Time to see how the big Enlightened Trails races, truly the major actual Derby preps, fare for this Saturday. I present these in post time order:
SANTA ANITA OAKS, 8.5 furlongs, Grade 1
Top 3: 5-1-2. Bellafina, Flor de La Mar, Chasing Yesterday
ABC chart: 512/43
A relatively cheap race to start off, Flor de La Mar does provide some hope. Slewbegoodtome can surprise, tho. This backstretch runner improved marvelously 1st after layoff by the 2nd call in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She ranks as having the best tactical speed of the field. She can win with a modest or fast pace. In 10 races at this distance, her particular run style has won 6 of them. Also, posts 4-7 have won at a 20% rate.
GAZELLE STAKES at Aqueduct, Grade 2, 9 furlongs for fillies.
Top 3: 4-3-2…Positive Spirit, Off Topic, Espresso Shot.
Throwouts: Afleet Destiny, Always Shopping
ABC chart: 43/26
Similar to the Santa Anita Oaks, not much hope for value here. Best chance may come from Off Topic. Scored small new tops of 83 and 88 last 2 races, both straight off layoff. Broke maiden with the 83 score at 8.5 furlongs at GP, then was 2nd vs 75k optional-claimers at Oaklawn. Only filly here with the small new top in pace progress. Consistently has run 4 wide in her races; maybe she gets overlooked some here.
ASHLAND STAKES at Keeneland..8.5 furlongs, Grade 1 race for fillies.
Top 3: 2-7-6: Chocolate Kisses, Bell’s The One, Restless Rider.
Overlays: Bell’s The One.
Throwouts: Bizwhacks, Feedback, Out For A Spin.
ABC chart: 276/43
Finally a race in which the favorite can be removed from the top 2 spots, a situation that may call for place and show bets (tho I won’t play those, normally). Chocolate Kisses won the Grade 3 Honeybee with lifetime best 90, and an optional-claimer 40k race in switch to turf prior. Lost rider in the 100k Rags To Riches. 4th in the Grade 1 Alcibiad. One of 2 horses who definitely improved favorably from their 2YO careers. I put more stock into her Honeybee run, which was an improvement in 1st and 2nd call scores, along with a gain of 4 lengths vs leader by 2nd call.
Bell’s The One moves up in class after being undefeated in 4, winning 2 75k stakes races at Fair Grounds. 92 BRIS here last fall is best such score of this field at this track. Switches back to Florent Geroux, with whom she won 2 races. Only early closer of the field.
WOOD MEMORIAL at Aqueduct, Grade 1, 9 furlongs for top 3YOs.
Top 3: 4-2-5: Haikal, Tacitus, Final Jeopardy.
ABC chart: 4/10,2,5,7/1
I’m confident to single Haikal to win this race. But not quite a value race. Only real hope here for value is Final Jeopardy. Defeated maidens in debut in December, 89 BRIS. 3rd in the restricted-stakes Limehouse, matching his 89 score. Won vs 75k optional claimers last time out, first at a route, with a 95. I like the new top score here. That race also comes first after layoff, which showed improvements at first 2 calls, and gain on eventual leader, winning by 3.75.
BLUE GRASS STAKES at Keeneland, 9 furlongs for this Grade 2 event.
Top 3: 11-10-8: So Alive, Lucky Lee, Win Win Win
Overlays: Plenty…..So Alive, Lucky Lee, Chess Chief, Moonster
ABC chart: 11/7,1,8,10/2,3,4,5,6,13
Throwouts: Sir Winston, Aquadini, Parsimony
Biggest value race of the day here. So Alive won his maiden debut on a muddy Keeneland course, scoring an 85. 6th in his route debut, sloppy course, 81 BRIS at Churchill vs 75k optional claimer. Won vs same level, mile-40 yard race at Tampa Bay, posting an 89. Last out, was 3rd in the Grade 3 Sam F Davis with an 86. Best pedigree of the field (Super Saver/Mythical Bride, out of the Irish horse Street Cry). That 85 score in his debut equals the best Keeneland speed for this field. Waiting 2 months to stretch a half-furlong. 5 works in prep, all very fast, including 2 bullet works.
Lucky Lee was 6th at Parx in his debut vs 45k maidens on a sloppy fast course, 69 BRIS. Won convincingly vs similar class, going 1 mile with an 89 score. Spiked to 100 over good going vs 46k allowance horses, winning that race at Parx. Finished 7th last time out in the Grade 3 Withers, 87 BRIS over 9 furlongs. I’m willing to play the bounceback angle with him. This is the other workout standout….4 in all, tho not individually strong.
Chess Chief took 5 tries to break maiden in races at Fair Grounds and Churchill. Best effort was last out, first route race, winning with an 86 over a very fast pace. Finally shaking off the rust after his autumn layoff, he’s also one that can surprise.
Moonster won his 2nd maiden race, then was 10th in the BC Futurity at Keeneland, posting a 73. 7th in the Street Sense, mixed blessings thereafter, including 3rd last out in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. It produced a small new top for him of 86. Only horse here to achieve a small new top that just beats his 2YO campaign.
SANTA ANITA DERBY is a Grade 1 event, 9 furlongs.
Top 2: 5-6. Instagrand over Game Winner. No hope for any value here. This is strictly a 2 horse race among the 6. And we’ll leave it at that.
Watch for a late Friday post concering the Grand National at Aintree!