Three Kentucky Derby preps today, more stakes on tap, one good longshot
by Ken Strong, Horse Race Handicapper, Predictem.com
Dortmund puts his four-race undefeated streak on the line in the $250,000 San Felipe-G2 at Santa Anita; Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 runner-up Carpe Diem makes his 3-year-old debut in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby-G2; El Kabeir tries to make amends for his Withers Stakes-G3 defeat in the $400,000 Gotham Stakes-G3 at Aqueduct; and last but certainly not least, budding monster Shared Belief tries to make it 10-for-11 in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap-G1.
There are also numerous other stakes carded on what should be a great day of racing, but we’ll concentrate on the four mentioned above.
Our favorite horse to watch will beShared Belief in the Big Cap. A total professional, if we could get 8/5 on him that would likely be a steal. Even 6/5 is tempting. He faces 12 rivals in a race that has produced some major upsets in the past, but he’s a total professional that just hates to lose. The speed of the race is Moreno, remember the horse that got shut off along with Shared Belief in the Breeders’ Cup Classic-G1 last year? He’ll try to steal it and hang on for a piece of the superfecta. If he gets loose he could go a long way.The most interesting horse in the race is Bronzo, who is somehow listed at 10-1 on the morning line. There’s no way he’s going off at those odds.
Bronzo prepped for this race with a fourth place finish in the San Antonio Invitational-G2 going 1 1/8-miles, and his connections think the Grade 1 winner from Chile will love the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Big Cap. If he’s better than 5-1 he’s worth a play. The other interesting horse in this race is Hard Aces. Listed at 13-1 on the morning line, he makes his California debut with a series of increasing Beyer Speed Figures topped by a romping win in the Louisiana Handicap last out. Not sure if he can handle the class race and the wide post, but the trainer switch to John Sadler is positive and the price will be right.
In theGotham Stakes, El Kabeir and Classy Class are the likely favorites, but neither was impressive finishing second and third respectively in the Withers Stakes in their last out. There’s enough speed in the Gotham to keep them both honest this time around and we’re going to take a shot against them. Top trainer Todd Pletcher saddles a three-horse entry in the Gotham, all of which could improve enough to win, but they are also all speed types and could get winded on the class raise.
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Instead we’ll take a shot onTencendur, our longshot of the day,who has three angles going for him. His speed figures are steadily improving; he ran a decent race to be beaten only four lengths in the Withers, which was his first stakes try; and he gets blinkers on. Listed at 8-1 on the morning line, his trainer George Weaver is winning at a 28% clip right now and jockey Cornelio Velasquez is more than capable. Especially at a nice price.
The class of theTampa Bay Derby is Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Carpe Diem, trained once again by Todd Pletcher. There’s little doubt that based on last year’s form he’s the best horse in the race, but will he be ready? Listed at 8/5 on the morning line he’s certainly not enticing, and Pletcher’s horses rarely tend to do anything out of the ordinary. This is clearly a prep for races down the road and at a short price we’d rather take a shot on a few fitter horses with angles. Ocean Knight won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa going 1 1/16-miles on January 31 despite a wide trip and he should get a better trip today from his inside post. And while he’s listed at 2-1 on the morning line his price could be as a high as 5/2 if the crowd jumps on Carpe Diem.
The really intriguing horse in the Tampa Bay Derby is Souper Colossal. In his last start he won the five furlong $75,000 Texas Glitter Stakes at Gulfstream Park on the turf, but in his start before that he was part of the sizzling pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before fading. He wired his field in the $100,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth last year going a mile and might just be able to do the same here. At morning-line odds of 6-1 he’s the best value in the race.
And finally we have the game and classy Dortmund trying to make it a perfect 5-for-5 in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. The son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown looked beaten his last start, the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, but came back gamely to wrest victory from defeat. It was an impressive display of courage by the Bob Baffert trainee, and regardless of whether he’s the best horse in the San Felipe or not, you’ll know he’s there late in the race.
Lord Nelson is another in the San Felipe trained by Baffert, and his grinding effort to win the San Vicente-G2 at Santa Anita going seven furlongs in his last start gives him a shot in this race at 4-1 on the morning line, butthe most exciting horse in the race, also listed at 4-1, is Prospect Park.
In his last start going a mile at Santa Anita, Prospect Park was checking mildly on the first turn and steadying somewhat throughout while always full of run. When he finally did get clear in the stretch he smoked his opposition easily by 5 1/4-lengths and he had something left at the wire. While we’re not big fans of rider Desormeaux, who was also aboard for the troubled trip, trainer Cliff Sise is definitely capable and this horse can run. He’s the value in this race if you can get 3-1 or better.
The $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap-G2 at Gulfstream Park is also worth watching, although we’ll stay away from the picking a winner in this race. Our sentimental play would be Wicked Strong, who hasnt started since losing his rider in the Jockey Club Gold Cup-G1 last September. Last year’s Wood Memorial-G1 and Jim Dandy-G2 winner faces five tough rivals and is trained by Jimmy Jerkens, son of Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens. Sadly, the elder Jerkens is currently in a Florida hospital fighting an infection.
The last of the truly great horsemen and horse trainers in the world today, we wish the 86-year-old “Chief” the very best for a full and speedy recovery.