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Road to Kentucky Week 12

by The Oracle

Welcome to May 7. The previous 11 weeks were the warm-up acts and now we reach the main event called the Kentucky Derby. It’s not the strongest field we’ve ever had but it is a well-balanced group which makes it very difficult to find the winner! I like the “odometer” theory where you pull into the parking lot and take the number that matches the last digit on the odometer. The weather is also up in the air, so I’m expecting big point potential today. You can easily leapfrog 100 players IF you are right with a longshot in the Derby which is worth triple points. Last year Pletcher got his first Derby win with Super Saver but this year he had to scratch Uncle Mo as he wasn’t 100% this week. He still has Stay Thirsty in the race. Baffert won the Oaks yesterday with Plum Pretty at 6-1 and he has Midnight Interlude in today’s race. I’m throwing out the favorites all day and crossing my fingers. Good luck with your selections! I tried to get a mint julep at 8:30 in the morning and I couldn’t get one. What is this country coming to???

Race 1: This is an allowance race for 3yo at 1m. I selected Mississippi Money (ML 6-1) who recently broke his maiden at Oaklawn Park and should be forwardly placed in this field. I’m hoping he can handle the class hike.

The Result: 4-1a-5 under the line as Uncle Pink (5-1) won for fun from off the pace over Perfect Joiski (2-1) and Southern Ocean (2-1). This was a dominant performance by the winner as he successfully moved from the Fair Grounds turf to the Churchill main track and won easily. My selection set a quick pace to the top of the stretch and stopped at 9/2.

Maximum Points: Uncle Pink 214
Maximum Score: 214
My Score: 0

Race 2: This is an allowance race for 3+ at 1m1/16th. Bind will be the heavy favorite and likely winner off his two Fair Grounds races. I selected Eddie Set Go (ML 12-1) who is a late runner shipping from Keeneland. He made a wide bid on the turn going 7f last time out. Maybe he can hit the board at a big price.

The Result: 4-2-5 as Worldly (5/2) got the best of Bind (3/5) with Supreme Ruler (14-1) third. My selection showed surprising early speed and set the pace at 22-1 before fading to 5th late. Not much for contest points here, as expected.

Maximum Points: Worldly 132
Maximum Score: 346
My Score: 0

Race 3: This is an msw for 3+ at 6f. I selected Tyrus (ML 8-1) who showed sharp early speed at Churchill as a 2 year old and recently finished third at Keeneland. He makes his second start off the layoff.

The Result: 4-8-10 as the favorite won by a length. C J Russell (4/5) was a first time starter trained by Baffert who was bet way down from his 5-1 morning line. Santo Gato (7-1) was second and Karma Shield (12-1) finished third. My selection looked like he was going to split horses and get a share, but the hole closed in mid-stretch and that was the end of it. Santo Gato got the most contest points for his second place finish.

Maximum Points: Santo Gato 90
Maximum Score: 436
My Score: 0

Race 4: This is an allowance race for 3+ fillies and mares at 1m1/16th on the turf. I selected Perfect Shirl (ML 5-1) who makes her second start off the layoff. She won a Grade 2 at Saratoga last summer and has a stalking style.

The Result: Joe Public is tough right now as the order was 8-4-7. Snow Top Mountain (8/5) closed from last and won easily over Persuading (2-1) and Perfect Shirl (2-1). We are one-third of the way through the contest and no fireworks yet.

Maximum Points: Snow Top Mountain 106
Maximum Score: 542
My Score: 26

Race 5: This is an allowance race for 3yo at 7f. I selected The Man Uptown (ML 9/2) who broke his maiden at Churchill in his debut and ships in from Keeneland. His last two have been off-pace efforts.

The Result: 5-3-4 under the line as Goodtimehadbyall won narrowly at 10-1 over Fusa Code (9/2) and Depeche Chat (3-1). My selection showed brief speed and finished far back at 4-1. Good price horse for the contest if you found that one!

Maximum Points: Goodtimehadbyall 372
Maximum Score: 914
My Score: 26

Race 6: This is a Grade 3 for 3+ at 5f on the turf. I selected Early Return (ML 12-1) who was running at Fair rounds and usually hits the board. This is a tough spot with Chamberlain Bridge in the race. My selection should be flying late.

The Result: 2-8-5 as the three favorites finished 1-2-3. Regally Ready (3-1) closed to defeat Bridgetown (5/2) and Chamberlain Bridge (2-1). My selection was outrun at 12-1. Halfway through the day and still looking for any huge fireworks!

Maximum Points: Regally Ready 162
Maximum Score: 1,076
My Score: 26

Race 7: This is a Grade 1 sprint for fillies and mares 4+ at 7f. Hilda’s Passion is the big favorite and likely winner at odds-on. I selected Twelve Twenty Two (ML 8-1) who has won four consecutive races at Sunland Park. The Sunland to Churchill angle has been pretty good as yesterday’s Oaks winner was from Sunland and we won’t forget Mine That Bird as a Derby shocker two years ago.

The Result: There’s a bomber! 1-7-4 finish as the longest shot on the board Sassy Image (16-1) closed to win going away over Hilda’s Passion (3/5) and Amen Hallelujah (6-1). The winner got a nice pace to run at and took advantage. My selection chased the speed early but never looked comfortable and finished far back at 7-1.

Maximum Points: Sassy Image 484
Maximum Score: 1,560
My score: 26

Race 8: This is the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for fillies and mares. I selected Fantasia (ML 10-1) who makes her second start off the layoff after finishing second at Keeneland in her last start. She ran in this race last year and finished fourth with a troubled trip.

The Result: 8-6-7 under the line in a wide open betting race. Aviate closed and got the money at 5-1 over Aruna (9/2) and Fantasia (5-1). The turf course appears to be favoring off the pace runners even more than usual today!

Maximum Points: Aviate 246
Maximum Score: 1,806
My Score: 72

Race 9: This is a Grade 2 sprint for 4+ at 7f. I selected Here Comes Ben (ML 10-1) who hasn’t run since the Breeders Cup dirt mile, but he had won four in a row at 7 furlongs before that and two of those were at Churchill Downs. He will be rolling late.

The Result: 1-3-7 as the public didn’t believe in Aikenite and let him go off at 13-1 off a 5-1 Morning Line. He was up in the final stride over Apriority (6-1) and Ibboyee (21-1). That’s the second big longshot from the 1 post this afternoon! My selection never got into it despite being bet down to 9/2. Not a good effort, he must have needed the race.

Maximum Points: Aikenite 486
Maximum Score: 2,292
My Score: 72

Race 10: This is the Grade 1 Turf Classic for 3+ at 1m1/8. I selected Teaks North (ML 20-1) who is going to be a huge price. He is 2 for 3 at the distance and won earlier this year at 25-1. It’s wide open.

The Result: 7-6-8 as Get Stormy (7-1) was able to slow down the pace and cruise wire to wire over Smart Bid (7-1) and Doubles Partner (5-1). My selection was up near the lead on the backstretch at 21-1 but faded on the turn.

Maximum Points: Get Stormy 320
Maximum Score: 2,652
My Score: 72

The Kentucky Derby: This is the Kentucky Derby for 3yo at 1m1/4. So far my day has been a throw-out and my reasoning for selections hasn’t panned out. But the Derby can erase all the bad picks because it’s worth triple points! With 19 horses in the gate and a 5-1 favorite on the board, this race is going to generate at least 600 contest points and possibly over 3,000. So better to be wrong all day and right in this race than the other way around! I selected Soldat for the following reasons: He had an excuse in the Florida Derby where he was the beaten favorite as he was trapped along the inside and took a lot of dirt in his face. His connections said he got a lot of dirt in his throat and was never comfortable down on the inside. It was a bad run but his form before that had been quite good. It’s certainly plausible that the dirt in his face completely knocked him off his game that day. From an outside post today he should be able to sit comfortably on the outside and track the early speed of Comma to the Top, Decisive Moment, and Shackleford. If he needs the lead he isn’t going to win but if he can sit a few lengths off the pace on the outside I believe he will be in a perfect spot to make a winning move on the turn. Most winners of this race are on the lead at the eighth pole and that’s where I believe Soldat will be today. He has trained well at Churchill and has posted figures as good as anyone in the race. He is a horse I am willing to lose with and hopefully he gets a winning trip today.

The result: 16-19-13 under the line as Animal Kingdom (20-1) charged down the middle of the track and ran past Nehro (8-1) and Mucho Macho Man (9-1). Shackleford set the pace and faded to fourth late. The pace was pretty moderate by Derby standards but Animal Kingdom was able to run by them all. My selection got the trip I was hoping for but came up empty on the turn. It’s such a tough race and Animal Kingdom flew under the radar all week since he had never run on the dirt. No regrets for me, I never considered the horse for the win so today was not going to be my day. Congratulations if you found Animal Kingdom! The top four finishers seemed to run their race but that’s about it. Unfortunately Archarcharch was injured during the race.

Maximum Points: Animal Kingdom 2,292
Maximum Score: 4,944
My Score: 72

Race 12: This is an allowance race for 3+ at 7f. It seems anti-climactic after the Derby but this is the last race of the Road to Kentucky contest. I probably need points here to avoid finishing dead last for the week! I selected Firm Resolve (ML 12-1) who is on a two race winning streak at Keeneland and Fair Grounds.

The Result: 8-3-9 in the finale as Good Lord rallied for the win at 8-1 over The Program (14-1) and Streakin’ Mohican (3/2). A good price to finish the contest! My selection made a mid-race move but flattened out at 11-1.

Maximum Points: Good Lord 316
Maximum Score: 5,260
My Score: 72

Summary: Animal Kingdom was the key to the week as he cruised to the Kentucky Derby win for trainer Graham Motion and jockey John Velasquez. Congratulations if you were on Animal Kingdom today you moved up dramatically in the overall standings!

“Hello darkness my old friend…” That was the song lyric that was running through my mind as I was recording zero after zero on my tally sheet. But that’s the great thing about this game, theories and angles that do pretty well in the long run are not guaranteed to work on any given day. I entered the final week in third place overall and my performance today reminds me of two movie quotes and I’m not sure which one is more appropriate. Can you name the movies?

“You’ve done some nice work here but it’s not quite Ivy League material now is it”?

“That was some of the best flying I’ve seen yet. Right up to the part where you got killed”!

Obviously I struggled today but knowing I needed 2,000 points for a chance at the overall win I just went for it and unfortunately my analysis didn’t pan out. As bad as I was all day, if I had been bullish on the Derby winner it still might have worked out for me. I enjoyed blogging the contest and being in the mix and I congratulate the overall top finishers for the year. Job well done! I hope to be back next year to do it again.