Kentucky Derby Preps for Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Kentucky Derby Preps for Saturday, March 13, 2010 – San Felipe, Rebel Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby

Plus: Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta prep for showdown at Oaklawn Park in Apple Blossom

Kentucky Derby Prep Races

San Felipe G2 – 1 1/16 miles Santa Anita, Race 9

Rebel Stakes G2 1 1/16 miles Oaklawn Park, Race 10

Tampa Bay Derby G3 1 1/16 miles Tampa Bay Downs, Race 11

Also worth watching: Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta!

New Orleans Ladies S. 1 1/16 miles Fair Grounds, Race 10 (Rachel Alexandra)

Santa Margarita Invitational H.(G1) 1 1/8 miles Santa Anita, Race 7 (Zenyatta)

We’vebeen on a bit of a roll lately in the 2010 Kentucky Derby preps, having picked Caracortado ($11) to win the R. B. Lewis on February 13 and Aphies Bet ($19) to win the Sham Stakes on March 6. This Saturdays Kentucky Derby preps are tougher to pick, but well still be taking a few shots.

An added bonus is the fact that we also get to watch super star females Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra as they return from layoffs following spectacular championship seasons. Zenyatta tops a field of nine in the Santa Margarita Invitational G1 at Santa Anita and Rachel Alexandra meets only four rivals at the Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Ladies.

The only horse besides Caracortado that has shown the possibility of being Kentucky Derby winner is Eskerenda, who powered away from an okay field to win the Fountain of Youth by 8 -lengths and record a 106 Beyer Speed Figure. That number towers over anything weve seen so far, but were not ready to jump on his band wagon quite yet. We loved Alphies Bet to win the Sham Stakes and still cant believe he paid $19. He has the ability eat up ground when asked in the stretch and it will be interesting to see if he can keep doing it against progressively tougher rivals.

A number of horses will be seeking to prove their class as a 3-year-old this Saturday including Lookin At Lucky, Dublin, Nobles Promise, Super Saver, Dave in Dixie, Sidneys Candy, Interactif, American Lion and a few additional lesser lights. The road to the Kentucky Derby takes its toll on horses and this Saturdays Kentucky Derby preps should provide a much clearer picture of which way many of the current contenders are headed. Below follows an overview of each of Saturdays Kentucky Derby prep races.

San Felipe Stakes G2 – 1 1/16 miles Santa Anita, Race 9

Caracortado remains our choice in this race as he goes for his sixth straight win on the class raise. He was totally underestimated in the Robert B. Lewis and had little trouble drawing away to 1 -length victory over two of Saturdays San Felipe entries, Dave in Dixie and American Lion. Both however, were coming into the Lewis off extended layoffs and can move forward in the San Felipe if they have the class.

The speed of the San Felipe looks like Sidneys Candy, who wired an okay field in the seven-furlong San Vicente G2 on February 15. Could he go all the way? Possibly, but well be betting against him.

The wildcard in the race is Interactif, a good third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf G1 last year who came back to finish second by a nose off a 90-day layoff in the Hallandale Beach Stakes over the Gulfstream Park turf on February 7. He might just be the class of this race, but he seems to have some minor difficulty when trying to lay it down right before the wire. Hes also unproven over Pro-Ride. Well give him an excuse in his last, when he appeared to tire in the last 100 yards off the layoff. If he runs his best and can handle Pro-Ride, he could stay close to Sidneys Candy and take a run at that one in the drive, setting it up for Caracortado and Dave in Dixie. American Lion could also provide some pace pressure but he still has a lot to prove in the stretch in his second start off the layoff.

Dave in Dixie made a nice move and late run to finish second behind Caracortado in the R.B. Lewis off a four-month layoff and looks like he is still learning how to run. While he was not a serious threat to Caracortado in that race, improvement is expected Saturday. A pace battle would definitely help.

Sidneys Candy is the pace threat, especially if he gets loose and slows it down, but at expected low odds well be looking elsewhere. Interactif is the class play but has to handle the switch from turf to Pro-Ride. At 8-1 on the morning line with leading rider Bejarano in the irons, Interactif has to be used on your tickets. Expected rallier Dave in Dixie should offer reasonable value at a morning line odds of 4-1, but well be sticking with Caracortado to win and hoping to get odds of 8/5 or better.

The knock against Caracortado was that he got a perfect trip in the Lewis, which he did, but that trip was also a result of his tactical speed, talent and class, which should bode well for him once again in the San Felipe.

Rebel Stakes G2 1 1/16 miles Oaklawn Park, Race 10

The 50th running of the Rebel Stakes marks the 3-year-old debut of juvenile champ Lookin at Lucky, who is coming into the Rebel off an 11-week layoff for trainer Bob Baffert. Lookin at Lucky gets blinkers for his first start back while also trying conventional dirt for the first time. If he improves and focuses as expected, he will be tough to beat despite the holiday.

Dublin is the logical play for a number of reasons. Last years Hopeful G1 winner has a fitness and course edge over most in here, having finished a good second to Conveyance going a mile in the Southwest Stakes G3 at Oaklawn Park on February 20. In that race he made a long sustained move from the outside in his first start off a 15-week layoff to be beaten only three-quarters of a length and improvement is expected. Also in his corner is trainer D. Wayne Lucas, who operates at a 25% win clip with horses making their second start off a layoff. Lukas has won numerous Triple Crown races and knows how to get a horse ready. While we still think Dublin has to prove he is in the class of Lookin at Lucky, the pace scenario should favor his late run and we think hell be 2-1 or better.

Royal Express looks like the speed in the Rebel but hes facing a much higher class of horses than hes faced in the past and could find himself under pressure early. Nobles Promise, who finished second beaten only three-quarters of a length to Lookin at Lucky in his final start as a 2-year-old in the Cash Call Futurity 11-weeks ago, is one of many that could force the pace if feeling up to it. Nobles Promise lost twice to Lookin at Lucky last year despite his best efforts and he would have improve (but not by much) to get by that one in his first start back.

Another who could sit close in this race is wildcard Uh Oh Bango. Beaten only a neck by tough guy Rule in his last start on December 4, 2009 going a 1 1/16-miles in the Delta Jackpot G3, Uh Oh Bango also finished second beaten only a length in the Iroquois G3 at Churchill Downs last year and should not be underestimated.

Well be betting Dublin to win and place and wheeling him up and down in exactas and trifectas with Lookin at Lucky, Uh Oh Bango and Nobles Promise.

Tampa Bay Derby G3 1 1/16 miles Tampa Bay Downs, Race 11

The Tampa bay Derby is probably the toughest race of the three Derby preps to figure out and well be limiting our wagering accordingly. Super Saver looks like the logical favorite and will probably be overbet as the likely lone speed. He hasnt run since wiring the field by five lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes G2 at Churchill Downs on November 28, but unless Schoolyard Dreams can pressure him early he might get things all his own way and run away from the field again. Trainer Todd Pletchers numbers are solid off a layoff and Ramon Dominguez, who rode Super Saver to break is maiden at Belmont, will be back aboard on Saturday.

There are some interesting price-play angles in here if youre looking to take a chance on a longshot. Schoolyard Dreams made his first start in stakes company in his last, the Sam F. Davis, and ran into a monster he couldnt get by in the form of Rule. He could improve off that race. Uptowncharlybrown finished third in the same race with a mild rally, but looked like he was still learning and could also improve here. Thomas Albertrani, who was an assistant to Bill Mott during Cigars reign at the top, and now a top trainer in his own right, saddles Odysseus, who romped to a 15-length victory over an average field in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Tampa Bay on February 17. He could be any kind at this point, but hes still going to have to prove it. Gleam of Hope is a longshot play based on the fact that his comeback race on February 28 going mile on the turf at Tampa Bay was an improvement on numbers over last years form, but he also still has to prove he can compete at this level.

Unless you play Super Saver at a short price, the Tampa Bay Derby looks like a race to watch and wait on, looking for a horse that steps out of his element and rises to the occasion. If one of the up and comers happens to run a big one and defeats the field impressively, we may have another Kentucky Derby contender or at least a longshot.

New Orleans Ladies S. 1 1/16 miles Fair Grounds, Race 10

2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra will face only four rivals in the New Orleans Ladies as she returns from a six month layoff after a spectacular 8-for-8 3-year-old campaign in which she won both the Preakness Stakes G1 and the Woodward G1 (over older males) the hard way putting away the speed and digging in to hold on late. While some are saying shell need a race, were thinking it would be wise not to bet against her. If shes fit enough she should be able to either set or press the pace and hold on late but the combination of the layoff and the short price make her almost unbettable. If she brings her A game, shes better than these. Also keep in mind that she is prepping for the April 9 Apple Blossom Invitational, where it is hoped she will tangle with the mighty Zenyatta. Watch closely.

Santa Margarita Invitational H.(G1) 1 1/8 miles Santa Anita, Race 7

Undefeated in 14 starts, Zenyatta wowed even hardcore players when she had to lay it down for only a few hundred yards to defeat some very tough and classy males in the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic on November 7. Many thought she should have been awarded Horse of the Year off that win, and we would have to agree. Instead, she finished second to Rachel Alexandra in the voting and she is now on a mission, not only to remain undefeated, but to defeat Rachel Alexandra fair and square in the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park a month from now.

But first things first – Zenyatta finds a way to win even when she looks like she shouldnt. Shes the best horse in the Santa Margarita and if shes fit enough she wins at low odds. Trainer John Shirreffs has obviously done a great job with Zenyatta and is a solid 24% of a layoff. Jockey Mike Smith also says he thinks Zenyatta is better than last year, but weve lost too much money listening to jockey tips so well take his comments with a grain of salt. Zenyatta is probably just fresh, fit and ready to roll, which is likely what Smith felt underneath himself in her workouts. If she runs anywhere close to her best race she wins this.

If youre looking for an upsetter the two logical choices are Striking Dancer and Gripsholm Castle, the 1-2 finishers from the La Canada G2 in their last start on February 14 at Santa Anita going 1 1/8-miles. Gripsholm Castle was making her first start in North America in the La Canada and it will be interesting to see if she improves further. It would still be a stretch to think she could improve enough to defeat Zenyatta.

Due to the expected low odds on both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra in their respective races, the best idea would probably be just to watch them run, hope they win impressively, and then jump on your favorite of the twos band wagon for the Apple Blossom Invitational, where youll be sure to get your moneys worth win or lose.

Good Luck!