A chronicle of the contest as it unfolds by The Oracle
Today we handicap Oaklawn Park and the featured Arkansas Derby. This is the final day of the 2008 Oaklawn meet and they have carded their traditional lineup of all route races today. The contest also includes the Blue Grass stakes from Keeneland and the Holy Bull from Gulfstream Park. Track condition at Oaklawn – fast.
Race 1: This was an Md10000 for 3+ at 1m. The favorite should be Moment of Repent from the Asmussen barn as he has the top speed figure in the race and is taking a slight drop in class. I wasn’t sold because Moment of Repent has already been defeated at less than 5-1 odds four times in his career. I selected South Soldier, an improving colt who is stretching out for the first time today. South Soldier is 5/2 as they load, the favorite is even money.
The Result: The two favorites battled it out in this one and Moment of Repent prevailed by about a length as South Soldier made a bid but couldn’t get by. Star Canyon finished third. Chalk in the opener today.
Maximum Points: Moment of Repent 90Maximum Score: 90My Score: 60
Race 2: This was a MSW35K for fillies and mares 3+ at 1m. I selected Drift to the Lead, who grabbed the early lead her last start and just missed by a head at 6-1 odds. I’m hoping for a similar front running effort today and I know she won’t be the favorite. The likely favorite is Dazzle Darlin, who has 5 ITM finishes from 6 lifetime starts. She has already been defeated three times at less than 2-1 odds, however.
The Result: Steve Asmussen tabs both halves of the double as Pathologist scores from off the pace narrowly over favored Dazzle Darlin. Lady Etienne finished third. Pathologist was a shipper from the Fairgrounds exiting a turf race where she finished 4th as the 9/5 favorite. My assumption was that this horse would be bet down lower than 4-1 with Asmussen training the horse. My selection also went postward at 4-1 odds, broke flat footed and had to rush to the lead around the first turn. She never got clear and comfortable like I was hoping for, and faded once they hit the top of the stretch.
Maximum Points: Pathologist 182Maximum Score: 272My Score: 60
Race 3: This was a Clm10000 for fillies and mares 3+ at 1m. Several contenders to choose from in this race and I selected Wildwood Ella as she should get a close stalking trip from post 2 and has run some good races at long odds in her past performances. The favorite is Golden Demand, who was just claimed away from Amoss and now runs for Kelly Benjamin. Golden Demand makes her second start off the layoff. She’s been the beaten favorite three times on form. The Result: I thought it looked good for Wildwood Ella as they turned for home, but Doc’s Belle continued on and prevailed by a length at 5-1 odds. Doc’s Belle showed more early speed for Ocampo today as she usually rallies from the back of the pack. The favorite, Golden Demand, won the photo for second with Wildwood Ella, who appeared to hang down the lane and ran third at 9/2 odds. Maximum Points: Doc’s Belle 210Maximum Score: 482My Score: 98
Race 4: This was an Mdn15000 for 3+ at 1m1/16th. The likely favorite will be Diamonds in Dixie, who has improved with each start and exits a third place finish at a higher claiming level. He hasn’t shown any early speed in his previous races and may be vulnerable to a soft pace scenario. I selected Eleven Gage, who has some decent efforts on form and makes his first start for trainer Doug Anderson today. Anderson has a good record with horses making their first start under his name, and Eleven Gage is 10-1 morning line. This is more of a trainer play for me, plus Thompson is switching on to ride. Eleven Gage actually won his career debut at 21-1 at Prairie Meadows, but was disqualified. Now he’s 0 for 10 lifetime. The likely pacesetter is Atrevido Bandito who stretches out today after two sprint races but breaks from post position 11. The trainer is not known for scoring on the stretchout move.
The Result: Atrevido Bandito destroyed the field by double digit lengths at 9/2 odds as he stalked the pace early and exploded on the turn. Micahtude finished second and Incluso ran third. Nothing from the favorite or from my selection in this one. Atrivido Bandito looked like the obvious pace play to me, but the trainer pattern scared me off. Not a good decision!
Maximum Points: Atrevido Bandito 214Maximum Score: 696My Score: 98
Race 5: This was an Alw39000C for 4+ at 1m1/16th. I selected Catmantoo as an alternative to the favorite Air Lord. Catmantoo finished a neck behind the favorite in his last start so they look very similar. Thompson rides my selection again, I’ve picked him four times so far today and he’s still looking for his first win. The pace should be moderate and Catmantoo should be forwardly placed. This is a talented group of hard knocking older horses as three in the field have bankrolled over 200K in their career.
The Result: Catmantoo got a very favorable trip on the front end but just failed to last against the favored Air Lord by in a photo finish. This was the third victory on today’s card for trainer Steve Asmussen. Kentucky Man finished third. That was a very tough beat for my selection!
Maximum Points: Air Lord 144Maximum Score: 840My Score: 174
Race 6: This was an Msw35K for 3+ at 1m1/16th. I selected Letmeby who I figured would be a decent price for Asmussen off the layoff. Hopefully, Asmussen will continue his hot ways in this one! Letmeby has been a versatile sort, showing both speed and closing ability in his career. He will probably need to stalk from this post position. The two favored horses in here are Orientate Express and Castillo Del Sol. Orientate Express is making his third career start and stretching out for the first time. He has finished second in both of his other races. Castillo Del Sol is a consistent sort with 6 ITM finishes from 10 career starts.
The Result: The favorites ran 1-2 in this one as Orientate Express prevailed at 3/2 odds over 2-1 Castillo Del Sol. Hollywood Handsome finished third. My selection Letmeby was forwardly placed but never really contended at 8-1 and dropped out last.
Maximum Points: Orientate Express 104Maximum Score: 944My Score: 174
Race 7: This was the 11th running of the Northern Spur for 3yo’s at 1m. The likely favorite is Ferragamo, who has won 3 of 4 career starts sprinting and stretches out today. He’s a front running type. I selected Comic Romeo, who has also won 3 of 4 lifetime, including a two turn race at Oaklawn Park. The other main contender is Ide Like a Double, who just won a statebred stakes race at the Fairgrounds, earning a solid speed figure in the process.
The Result: The pace was very hot as Ferragamo and Comic Romeo dueled through a half mile in 46 seconds flat. Comic Romeo put the favorite away and was still leading when he broke down at the 16th pole, and closers Sebastian County and Poni Colada photo’d for the win. Sebastian County prevailed at 5-1, with Ide Like a Double running third. I thought I had the winner but the unfortunate breakdown of Comic Romeo ended that possibility.
Maximum Points: Sebastian County 216Maximum Score: 1,160My score: 174
Race 8: This was an OC16K/N1X for 3+ at 1m1/16th. I selected the rail horse Brothers Nicholas, making his second start off the layoff and exiting a second place finish in his last start. He’s the favorite in this spot but I couldn’t get away from him in this race. He’s strictly the one to beat.
The Result: Brothers Nicholas made it interesting as he jumped a shadow inside the 16th pole but still prevailed by ½ length at 6/5 odds. Sweeping Promises finished second and Service Hawk was third. Sweeping Promises actually got the most points in this race for his second place finish at 7-1.
Maximum Points: Sweeping Promises 108Maximum Score: 1,268My Score: 280
Blue Grass Stakes: The first of three bonus races today is the 84th running of the Blue Grass. The logical favorite is Pyro, who has done nothing wrong since turning 3 and is getting a final tune up before the Kentucky Derby. He makes his first start on a synthetic surface and the circumstances make him a conspicuous underlay today in my view. I selected Monba, trained by Todd Pletcher who broke his maiden at Keeneland last fall and exits a last place finish in the Fountain of Youth. I figured he was worth a look at a price as an alternative to Pyro, as Pletcher is desperate to find a Derby starter from his three-year olds this year. Monba is currently 8-1 as they head to the post.
The Result: The thinking paid off as Pletcher ran 1-2 with Monba taking the top prize over Cowboy Cal. Kentucky Bear finished 3rd at 27-1. Monba is by Maria’s Mon, sire of previous Derby winner Monarchos. Looks like Pletcher is headed to Kentucky with Monba! Interestingly enough, Pyro was never seen. It will be interesting to read what they say about that effort or if something went wrong.
Maximum Points: Monba 696Maximum Score: 1,964My Score: 976
Race 9: This was an Alw7500s for 4+ at 1m1/16th. I selected late runner My Little Connor, as there seemed to be an unusual amount of early speed in this race. My Little Connor is 6-1 ML and has 5 wins from 16 tries at the distance. The favorite, Big Slew, is a front running type that might get an uncomfortable trip in this spot with the other speed signed on.
The Result: Dual Jewels won it at 6-1 as the pace wasn’t nearly as hot as I was expecting. Hayburner ran second and Colorado Jazz finished third. The speed battle never materialized, and 6/5 favorite Big Slew never showed up for this one. Dual Jewels has been improving nicely since being claimed by Mike Johnson. My selection was outrun in a poor effort.
Maximum Points: Dual Jewels 250Maximum Score: 2,214My Score: 976
Race 10: This was the 6th running of the Instant Racing 75K for 3yo fillies. I couldn’t get away from the heavy favorite Sky Mom, as she is a multiple stakes winner from the Asmussen barn. She’s won 5 of 11 career races and banked over 300K. She’s strictly the one to beat, with lightly raced Euphony and recent Allowance winner Oh Lovely as the most likely upsetters. The Result: Euphony scored a solid victory at 4-1, keeping her undefeated for her career as the favorite Sky Mom ran absolutely terrible at even money. Rasierra finished second and Eagle’s Song finished third. Asmussen got off to the hot start today, but has faltered badly in his last few tries. I was clearly wrong about the favorite in this one.
Maximum Points: Euphony 190Maximum Score: 2,404My Score: 976
Holy Bull Stakes: The second of our bonus races is the 19th running of the Holy Bull Stakes. The heavy favorite in here is Hey Byrn, who finished fourth in the Florida Derby two weeks ago behind Big Brown. I figured he would be in the 3/5 range so I just tried to beat him with the rail horse Famous Patriot, who exits a strong maiden win in front running fashion. I’m guessing everyone is running for second behind Hey Byrn but I’m just hoping to get lucky with a lightly raced, improving horse.
The Result: Hey Byrn probably earned a trip to the Derby with a workmanlike score at even money. Dream Maestro finished second and Famous Patriot was third. I made a bad decision taking Famous Patriot in this race, as 9/5 was way too short against Hey Byrn in my opinion. I figured there would be a much greater spread in odds between the two horses. In hindsight, even money on that winner looks pretty good and that’s another 184 points (a 140 point improvement over what I did)!
Maximum Points: Hey Byrn 184Maximum Score: 2,588My Score: 1,020
Race 11: This was our third bonus race, the 72nd running of the Arkansas Derby. A lot of buzz surrounds Gayego who ships in from California after running second to Georgie Boy in his last start. This will be his first race on a conventional dirt surface. I selected My Pal Charlie, a surprise second place finisher in the Louisiana Derby last month at 60-1 odds. I’m hoping My Pal Charlie gets overlooked by the public again and takes these a long way on the front end. Other possibilities are Z Fortune for Asmussen, Golden Yank for Thomas, and Liberty Bull for Amoss. Asmussen also sends out King’s Silver Sun, runner up in the Rebel last month. Canterbury Park’s own Jeff Maday is touting Blackberry Road for some reason.
The Result: The pace was hot as they hit the half mile in 46.6 seconds, but favored Gayego was still able to hold off Z Fortune late and win by ½ length. Tres Borrachos finished third at 35-1. My selection My Pal Charlie needed a much softer pace today and he didn’t get it. He never got the lead and just couldn’t handle the heat on the front end from just off the pace. The unfortunate thing is that he was only 7-1, had I known that I would have looked elsewhere. I wouldn’t have tabbed Gayego in any case as he was too short a price with his unknowns. Z Fortune might have been a possibility after his debacle in the Rebel when I selected him at 3/5 odds. Nice run for Gayego though, he looks Derby bound for trainer Paulo Lobo. Tres Borrachos was the top point scorer in this race for his third place finish at 35-1.
Maximum Points: Tres Borrachos 296Maximum Score: 2,884My Score: 1,020
Race 12: Today’s finale is an Alw7500s at the marathon distance of 1m3/4. I selected Driftwood Lodge, who was just claimed by Donald Caudill and looks to be in good enough form to handle this distance. He came from far back in his last start to run third, and last year he just missed by a nose at Louisiana Downs at 1m1/4. Furious Colton should get a very easy lead in this race, but his form looked too suspect for me to select him to carry it this far.
The Result: Furious Colton took them a long way, but in the end it was All Things French out dueling Deputy Tice for the win. El En Fuego finished third. All things French was the lukewarm favorite in this race. My selection never quite reached contention and faded on the far turn in a disappointing effort.
Maximum Points: All Things French 134Maximum Score: 3,018My Score: 1,020
Summary: For the second week in a row, I tabbed the top point horse for the week. Unfortunately, my display in the other races was quite poor so I won’t be contending for top honors once again. Reading a little bit about the Blue Grass on the internet, Asmussen just said (about Pyro) he was throwing the race out because of the surface. True or not, I know that it is a daunting task to win the Kentucky Derby off a poor race like that one. Pyro is really up against it now in my opinion.
I think the winning score this week will be around 1,800 points. If you had Monba, you would need about another 1,100 points in the other races to get to that number. Next week we are back on the Polytrack at Keeneland for the Lexington stakes. I believe Charismatic won the Lexington in 1999 prior to his victory in the Kentucky Derby. Last year, Slew’s Tizzy pulled a 40-1 upset in this race. See you next week!