Kentucky Derby Preps: Sham Stakes, John Battaglia Stakes and Borderland Derby Preview and Picks

Kentucky Derby Preps for Saturday, February 27, 2010
by Kenneth Strong of

– Sham Stakes G3 1 1/8-miles Santa Anita, Race 8

– John Battaglia Memorial Stakes 1 1/16-miles Turfway Park, Race 11

– Borderland Derby 1 1/16-miles Sunland Park, Race 10

There are six Kentucky Derby preps this weekend, but only two, maybe three, that really matter. The Sham Stakes G3 at Santa Anita and the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park are the most important of the three races. The Borderland Derby at Sunland Park produced last years Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, which makes that race worth watching just in case.

The Kentucky Derby prep race most likely to produce a Kentucky Derby contender this Saturday is the 1 1/8-mile Sham Stakes G3, and well be taking a shot on a horse with low numbers and an exciting running style who should also be a great price! Alphies Bet has been far back early in all his races but when he moves out wide leaving the turn for home and starts to rumble it is just plain fun to watch!

The bay Tribal Rule colt has only run four times but he looks like hes starting to get it together fast. In his third lifetime start on December 26, 2009 at Santa Anita he finished a good second beaten only 1 -lengths by West Coast division leader Caracortado in the California Breeders Championship going a mile and a sixteenth over Pro-Ride. He was still a maiden at that point, but followed up with a powerful rallying win in a one-mile Maiden Special Weight race going a mile on the turf at Santa Anita on January 15. Again he rallied strong and wide, this time with blinkers, from the back of the pack to win by 1 -lengths.

Alphies Bet will need some pace to run at, but we think hes still learning and improving and his runner-up finish behind Caracortado make us think he belongs with this bunch despite his lower numbers. Win or lose he should provide some excitement.

Setsuko is probably the horse to beat and hes proven at the distance, having missed by only half a length to Alfarabi going 1 1/8-miles on the turf at Santa Anita in his last start on January 27. He broke his maiden with a hard-fought win going a mile and a sixteenth over Pro-Ride at Santa Anita in his start previous to that and he is a tryer. Additionally, he gets Santa Anitas leading rider Raphael Bejarano.

Another horse well be keeping an eye on is Kettle River, who moved up off a win in a mile and a sixteenth Maiden Special Weight race over the turf at Hollywood in November to win a N1X allowance race over Pro-Ride at Santa Anita on January 6. The Program, a more experienced runner who is also in the Sham, finished third in that race.

Also expected to be bet down is Nextdoorneighbor, who romped by four lengths going a mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita in a Maiden Special Weight over Pro-Ride on January 24. But while he looked good winning, he didnt beat much and he moves way up in class for the Sham. At a short price, no thanks.

Well stick with Alphies Bet and Setsuko and hope the price is right on the former!

The Beyer Speed Figures for the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park pale in comparison to the Sham Stakes but one horse worth watching win or lose in that race is Codoy. The bay Bernstein colt showed promise in 2009 which included a runner up finish in the Bourbon Stakes G3 on the grass at Keeneland before finishing last in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. Codoy makes his 2010 debut in the Battaglia and while he doesnt necessarily have to win, he needs to show he can still keep moving forward at three.

Tango Tango should be favored over Storming Saint in the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee drops in class off a last place finish in the much tougher Robert B. Lewis G2 at Santa Anita on February 13 and should find this bunch more to his liking. Storming Saint is proven over a route and was widest of all when third in the Riley Allison Futurity. Still, he did hang in the drive and that makes this race difficult to decipher.

Stick with betting the Sham Stakes for today. Bet Alphies Bet. He should at least give you a good run for your money at a nice price. And dont forget to cheer

Go Alphie Go!