Kentucky Derby Preps: Derby Trial G3 and Withers Stakes Preview and Picks

Kentucky Derby Preps for Saturday, April 24, 2010 Derby Trial, Withers Stakes
by Kenneth Strong of

Kentucky Derby Prep Races

– Derby Trial G3 – 1 mile Churchill Downs, Race 10

– Withers Stakes G3 1 mile Aqueduct, Race 9

The final two preps for the 136th Kentucky Derby take place this weekend
and after the crazy prep results two weeks ago were ready for anything.
While the top two horses for the 2010 Kentucky Derby, Eskendereya
and Lookin at Lucky, continue to remain head and shoulders
above the rest, there are numerous horses going backwards as the arduous
Road to the Derby takes its toll.

The Blue Grass Stakes run over Keenelands synthetic surface on April 10
has to be considered a total throw out after every horse that figured to
have a reasonable chance in that race ran up the track. San Felipe runner-up
Interactif finished fourth with an uncharacteristically
mild effort while Make Music For Me, Pleasant Prince, Aikenite
and Odysseus inexplicably ran sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth while 40-1
shot Stately Victor powered home late to win impressively.

Could it have been the track surface in the Blue Grass? It certainly didnt
seem to bother Stately Victor, whose performance was downgraded
by many, but who actually looked big, strong and healthy late in the race,
winning comfortably by 4 -lengths. But we find it hard to believe that
all the other horses in that race could go backwards, and all at the same
time. Well get a better idea on Saturday, when Pleasant Prince
and Aikenite run back in the Derby Trial.

The Arkansas Derby on April 10 also did little to convince us
that any of its participants could win the Kentucky Derby. Favored Nobles
had some trouble at the start and again early in the race
and finished mildly to collect fifth money, and were not quite sure he
wants to go the mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby regardless. But
neither Super Saver nor Dublin could get
by 17-1 speed horse Line of David. While many are saying
Line of David ran exceptionally well, were thinking he beat horses who
either couldnt or wouldnt dig in when it counted to win.

The two Kentucky Derby preps this weekend will likely have little bearing
on the actual Kentucky Derby itself, but two horses are in a win and youre
in situation. Both Pleasant Prince and Eightfiveinafifty
can earn enough to secure their spot in the 2010 Kentucky Derby with a win
in the Derby Trial.

We wont be betting either one of them.

Derby Trial G3 – 1 mile Churchill Downs, Race 10

Erratic Eightfiveinafifty is listed as the 8/5 morning line favorite for the Derby Trial and he does have some sharp speed, but he certainly cant be trusted at a short price.

In his last start on April 3, the 7-furlong Bay Shore at Aqueduct, Eightfiveinafifty
acted a little goofy at the start with the addition of blinkers, but eventually
opened up and won by 2 -lengths to earn a rare-this-year triple-digit Beyer
Speed Figure
of 100. But in his race prior to the Bay Shore, the Whirlaway
Stakes at Aqueduct on February 6, Eightfiveinafifty bolted as the less than
even money favorite and was pulled up. His game is speed however, and with
a Kentucky Derby birth at stake, he should be firing his best shot. If he
opens a clear lead early in the Derby Trial he could steal it, but with
other speed in the race well be looking elsewhere.

Its difficult to know what to make of Pleasant Prince,
who failed to pick up his feet in the Blue Grass and finished seventh after
an excellent effort in the Florida Derby at 29-1. We had him in our exactas
on Florida Derby day as a pedigree play and were expecting a big effort
from him in the Blue Grass, but he ran so poorly that were thinking the
track surface must have been the reason. Jockey Leparoux did say after the
Blue Grass that Pleasant Prince did not handle the track. Pleasant Prince
also has a form pattern that reads good race-bad race-good race-bad race-good
race-bad race and that would make the Derby Trial a supposedly good race,
especially if he likes the Churchill Downs surface. Listed at 4-1 on the
morning line he has to be included on your exotic tickets. And dont forget,
A Kentucky Derby birth is at stake for Pleasant Prince in this race.

Aikenite ran even worse than Pleasant Prince in the Blue Grass despite an okay trip and he has now underperformed on numerous occasions. He has some talent, although were not sure how much anymore, but he just cant seem to get his act together. A number of bettors will be playing him the Derby Trial, but were giving up on him for now.

There are a few angle plays in here who should be a price. Privilaged
came back off a three-month layoff to run second in the 7-furlong Swale
Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 20 and he might just have enough speed
to keep Eightfiveinafifty honest up front, especially if he improves in
his second start off the layoff for trainer John Sadler. He was beaten only
3 -lengths by DFunnybone in the Swale Stakes, and DFunnybone
will be heavily favored to win the Withers at Aqueduct today. At 15-1 on
the morning line well be using him on our exotic tickets as a fresh horse
in a race of limited talent.

Privilaged could also help set the race up for his stablemate Hurricane
, who has the perfect running style to win this race with a
perfect trip. And he does get the services of jockey Calvin Borel, who wins
a lot more races with rail trips than he does with the best horse. Hurricane
Ike finished second beaten 2 -lengths by Eightfiveinafifty in the Bay Shore
after prompting the pace in that race, but if Borel can somehow tuck him
inside behind a speed duel at 5-1 he has a shot to win this.

The last horse well be using on our exotic tickets is Miners
, and only because Nick Zito has a habit of pulling upsets
at this time of year with these kinds of horses. We liked Miners Reserve
as a longshot exotics play in the Florida Derby and he ran terrible, finishing
10th beaten 34 lengths at underlay odds of 6-1. After an impressive maiden
special weight win going a mile in his start before the Florida Derby, he
just cant be that bad, and he certainly deserves a chance to rebound.

The proper way to bet this race is to play the horse at the best overlay price at post time, both to win and in the exotics.

Withers Stakes G3 1 mile Aqueduct, Race 9

D Funnybone will be heavily favored to take the Withers Stakes and deservedly so. Hes won both of his starts this year, the 7-furlong Hutcheson G2 and Swale Stakes G2 at Gulfstream Park; he has the best Beyer Speed Figures in the field; he doesnt need the lead to win; and he defeated Withers second choice Ibboyee in each of his last two races. On paper he looks like a sure thing. Exactly the kind of horse wed love to beat at 1-2!

Theres no fun or serious money to be made betting 1-2 shot, so well be
taking our chances with speed horse Castaneda in the Withers,
although we dont think well get anything close to the 10-1 morning line
hes listed at in the short 6-horse field. Castaneda is razor sharp, coming
off three straight sprint wins, all at Aqueduct and all on the lead. Hes
had the lead at every call in his last three races, and while he hasnt
won at over six furlongs in three early career tries, he looks like an improved
horse lately and the price will be right.

Good Luck!