Saturday, March 8th Kentucky Derby Preps

Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park Handicaps, Kentucky Derby Preps, offer great betting value today!

by Kenneth Strong, Horse Racing Handicapper,

We’ve got big races everywhere today! And if you love watching good horses run you’ll definitely want to play the card at Santa Anita. Win or lose you’ll be entertained, and you’ll probably get your price on the horses you like. We’ve got four value propositions for you, two in handicaps and two in Kentucky Derby preps.

The Santa Anita Handicap-G1 goes as the ninth race at Santa Anita and features a rematch between Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge, and Game On Dude. Mucho Macho Man defeated Will Take Charge by a nose in last year’s Classic, while Game On Dude faded to finish ninth as the heavy favorite. We bet Mucho Macho Man that day and will be betting him again today in combination with Will Take Charge. We’re leaving Game On Dude out.

That could be a mistake, as Game On Dude looks like the controlling speed in the “Big Cap”, but he just never seems to run well when facing classy horses. The horses he was beating up on in California over the years are nowhere close to the quality of Much Macho Man and Will Take Charge, and in his comeback start he finished fifth in the San Antonio Handicap. He’ll be tighter now but we’re not buying.

Mucho Macho Man comes off a romping 14-length “paid workout” win in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park three weeks ago and looks perfectly primed for this, while Will Take Charge comes into the race off a good rallying second in the Donn Handicap-G1 a month ago. Will Take Charge and Mucho Macho Man will be our exactor box and we’ll also take them on top together in the triactor thinking Game On Dude could run out of the money. With regards to win betting, we’ve always been a fan of Mucho Macho Man, and he might just be a fair price with Game On Dude likely to take a ton of money as the local fan favorite. If not, we’ll take a shot on Will Take Charge.

The Gulfstream Park Handicap-G2 goes as the ninth race on the Gulfstream Park card and marks the return to action of last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice and Preakness Stakes runner-up Itsmyluckyday. While those two horses are the class of the field and listed as the first and second favorites respectively, both are coming off long layoffs and we’ll be taking a shot against them with potential lone speed horse Falling Sky. Listed at 3-1 on the morning line Falling Sky ran a huge race going seven furlongs in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Handicap a month ago, winning by 5 1/2-lengths after setting a fast pace under pressure. He’ll now stretch out to a mile as the controlling speed.

The first Kentucky Derby prep of the day, the San Felipe-G2, goes as the fifth at Santa Anita and pits California Cup Derby winner California Chrome against Sham Stakes-G2 winner Midnight Hawk and Sham Stakes runner-up Kristo. Listed at 3-1 on the morning line off a romping 5 1/2-length win in the restricted California Cup Derby at Santa Anita on January 25, California Chrome is moving up in class for this and we’re thinking he’ll get a much stiffer test from Midnight Hawk and Kristo.

After outdueling Kristo in the Sham Stakes, Midnight Hawk came back to finish a decent third in the R B Lewis-G2 a month ago. He’s still learning how to run according to trainer Bob Baffert, and a big race is expected of him in the San Felipe. Kristo hasn’t started since the January 11 Sham, but he does look like the speed of this race and he fits one of our favorite angles of a horse running well on the class raise and then coming back for a second try. He’s also making his second start off the layoff. He might have been a touch short in the Sham Stakes. Midnight Hawk probably has the fitness, class and pedigree edge, but we’re going to take an angle-play shot on Kristo. He’s quick from the gate and we’re hoping he improves in his second start off the layoff for top trainer John Sadler.

The Tampa Bay Derby-G2 goes as the eleventh race on the Tampa Bay Downs card and it features a number of speed horses that should set the race up for classy closers Conquest Titan and East Hall. The latter comes off rallying fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth-G2 at Gulfstream Park behind Wildcat Red over a speed favoring track and the former comes off a rallying second place finish behind Kentucky Derby favorite Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull-G2. Conquest Titan might be the best horse in this race but he often drops too far back early. East Hall has shown he can sit closer to the pace and he might get the jump on Conquest Titan. Both should have a class edge on this field but they could still use a pressured pace to run at.

With East Hall listed at 10-1 on the morning line and Conquest Titan listed at 7/2 we’ll take the value play on East Hall and wheel both horses to the board in all three places in the triactor.

Good Luck!