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2018 Derby Prep Picks and Analysis

Favorites vulnerable in all three Kentucky Derby preps today: Gotham Stakes, San Felipe Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby

We’ve got three Kentucky Derby preps today and we should finally get some legitimate results after the latest two boat-race preps in the Fountain of Youth and Southwest Stakes.

In the Fountain of Youth Irad Ortiz Jr. gave Luis Saez a riding lesson when he stole the lead aboard Promises Fulfilled and left Saez steadying inside early on Strike Power, who should have been on the lead. Strike Power ran better than expected without the lead as both horses led the field around the track on a merry-go-round ride over a speed favoring surface to post an upset over favorite Good Magic, who was obviously only prepping off a long layoff.

And in the Southwest Stakes My Boy Jack got a dream trip up the rail over a muddy track at Oaklawn Park under Kent Desormeaux to run away from the field late.

Neither race decided anything as far as the 2018 Kentucky Derby is concerned and we’re hoping for some results that aren’t influenced by track biases or track conditions today in the one-mile Gotham Stakes-G3, which goes as Race 10 at Aqueduct, the San Felipe Stakes-G2 going 1 1/16-miles at Santa Anita as Race 6, and the Tampa Bay Derby-G2 going 1 1/16-miles as Race 11 at Tampa Bay.

2018 Gotham Stakes Analysis, Race 10, Aqueduct, Saturday, March 10

The Gotham Stakes features two horses that are making their second starts off layoffs, Free Drop Billy and Enticed. Both are coming out of the Holy Bull Stakes-G2 at Gulfstream Park, which featured another unimpressive result when Audible took advantage of the speed-favoring surface to post a 5 ½-length victory over Free Drop Billy. The latter ran decently despite finishing rather evenly in the drive and should move forward off that race in the Gotham.

Enticed faded to fourth beaten 14 ¾-lengths in the Holy Bull after being well positioned early in what was by far the worst race of his four-start career. He should move forward in his second start off the layoff in the Gotham.

None of the horses in the Gotham give us anything to get excited about. Enticed and Free Drop Billy are the logical plays based on what should be decent odds behind potential favorite Firenze Fire, who finished an okay second in the Withers Stakes-G3 at Aqueduct in his last start.

If you’re looking for a longshot you could have some fun taking a shot with Dial Operator, a 2-for-2 sprinter who has shown some talent but who now moves up in class and stretches out to a mile.

2018 Gotham Stakes Picks
1. Free Drop Billy
2. Enticed
3. Firenze Fire
4. Longshot: Dial Operator


2018 San Felipe Stakes Analysis, Race 6, Santa Anita, Saturday, March 10

The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita should be the most formful Kentucky Derby prep of the day and marks the 3-year-old debut of star 2-year-old Bolt d’Oro.

Third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 as the favorite last year after three straight wins including the Del Mar Futurity-G1 and Front Runner Stakes-G1, Bold d’Oro was wide in the Juvenile after bobbling at the start, but really showed little interest running that day. He looked like a tired horse. He’s now fresh and should run well, but we have to think he’ll need a race against the fit and talented runners McKinzie and Kanthaka.

McKinzie scored a powerful win in the Sham Stakes-G3 going a mile at Santa Anita in his last start with a performance that wasn’t bias aided and couldn’t be faulted. He’s the logical bet if he goes off at his morning-line odds of 8/5 in the San Felipe, but we’re going to take a shot with Kanthaka, who made a nice move to win the San Vincente-G2 in his last at Santa Anita going seven furlongs.

Kanthaka may not be able to produce the same kick going the 1 1/16-miles of the San Felipe, but if McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro can tussle in front of him turning for home he might just be good enough to get by at what should be a solid price. His connections are solid with Flavian Prat in the irons for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer trainer and he might just be starting to come into his own.

We’ll take Kanthaka on top of McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro in the exacta, reverse it for half the amount and bet Kanthaka to win and place.

2018 San Felipe Stakes Picks
1. Kanthaka
2. McKinzie
3. Bolt d'Oro

2018 Tampa Bay Derby Analysis, Race 11, Tampa Bay Downs, Saturday, March 10

Can Irad Ortiz Jr. do it again? After stealing the Fountain of Youth aboard Promises Fulfilled, Ortiz shows up on a similar type of horse in the Tampa Bay Derby, although the odds won’t be near as long. Still, this half of the Ortiz brothers duo is riding better than anyone else in the country right now, so we’re taking a shot he can steal this race aboard World of Trouble.

The quickest in the field without question, World of Trouble is 2-for-3 and only half a length away from being undefeated. He finished second in the restricted Affirmed Stakes going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park last year but was certainly game in the process. He’s only run once this year, running his rivals ( including two previously undefeated horses) off their feet in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay to win by 13 ¾-lengths. If Ortiz can harness the speed of World of Trouble and still open a clear lead, he should be very tough to catch.

Tiz Mischief is a track-bias play after having no chance trying to rally over the speed favoring surface at Gulfstream Park behind Audible in the Holy Bull Stakes. He now makes his second start off the layoff and should rally late. Vino Rosso gets blinkers on for trainer Todd Pletcher and top jock John Velazquez after finishing third behind fellow Tampa Bay Derby entrant Flameaway in the Sam F. Davis-G3 on February 10. He could improve, but Flameway was very game winning that race over the talented Catholic Boy and will just have to be careful to avoid a duel with World of Trouble. Flameaway has courage and doesn’t need the lead to win. If World of Trouble falters in the least, Flameaway will make him pay.

2018 Tampa bay Derby Picks Picks
1. World of Trouble
2. Flameaway
3. Vino Rosso
4. Tiz Mischief

After the above three races are complete, the muddled 2018 Kentucky Derby should start coming into focus. As of now, it’s a guessing game.

Good Luck!

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