After I finished handicapping the full cards for Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct (22 races) as well as the Fountain of Youth and Risen Star for Saturday, I admit I have a serious case of Derby Fever.
Both Derby preps coming up on Saturday drew large and competitive fields, and with the new point system in place to determine the field for the Kentucky Derby, it seems likely we are going to see large fields throughout the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
In past years when the field was determined by graded stake earnings, trainers that had horses win early could sit back and just wait for the first Saturday of May.
Now with the points worth more as we get closer to the race, there is no longer much benefit from winning races like the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Delta Jackpot, each worth just ten points to the winners.
Over the next four weeks there are eight races with 50 points going to the winner, and then there are seven more preps with 100 points to each winner.
As it stands right now Shanghai Bobby and Goldencents are the leaders in points with 24 points, but neither are assured a starting spot in the gate at Churchill Downs.
What that means is we are likely to see large and competitive fields for the remainder of the Derby preps, and trainers will not be able to duck the competition.
We are going to see that on Saturday as a field of 11 will line up in the Fountain of Youth and we are going to see 13 or 14 runners in the Risen Star.
The points system may not be liked by some top trainers, but as a horseplayer it looks like this is going to be a great spring to play the ponies.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my strongest plays from Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park as well as selections and analysis for the Fountain of Youth and Risen Star.
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Here is today's opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQU Race 1 Clm $15,000B (12:30 ET)
5 Classic R and B 3-1
3 Missilewhileuwork 4-1
2 Taproot 5-2
7 Little Dale 12-1
Analysis: Classic R and B tracked the early pace and weakened to finish sixth last out against starter optional claimers and drops into a softer spot here facing $15,000 non-winners of three or four year olds. The gelding was claimed two back by the DiPrima barn out of a good effort in a third place finish against $20,000 non-winners of three or four year olds or a race in six months. This guy owns back speed figs that are a good fit here and while he was seventh in his lone career start over a wet track he does have a pedigree to handle the off going.
Missilewhileuwork is coming off a game win against $12,500 non-winners of two last out in his first start off the claim by the RRod barn. The colt earned a career top speed fig in his first outing for the new barn and now steps up a notch in class here to face non winners of three. The colt owns solid early and mid pace numbers and is bred to handle a wet track.
WIN: #5 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 3,5 / 2,3,5,7
TRI: 3,5 / 2,3,5,7 / 2,3,5,7,10
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:
AQU Race 8 OClm $14,000N1X (3:48 ET)
2 Golden Galaxy 10-1
8 Ibid 3-1
11 Sweet Maxine 6-1
9 Vicki's Dancer 7-2
Analysis: Golden Galaxy came off nearly a two month break last out at this level, set the early fractions and faded to finish eighth. The winner Cluster of Stars came back to win the Correction in her next start on Feb. 2 here. The mare was claimed out of her last start by the Servis barn that is 32% winners first off the claim. This mare reeled off five wins in a row last year, and while they were at Finger Lakes she earned solid figs and this gal is worth giving another look here at a decent enough price.
Ibid dueled for the early lead and could not go with the top pair late in a third place finish at this level in her first start off a five month layoff. She figures to move forward second off the bench for Rice who will give a leg up to her go to guy CVel. The filly owns a solid pace profile throughout with good early and mid pace numbers.
WIN: #2 to win at 6-1 or better.
EX: 2,8 / 2,8,9,11
TRI: 2,8 / 2,8,9,11 / 2,7,8,9,11
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Gulfstream Park:
GP Race 10 The Canadian Turf G3 (5:05 ET)
4 Data Link 2-1
3 Howe Great 4-1
5 Cash Rules 10-1
10 Za Approval 5-1
Analysis: Data Link makes his first start since winning the Citation Handicap (G2) last November at Hollywood Park and he won three of his seven starts last year. One of his losses was a third in this racer last year and two of his other wins he ran into Little Mike and Wise Dan. The five year old won his other three times over the grass here and seven of his 13 career starts on the lawn. He has a couple of bullet drills on the morning tab for the Shug barn that is 20% winners (with a +ROI) with horses coming back off a 61-180 day layoff.
Howe Great is making his first start off a 4 1/2 month layoff, last seen running a disappointing seventh in the Jamaica (G1) last October at Belmont Park. The colt won three times last year, two of those coming over the grass here, winning the Kitten's Joy and Palm Beach (G3). The colt has been working steadily at Palm Meadows and sports a couple of bullet works on the turf. Motion has them ready to go off the shelf. This colt seems to fire every time out, landing in the money in 9 of his 11 career starts.
WIN: #4 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 3,4 / 3,4,5,10
TRI: 3,4 / 3,4,5,10 / 2,3,4,5,10
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.
R1: #7 Little Dale 12-1
R3: #3 Bellamy 8-1
R4: #9 Tapesprit 10-1
R6: #2 Ego Friendly 12-1
R8: 32 Golden Galaxy 10-1
R9: #2 Rein King 8-1
Good luck today!