by The Oracle
Welcome back to the Road to Kentucky contest blog for Week 8. Today’s contest track is Hawthorne where we will see the featured Illinois Derby. Also on tap are two additional bonus races, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby out in California. Current Kentucky Derby Favorite Uncle Mo will be heavily favored to win the Wood and move on to Kentucky as a solid favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher. Unfortunately, we lost a couple of potential Derby runners this week when Premier Pegasus and To Honor and Serve were both withdrawn from Derby consideration due to injury. Jaycito was also withdrawn from the Santa Anita Derby with a minor setback.
Let’s take a look at how Hawthorne has been playing so far this year. Much like the Aqueduct inner track, favorites are winning at a very high 43% rate meaning the public is in tune with what is going on. That makes it tough. There have been 30 winners so far that have paid 8-1 and above with only 6 of those 30 paying over 20-1. That’s one price horse per day on average. I’m going to focus on horses in the 6-1 to 10-1 range on the Morning Line and see how it plays out. Good luck with your selections!
Race 1: This is a mcl for 3+ at 6f. I’m trying a first time starter Easy Ernie (ML 6-1) who draws the rail with a sharp 5f drill in the holster. Trainer Gorham has had success with his first time starters (30%). His sire Equality is just okay.
The Result: The public strikes again as the top three favorites finished in order 7-1-8. First time starter Knightfiester (2-1) drew away from first time starter Easy Ernie (5/2) and Dancingsonofagun finished third. The winner certainly figured but he was the ML favorite so I looked elsewhere.
Maximum Points: Knightfiester 134
Maximum Score: 134
My Score: 78
Race 2: This is a claimer for 4+ at 1m1/16. I selected Gut King (ML 12-1) who makes his third start off the layoff and finished a close third at this class level and distance last time out at 15-1. He opened 8/5 on the board. That’s not good!
The Result: 9-8-3 was the order of finish as Courtesy Title won it at 4-1 over Lighthouse Judge (7-1) and Show Your Face (12-1). My selection stalked and faded at 3-1.
Maximum Points: Courtesy Title 198
Maximum Score: 332
My Score: 78
Race 3: This is a claimer for 4+ at 1m1/16th. I selected Creole’s Affair (ML 10-1) who exits a win against softer company and has won five career races at Hawthorne. He should be forwardly placed in a race without much early speed.
The Result: The finish was 2-5-3 as the top three choices fill the trifecta again. O’Connell’s (Brz) slipped through along the rail and won by a length at 5/2 over Creole’s Affair (3-1) and Little Feat (7/2).
Maximum Points: O’Connell’s (Brz) 156
Maximum Score: 488
My Score: 146
Race 4: This is an optional claimer for 3+ at 6f. I selected Deviant Behavior (ML 12-1) who hasn’t started since July at Arlington but has several bullet 5f workouts which indicate he may be ready to roll in this spot. .
The Result: A 2-1-5 order of finish as Lalo’s Baby Bear pulled the minor 6-1 upset over heavily favored Ship From Abroad (3/5) and Slick Pardoned Me. My selection chased the heavy favorite early and faded at 7-1.
Maximum Points: Lalo’s Baby Bear 222
Maximum Score: 710
My Score: 146
Race 5: This is a claimer for 3+ at 6f. I selected Colorado Trail (ML 6-1) who should be part of the early mix in this field.
The Result: 3-4-6 in this one as Colorado Trail snuck through along the rail in deep stretch to prevail at 3-1 over Flying Act (7-1) and Donta (5-1). Unfortunately for me he got bet down quite a bit from that Morning Line!
Maximum Points: Colorado Trail 170
Maximum Score: 880
My Score: 316
Race 6: This is a statebred msw for 3+ at 6f. I selected Double Jack (ML 5-1) who showed good speed and finished third in his career debut.
The Result: 9-4-2 order of finish as Double Jack dueled with favored Grudge Match and drew away for the win at 3-1 odds. First time starter Grudge Match (6/5) held second and No Mo Moe (7-1) was third. The show horse was also making his career debut.
Maximum Points: Double Jack 148
Maximum Score: 1,028
My Score: 464
Race 7: This is the featured G3 Illinois Derby for 3yos at 1m1/8th. It’s not a strong field but on the positive side it’s fairly evenly matched from a betting standpoint. I suppose Watch Me Go will be the favorite off his victory in the Tampa Bay Derby and he does have four career wins. I selected Sour (ML 6-1) who just finished second behind Left in an allowance race at Fairgrounds. Left was an also-ran in the Louisiana Derby but that race came up tougher than this one. I’m taking a shot with a lightly raced horse that won’t be favored, we will see what happens. Trainer Al Stall has been on a good run.
The Result: Joe Vann shipped in from Laurel and got the money at 5-1 over Zoebear (10-1) and The Fed Eased (5-1). That’s three wins in a row for Joe Vann and trainer Todd Pletcher gets another Derby win. My selection ran an even fourth at 7/2 and favored Watch Me Go was an also-ran at 2-1. Congrats if you found this one it’s a key win for the contest!
Maximum Points: Joe Vann 492
Maximum Score: 1,520
My score: 464
The Wood: The second bonus race of the contest is the G1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct for 3yos at 1m1/8. Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo is the 1/5 Morning Line favorite in here which is a great situation for contests like this. You toss the horse and select somebody else. The reward of something going wrong with a heavy favorite far outweighs the risk of having him beat you and costing yourself 150 points. These are the races where 2,000 point scores are possible if something goes amiss. You can’t beat Uncle Mo on paper so you just pick for second and hope something bizarre happens. With that in mind I selected Arthur’s Tale (ML 12-1) who exits an allowance win and is second off the layoff. On his best day he is in range of the rest of this field besides Uncle Mo and he will be a better price than a few of the other runners in here. Let’s play.
The Result: Welcome to horse racing. 2-4-5 finish as Toby’s Corner split horses late to win by a half length at 8-1 over Arthur’s Tale (20-1) and Uncle Mo (1/9). Durkin called it the most shocking Wood Memorial result since Secretariat’s defeat and that sounds about right. We all know that Big Red came back to vindicate himself quite nicely and he had an excuse for his Wood defeat, so we will just wait and see what happened today with Derby contender #1. To put it lightly, it wasn’t particularly good to go 48 and change on the front end and get run down by two non-descript colts. Toby’s Corner was the second best horse on paper and he won the Wood just like his daddy Bellamy Road did when he posted that notorious 120 Beyer figure in this race several years ago. Bellamy Road went on to be a beaten favorite in the Derby won by Giacomo. And this is why we don’t pick 1/9 shots in Road to Kentucky. Pletcher would trade the Illinois Derby win for the Wood I’m quite sure of that.
Maximum Points: Joe Vann 578
Maximum Score: 2,098
My score: 750
Race 8: This is an allowance race for Illinois breds 3+ at 1m1/16th. I selected Palo Duro Canyon (ML 6-1) who was pretty good last fall but threw in a clunker in his comeback try. If he’s back on his game today he should show more early speed for the Ness barn than he did last time.
The Result: 1-5-4 under the wire as the even money favorite Hydro Power dominated the race. It was a blanket finish for the place and 14-1 shot Devils Tower got the nod over Big Bear Hug (8-1). My selection wasn’t ready for prime time he ran terrible at 5-1. Devil’s Tower got the most contest points for his second place finish.
Maximum Points: Devil’s Tower 140
Maximum Score: 2,238
My Score: 750
Race 9: This is a claiming race for 3+ at 6.5f. I selected Prospective Union (ML 10-1) who ships and dips from the Fair Grounds and he’s very fast early. The class drop might wake him up at a square price.
The Result: 12-8-2 was the order of finish as Boot Tails kicked clear late at 4-1 to hold off longshot Dooney Rock (25-1) and Forced Action (10-1). Dooney Rock got the most contest points for his second place finish. He was extremely tough to find on paper as he hadn’t shown much life in three starts this year. My selection showed speed between horses to the top of the stretch and faded at 4-1.
Maximum Points: Dooney Rock 332
Maximum Score: 2,570
My Score: 750
Race 10: This is a maiden claimer for 3+ at 1m1/16th. I selected Inexcessive Sue (ML 5-1) who has several minor awards on his resume from 12 career starts.
The Result: Add em up in the tenth as they finished 2-8-10 with Celtic Express breaking his maiden at 3-1 in start 26 over Inexcessive Sue (2-1) and Ikaros (13-1).
Maximum Points: Celtic Express 166
Maximum Score: 2,736
My Score: 814
Santa Anita Derby: The final contest race of the day is the G1 Santa Anita Derby. The race took a big hit when the top two favorites were withdrawn earlier this week due to injury. Favoritism is up for grabs; it might go to Comma to the Top who was part of a wicked pace battle in the San Felipe and still held on for fourth. I selected Mr. Commons (ML 8-1) who should get a good trip behind the speed as there are several early runners signed on once again. He gets tested for class today and makes his stakes debut.
The Result: 6-5-3 finish as longshot Midnight Interlude (13-1) just got by Comma to the Top (6-1) near the wire and Mr. Commons (3-1) finished third. The winner was exiting a maiden win at Santa Anita in his last start and I thought Baffert had said earlier that he was entered as a rabbit for Jaycito who scratched. But he did come from off the pace and Baffert may have another Derby horse now in addition to The Factor. The sire of Midnight Interlude, War Chant, should not be confused with War Front who sired Soldat and The Factor! This one could make your day if you selected him in the contest; both Baffert and Pletcher pay nice prices in today’s double point bonus races.
Maximum Points: Midnight Interlude 956
Maximum Score: 3,692
My Score: 886
Summary: Midnight Interlude was the key horse in the contest as he was worth over 25% of the total points. Hawthorne played pretty chalky as the historical profile indicated, and of course the big shocker was at Aqueduct where Uncle Mo came up empty in the stretch. It throws the Derby wide open much like last year after Eskendereya was injured. Nobody was that impressive today to move way up the contender list in my view. Anything around 2,000 points this week is a great score and puts you in the ball park of cashing the weekly prize. Next week the contest is at Oaklawn Park with a bonus race at Keeneland. See you then!