,7 4 3 DBL
14 1,6,8   7,9  


Race 1: Top Pick: 9

The Derby Day card kicks off the one a mile N1X allowance for three year olds and upward. We saw a daughter of Verve (Distorted Verve) win at this distance to break her maiden while paying $66 yesterday, and her half brother, Ekati’s Verve (9) has a live look in this race today. Verve has been a great dam for the Fipke operation, but some of her foals need some time to figure things out. Ekati’s Verve has improved significantly in his last two starts at the Fair Grounds, breaking his maiden in February and running a decent third at this level a month later. I think the one turn mile is a good distance for this five year old, as one of his better races came at this trip in November of 2019 and his half-sister liked it just fine. Luis Saez rode for Dallas Stewart yesterday, and they team up again today. Cool Bobby (4) has been lingering at this condition for awhile, but this may be one of the softer groups he’s run into. There’s not a ton of speed, so he could sit a good forwardly placed trip. He was no match for Maxfield in the Tenacious two starts back and he faded to 4th against a stakes quality horse, Darain, when trying the grass for the first time. He’s back on the main track, and at a track where he’s run well. I’m against the second choice, Santos Dumont (2) for Steve Asmussen, as I really don’t like his one turn efforts. However, a longshot that is a little intriguing is Golden Gate shipper, Striking A Pose (1). He’s part of an entry with Huge Bigly (1A), and Gabriel Saez is named on both, so it’s likely only one will run. I’ll use Striking a Pose if he runs, based on the two strong efforts he showed on the main track at the beginning of his career at Santa Anita. His synthetic tries have been competitive, however, it looks like his owners have brought him and his stablemate to the East Coast, and moved them into John Ortiz’s barn. I’m not exactly sure how he fits in here, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run a strong race.


Race 2: Top Pick: 10

We move to the turf for the second race, with maiden special weight fillies and mares going a flat mile. I like Elle Est Forte (10) who closed well in her last at Keeneland, despite running into a slow pace. She just missed in both of her career tries, losing in photo finishes each time. There’s not a lot of early speed to contend with here, but she’s proven she’s tactical enough to adapt. I think she graduates in this spot today. A few longshots to consider are Surrealist (4) and Texas Shuffle (5). Surrealist seems to have a pedigree that leans to the dirt, but her lone turf effort was decent, finishing second to next out stakes winner, Fluffy Socks in the fall. She could easily wind up being the lone speed in this full field. Her dirt form has improved, so there’s reason to think she can build off her only previous turf try. Texas Shuffle is a well bred first time starter, sired by War Front. She’s been working steadily since March after having to pause at the end of the year. Young trainer JR McGaughey has had success getting first timers home, and one of them was over a route of ground on the turf. When Corrales was ridden for him, they have won 3 of 7 times. She could be flying under the radar in this one. I’m going to be defensive with Cadenica (1) who is the morning line favorite after finishing second in her last three starts. She really hasn’t shown much growth, as she keeps running the same type of race. She’ll likely be on the scene late, but I don’t think she’ll get a fast pace to close into, and the rail draw means that Irad is really going to have to work out a trip with her.


Race 3: Top Pick: 5

This is a very deep maiden special weight race at one mile on the main track. I liked Koolhaus (5) last out at the Fair Grounds going 6 Furlongs when he ran into the speedy Tulane Tryst. That race was a little short for him, so he makes a lot of sense stretching out to the one turn mile in this race. He’s paired his Beyers in his first two sprints, while gobbling up ground late. This son of Nyquist was a $600K purchase at the Keeneland November Sale in 2018, so he carries high expectations. Cash Rocket (4) has been knocking on the door in solid fields, and gets another sharp group to deal with this afternoon. He has shown a steady pattern of improvement since going to two turns. He cuts back to the one turn mile, which may help him finish a little stronger than he has been. Alejandro (7) finished first last out in a two turn contest at the Fair Grounds, but was disqualified for interference in that race, so he remains eligible for this maiden special weight condition. He’s the grandson of Rachel Alexandra, who had one of her signature wins on this course, winning the Oaks by 20 lengths in 2008. I don’t like the cutback for him as much as I do for Cash Rocket though. One longshot that might be a little interesting here at a huge number is Rare Stripe (11) running for Calumet Farms and trained by Jack Sisterson. His debut last March wasn’t bad, as he was defeated by Dr. Post, who went on to finish second in the Belmont Stakes last year. He changed barns and hasn’t run well yet for Sisterson, however, you can make some excuses for him. He went on the shelf after the Belmont race in June, so something clearly was amiss. He returned in March on synthetic at Turfway and showed a little interest before backing up to be 4th. Last out at Keeneland, he tried two turns and caught a sloppy track, both of which may not have appealed to him. He’s now third off the layoff, he adds blinkers, and gets an aggressive rider with Kendrick Carmouche. There’s not a ton of speed in here, so he could try to get brave on the front end. He’s worth a look at 30-1 or higher, especially if he’s looking good on the track or in the paddock.


Race 4: Top Pick: 6

There looks to be a decent amount of speed signed on this in optional claiming/N2X allowance, so I’m looking for a closer to take advantage of the long stretch here. Hay Dakota (6) was a winner at this condition last fall at Kentucky Downs. He struggled to close on the turf course at Gulfstream when facing some strong fields. He’s a two time winner on this course, and gets Jose Ortiz, who perfectly timed a deep closing ride yesterday when Obligatory closed furiously to win the Eight Belles. Larry Best and OXO Equine are always willing to pay a lot for well-bred talent, and he paid $1.8 million for Vintage Print (11). He was racing with Chad Brown, but has been moved to the barn of Paulo Lobo since his last start. Normally, that’s not the best sign, but Lobo has brought some live horses to this meet, and he trains last year’s Shadwell Mile winner, Ivar (running later on in the card in the Old Forester Turf Classic). He’s making his first start off a ten month layoff, but he also has a strong closing kick that would fit the profile of this race. Gear Jockey (12) was a very logical pick and winner with N1X allowance company last month at Keeneland. He’s never run a bad race on the grass, but this is a deep field and he has a tricky post to deal with. I’ll use him, but I think there’s value trying to beat him. Southern California invader, Salvator Mundi (4) also looks live in this race. He was a decent 4th with graded stakes company two back, when beaten by Masteroffoxhounds (running later on in the Old Forester). He’s run hard since clearing the N1X condition back in August at Del Mar. He’s very consistent and may have an impact while shipping East.


Race 5: Top Pick: 8

Both favorites, Who Took The Money (2) and Ghazaaly (5) feel a little vulnerable in this optional claiming/N1X contest at 9 Furlongs. I’ll use them defensively, as there are many in here that I’m struggling to build a case for. However, I am expecting a rebound performance from Smiley Sobotka (8) here. He ran his best career race on this course in the Kentucky Jockey Club in his third career start back in November. He came back off the layoff at Tampa in the Sam Davis and was part of the early pace before backing up quickly. He tried synthetic for the first time in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway, and again ran poorly. He drops in class and returns in a race where there are a lot of question marks. Dale Romans’ horses have been running well early in this meet. Ghazaaly ran well to break his maiden at this distance last month at Keeneland. He faces winners for the first time, running for connections that have been on fire (Luis Saez/Todd Pletcher). However, he had very easy trips in his last two races at this distance. This is a bigger and more talented field that he’s up against, and it will be interesting to see if he has to face any adversity here and how he responds if he does. Australasia is a very talented Louisiana bred filly that beat open company here yesterday, after dominating state bred foes. Who Took The Money is trying to do the same after winning the Crescent City Derby last out at the Fair Grounds. He acted up in the post parade and was all out after being near a quick pace for that group. He still gutted out a win in spite of the issues. He’s undefeated and stepping out into open company for the first time.


Race 6: The Grade 2 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile; Top Pick: 7

I’m going to try a price in the first stakes race of the day, thinking that four year old Abscond (7) might get the run of the race with Joel Rosario aboard. She was very good here last year, narrowly losing to 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, Sharing, at this distance. She went to the bench after that and made her first start in 10 months in the Sand Springs at Gulfstream, as a part of the Florida Derby undercard. She ran hard, but got a little tired late, finishing third that day. I think there could be an honest pace being set here, despite the small field, and she may be in position to get first run. I think she will improve off her last and hope that she is good enough to beat these today. Zoffelle (4) will be my other A horse here as she just missed behind Got Stormy (5) in the Honey Fox last out at Gulfstream. Like Abscond, she ran very well here in May last year, losing a three horse photo in the Mint Julep Stakes. Her only bad race in North America, came in the Grade 1 Just A Game Stakes last summer, but that was a one turn race against one turn specialist, Newspaperofrecord. Got Stormy will likely be favored based off her monster efforts in the past. She likes to be close to the pace but is adaptable if they go too fast. She’s won 9 of 18 at the distance and has hit the board in 16 of 18 races at 1 mile. My concern is that she is better when she is running regularly, and she sometimes is proven to be a little flat in these races off a shorter layoff (2-3 months). I think she’ll be much more dangerous next out, but I’ll try to beat her at short price today. She’s Got You (2) is a little interesting, as she’s the “other” Chad Brown in here. (Blowout (6) will be the shorter price and the likely pacesetter). She ran very well in her three North American starts in 2020, winning the Violet at Monmouth in September and running a game third in the Grade 3 Athenia at Belmont in October. She’s a deep closer that will likely be trying to launch from last. She’s definitely not impossible here.


Race 7: The Grade 1 Derby City Distaff, Presented By Kendall-Jackson Winery; Top Pick: 4

The sure feels like a free square in the start of the mandatory payout of the Derby City 6. Gamine (4) is one of the most dominant one turn horses we’ve seen in the filly and mare sprint division in quite some time. You’d think that with a big effort in this 7 Furlong Grade 1, she’d have to be under consideration for the Met Mile next month at Belmont, especially when you look at the way she won the Acorn last year. She faces five rivals here, none of who seem to have the ability to run with her early. Not that she needs it, but she has a distinct pace advantage over the most logical contender, Bell’s The One (3), who is the defending champion in this race. The only “knock” I could come up with on her here is that Churchill is the only track where she lost a race on track. However, it’s not like she ran poorly in the Kentucky Oaks last year, she is just much more effective at one turn racing. It’s very hard to envision a scenario where she loses this race.


Race 8: The Grade 2 Pat Day Mile, Presented by KG &E and KU; Top Pick: 6

The big question that will be answered in this race is if two year old sensation, Jackie’s Warrior (3) can be the same horse at three. I think the two turn experiments are over, after finishing a beaten third to Essential Quality both times. He was game in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, sitting just off the hot pace in the early stages, then making the front, only to be passed by Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie, and Keepmeinmind (all three running later on in the Derby). He was well in front of any other horse that was part of the torrid pace battle that day. I can forgive his effort in the Southwest, where it looked like he had a pace advantage over Essential Quality in the slop. Horses that were on the lead near the rail at Oaklawn were struggling all day long. Plus the unusual circumstances of the timing of that race, as it was run 12 days later than it was scheduled to, makes me think that it’s fair to just toss that race. There’s plenty of money and graded stakes opportunities available for a three year old sprinter, and I think that’s the path we’ll be seeing him on. I think he’s very live in here, but both Dreamer’s Disease (10) and Noble Reflection (11) are extremely fast gate horses and should ensure a quick tempo. Jackie’s Warrior will have to prove that he can rate off that speed. I think he can, but he has to show he can do that in the afternoon, and I’m not sure the value will there for a horse that needs to prove something. I’m using him as an A in the multi-race exotics, but I think the race sets up better for both Starrininmydreams (6) and Dream Shake (8). I’ll take the Kentucky based Starrininmydreams to pull the mild upset here with Luis Saez aboard. If you draw a line through his Risen Star, where he blew the break and then fought Brian Hernandez for a good part of the first half of that race, he has been steadily improving against solid fields. He was a little too close to the hot pace in the Lexington last out in the slop, and faded late after King Fury blew by the field that day. He cuts back to a one turn mile, which I think will suit him well here. He is a perfect 2-2 on this track as well. Dream Shake is also cutting back in distance after trying the two major Derby preps in Southern California. He was no much for Life Is Good in the San Felipe, and he couldn’t go with Rock Your World early on the Santa Anita Derby last out. He had the points to get into the Derby, but this is a much more reasonable spot for this lightly raced son of Twirling Candy. He’s been working well in the AM at Santa Anita, and he should that can be very dangerous at one turn, seeing as how he ran a monster race in his debut going 6 and ½ Furlongs. I think these three will decide this race.


Race 9: The Grade 2 American Turf, Presented by Derby City Gaming, Top Pick: 14

This is a full field, and maybe one of the toughest handicapping puzzles of the day. There are as many as five dedicated front runners in here, Excellent Timing (1), Winfromwithin (2), Dyn O Mite (7), Holy Vow (9), and Next (10). I like a lot of these horses and have been impressed by them at different times, but I think from a pace perspective today, this will be a difficult spot for all five of these. Of this group, I’ll only use Excellent Timing, and he’ll be used on deeper tickets. He’s a very interesting New York bred, coming off a smashing win in the Damon Runyon last out with fellow New York breds. He’s been moved into the Chad Brown barn and he tries the turf for the first time, which shouldn’t be an issue based on pedigree. This is a very tough spot to make his turf debut from a class and pace standpoint, but he’s definitely the most interesting horse in the race and one I want on some deeper tickets. My top pick is Palazzi (14) who gets the worst of the draw, but in a very evenly matched and contentious field, I like the fact that he has successfully navigated a closing trip with a 14 horse field before. He did that breaking his maiden at the Fair Grounds, where he was 13th of 14 early and stormed home as a much the best winner that day. He has been very good in all four career turf tries, improving as the competition got tougher. He just missed behind Scarlett Sky (13) who has been very good in his last three starts. He’s 10-1 on the morning line, whereas Scarlet Sky is 4-1. I think both have a big shot, but there’s not much separating them, so the value seems to be on Palazzi. Scarlett Sky turned a corner this winter at Gulfstream, and has been very good since dominating a small field in allowance company in January. He just missed behind Annex (4) in the Palm Beach and earned his first graded stakes win in the Transylvania at Keeneland last month. Much like Palazzi, the draw isn’t ideal, but it isn’t a killer based on their running styles. Annex is undefeated, winning two stakes races on big days at Gulfstream in his last two starts. He’s shown versatility, flying home two back after a runaway leader set ridiculous fractions in the Palm Beach Stakes in February. He sat closer to the pace and grinded home a win with a much slower pace I the Cutler Bay last out. Irad Ortiz gets the mount as Junior Alvarado is missing this week’s racing due to a concussion. Again, it will come down to the trip, but he fits very well and makes a lot of sense here. Royal Prince (6) is one to consider using, as he has been improving of late for Brad Cox. Like Annex, he’s won two smaller stakes races in a row, winning the Black Gold at the Fair Grounds in March and Bayou City at Sam Houston last month. He likes to sit a closer to the early pace, so he may wind up a little further back than usual if the tempo is too quick. With the exception of his traffic filled 7th place finish at Del Mar, he’s been very good in every start.

Race 10: The Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes, Presented by Ford: Top Pick: 13

This has the feeling of a spread race, and I think some big prices are possible here to kick off the late Pick 5. I like a 20-1 longshot and a pair of 12-1 shots in here. Lexitonian (13) is a horse that has been inconsistent, but he can run big races when he does show up. He was in very good form last summer when he just missed in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby after winning here with optional claiming/allowance foes. He tried Grade 1 company again the Forego, and was a decent 5th that day when racing in a total deluge. He disappointed in the Phoenix next out and was given some time off. He returned in the same optional claiming/allowance race that Phat Man (1) and Endorsed (12) used at Gulfstream. He showed some interest before retreating to 4th. Sisteron’s horses run well in the second race off the layoff and this one has followed that pattern in his races before. I think he’s very live at 20-1 on the morning line here. I’m expecting a decent effort from Endorsed, as I’m thinking that he’s getting back into his better form. He’s been a bit of an underachiever for Godolphin, as he’s shown flashes of true potential, but also inconsistency. He’s coming out of two productive optional claiming/allowance races at Gulfstream that haven’t been stakes caliber races, hitting the board in both. I think there’s room for improvement here today. He’s 12-1 on the morning line, but I suspect he’ll be bet down. I’ll be watching the tote to see what happens with him. Shashashakemup (7) is another one that is capable of improving, as this four year old gelding had improved since being claimed for $50K by Peter Miller in October. He was a respectable 4th in the Pat Day Mile last year, but was entered in a $50K claiming contest two starts later. He won that race and came back with a strong second place effort at the end of the meet with optional claiming/allowance foes. Miller brought him to Southern California, where he ran a strong second behind Wildman Jack in the Grade 3 Palos Verdes, after stumbling at the start. He was given two and a half months off and returned to win handily last out going 6 Furlongs at Oaklawn. I like the stretch out for him in his second race off the layoff, and he likes the track, winning twice and finishing second two more times in five career tries here. Both Whitmore (9) and Flagstaff (4) are lukewarm favorites here, and both have been steady but not spectacular of late. Whitmore was winless for the first time in Arkansas this season, as CZ Rocket bested him twice. He stretches out to 7 Furlongs, which can be a mixed bag for him. Flagstaff always run his race, and that was good enough to beat six others in the Commonwealth last out at Keeneland on the Blue Grass undercard. He was beaten by both CZ Rocket and Whitmore two back in the Hot Springs, but he does seem to run better at 7 Furlongs. He’s very consistent, and worth using, but I think others have a higher ceiling.

Race 11: The Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic; Top Pick: 3

This may be the deepest turf field we see assembled until the Breeders’ Cup. There is not a lot separating these nine as two of the three long shots in here are recent Grade 2 winners, and the other was a mere two lengths behind the favorite in a Grade 1 two starts back. I think the big question is how sharp will the trio of, Ivar (4), Domestic Spending (5), and Digital Age (6), be while making their first start of the year be in this race. If you believe that they are capable of running their best race off the bench, then the price might be right for any of these three. However, I’m thinking that Colonel Liam (3) is better than this group today. He’s won three straight races, including the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf in January. He caught a good course at the Fair Grounds and handled that with ease, winning the Mervin Muniz there six weeks ago. He’s following the same footsteps that Bricks and Mortar laid out when earning Horse of the Year honors in 2019. Irad Ortiz has ridden both Domestic Spending and Digital Age multiple times, and he ends up on Colonel Liam. I think between the current form, the distance of the race, and pace flow in here, the stars are aligning for Colonel Liam to keep winning. I’ll cover with Digital Age on deeper tickets, as he is a two time graded stakes winner on this course, winning this race last year. Last season, he needed his first race off the layoff, however, I can chalk that up to the COVID pause throwing off his preparations. Smooth Like Strait (7) could be lone speed in this spot and might be able to steal this if he’s left loose on the lead. He just missed in the Kilroe Mile last out and I think he’s better running a little further than the flat mile. His win in the War Chant here last spring was very impressive, as that ungraded stakes has proven to have been a very useful race. Count Again (2) was given a little time off after a disastrous effort in the San Gabriel at the beginning of the year. He rebounded nicely to get up for third in a wild finish in the Kilroe Mile last out. He’s a lightly raced six year old gelding, making only his 11th career start. It’s hard to know how high his ceiling is, but I think the additional 1/8 of a mile he’s getting today is a positive, and I think he’ll be a double digit price.

Race 12: The Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve: Top Pick: 9

The most anticipated race of the year is upon us, and as always there are multiple scenarios that that go through my head as to how the race could be run. There is one scenario that I feel very confident about in terms of how the race is going to play out. I believe Mike Smith is going to give Midnight Bourbon (10) an aggressive ride and try to put him on the early lead. Things can always happen at the break, but I think that if he gets away cleanly, which has never been an issue for him, Mike Smith is going to ride him the way he rode Arrogate and West Coast in the Travers. I’m not certain that the outcome will be the same, but I believe that is the best scenario for him. The defections of Concert Tour and Caddo River make this strategy much more viable here because I don’t think any of the speed horses that are left are as dependent on making the lead as those horses. Joe Talamo conceded the lead aboard this horse in both of his last two starts. Instead of cruising on the front end, he was rating and chasing. He is a very game and gritty horse that will dig in when he gets into the stretch, but I think he would rather try to hold off horses trying to pass him as opposed to try to pass another horse. I think this scenario makes life much harder for the lightly raced Rock Your World (15) and Soup and Sandwich (19). Rosario and Gaffalione are going to have to decide if they want to rate or challenge for that early lead, and I think neither scenario bodes well for them this afternoon. If one or both challenge, I think we might head into pace meltdown territory, setting the table perfectly for Hot Rod Charlie (9) and Essential Quality (14). If they choose to rate, I think Midnight Bourbon might get the kind of trip and result that Authentic got last year.

I made those three horses my A horses, hoping that this race plays out in one of those two ways. I still think the horses coming from off the pace will have the advantage this year which is why Hot Rod Charlie is my top pick for the Derby. He was very close to Essential Quality last year in the Breeders’ Cup at two, and I think both of his starts this year show that may have gotten on the same level. Both are coming off relatively easy final Derby preps, as both horses had everything break their way. However, they are both versatile horses that have run big races in multiple different styles. From pace and pedigree standpoints, I think both fit just fine in this race, as both seem to have shown they are capable of handling longer distances. I think the value will be with Hot Rod Charlie, as Essential Quality, who is a deserving favorite with his unblemished record, should be a much shorter price.

The last Derby that had a pace meltdown was in 2013, and the winner that day was Orb, who rallied wide from well off the early pace to give Shug McGaughey his first and only Derby win thus far. I think the steadily improving O Besos (6), a son of Orb, would be the biggest benefactor if this pace totally melts down. He came within two lengths of Hot Rod Charlie last out in Louisiana when making his second start in graded stakes company. Marcelino Pedroza had him rallying well along the rail that day and we have seen that move work at Churchill with horses like Street Sense and Mine That Bird. It’s always a gamble, but it’s definitely not impossible. He has been working well in the AM and definitely is one to think about underneath. However, it wouldn’t shock me if he did better than that. I’ve been back and forth on Known Agenda (1) in my mind, and I’ll cover with him despite his rail post. I think this makes it a lot harder for him to run the race that he wants to run. However, if anyone is capable of navigating that kind of trip, it’s Irad Ortiz. His last two have been visually striking, dominating an optional claiming/allowance race and then following up that effort with a sparkling Grade 1 win to give Todd Pletcher, yet another Florida Derby Trophy. He seems to be a horse that is finally putting it all together. I also had King Fury (16) as a C horse, but he spiked a fever and will be scratched.


Race 13: Top Pick: 6

It seems fitting that Bob Baffert trains the half brother to American Pharoah, Triple Tap (6) in the race that follows the Kentucky Derby. He was very professional, winning his debut by 4+ lengths at Santa Anita. It was a pretty easy trip, but he handled his business and now takes a step up to face winners for the first time. He drilled a bullet on this track last week and looks ready for his next challenge. One Fast Cat (7) ran very well last month in a salty N1X allowance at this level at Keeneland, finishing third, less than a length behind the winner. He’s by Fast Anna out of a Not For Love mare, so it’s not surprising he took well to the dirt last out after a debut on synthetic. He has two sharp works after his big effort and should be ready to run another strong race. Prime Factor (4) debuted like a good thing in a sprint, then took a swing on the Derby Trail, running in the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth. He was not up to the task in those races, so Pletcher hits the reset button with this son of Quality Road. He was a $900K purchase at the Keeneland September Sale in 2019, so there are expectations that he will be a serious runner. Irad Ortiz had some very smart rides yesterday and will give him every shot in this wide open and potential laden field. Tulane Tryst (3) was very impressive in two races at the Fair Grounds, breaking his maiden last out on the Louisiana Derby undercard. He has potential, and I’ve been looking forward to his next start, but this is a big step up in class. I’ll use him on deeper tickets as the potential is there, but I’m not certain he’s this good just yet.


Race 14: Top Pick: 6

A tremendous week of racing comes to an end around 8:30 Eastern time when this maiden special weight will go off under the lights. This race is wide open, and I’d want some coverage if I were alive in an multi-race wager. Dale Romans’ horses have been live at this meet, and he sends out an interesting first time starter, Curlin Lane (6). He’s by Curlin out of a Giant’s Causeway mare and has a long string of steady workouts in preparation for his debut. He finds a field with some speedy horses, many of which haven’t finished their races very well. He might have the pedigree to motor home down the stretch and pull the upset. KC Rocket (8) paired his Beyers for Al Stall in his first two career tries at the Fair Grounds and Keeneland. He chased home a pair to finish 3rd, beaten two most recently. He’s bred to be fast and he could have a forward move here. Bagboss (1) was sharp on debut at Gulfstream, finishing second in a 5 and ½ Furlong dash. I don’t love the rail for him in this race, but he showed a lot of potential and certainly could move forward in start number two. On deeper tickets, I’ll use both Mr Sippi (7) and Global Appeal (9). Mr Sippi ran well last out behind Tulane Tryst to get second at 9-1. He’s the morning line favorite, but he has struggled to finish strong in his races, losing ground to the winner in the stretch each time. He’s second off the layoff, so perhaps he’ll have a stronger stretch drive today, but he doesn’t feel like the best favorite to bet. Global Appeal is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, so it would certainly be good to see him train a winner on Derby Day. He has a pair of strong efforts at Oaklawn, but like some of the others, he hasn’t finished his races as well as I would have like to have seen. His figures suggest he’ll be right there in this wide open contest.

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