“He’s a big, strong colt and he holds his weight really well. He’s got a big appetite. He put forth a really good breeze a week ago so we felt like he was showing us all the right signs.” – Todd Pletcher, trainer of Florida Derby winner Materiality
Gulfstream Park was the selected track for last Saturday’s Road to Kentucky contest. As we enter the homestretch of contest weeks, the leaderboard separation between the “haves” and the “have nots” is becoming more noticeable. As someone who is clearly in the “have not” camp at this point, the hope and desire for chaos on the racetrack increases, but the weekly results continually turn that hope into disappointment.
The maximum score last week was 3,364 points. By my count, there were seven winning favorites out of the fifteen contest races, so once again it was a difficult week to climb the leaderboard. Despite some full fields early, the favorite won five consecutive races over a fast but dull Gulfstream surface. The “gold star” selection of the week was in Race 2, when Topara rallied to victory at 35-1. It was by far the biggest contest horse of the week, worth 954 points or 28% of the weekly maximum. Topara was making his third career start and second start as a 3-year-old. He had finished 4th of 9 runners and 6th of 13 runners in his two previous races, passing tired horses but not threatening. Trained by Dale Romans, he made a big forward move in this race to reward his longshot believers.
The double point Derby prep races were chalky once again. Todd Pletcher continues to play a major role in the Derby preps as he won the Florida Derby with Materiality (9/5). He defeated Upstart, who was even money and they finished over 10 lengths clear of the third place finisher Ami’s Flatter. In the Louisiana Derby, it was International Star who completed his sweep of the Derby preps at Fair Grounds as the slight 2-1 favorite. Next stop: Kentucky!
My week ended with 642 points. I selected Ami’s Flatter (3rd at 7-1) in the Florida Derby and A Day in Paradise (8th at 42-1) in the Louisiana Derby. At this point, the odds of selecting a longshot winner in a Derby prep race are only slightly better than the odds of finding a box of Quisp cereal on the grocery store shelf. I’m questioning whether either even exists anymore!
This Saturday the contest track is Keeneland for the featured Blue Grass Stakes. There are also bonus races at Santa Anita and Aqueduct so plenty of contest action in play!
The Spring Tune-Up Satellite Handicapping contest is also Saturday. A $100 entry fee gets you a mythical $400 bankroll to play with. You could win an entry into the Dog Days of Summer or the Ultimate NHC Qualifier, both held at Canterbury Park in September. Finally, congratulations to local contest player Lannette Sheldon who finished 25th out of 749 entries last weekend in the Horse Player World Series at The Orleans in Las Vegas! Excellent result!