Carter Handicap – Race 8 at Aqueduct – Post Time 4:44 PM Eastern
Skyler’s Scramjet and trainer Michelle Nevin are a potent pair, because if you remove the four races when the horse was in another trainer’s care and look at only the races where Nevin was the conditioner, Skyler’s Scramjet is five for six. His last three races were very consistent and the best of his career, with 116, 111 and 114 Equibase figures including a win last month in the Tom Fool Handicap, in which he beat four of the other 10 entrants in this race. He has won on mud so as it’s likely the track will be wet there is no issue and he’s won at 6 1/2 furlongs to the 7 furlong trip is of no concern either. Skyler’s Scramjet can sit just off the pace of Red Dragon Tattoo and Green Gratto, who is not the same horse that won last year’s Carter at 54 to 1, then draw off just as he did last month, improving off his last effort in his 3rd start off a layoff. Awesome Slew is the other horse with the bulk of the probability to win. Overmatched in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, his 3rd of 10 finish was very good. He finished 2nd in the Forego at this trip in August and won the Commonwealth Stakes at this time last year at the distance, his best race ever with a 115 Figure that stacks up the best figure effort Skyler’s Scramjet has put forth. With a good outside post to drop in behind horses early and a late running style that should benefit from any duel that develops between Green Gratto & Red Dragon Tattoo, Awesome Slew would be no surprise winning this year’s Carter.
Three other good horses that are a cut below the top two can be used in second and third on exacta and trifecta tickets. They are Army Mule, Favorable Outcome and Do Share.
Win Bets: Skyler’s Scramjet at 9 to 5 or higher. Bet Awesome Slew at 2 to 1 or higher.
The most efficient way to bet multiple horses to win is to use a “Dutching” tool like the one available at Amwager, which helps allocated your betting dollars for the best return.
Exacta: Skyler’s Scramjet and Awesome Slew over Skyler’s Scramjet, Awesome Slew, Army Mule, Favorable Outcome and Do Share.
Trifecta: Skyler’s Scramjet over Awesome Slew, Army Mule, Favorable Outcome and Do Share (in both second and third position).
Race 8 – Skyler’s Scramjet, Awesome Slew
Race 9 – ALL seven runners
Race 10 – Old Time Revival, Enticed
Wood Memorial – Race 10 at Aqueduct – Post Time 5:55 PM Eastern
Old Time Revival appears to have a pace edge in this year’s Wood Memorial, perhaps a significant one, as he can use his early speed to get to the rail and control the tempo from the start. Heartfullofstars showed some early speed last month in California, but that was on a sloppy track and in a highly restricted maiden race, the same kind of race Restoring Hope won in February. King Zachary also showed some speed early last month, in his two turn debut, and Catch Twenty Two adds blinkers, but Old Time Revival has a positional edge on all of them except Heartfullofstars. Last month in the one-turn Gotham Stakes, Old Time Revival had to battle head and head for the lead for the opening half-mile in 46.4 yet still was clearly second by four lengths over the next horse as Enticed drew off. There can be a significant difference in how a one-turn race is run compared to a two-turn race and that is why I think Old Time Revival can improve off his last race career best 108 Equibase Figure effort to win the Wood.
There’s nothing bad I can say about Enticed, except he has 63 Road to the Derby points and doesn’t need to win to go to Louisville next month. He won the two-turn Jockey Club Stakes in November, ran horribly in his three year old debut in the Holy Bull, then rebounded to win the Gotham with a career best 113 figure effort. He can sit behind the leaders and pounce just as he did last month and would be no surprise if winning, but from a betting perspective there’s little profit to be made if he does.
King Zachary is an improving type who was ridden out to a near eight length win in his first route and can improve but would need more than logical improvement to go from the 96 figure effort last month to the 110 figure effort the winner of this race is likely to put in. Restoring Hope is shipped east by Baffert to avoid his stablemate Justify and he won easily in his 2nd route and last start with a 108 figure. However, he’s been off since that February 2 race and one has to wonder why when others have run since. Still, the figure is the same as Old Time Revival earned and he does have tactical speed so I will use him on exacta tickets played.
Win Bets: Old Time Revival at 2 to 1 or more.
Exacta: Old Time Revival and Enticed over Old Time Revival, Enticed, King Zachary and Restoring Hope.
Play the same exacta in reverse but for half the amount.
Blue Grass Stakes – Race 10 at Keeneland – Post Time 6:23 Eastern
Kanthaka is my pick to win the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, having only 10 points coming into the race and needing to finish second or first to go on to the Derby. He’s got the talent to go with the incentive, having already won a graded stakes for three year olds, the San Vicente Stakes, in February. That wasn’t a points race because it was a sprint (7 furlongs) but he proved very capable in drawing off by three lengths and earning a 114 Equibase figure which is the BEST figure of any horse in this field. Trying two turns for the first time one month later in the San Felipe Stakes, against two of the division leaders in Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie (who is likely to miss the Derby but who is pointing for the Preakness), Kanthaka broke awkwardly and immediately went down to one knee, nearly losing his jockey. From then on out the strategy would be to let the horse settle and see how he did as most horses have no chance to win after such a start. Kanthaka relaxed in fifth in the field of seven and as the top two drew off in the stretch by six lengths, he showed his interest and ability in rallying for third.
The early pace of this race could be faster than average, with California Night having earned both his wins leading from start to finish, the last when wearing blinkers for the first time. Sporting Chance, one position inside California Night, is not likely to relinquish his position in the early stages either, while Good Magic and Flameaway, both drawn far outside, will have to use some tactical speed to save ground before the first turn. Considering Kanthaka draws the four post, jockey Leparoux can drop in and watch as all the pace manifestations take place in front of him, something jockey Prat was unable to do with Kanthaka in the San Felipe because of the bad start. From there, if the pacesetters begin to tire, Kanthaka can grab the lead in the stretch and hold off the deeper closers such as Blended Citizen and Arawak. For anyone that questions why jockey Prat is not here that is not of concern, because when Leparoux rode full time in California (where trainer Hollendorfer is based) in 2013/14, Hollendorfer and Leparoux won 11 of 42 races together including 4 stakes races from 14 tries. Also, we must recall trainer Hollendorfer prepared Battle of Midway marvelously last year for his three year old campaign, with the colt finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby, third in the Kentucky Derby and winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November.
Blended Citizen will be ignored by many bettors because his win in the Jeff Ruby Steaks last month was on an all-weather surface rather than dirt, and he ran poorly in his three dirt races. However, those were at the beginning of his career and he is a DIFFERENT HORSE now. The addition of blinkers for the Jeff Ruby was the key to a strong finish with a 109 figure and we must recall trainer O’Neill won the 2017 Blue Grass with Irap at 30 to 1 so I will believe this colt has what it takes to win. Back to the concern about the surface, not only is Blended Citizen a different horse now than when he ran on dirt in his first three starts, his breeding is as good for dirt as for all-weather on turf as he is a half-brother (same dam) to 2017 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, who also finished second in the 2016 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. With 22 points to date, Blended Citizen needs to finish second or first to insure he has a spot in the Derby.
Good Magic will be favored by bettors as the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall. He had been off for four months when he finished a non-threatening third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes last month and he can improve, but there is no guarantee of it as some horses just aren’t the same at three as they are at two. With 34 points to date, Good Magic also needs to finish first or second to or he may not be able to enter the Derby.
Arawak is the wild card, recently purchased privately and sent to the barn of Doug O’Neill (trainer of Blended Citizen) after finishing third in the Jeff Ruby. This will be his third start of the year, often a peak effort in a horse’s form cycle, and he adds blinkers which notably helped his stablemate win the Jeff Ruby last month. With only four points to date, I believe the instructions given to jockey De La Cruz will be go get Arawak mid-pack about half way through the race then pass as many horses as you can. As such, and with starting odds of 30/1, I will be at least wagering a few bucks on him to win, place and show so I have no regrets if he pulls off an “Irap” and wins the race at 30/1 as happened last year.
Bets: Kanthaka at 5 to 2 or more. Blended Citizen at 4 to 1 or more. Arawak at 10 to 1 or more.
Add place bets at 6 to 1 or more. Show bets at 10 to 1 or more.
Exactas: Kanthaka, Blended Citizen and Good Magic over Kanthaka, Quip, Marconi, Blended Citizen, Free Drop Billy, Good Magic, Flameaway, Machismo and Arawak.
Santa Anita Derby – Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6:30 Eastern, 3:30 Pacific
I am going to pick Core Beliefs to post the upset in the Santa Anita Derby and, at the least, to run a lot better than his odds will suggest he can run. After two third place finishes in sprints in January and February, Core Beliefs stretched out to two turns and improved tremendously, drawing off by three lengths with a 109 Equibase Speed Figure. This was on par with the 108 figure Justify earned winning a two-turn race three days later. Core Beliefs was sired by Quality Road, whose progeny have proven themselves at top levels just as the sire did. Using Stats Race Lens to get a feeling for pedigrees that have produced classic talent, it is easy to find the sons and daughters of Quality Road have won 8 of 39 stakes races for three year olds on dirt over the past few years, including 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner and multiple stakes winner Abel Tasman. Although the 109 figure effort Core Beliefs put forth last month is well short of the 118 figure Bolt d’Oro earned in the San Felipe, the colt has potential to improve markedly off the effort in his second route and he will have to do just that because he needs to finish first or second to get the points required to run in the Kentucky Derby. Using his early speed as he did when victorious over the track last month and with the only other horse likely to be on or near the early lead being Justify, Core Beliefs should be in the thick of the action from start to finish.
Except for an exceptionally wide trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall when finishing third, Bolt d’Oro has made no mistakes, winning all four of his other races. In last month’s San Felipe Stakes, Bolt d’Oro showed his battle- hardened nature once again when battling head-and-head the length of the stretch with McKinzie before losing by a head. After a steward’s inquiry, McKinzie (who will miss the Kentucky Derby) was placed second and Bolt d’Oro was moved up to first. Being as he had been away from the races for four months prior to that, the 118 figure earned was exceptional. With 64 points on the “Road to the Derby” leaderboard, a spot in the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby is virtually assured so Bolt d’Oro may only need a good effort to keep fit to move on to the big dance next month. However, in his current form, even his “B” level race may be good enough to win.
Justify has been impressive in both his races to date. He won his debut by almost 10 lengths and then by six and one-half lengths last month in his second career start and in spite of coming out of the gate a bit tardily. Like Core Beliefs, this will be the second two-turn start for Justify and improvement off his 108 figure last out can be expected. Justify was sired by Scat Daddy, who may have three horses in the starting gate in Louisville next month if Justify finishes first or second to gain his first points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” leaderboard. The other two Scat Daddy colts include Flameaway and the most impressive winner of the U.A.E. Derby last weekend, Mendelssohn. Certainly, if the hype surrounding how big, strong and fast Justify may be is warranted, he will win the Santa Anita Derby and create a lot of buzz in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
Win Bets: Core Beliefs to win at 2 to 1 or higher.
Exacta: Core Beliefs over Bolt d’Oro and Justify then ALSO Bolt d’Oro and Justify over Core Beliefs
Race 9 – Core Beliefs, Bolt d’Oro, Justify
Race 10 – Midnight Crossing, Thundering Sky
Race 11 – Spectator, Midnight Bisou
Santa Anita Oaks – Race 11 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:30 Eastern, 4:30 Pacific
Spectator and Midnight Bisou tower over the rest in this year’s Santa Anita Oaks, the only different between the two being Midnight Bisou is a stakes winner and Spectator is not. Spectator won the first two races of her career last year in easy fashion, including the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes in August by five lengths, then finished third in the Del Mar Debutante before taking six months off to mature. She returned three weeks ago in a highly rated allowance race versus OLDER horses and gamely won by a neck with a 108 Equibase figure, higher than the 105 figure Midnight Bisou earned winning the Santa Ysabel stakes 15 days earlier. With Javier Castellano staying around for this race following the Santa Anita Derby, and with this gal having improving to do and then some in her 2nd start off the layoff, Spectator is the one to beat in this year’s Santa Anita Oaks. Midnight Bisou has the rest of the probability to win the race, the other seven entrants not nearly as fast or as proven in top company. She missed by a nose in the first two starts of her career to an exceptional filly in Dream Tree then in her three year old debut she won the Santa Ynez in January before a ridden out (easy) win in the Santa Ysabel last month. Smith has been up for both wins and rides her back and she has one potential edge on Spectator in that she has run two turns and Spectator has not.
Win Bets: Spectator and Midnight Bisou (one or both) at odds of 3 to 2 or better
Exacta: Spectator and Midnight Bisou over Spectator, Midnight Bisou and Thirteen Squared (who finished a non-threatening second to Midnight Bisou last month)