Editor’s Note: We will attempt each week to keep our blog readers up-to-date on the annual Road to Kentucky contest. The Oracle has volunteered to chronicle his experiences and also keep track of the maximum possible scores each week. When the results are posted on Thursday of each week the blog will also give you a run-down of what the first place winner played in the contest. jm
submitted by The Oracle
Every year Canterbury Park runs a three-month-long contest leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each week a different track is featured that is running one of the 3-year-old Derby prep races. Dailt cash and prizes exceed $2,000 and as points accumulate throughout the contest the top two players will be headed to Las Vegas next January to compete in the Horse Player World Series at The Orleans Hotel & Casino. We will be following the action this year, analyzing what happened as far as what went right and what went wrong with the Derby hopefuls. Week one starts with Gulfstream Park.
Race 1: The card started with a one-turn mile for 3-year-old fillies. I wanted to take a price, so I went to the rail horse Lady Lori who was listed at 8-1 in the ML and ended up going off at 9/2 odds. She was dropping in class and had good speed, I thought she might grab the early lead from the inside post. The favorite was exiting a win and I don’t like to play for repeat winners at this level.
The Result: The 7/5 race favorite Poovey dueled for the early lead with Sunrise Cruise and those two ran 1-2 around the track. A 60-1 bomb, Beautiful Insight, closed for third. My selection never got the lead like I hoped, secured a good stalking position in third up the backstretch, but didn’t quicken at the top of the lane and finished an even 5th.
Maximum Points: Beautiful Insight 130Maximum Score: 130My Score: 0
Race 2: A little starter allowance on the turf had what looked to be an extremely strong favorite on paper. With Essence showed seven career wins on the turf, while the rest of the field didn’t show a single turf win between them. I couldn’t go against this one.
The Result: With Essence at 3/5 odds wore down 9-1 shot Get on Track to win by a length and a half. Get on Track had been running in some turf sprints so at least she had turf experience despite her 0 for 9 lifetime record on the surface. Her lone route try on the grass had been dismal.
Maximum Points: Get on Track 98Maximum Score: 228My Score: 79
Race 3: A maiden claiming sprint for 3-year-old colts. I didn’t see much I liked from the experienced runners, so I settled on a first-time starter by Forest Camp named Bear Den, 4-1 ML trained by Reade Baker. Unfortunately, the horse scratched so I was stuck with the post time favorite. Go Public.
The Result: The favorite, B B Frank, went wire to wire at even money. No prices anywhere on the board this time.
Maximum Points: B B Frank 86Maximum Score: 314My Score: 165
Race 4: A maiden claiming turf route, this one appeared to have several contenders. The favorite was a Northern Afleet filly named Victoria Bay, trained by Dale Romans. She had two starts in MSW company and was dropping today. My selection was Reata’s Vixen, another MSW dropper who set the pace to the top of the stretch last time out and then stopped. She broke from the 11 post last time and is making her second start off the layoff today. Some things to like at about 5-1.
The Result: A 30-1 longshot, Angel Made, jumped out to the lead with Reata’s Vixen tracking in second. Angel Made hit the top of the stretch with a 3 length lead, but Reata’s Vixen wore her down late and scored by a ½ length. The favorite, Victoria Bay, never reached serious contention. Looking at Angel Made for playable angles, she was another MSW dropper, second time lasix, in light at 109 pounds, and showed a 1 mile workout 2 days before the race. She was also Blinkers on and had 6 ITM finishes in 12 career starts. She ran a big one today.
Maximum Points: Angel Made 302Maximum Score: 616My Score: 407
Race 5: An allowance sprint for 3-year-old fillies, this was another very tough race to sort through. These types improve quickly and it’s difficult to correctly analyze form cycles with so many of these returning from layoffs. I decided to try Lady on Holiday, an off the pace type returning from a two month freshening. I was hoping there would be enough early speed in here to set it up for my runner. The even money favorite was exiting a front-running ten length romp in a MSW at Saratoga last July. Who knows?
The Result: There was a pretty good pace battle up front, but the two favorites, Informed Decision and J Z Warrior, separated themselves at the top of the lane and photo’d for the win. The favorite, J Z Warrior, won the photo but was disqualified for hitting his rival with the whip. My selection was wide into the far turn and ran an even third at 5-1 odds.
Maximum Points: Informed Decision 140Maximum Score: 756My Score: 437
Race 6: This was the double point contest race, the Grade 2 Swale Stakes. I couldn’t get away from the favorite here, the highly regarded Wincat from the Kiaran McLaughlin barn. He got a clear lead last time in his maiden victory at Philadelphia Park, we will see what happens if he gets hooked early by another quality colt. I can’t blame anyone that picks against this animal since he is a Pa Bred, but I have a hunch this one is the real deal.
The Result: I was wrong. Eaton’s Gift sped wire-to-wire at 7/2 odds as Wincat chased in second before tiring late. Fifty-to-one longshot Surrealdeal edged Wincat for second. Surrealdeal was by far the most experienced horse in the race with twelve starts under his belt. He had eight ITM finishes from those efforts, running mainly at Calder and Tampa. Usable, in hindsight.
Maximum Points: Surrealdeal 620Maximum Score: 1,376My Score: 493
Aqueduct Race 8: Another double point contest race, The Whirlaway. I went for a bit of a price here with Barrier Reef, who had a wide trip around both turns last time out while finishing fourth against a few others in here. He has a win over the Aquaduct inner and shows a bullet workout since his last race. He was a 350K purchase for Darley Stable. It’s a guess in a wide open race.
The Result: Barrier Reef lagged back through the opening half mile and then made a quick, outside move to contention around the turn. He dueled down the lane with Roman Emperor and prevailed by a neck at 5-1 odds. That helps, after the recent Gulfstream debacle.
Maximum Points: Barrier Reef 446Maximum Score: 1,822My Score: 939
Race 7: A 7f allowance race for 3yo colts. I didn’t see an abundance of early speed here so I selected Ling Ling Qi from the rail, who should be prominently placed early. He’s been off 5 months and has a nice string of works. He exits a 2nd place finish in a 50K Stakes race at Remington Park. The race favorite, Referee, is Pletcher trained and exits the same race as the recent Swale winner, Eaton’s Gift.
The Result: Ling Ling Qi tracked a three horse pace battle from the rail, swung out at the top of the lane and wore down the race favorite in the final strides at odds of 7/2. I misread the pace scenario but got lucky with the result. No bombs hit the board.
Maximum Points: Ling Ling Qi 174Maximum Score: 1,996My score: 1,113
Race 8: A MSW dirt route for 3yo colts. I thought it was a toss up on paper between Juicy Point and Sligovitz, but I ended up choosing Sligovitz because the jockey, Trujillo, had ridden both colts last time and winds up here. My selection will need some pace help up front according to the PP’s.
The Result: Dream Maestro jumped out to the lead at 9-1 odds and held to the final stride before being bobbed on the wire by Juicy Point. I zigged when I should have zagged on that one. Sligovitz was one-paced in mid-pack. In hindsight, Juicy Point had a trip over the track already, which was an angle I hadn’t considered.
Maximum Points: Juicy Point 172Maximum Score: 2,168My Score: 1,113
Santa Anita Race 5: Another double point race, the RB Lewis at Santa Anita brings together a field of 5. The favorite is the recent maiden winner Crown of Thorns, trained by Mandella. He is stretching out around two turns for the first time today, so I decided to let him beat me and selected Coast Guard instead. I get some two turn experience, early speed and square odds.
The Result: Crown of Thorns was too good for them at 8/5 odds. Coast Guard ran a game second but was no match for the winner. The others were strung out to Golden Gate Fields.
Maximum Points: Crown of Thorns 228Maximum Score: 2,396My Score: 1,249
Race 9: The Donn Handicap is the feature race on the card. The obvious favorite is Daaher, who beat the BC Sprint winner Midnight Lute at Aqueduct last time out. I made a blind stab at Einstein here, hoping for a quick pace up front with Einstein picking up some major pieces down the lane. It’s a stretch.
The Result: Good news, bad news here. The big favorite, Daaher didn’t bring his A, B or C race today and he burned out early at 4 to 5 odds. Unfortunately for me, Einstein wasn’t around at the finish either. He made a mild move on the far turn but that was it. Spring at Last, also with the early leaders, shook clear at the top of the stretch and held off A. P. Arrow late. Spring at Last was second off the layoff and turf to dirt, and he brought his “A” game today. This was his third consecutive win.
Maximum Points: Spring at Last 242Maximum Score: 2,638My Score: 1,249
Turfway Park Race 11: The 4th and final bonus race, the WEBN stakes at Turfway Park. It looked to me like there were just a few logical horses in here and I ended up selecting Your Round based on his back class and bullet work over the Keeneland polytrack. He also exits two troubled trips. He will either be the first or second betting choice.
The Result: The Frank Brothers trained Big Glen makes it 3 for 3 over the Turfway strip with a ½ length victory over Your Round. Big Glen is by Cactus Ridge, who ran at Canterbury Park several years ago if I’m not mistaken. He was definitely playable with strong connections and an affinity for the Turfway track.
Maximum Points: Big Glen 528Maximum score: 3,166My score: 1,405
Race 10: The last contest race is a starter allowance on the turf. I selected Black Snake, a 12-1 ML horse who is third off a layoff with three prior turf wins in his record. I’m expecting him to sit second behind the front running Quistopher, who tends to back up down the lane. It looks wide open so I just tried a price here.
The Result: The favorite, Stratostar, wears down the second choice late and scores at odds of 2 to 1. No prices on the board, this ends a pretty formful day at Gulfstream Park. My selection was in the second flight early, but never threatened to get involved down the lane.
Maximum Points: Stratostar 126Maximum Score: 3,292My Score: 1,405
Summary: The play of the day was to tab Surrealdeal in the Swale Stakes to run second at 50-1 odds. Other than that, it was a pretty formful day. As a rule of thumb, if you can get about 2/3 of the maximum points on any given day, you should be right near the top. I would expect the winning score to be somewhere around 2,000 points this week.
I can’t blog the contest next week but I will be back in two weeks. Good Luck!