Selections by Ellis Starr for

Kentucky Derby DaySaturday 05/02/09

Mission Statement:
To help you be a better handicapper and bettor and at the same time keep you in the game with uncommon selections and analysis.

Motto:
"Friends don't let friends bet chalk."

 

Guide to using these selections and analysis: The names listed in BOLD are the horses I think have the highest probability to win ('win contenders'). Next to each name is my ‘fair odds’ threshold for making win bets. ‘Fair odds’ are just a guide. The best way to use this report is to consider win bets at or above ‘fair odds’, starting with the top choice. If a horse is listed as a 'win contender' but below fair odds it can still be used in other wagers such as in the exacta. When considering exactas remember that the 2nd best 'win contender' isn't necessarily the best horse to run second, so even though horses are ranked in order that doesn't mean they will (or won't) finish in that order. When I feel an exacta is warranted I specifically say so.

 

Guide to Ratings:

  1. Predictable race that may not offer opportunity for profit, or unpredictable race with profit opportunity if the odds are high.
  2. Average race in terms of profit opportunity depending on the potential returns and odds on ‘win contenders’.
  3. Exceptional race in terms of profit opportunity. Whether any horse in the race present exceptional profit opportunity depends on the odds and potential payoffs. These races usually have vulnerable favorites, high odds ‘win contenders’, or both.

 

You can get detailed selections & analysis like this daily at www.trackmaster.com and www.equibase.com


Always Check Program Numbers

Race #1 - Rating = 2

#6 Key Play - Fair odds 5/2

#1 Mother Ruth - Fair odds 5/2

 


Possible exacta wagers: 1, 6 over 3,5,6

This “exacta part-wheel” has a cost of $6 at the $1 minimum level as we are getting six combinations to try to win. We win if Key Play or Mother Ruth finishes first and then if either of them (the one that did not win) finishes second or if #5 Brittania Rose does.

 

Type of race: The opener on Kentucky Derby Day is a “straight maiden race”, also known as “maiden allowance” or “maiden special weight” (MSW), the top level of maiden races at each track. Maiden races are for horses that haven’t won a race (whether they have raced or not) and that have potential to become stakes stars. Of course, that’s yet to be determined as horses get more mature and gain experience. This maiden race is for older horses; three and four year olds that have all run at least once, so we do have enough information to go on to evaluate the entrants.

 

The contenders: With Raposa and Britannia Rose both having shown a desire to lead from the start in their recent races, I believe that they will hook up with each other and run faster in the early stages trying to wrest the lead from one another than is good for them, the result being they will tire in the last part of the race. Based on that scenario, Key Play gets top billing even though she is a first time starter. Although her morning workouts are consistent they are not exceptionally fast, meaning that it is unlikely she will bust out of the gate to join the two previously mentioned that want the lead. The only other foal of Key Play’s dam (mother) won its debut, and since breeding and pedigree can be an important took when assessing maidens and first time starters, that is another reason to expect Key Play to give a good account of herself at first asking. Lastly, trainer Steve Margolis is off to a fine start at the meeting with 2 wins from 4 races, and from the 20 times Steve has used jockey Corie Lanerie in the past year they have ended up in the winners’ circle five times, which is a rock solid 25% win rate that can’t be ignored as  it suggests Margolis puts Lanerie up on his live maidens.

 

Mother Ruth is the closer of note of those that have run, having run very nicely finishing fast from 9th in the early stages to miss by a head on the wire in her March 22 debut. With logical physical and mental improvement forthcoming off the experience of a race and with jockey Garrett Gomez riding her back after getting familiar with her in that debut, this filly certainly would be no surprise if getting her picture taken in the winners’ circle when the race is over.



Race #2 - Rating = 3

#8 Ready's Rocket - Fair odds 5/2 - consider a win and place bet at potentially high odds

#4 Riley Tucker - Fair odds 5/2

#3 Heavenly Chorus - Fair odds 3/1

 


Possible exacta wagers: Box 8,3 and Box 8,4. The cost for both wagers at the $1 minimum level is $4. We win if Ready’s Rocket finishes first or second and if either Riley Tucker or Heavenly Chorus finishes first or second (in whatever of those positions Ready’s Rocket did not). The reason for this wager and not a three horse exacta box is that Riley Tucker and Heavenly Chorus are likely to be the two horses with the lowest odds at post time (the favorites) and as such it is not a profitable wager in the long term because when two favorites combine for the exacta the payoff over time does not equal the total investment.

 

Type of race: This is a second level allowance race, abbreviated NW2X, which means “for non-winners of 2 races other than maiden, claiming or starter.” Basically this event offers horses with two lifetime wins the opportunity to compete against other horses with the same number of wins, giving them a more even playing field rather than racing against multiple winners. Horses that have won at both the “maiden special weight” (like the first race) level and at the one lower NW1X level can race at this level until they win at it. Horses that have won claiming races (in which they can be purchased for a pre-set price) can also race at this level as long as they have not won previously at it.

 

The contenders: Of the three horses who combined have the bulk of the probability to win the race, Ready’s Rocket sticks out on value as he starts at 15 to 1 odds. Although we as bettors decide on the final odds based on how much we wager on each horse, the “morning line” (starting odds) are often a strong indicator of final odds, so I am assuming that near post time Ready’s Rocket will still be 10 to 1 or higher. Getting a good outside post for this seven furlong (seven eighths of a mile) race, Ready’s Rocket is one of those multiple claiming race winning types that are eligible to race at this allowance level. With 10 career wins compared to 2 or 3 for all the other entrants in the race, in 30 career races, Ready’s Rocket has demonstrated a superb “WINNING” spirit that may give him an edge over other horses that may have more “class” being as they have never raced for a claiming price. With three of his career wins having come here at Churchill Downs and with a perfect 2-for-2 record at this 7 furlong distance in his career, Ready’s Rocket also has one more thing that I feel gives him an edge, that being the best last race Equibase Speed Figure in the field, 101. The speed figure is a numerical measurement of time that is adjusted for the differences between one track and another, and in this case the 101 figure Ready’s Rocket earned in his most recent start means he ran the fastest of any horse in this race compared to their last races and if he can repeat that effort he can post the upset for our profit.

 

Riley Tucker cuts back from two turns to one turn after a race in which he was 2nd at the same point today’s race ends before tiring to 10th. Prior to that he rallied from off the pace to win, at the one lower NW1X allowance level, and if he can rebound to that kind of effort he could certainly win this race.

 

Heavenly Chorus won at the one lower NW1X level in his most recent start, on March 6, and freshened for the Churchill Downs meeting the same jockey that rode him last time out, Robby Albarado, gets back on. Although the 99 Equibase Speed Figure he earned was slightly below the 101 of Ready’s Rocket (and the 105 that Riley Tucker earned one before last), Heavenly Chorus is still improving as this will be only the 4th start of his career and thusly he can run even better (and faster) today which will be necessary as he moves up in class.



Race #3 - Rating = 1

#7 Gold Brew - Fair odds 3/1

#2 Eagle Poise - Fair odds 3/1

 


Possible exacta wager: Box 2,5,7 (#5 is Luv Gov)

The cost for this wager at the $1 minimum level is $6 and we win if any two of the three horses finish first and second, regardless of how the third of our trio finishes.

 

Type of race: Similar to the first race, this is a “maiden allowance” or “straight maiden race”, this one being a route (a mile or more). One of the things to try to assess when handicapping route races is which horse or horses may be on or near the early lead and if there is more than one whether the two or three that are in front will tire and allow a horse from behind to win. In this particular race with Five Burroughs stretching out from a sprint and having led for the first half mile and with Gold Schleiger having lead from the start and into the stretch in a route race in his most recent try, it appears that these two (and perhaps another horse or two) will want the lead at any cost and tire late to set up horses that are waiting in the wings.

 

The contenders: Gold Brew came back to the races after 14 ½ months off on April 10 and rallied from 4th to finish 2nd of 9, not a bad effort at all after so much time off. With the winner of that race validating his effort by winning his very next race, and with physical improvement likely in his 2nd start off that lengthy time off, Gold Brew should take the necessary step forward to run well enough to win.

 

Eagle Poise also finished 2nd in his most recent race, the 2nd of his career and after two months off. He too is stretching out to two turns for the first time but since he closed from 3rd to 2nd in that race and since the same jockey (Julien Leparoux) is riding it is safe to assume he will be sitting mid-pack in this race and therefore could be in a perfect spot to take advantage of the tiring pacesetters in the late stages of the race to win.



Race #4 - Rating = 1

#3 Glenwood Canyon - Fair odds 2/1

#7 Bull Toccet - Fair odds 9/2 - may be worth considering for a win and place wager at potentially high odds

 


Possible exacta wagers: 3 over 1,2,5,7,8

For the $1 minimum exacta wagering amount, the total cost of this wager is $5. We make this kind of “part wheel” wager when we feel that a horse like Glenwood Canyon, who is likely to be the favorite near post time, has odds too low for a win bet. We’re therefore using the exacta in lieu of a win wager to profit if Glenwood Canyon wins.

 

What I mean to say is that over time betting on the favorite to win is not a profitable investment because the return on average multiplied by the percentage of time the favorite wins is less than 100%. The favorite wins about 33% of the time but returns approximately $5.50 on average, so over time you are going to get back $1.64 for every $2 wagered. If I am going to spend $5 to win on Glenwood Canyon I would rather play the exacta trying to get $20 back then bet the same $5 at odds of even money (1/1) to get $10.

 

The contenders: Glenwood Canyon is a “legitimate” favorite, which means that my opinion of the race and that of the public at large are in agreement. Glenwood Canyon may have just one career win in 9 starts, but that win came in his most recent race, on February 24 and was by almost 8 lengths. Flattered when the 3rd finisher came back to win his next race and with jockey Jamie Theriot aboard today as for that last win, and based on the fact that the 106 Equibase Speed Figure he earned in victory suggests that any other horse in the race has to improve many lengths to threaten him, Glenwood Canyon is the one to beat.

 

That being said, Bull Toccet, who opens at 15 to 1 odds, may be worth the risk considering the return we are being offered if he runs first, or even second. Although he earned a 95 figure that is far below the 106 of Glenwood Canyon in his most recent start, he did so at the same distance he is running today and as a last out maiden winner (via disqualification of the original winner)  he fits at this allowance level. Strictly on terms of recent form, both Bull Toccet and Glenwood Canyon won their last starts to break their maidens and so have every right to continue to improve versus others here that have one or more losses between today and their last win. Lastly, similar to Glenwood Canyon, Bull Toccet was flattered when the horse he beat by five and one-half lengths came right back to win his next start, which may demonstrate that something about that race was productive.



Race #5 - Rating = 3

#6 Woodbourne - Fair odds 4/1 - can be considered for a win and place bet at potentially high odds

#11 Jazz in the Park - Fair odds 4/1 - can also be considered for a win and place bet at potentially high odds

#4 Artic Cry - Fair odds 5/2

#1 Why Tonto - Fair odds 5/2

 


OFF TURF NOTE: If the race moves off the grass as scheduled and is run on the main track, consider also #2 Desert Wheat in your wagers. Jazz in the Park also must be considered no matter which surface this race is run on.

 

Possible exacta wagers: 1,4,6,11 over 1,4,6,7,8,11 The cost for this wager at the $1 minimum threshold is $20 if all the runners listed run and we win this “part wheel” exacta bet if 1, 4, 6 or 11 wins and then if any of them (less the one that won) or #7 Pick Six or #8 Gentleman Chester finishes second.

 

The race, and the contenders: This being a turf race, where traffic can play an important role and can affect the favorites as easily as the long shots, I feel it is important to give slight preference to the horses among the contenders that are likely to be at the highest odds near post time. With 11 wins and six second place finishes in 32 combined starts on turf between them, the four listed contenders are pretty evenly matched in my opinion, so when I saw that two of them had significantly higher starting odds than the other two, I took note.

 

Woodbourne is one of those two, starting at 20 to 1 odds. This being a third level allowance race (NW3X) and this gelding just having won at the one lower NW2X level on turf, he certainly fits the conditions. Sent to post at 4 to 1 last out on 3/22 he rallied from off the pace to win by a half length in a field of nine, before that leading by a length late in the race and ending up 2nd. With 108 and 100 Equibase Speed Figures in those two efforts that compare favorably with the main contenders in this field, Woodbourne deserve a lot more respect for potentially being first or second on the wire today than his high odds suggest.

 

Jazz in the Park also opens at double digit odds of 20 to 1. Three races back on 2/6 Jazz in the Park posted the 23 to 1 upset to win at the one lower NW2X level, beating Woodbourne by a half length, and although he has finished 4th and 6th since the fact he returns to the one mile turf trip of that victory for the first time since and the fact he gets a jockey change to Calvin Borel are two reasons to suspect he might be able to duplicate that effort that would make him a contender to win this event.

 

Artic Cry won at the same NW2X level one before last (on 2/28) that the previously two discussed contenders recently, earning a lower figure of 95. However, the reason he opens as the 2/1 favorite is that following that win Artic Cry ran in a stakes race and led late before settling for 2nd, beaten just a half length at the finish. That effort earned him a 115 figure that if repeated makes him the one to beat on paper. However, races aren’t run on paper and the high figure may as much have been related to the how fast the winner ran than how well he ran. That being said, at the least Artic Cry is a must for use on any exacta or similar tickets we play in this race.

 

Why Tonto gets the ground saving rail, having woken up after two poor efforts following a year layoff, on April 11 in his most recent race leading briefly by a head in the stretch and settling for 2nd in a field of 9. With John Velazquez riding back after being up for the first time in eight races and with it likely that the colt will improve off that effort, Why Tonto rounds out our quartet of contenders for the major honors in the race.



Race #6 - Rating = 2

The Churchill Downs Stakes

 

#3 Kodiak Kowboy - Fair odds 9/5

#2 The Roundhouse - Fair odds 7/2

#6 Accredit - Fair odds 7/2

#9 Sok Sok - Fair odds 7/2

 


Possible exacta wagers: 2 over 3,6,9 and then 3,6,9 with 2 then ALSO 6 with 3,9 and 3,9 with 6

The total cost for these wagers at the $1 minimum level is $10. It is a slightly modified four horse exacta box, leaving out the combination containing the two favorites Sok Sok and Kodiak Kowboy and trying to maximize profit by hoping that one of the two higher odds horses wins or finishes second. We win if either The Roundhouse or Accredit finishes first, or second, and if any of the remaining three finish in the other exacta position.

 

The contenders: Kodiak Kowboy is a legitimate favorite on the card, a multiple stakes winner coming into the race off a victor by a head at this 7 furlong distance in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap last month. Never worse than 2nd in 3 career starts at Churchill Downs and with a class edge over the rest of these, none of the others having won a grade 1 or even a grade 2 stakes in their careers, Kodiak Kowboy is the one to beat to be sure.

 

The Roundhouse is a half brother (same mother) to Circular Quay, a multiple stakes winner of over $1.5 million in his career. Sidelined by an injury from October, 2007 until February of this year, The Roundhouse finished 3rd in his comeback attempt then on March 19 in his 2nd start off the layoff he won very nicely by 2 lengths at the same 7 furlong distance of this race. From the top barn of Todd Pletcher and with a lot of improving to do in his 3rd start off the layoff, I find it pretty hard to ignore The Roundhouse as a strong contender here opening at 12 to 1.

 

Accredit was claimed (purchased out of a race in which he was eligible to be purchased for a pre-set price) for a hefty $75,000 one start before last, on March 11, subsequently finishing a fine third in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on the main track, beaten just a length for all the marbles in that 12 horse field. Still highly regarded by a high percentage trainer in Mike Maker and with Julien Leparoux riding him for the first time being a good sign of the same or better as last out in this situation, Accredit might not need run much better than he did in the race he was claimed out to be competitive today, having won by 4 ½ lengths in that race. As such, he must be considered for any wagers we make involving this race, especially for the exacta as he has finished first or second in10 of 15 lifetime starts.

 

Sok Sok won a non-graded stakes in his most recent start, in March at Fair Grounds, the 107 Equibase Speed Figure earned not early threatening the 117 Kodiak Kowboy earned winning the Carter BUT the 117 figure Sok Sok earned two before that last November when winning a stakes perhaps a signal that with his best effort Sok Sok can compete at this level.



Race #7 - Rating = 3

The Eight Belles Stakes

 

#8 Lady's Laughter - Fair odds 7/2

#10 Auspicious - Fair odds 7/2

#4 Four Gifts - Fair odds 7/2

#1 Just Jenda - Fair odds 7/2

 


Possible exacta wagers: Box 1,4,8,10 This four horse exacta box costs $12 at the $1 minimum level and we win if any two of the four finish first and second in any order, giving us two horses for “margin of error” whose finish is irrelevant if the other two finish first and second.

 

The contenders: Lady’s Laughter could be a key long shot bet on the day if she goes to post anywhere near her 15 to 1 starting odds. This filly with two wins and a runner-up finish in her last 3 races came back from 3 ½ months off on April 4 and ran a career best race with Kent Desormeaux in the saddle for the first time and riding her back today. With that win coming at 7 furlongs, Lady’s Laughter should have no issue with this unique 7 ½ furlong distance, and stronger today than last out in her 2nd start off the layoff and possessing the best last race winning Equibase Speed Figure (97) in the field to improve upon, Lady’s Laughter could be poised to upset the field in this event.

 

Auspicious won the first two races of her career by six lengths in easy fashion then finished third in a stakes in her 3rd career start. Although she did not move forward last out, with a good outside post and Robby Albarado getting on for the first time, Shaun Bridgmohan moving to Steve Asmussen’s other starter in the race (Four Gifts), Auspicious has a good shot to be sitting off the leader’s heels at the top of the stretch and then be the one the closers have to run down to win.

 

Four Gifts won the Grade 3 Delta Princess Stakes last December after winning an allowance race in November here at Churchill Downs and at the similar 7 furlong distance. With no finish worse than 4th in three starts after that, the two most recent in graded stakes, Four Gifts certainly has proven she has what it takes to win a stakes race like this one and therefore must be considered for all wagers we make involving this race.

 

Just Jenda has a perfect 2-for-2 record in one turn races, having won her first two starts by a combined 15 and ¾ lengths. With a win in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes on March 15 followed by a respectable third to Kentucky Oaks favorite Rachel Alexandra in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes, Just Jenda has a big shot to return to winning form dropping a notch into the grade 3 level and with the ground saving rail as well.



Race #8 - Rating = 3

The Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes

 

#6 Sugar Mint - Fair odds 2/1

#7 Ballymore Lady - Fair odds 3/1

#1 Lemon Chiffon - Fair odds 7/2

#3 Tizaqueena - Fair odds 7/2

 


Possible exacta wagers: 6 with 1,2,3,7,10 the reverse of that wager as 1,2,3,7,10 with 6, then ALSO 7 with 1,2,3,6,10 and 1,2,3,6,10 with 7 The total cost for all these exacta combinations at the $1 minimum threshold is $20. The reason that investment amount may be worth the risk is that in this full field with so many possibilities and a couple of high odds horses included in our wagers the exacta could return a couple of hundred dollars. The horses in the exacta in addition to the listed win contenders are #2 Visit and #10 Rustic Flame.

 

The contenders: Sugar Mint has improved in each of her last two starts, both turf routes like this one, since making her U.S. debut in January, last out winning by 2 ¼ lengths with a strong 116 Equibase Speed Figure that is the best last race figure in the field. With jockey Rafael Bejarano up for all 3 of her U.S. races and riding her back today, and with two of her 3 career wins having come at this mile turf trip, Sugar Mint has every right to add a grade 2 victory to her credentials today just by taking another logical step forward in her form.

 

Ballymore Lady is also an improving filly, because even though she finished 3rd in her most recent race after winning prior to that she improved her speed figure to 110. Having won previously on the Churchill Downs turf and getting the services of red hot Julien Leparoux, who rode her to that local win and who hasn’t ridden her since last June, are two more reasons this tough mare might earn her 8th career win on the turf today and push her career turf earnings to over $435,000.

 

Lemon Chiffon is 4 for 9 in her career, her most recent victory coming in a turf sprint in California that followed 5 months on the shelf and serves as a fine foundation for going long today, particularly as the only other time she stretched out off a turf sprint she won, last May. With her last effort resulting in a 115 figure and having earned a 118 figure before the layoff when third in a grade 2 stakes like this one, Lemon Chiffon has potential to now jump up and run a new career best race and if she does she can post the upset under Mike Smith, who rode her to that victory last month and who rides her again.

 

Tizaqueena shoots for her 4th straight win, having finished 2nd in her 2nd career start and having never been worse than 2nd in five races. Even with that record, in this deep and talented field she opens with 8 to 1 odds. Having won her last two races coming into this race on the turf and with jockey Jamie Theriot in the saddle today as for those victories, Tizaqueena rounds out our quartet of talented fillies and mares all with potential to get their picture taken in the winners’ circle.



Race #9 - Rating = 2

The Humana Distaff Stakes

#5 Secret Gypsy - Fair odds 3/1

#7 Royale Michele - Fair odds 3/1

#9 Game Face - Fair odds 3/1

#3 Informed Decision - Fair odds 3/1

 


Possible Exactas: 5 with 3,7,9 and then 3,7,9 with 5 then ALSO 7 with 3,5,9 and 3,5,9 with 7 The cost for all these wagers is $12 at the $1 minimum level and we win if Secret Gypsy or Royale Michele finishes first or second and then if either of them or Game Face or Informed Decision finishes in the other position that makes up the exacta.

 

The contenders: Secret Gypsy gets the slightest preference in a very tough field of fillies and mares, having won three straight races, most importantly the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap in March. With that effort following 3 months away from the races, Secret Gypsy should be even stronger today, and as the horse possessing the biggest desire to lead early in a race and with the top early speed in the race it  looks as if Secret Gypsy will be in front from the start playing “come catch me” with the field, from that point posing an elusive target.

 

Royale Michele is 5 for 9 in her career, with 4 of those wins having come in succession between November, 2008 and February 2009. Although she finished third behind Secret Gypsy in the Distaff Handicap in March, that race was run at six furlongs, and on the return to the 7 furlong distance she won the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at prior to that Royale Michele has a shot to duplicate her winning effort from that race, at the same 10 to 1 odds she opens at here.

 

Game Face has won 3 of her last 4 races including the Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes in her most recent start. With a perfect 2 for 2 record at this 7 furlong distance in her career and never worse than 2nd in three career races at Churchill Downs, you can see how it can be very tough to separate the four fillies that have the bulk of the probability to win the race between them. As such, Game Face, whose other 7 furlong win came last November over this track, is yet another to be taken very seriously when considering our wagers involving this race.

 

Informed Decision has also won her last 3 races in a row, most importantly the Grade 1 Madison Stakes last month at Keeneland, run at the same 7 furlong distance as this race. Although many of these fillies and mares have faced each other previously, some taking turns beating one another, Informed Decision has never been beaten by any of the other entrants in the race this year. With a perfect 3 for 3 record at this distance, Informed Decision is likely go to post as the possibly prohibitive favorite, which makes a win bet a poor wager in the long run. However, she is a must for use on any and all exacta tickets or other wagers such as the pick 3 or pick 4 that we make involving this race.



Race #10 - Rating = 3

The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes

 

#10 Thorn Song - Fair odds 3/1

#2 El Caballo - Fair odds 3/1

#3 Proudinsky - Fair odds 3/1

#6 Einstein - Fair odds 3/1

 


Possible exacta wagers: 2,3,6,10 over 2,3,4,6,8,10 (#4 is Court Vision, #8 is Cowboy Cal)

The cost for this part wheel exacta wager is $20.

 

With rains having fallen off and on all week and with this grade 1 stakes likely to stay on the turf unless unsafe, the condition of the grass is likely to be listed as yielding or soft. If that happens, Thorn Song could get an easy lead over a soft course he likes and that led to his victory last July on this course in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap. Kent Desormeaux guided Thorn Song to that win last summer, three races later in the fall under another jockey this top notch turf star taking the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Having rested since November until April, he lunged at the gate at the start in the Maker’s Mark Mile last month then tired from having to rush up to lead following that awkward beginning, perhaps also because he had been away from the races for 4 months. However, much tighter today 2nd off the layoff and over a course he has proven he adores with a 4 for 6 record, Thorn Song can post the upset to win opening at 10/1 odds.

 

El Caballo also opens at double digit odds, 12 to 1, and this is a horse whose odds disparity with Proudinsky, who he just lost to by a nose but who opens at significantly lower odds of 6 to 1, must be exploited. With 4 wins and 5 runner-up finishes in 11 career races in his career, El Caballo has proven time and again when a tough competitor he is, and after nearly winning the Grade 2 Mervyn Muniz Handicap in March in his most recent race, El Caballo has every right to win and post the upset today or to combine with Thorn Song for a most profitable exacta.

 

Proudinsky, even at 6 to 1 starting odds, is worth considering strongly for a wager as well, as this horse with a 6 for 18 record on the turf (and four second place finishes) for over $1 million in earnings has won two grade 2 stakes races in a row on the sod and also has won on a yielding turf course in the past so figures tough no matter what the condition of the grass is, particularly with Victor Espinoza aboard for that last victory and coming in from California to ride him again.

 

Einstein opens as the 2 to 1 favorite, with a strong 6 for 16 record and $1.1 million in earnings similar to Proudinsky Having won the Santa Anita Handicap on the main track in his most recent start and having won this Woodford Reserve Turf Classic last year, Einstein has proven that surface and course condition are no obstacles to his success. Even though I would rather see any of the other three listed win contenders emerge victorious in this race for a better profit than if Einstein won, he is a logical horse that can win and as such must be included on any and all exacta, pick 3, pick 4 or daily double tickets we play involving this race.



Race #11 - Rating = 3

The Kentucky Derby

 

#19 Desert Party - Fair odds 7/2

#13 I Want Revenge - Fair odds 7/2

#16 Pioneerof the Nile - Fair odds 6/1

#6 Friesan Fire - Fair odds 6/1

 


Additionally, #3 Mr. Hot Stuff has fair odds of 12/1, #15 Dunkirk has fair odds of 12 to 1, #7 Papa Clem has fair odds of 18/1, #10 Regal Ransom has fair odds of 18 to 1 and #12 General Quarters has fair odds of 18/1.

 

I have broken up my analysis of Kentucky Derby 135 into three tiers of contenders, following that with the rest of the entrants. Following that is my suggested exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers.

 

The first tier:

Desert Party is a son of Street Cry, already proven as a sire whose progeny can win the Derby with Street Sense in 2007. A Kentucky-bred who won his first two races in the U.S. including the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes last summer at Saratoga, earning a 94 EquibaseÒ Speed Figure in the process, Desert Party wintered in Dubai and won his first start as a three-year-old versus 15 other horses then trounced a good field of three-year-olds and southern hemisphere four-year-olds in the U.A.E. 2000 Guineas, winning by nearly five lengths. What was so impressive about that victory was the fact that Desert Party had to weave his way through traffic like a downhill skier before powerfully drawing off in the late stages. Although second to his stablemate Regal Ransom in the U.A.E. Derby following the 2000 Guineas, Desert Party was not disgraced one bit as he was beaten just a half-length in a 12 horse field, again one consisting of horses up to a full year older and more physically mature than he. Since coming to Churchill Downs, Desert Party has been working splendidly over the track and appears to be peaking at the right time for Kentucky Derby glory.

 

I Want Revenge ran the race of his life in his first start outside of California when dominating the Gotham Stakes by eight and one-half lengths and earning a career best 120 EquibaseÒ Speed Figure in doing so. Although his figure was 114 when winning the Wood Memorial last month following the Gotham, the way in which he won was very impressive. After rearing in the air at the start and finding himself a couple of lengths behind the field at the start, I Want Revenge continued to make progress until was in a position to win with less than an eighth of a mile to go. However, there was no path to run and when the slightest opening emerged; I Want Revenge drove himself through it to demonstrate the kind of mental determination and winning spirit of a champion. With 19-year-old phenomenon Joe Talamo having ridden I Want Revenge to both his recent victories (and with the mount in the Derby) and with breeding that suggests he can run even farther than the classic distance of one mile and one-quarter, I Want Revenge has a high probability for Derby success.

 

Pioneerof the Nile earned a career best 117 figure when winning the Santa Anita Derby last month - his fourth straight graded stakes win. Saddled by three-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert and with Garrett Gomez having been in the irons for all four of those top notch efforts, Pioneerof the Nile fits on all counts to be a strong contender from start to finish in this year’s Derby. Although it appeared he had to work for the win in both the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, Baffert changed a piece of equipment recently (a bit) and the result was a smashing workout before leaving California that suggests we may not have seen Pioneerof the Nile’s best effort yet. As such, Pioneerof the Nile is yet another promising colt that is part of a logjam of horses with a legitimate shot to win the Kentucky Derby.

 

Friesan Fire romped through all three significant three-year-old stakes in Louisiana on his way to Louisville, going from a 104 figure in the LeComte Stakes to a 107 in the Risen Star Stakes to a 112 in the Louisiana Derby. Although there is talk that a horse cannot win the Derby following seven weeks off, after seeing trainer Larry Jones tremendous training job with 2007 Derby runner-up Hard Spun off a similar layoff, it would seem that Friesan Fire can take another step forward in his form and figure and be a contender in the 135th Kentucky Derby.

 

 

Tier two:

Mr. Hot Stuff is a full brother to Colonel John, who finished sixth in the 2008 Derby after running some big races in California. Mr. Hot Stuff has matured a lot more slowly than his brother, which may not be a bad thing as it is essential that horses peak at Derby time. As such, with Mr. Hot Stuff having earned a career best 114 figure when closing from last to third in the Santa Anita Derby behind Pioneerof the Nile in his most recent start and bred to run even better at the classic mile and one-quarter distance, Mr. Hot Stuff has some potential to post the upset in the Derby and even more potential to hit the board at odds much higher than they should be.

 

Dunkirk will try to buck more than 100 years of history in the Derby, as no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won that did race at least once as a two-year-old. However, times are changing and this $3.7 million yearling purchase in the fall of 2007 may be able to accomplish what many before him have tried to do and failed. Dunkirk improved off an 87 figure  in his seven-furlong debut in January to a 102 when winning in his second career start to 111 when second in the Florida Derby. And with Florida Derby winner Quality Road on the sidelines, if Dunkirk jumps up another eight speed rating points or so, he could be a force to reckon with in the Kentucky Derby.

 

Papa Clem earned a career best 111 figure winning the Arkansas Derby last month, the same race Smarty Jones used as his final prep before winning the Kentucky Derby in 2004. One of three sons of Smart Strike in this year’s Derby (the other two being General Quarters and Atomic Rain), Papa Clem should have little trouble with the 10 furlong distance of the Derby based on his breeding. Should Papa Clem move up the same 10 points in his speed figure off his Arkansas Derby victory the same way he did from his Louisiana Derby runner-up effort prior to that, he certainly could have a big say in the outcome of the Kentucky Derby.

 

General Quarters would be the “feel good” story of the year if he won and gave his owner and trainer, retired high school principal Tom McCarthy, the thrill of a lifetime. Following the same pattern as Street Sense did prior to winning the Derby in 2007, General Quarters ran in the Tampa Bay Derby (albeit fifth) before winning the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (which Street Sense finished second in). Although he earned only a 103 figure in the Blue Grass, General Quarters proved he belongs with the best in his division when earning a 117 figure winning the Sam. F. Davis Stakes in February, and if capable of duplicating or bettering his Sam F. Davis effort in the Kentucky Derby, General Quarters could be yet another capable of posting the upset win.

 

Regal Ransom finished a half-length behind stablemate Desert Party in the U.A.E. 2000 Guineas in February then turned the tables on his foe when prevailing by a half-length in the U.A.E. Derby on March 28. A Kentucky-bred son of Distorted Humor  (sire of 2003 Derby winner  Funny Cide), Regal Ransom began his career by winning his debut last summer at Saratoga with a very solid 97 figure for a two-year-old. Peaking at the right time and with excellent tactical speed to be in the right place at the critical point in the race, Regal Ransom, along with Desert Party, could give Godolphin two big pieces of the Derby purse.

 

Tier three:

Summer Bird has improved in each start in his three-race career, culminating with a 109 figure when third to Papa Clem in the Arkansas Derby. Although I would have preferred if his connections waited as planned and ran Summer Bird in the Lone Star Derby then Belmont Stakes, this son of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone is another lightly raced colt like Dunkirk who may not have hit his best stride yet and should be considered for exotic wager consideration at the very least.

 

Chocolate Candy finished second to Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby last month with a nice rally from last to earn a career best 116 figure. As a grandson of 1977 Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Chocolate Candy could be this year’s Giacomo (who won the Derby in 2005) by closing fast from the back of the pack to post the upset.

 

West Side Bernie finished second to I Want Revenge in the Wood Memorial to earn a career best 114 figure in his most recent start, while Hold Me Back was runner-up to General Quarters in the Blue Grass with a 101 in his last race. With Hold Me Back having earned a 112 figure winning the Lane’s End Stakes prior to the Blue Grass, both colts appear to be in range of the 120 or so figure it should take to win this year’s Derby if they can take a significant step forward in form. Even if they don’t they could still be in the top four and should be considered as such for exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers.

 

The rest: Advice earned a 99 figure winning the Lexington Stakes, which is an effort that does not appear capable of producing a Derby win. Atomic Rain wasn’t going to run until a number of horses dropped out of the race earlier this week.  Only three horses in the past 16 years with a last race finish of fourth or lower prior to the Derby have gone on to when, and Atomic Rain doesn’t look to change that trend with his fourth place finish in the Wood Memorial last out.  Flying Private gives D. Wayne Lukas another starter in his attempt to win the Derby for the fifth time, but the 102 figure earned when fifth in the Arkansas Derby in his most recent start isn’t really in the same realm as many Derby entrants. Join in the Dance could be on or near the lead from the start but based on the 96 figure earned when fifth in the Blue Grass last month it looks unlikely he’ll be around late for even a piece of the purse. Mine That Bird finished a non-threatening fourth in the Sunland Derby in his last start and earned a 103 figure that isn’t competitive with any number of entrants in this race. Musket Man won the Illinois Derby with a career best 110 figure but the mile and one-eighth distance of that win appears to be his limit based on his breeding.  Nowhere to Hide regressed to a 93 figure when fourth in the Illinois Derby after earning a pair of 101 figures when finishing fourth in both the Tampa Bay Derby and Risen Star Stakes. None of those efforts and figures seems to suggest Nowhere to Hide could have an impact in the Kentucky Derby.

 

 

Wager possibilities:

 

Win wagers at or above the fair odds listed on any of the four main win contenders.

 

Place and show wagers: In a race with 20 betting interests, place and even show bets can be profitable, so I would not argue with anyone that considered Mr. Hot Stuff, Papa Clem, Dunkirk, General Quarters, Chocolate Candy, Hold Me Back, Regal Ransom or West Side Bernie for place or show wagers if their win odds are 10 to 1 or higher.

 

Exactas:

I Want Revenge and Desert Party with:

I Want Revenge, Desert Party, Mr. Hot Stuff, Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem, Dunkirk, General Quarters, Chocolate Candy, Hold Me Back, Regal Ransom, Summer Bird and West Side Bernie

 

This “exacta part-wheel wager” would cost $24 at the $1 minimum threshold. We are betting that I Want Revenge or Desert Party will win, followed by either the one of those two that did not win or any of the other 11 horses. With an average  payout in the exacta (over the last 20 years) being $409 (for $1), a $24 investment appears worth the risk.

 

Trifectas:

Desert Party and I Want Revenge with:

Desert Party, I Want Revenge, Pioneerof the Nile and Friesan Fire with:

I Want Revenge, Desert Party, Mr. Hot Stuff, Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem, Dunkirk, General Quarters, Chocolate Candy, Hold Me Back, Regal Ransom, Summer Bird and West Side Bernie

 

At the $1 minimum trifecta threshold, the cost for this wager would be $66. With the average $1 trifecta payoff over the last 15 years over $6,800, I feel like it’s worth a shot for a $66 investment.

 

Superfectas (two wagers):

Ticket #1:

Desert Party and I Want Revenge with:

Desert Party and I Want Revenge with:

Pioneerof the Nile and Friesan Fire with:

 Mr. Hot Stuff, Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem, Dunkirk, General Quarters, Chocolate Candy, Hold Me Back, Regal Ransom, Summer Bird and West Side Bernie

 

Ticket #2

Desert Party and I Want Revenge with:

Pioneerof the Nile and Friesan Fire with:

Desert Party and I Want Revenge with:

Mr. Hot Stuff, Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem, Dunkirk, General Quarters, Chocolate Candy, Hold Me Back, Regal Ransom, Summer Bird and West Side Bernie

 

The total cost for both tickets above would be $80 at the $1 minimum threshold.

 

The superfecta is a bet that behooves us to find partners in order to invest a sum that gives us some shot at winning rather than playing. For example if we played a four horse superfecta box by ourselves, which has a cost of $24, we have little chance of winning versus the total number of combinations (116,280). However, if we get  three partners and wager, for example $240, or $60 each, we increase our chances of winning by 10 without significantly increasing our investment.

 

Given that the average Superfecta payoff in the 14 years the bet has been offered is more than $47,000, it  is certainly a wager worth taking a shot at for the potential reward.



Race #12 - Rating = 1

#1 Luster - Fair odds 8/5

 


Exacta wagers: 1 with 3,4,5,7,8 With Luster likely to be the prohibitive favorite this exacta gives us a chance to profit from her victory better than wagering on her to win.

#3 is Knockout Bertie, #4 is East Breaks, #5 Lacie Slew, #7 is Honchis ‘n Ponchis and #8 is Passion Du Coeur

 

Luster is a legitimate favorite and the one to beat in this first level allowance race, winning by nine lengths one before last then leading late with a big rally from 8th and settling for a clear 2nd at this level on April 4 in a very highly rated race. With Gomez taking the call and back on a conventional dirt surface like the one she won by 9 on in February, she should move through this allowance condition today.



Race #13 - Rating = 2

#3 Cullinan - Fair odds 2/1

#9 Gloss - Fair odds 7/2 - consider for a win and place wager at potentially high odds

#6 Just Right - Fair odds 7/2

#17 Citizens Brigade - Fair odds 2/1 - IF the race moves off the turf and onto the dirt

 


Also worthy of consideration for our wagers are #4 Belgrave Square and #5 Urban Legend

 

Exactas: 3,6,9 over 3,4,5,6,9

 

Cullinan finished well from 9th to 4th in his career debut in March in a turf route then moved to the main track at Keeneland for his 2nd career start and ran poorly. Back on the turf and in new blinkers today with any improvement off that debut effort he should be tough to beat.

 

Gloss opens at 12 to 1 in spite of having finished 2nd in his last two races, both since changing trainers, either effort repeated in this situation giving him potential to post the upset win.

 

Just Right missed by a head in two straight races in January and February, his only two starts on turf, then like Cullinan last out he ran on the main track at Keeneland and didn’t fare as well. Back on the turf and with Albarado aboard today as for those two “A” races, Just Right has a nice shot to rebound to competitive form at the minimum.



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You can reach me by email addressed to estarr@ellisstarr.com