The pace picks back up in the Road to Kentucky contest this week, as the preps stack up and the action for older horses takes center stage half a world away. Meydan Racecourse celebrates the Dubai World Cup bright and early this Saturday, and our Clubhouse will open at 7:30 AM. First post for the stacked-purse card is approximately 8:10 central, so do your homework early and come prepared!
Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby will determine its leading contender in the Run for the Roses, with the winner looking to repeat Orb’s feat last year. First post at Gulfstream is 11:00 AM, with the Derby expected to go off around 5:45. This will be a bonus race in the contest though, as the bulk of the races will take place at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
The Louisiana Derby is where I’ll begin my handicapping exploits, as there’s plenty of territory to cover. It won’t be quite as lengthy as previous weeks simply due to all the action from around the world, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist….and hopefully not get nailed at the wire Harry’s Holiday style.
The recurring pattern in my Fair Grounds Analysis is the unreal knack that Todd Pletcher has for winning races there. He’s especially mean with those on a win streak – 8 of his last 13 to run at the Fair Grounds off a win came home victorious. Pletcher’s had his paws all over the race too, winning in 2007, 2010, and 2013. He tends to send groups of these recent winners to New Orleans on Louisiana Derby day and they do exceptionally well. Graydar, Unlimited Budget and Revolutionary all posed for pictures last La. Derby day and the other card he has to play (Palace Malice) is in the same boat as Intense Holiday. The price will stink but there’s plenty of pace drawn to his outside to help his kick. Don’t count his other entrant, King Cyrus, out either as this one has a bit more early lick to him and should improve off his first race as a three year old in the Smooth Air at Calder. He has previously defeated the winner of that mile event at Keeneland, and perhaps didn’t care for the slop in the Hopeful. KC had be urged through a good part of the race but still responded nicely on the wrong lead. No style points for the way he moves but the long stretch should benefit him. Most of the rest ran in the Risen Star and were pretty far behind both IH and Albano, but the latter had the misfortune of drawing outside of the rest of the speed in this event while drawing the rail the last time they all met. Fortunes could be reversed between that opponent and the also-rans in the Risen Star, but Intense Holiday should only be helped by the addition of In Trouble and the usually speedy Louie’s Flower. In Trouble did interest me off his race in the Gotham, but I would have preferred to see him stay home. Dutrow has not shipped many to the Fair Grounds and one did run second in this race in the past (A Little Warm), but the race he ran off the shelf was dynamite and it’s hard to envision a huge step forward in this spot. He may not need it; maybe the New Yorkers are that much better than their competition in the south but Saturday we find out. The price play for me would be King Cyrus but this particular Derby doesn’t look ripe for an upset.
The Florida Derby
Play in the contest all depends on your opinion of Cairo Prince – He was all the buzz after his Holy Bull but has been shelved since that time in preparation for the Triple Crown. Does the setup in here look all that different than the Fountain of Youth though? The only additional really confirmed frontrunner is Constitution, and being drawn in between Wildcat Red and General A Rod leaves him the decision to get in or back off and stalk the impending duel. Should he choose the latter that could leave Mr. Saez with a difficult trip aboard the favorite. Figure-wise, those four are very tough to separate and could have a race of their own far in front of the rest – But the wild card in here is Nick Zito’s Swale winner Spot. Jimmy DiVito thought an awful lot of him early in his career but the tactic he employed last time around worked better than any of his previous tries, and should the pace get hot enough he could benefit at a big number. He’ll need to learn to switch leads and do it in a hurry, but if you think the pace melts down (and it could) you know he’ll be charging. The last time that Zito entered the Florida Derby (Dialed In), he won. With the track playing how it has this spring though, I’d rather take a horse that can stay within shouting distance of the leaders and of course that leads back to the Prince. He really does stand to get the perfect trip and so long as he doesn’t throw in a complete dud his best race puts him right there. I can’t side with the dueling pair in the Fountain of Youth, as they both would need to duplicate that race to make noise here and that just can’t happen again…..right?
The UAE Derby
This is a tough one to get excited for. If you’re running for that gaudy purse, the case is different but this is not the Derby prep it was created to be. The best a winner’s run in the Kentucky Derby is sixth, and that was China Visit a loooooong time ago. The Southern Hemisphere colts are already non-factors, but even those eligible have either passed or been passed in the stretch every year they’ve tried. Giovanni Boldini has been shelved since his brave second in the Juvenile Turf, but since most of our BC turf races dispensed money to Europeans don’t be sold on him against similar sorts. Long John stands out off his win in the Guineas at a mile, but surprisingly a good amount of the field are sprinters at this point in their career and he hasn’t thrived going any longer than that distance either. One would think Sir John Hawkins should run all day given his pedigree, but may get overbet simply based on pedigree and recognizable connections (His dam, Peeping Fawn, was a multiple champion in Europe at three.) I’ll be boxing up his stablemate, Long John, Asmar and Cooptado with the hopes that these are the only ones that even want to go this far.
A couple of other items….
Remember, the UAE Derby is the fourth race on the card but the big dance is at the end – The $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup takes off around 1:05 our time and doesn’t carry a true American runner in its full gate. Ron the Greek is as close as we get, and without the ability to talk we’ll have no idea whether or not the old vet feels like it on Saturday. Last year he was boom or bust for the most part, so hopefully it’s boom but there’s no sure thing with him.
The last of the Kentucky Derby future pools also takes place this weekend, and if you like one of the competitors in the next couple of rounds on the TC Trail this could be your last chance to catch them at a price! Good luck throughout this action-packed weekend!