Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby: The Grade 2 Remsen Stakes – By Eric Solomon

This week’s stop on the Kentucky Derby Trail takes us to Aqueduct, where seven two year olds will go nine furlongs for the first time in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes. Last year’s running of this race was one of the more productive editions in recent history. Mo Donegal defeated Zandon in a thrilling stretch drive that afternoon. Mo Donegal would go on to win the Wood Memorial and the Belmont Stakes as a three year old. Zandon would go on to win the Blue Grass Stakes and finish third in both the Kentucky Derby and the Travers Stakes. He’s entered in the Cigar Mile later on today, where he’s been installed as the even money favorite on the morning line. 

This year’s version doesn’t look as strong going into the race. Only one of the seven runners entered has run in a graded stakes race and four of them have only tallied their maiden score thus far. However, there are a few nice pedigrees and there is one runner that I’m very high on.



Aqueduct, Saturday 12/3/22, Race 7: The Grade 2 Remsen Stakes

20 Total Derby points (10/4/3/2/1)

1 – Il Miracolo (12-1 ML): He broke his maiden in his fourth career try last month at Gulfstream, taking a maiden special weight field gate to wire when going a one turn mile there. He finished second in his three prior starts, but he was never close to the winner in any of those three races. He’s sired by Gun Runner out of a Tapit mare, so the nine furlong trip shouldn’t be an issue. The dam’s other two runners to make it to the track were nothing special. His last try was by far his best, so he could be going in the right direction, however, I think this water is a little too deep for him today.

2 – Tuskegee Airmen (8-5 ML, 135-1 Caesars): I’ve been eagerly waiting for this Parx invader to make his third career start. This son of Street Sense made his debut in a salty, fourteen horse maiden special weight race on the Pennsylvania Derby undercard in September. He was much the best in that race which produced four other next out winners, three of which broke their maidens with maiden allowance company. He made his next start in the Rocky Run Stakes at Delaware where he went into the gate as the heavy favorite. He appeared to be losing ground on the turn when Paco Lopez was asking him the question. However, once he got rolling, he again proved that he was the best runner in that race as well. Luis Saez, who rode him on debut, gets the return call today for 2004 Derby winning trainer, John Servis. He’s still young and his mind needs to catch up to his physical abilities, but I think he has a big shot here and a chance to be a very nice horse moving forward. He closed at 64-1 in the second Derby Future Wager Pool last week. If he’s available at 100-1 or better on the Future Books, I’d make a small investment prior to this race.

3 – Prove Right (15-1 ML): He’s set to make his 9th start of his two year old campaign for James Chapman. On the bright side, he’s the only runner with graded stakes experience, finishing third in the Nashua last month. That race was significantly slower than usual this year though. He earned a career high 65 Beyer Speed Figure that day when finishing third, less than three lengths behind the winner. That number is the range that he’s been living in for his last seven dirt races. I haven’t seen enough evidence of growth to believe that he can contend with these. 

4 – Arctic Arrogance (2-1 ML, 135-1 Caesars): He’s one of two New York breds that will be making their first start in open company today. He was impressive when winning the Sleepy Hollow Stakes when facing fellow state bred rivals at the end of October. He set the pace from his rail draw and was pressured by both Starquist and Quick to Accuse. He looked as if he were going to be tailing off, but he responded professionally along the rail, drawing off to win by open lengths. He was clearly the best that afternoon, but he did also have a fairly cozy front end trip. He’ll be facing open company while going two turns for the first time today. He’s been very comfortable in one turn races, and his last race at one mile was his best yet. I’m not certain he’ll move forward enough at this distance to have the impact that his morning line odds suggest he might.

5 – Midnight Trouble (8-1 ML, 150-1 Caesars): Midnight Trouble was clearly second best when facing Tuskegee Airmen in the Rocky Run Stakes at Delaware. He had a productive meet in the First State, running six times and never finishing worse than third. Despite being sired by champion sprinter Midnight Lute, his best efforts have been his two races going two turns. He dominated an optional claiming/allowance field three starts ago. He cut back to a sprint two back before his second place finish behind Tuskegee Airmen last time out. Paco Lopez was moved off the favorite, but ends up getting the mount on him for the first time today. I like his speed figure patterns coming into the race, pairing his last two Beyer figures in stakes company. He moved forward after pairing his two figures from three and four starts back and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another forward move today. 

6 – Quick to Accuse (6-1 ML): After crushing a state bred maiden special weight field two starts back, he was second best when facing Arctic Arrogance in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes last month. After three starts at one turn, he’ll try two turns for the first time today. He’s sired by 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Accelerate and his dam produced one of the better New York bred runners in the last several years, Mr. Buff. Chester and Mary Broman bred both him and Arctic Arrogance. They opted to sell this one in Ocala in March, fetching $200K, while keeping his rival. I’m not sure if that means anything today, but it is an interesting footnote here. He will need to continue to move forward, but I think the distance will suit him better than Arctic Arrogance. 

7 – Dubyuhnell (5-1 ML): People will look at his debut race at Saratoga where he finished behind the recent winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, Instant Coffee. He came back after that effort with a winning effort when going a one turn mile in a race that was originally carded for the grass, His sire, Good Magic, was a stakes winner at two, winning the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His dam, however, did her best work sprinting. She has foaled eight runners to make it to the track. Only one of those runners was able to win when going two turns on the dirt. Of the 60 career starts for those horses only one of those starts came at this distance (the other 59 were shorter), and that effort was a loss where the runner (Almost Famous) was defeated by over 34 lengths on a synthetic course at Turfway. He’ll make his third career start, while drawing the outside post in this race. I’m not sold on him being able to beat this field at this distance, and the fact that a recent graded stakes winner shows up in his recent form lines, tells me that he’s going to be overbet here. He won’t be on any of my tickets today.

The Verdict: 2-6-5

The two shortest prices on the board, Tuskegee Airmen  and Arctic Arrogance are coming off confident wins where the runner-up in their respective races is back to challenge them this afternoon at this longer distance. To me, this race is all about the Parx shipper, Tuskegee Airmen. He’s looked like a horse that has a bright future in his first two races. He’s undefeated with a commanding win in a two turn stakes race already. Obviously, the water gets deeper when going from Parx and Delaware Park to the NYRA circuit, but John Servis doesn’t ship his horses here unless he believes they have a fighting chance. These are connections that have been on this path before, and I think he’ll pass the first major test on the Derby Trail today. 

I do think that we’ll see an improved effort from both of the second place finishers, Midnight Trouble and Quick to Accuse. Quick to Accuse feels like a horse that will only get better as the races get longer. His half brother, Mr. Buff was very good at this nine furlong distance when facing state bred competition. 11 of his 17 career wins came at Aqueduct, including three consecutive wins in the Jazil Stakes (2019-2021) against open company at this track and distance. He was a horse that started getting better in his three year old season though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Quick to Accuse start taking bigger steps forward next year. 

Midnight Trouble has already proven to be a solid investment, banking over $100K in earnings after being purchased for a modest $13K at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. While I do wonder if he’ll be able to be as effective at this distance, I like that his best two races have come at two turns. That should be beneficial in a race where five of the other six horses he’s facing will be asked to race at two turns for the first time. 

Arctic Arrogance is the one I’ll be trying to beat from a wagering perspective. While I thought his win in the Sleepy Hollow was visually impressive, he did have a very kind trip that day. I do think Castellano is going to try to go to the front with Il Miracolo, and Prove Right has shown enough early speed in the past to possibly force Lezcano to take Arctic Arrogance three wide into the first turn. His sire, Frosted, was more than capable at two turns, but he showed his true brilliance when going the one turn mile (the same distance and configuration of the Sleepy Hollow Stakes). While I think the morning line figure of 2-1 is fair, I feel like that number is just too low for me to play him in this race. 

We’ll have coverage of every North American Derby Points Race, along with plenty of coverage leading up to the 149th Kentucky Derby on May 6th, 2023. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.


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