There are 20 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series up for grabs in today’s Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, but it is doubtful the winner will head off to Louisville in two weeks.
The 20 points would put the winner in a logjam for the final spot in the starting gate for the Derby, but only the connections of Cerro and Sunbean have not ruled out a quick turnaround, looking to become the first Lexington winner to win the Kentucky Derby since Charismatic in 1999.
Currently there are three horses sitting with 20 points, which is good for 20th in the point standings. They are Charming Kitten, Code West and Tiz a Minister.
If two or more horses have the same number of points, the tiebreaker to get into the Kentucky Derby will be earnings in non-restricted stakes races, whether they are graded or not.
Charming Kitten leads the trio with $206,000, and would get the nod over Code West ($90,000) and Tiz a Minister ($81.000).
The morning line favorite for the Lexington is the filly Pure Fun, who could use the points, but not to get into the Derby. She was sitting 15th in the point standings for the Garde1 Kentucky Oaks on May 3, 16 points behind the 14th place runner Seaneen Girl, who has 36 points.
However, with a couple of defections this week Churchill Downs is showing Pure Fun at 12th in the standings. While the Derby limits the field to 20, the maximum field of 14 for the Oaks.
It is going to be a long day. Tonight’s Grade 2 $1.5 million Charles Town Classic has a post time of 10:30 ET. The race drew Game On Dude, Ron the Greek, and last year’s winner Caixa Eletronica. My selections for the race are below.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday features my selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for 10 races today including my strongest plays from Keeneland and Aqueduct.
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Here is today’s opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
Analysis: Charlie's Punch stalked the early pace and came with a mild late rally to finish third last out at this level going six furlong son the inner track as the beaten favorite. The gelding was claimed out of the race by the Ness barn that is 39% winners first off the claim. The gelding makes his third start of his current form cycle and the extra furlong here should suit this guy.
Bizzarroworld set the early fractions and weakened to finish third last out as the beaten chalk, catching a muddy surface. The gelding was also the beaten favorite two back where he carved out the early fractions and held on gamely until late in a runner up finish. In that outing he was 4 1/4 lengths clear of the rest of the field. The gelding owns a good edge in early and mid pace numbers and is going to be tough if he is able to get away with moderate early fractions.
WIN: #3 to win at 8-5 or better.
EX: 2,3 / 2,3,6,7
TRI: 2,3 / 2,3,6,7 / 2,3,4,6,7
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Keeneland:
KEE Race 9 The Coolmore Lexington G3 (5:13 ET) 1 Winning Cause 5-1 6 Sunbean 4-1 11 Pure Fun 7-2 2 Pick of the Litter 6-1
Analysis: Winning Cause may end up getting overlooked on the tote here and should offer decent value. The Todd Pletcher trainee is coming off a win against Alw-1 foes and is now perfect in two starts over polytrack here at Keeneland, both trips at seven furlongs. The colt came up short in both of his starts around two turns, but those came on turf in his first two career starts. The colt has plenty of pedigree to handle the extra ground. He is by Giant’s Causeway out of a Kingmambo mare. The barn is 34% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from sprint to route.
Sunbean is a two-time stakes winner against Louisiana breds and in his first start outside of the state bred ranks he had a tough trip in an eighth place finish in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. The colt was reserved in the early going, made a good middle move, came up the inside on the far turn and that is where the trouble started. The colt was blocked in upper stretch and had to steady again nearing the furlong marker and was not able to recover. Gary Stevens picks up the call here as he makes his first start for the Mike Maker barn that is 25% winners with newcomers to the barn. The colt’s sibs have earned over $1.2 million led by multiple stakes winner Brother Bean ($434,460).
Pure Fun takes on the boys here and figures to move forward in just her second start of the year. The filly came with a five wide bid and hung last out in a third place finish in the Grade 3 Bourbonette at Turfway Park on March 23, her first start off a 3 ½ month layoff. She capped off her juvenile campaign by winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet with a last to first run. She draws a tough post here but is proven over synthetic surfaces and she should be cranked up and ready to go second off the bench for the Ken McPeek barn. She needs a strong finish to pick up points to get into the Kentucky Oaks in two weeks.
WIN: #1 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 1,6 / 1,2,6,11
TRI: 1,6 / 1,2,6,11 / 1,2,5,6,8,11
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Charles Town:
CT Race 12 The Charles Town Classic G2 (10:30 ET) 6 Caixa Eletronica 6-1 3 Game On Dude 4-5 5 Ron the Greek 5-2 1 Mordi’s Miracle 12-1
Caiaxa Eletronica is the defending champion in this race, pulling off the upset last year returning $18.80, which was his first trip over the tight turns at Charles Town. The eight year old was claimed by owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher for $62,500 back in march of 2011. He has won eight times since that claim, and a $1 million payday today would make him one of the top claims of all-time. He comes into this race off a win in the Uncle Mo at six furlongs on the inner track in his first start off a 3 ½ month break. He is going to get a good tracking trip off what could end up being a sharp early pace as Pletcher sends out two others in here that both can show speed, as will the chalk. The barn is 27% winners with runners making their second start off a 61-180 day layoff. He figures to offer the best value for the top spot here among the top three contenders. In addition he is getting seven pounds from the Dude.
Game On Dude comes in here for the Bob Baffert barn off three straight wins after tossing in a subpar effort as the beaten favorite in last fall’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His speed figs in his last two starts tower over the rest of the field here, wins in the Grade 2 San Antonio and Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. His last pair of figs are career tops and they look as if they may be on the generous side. The runner up in those two races was Clubhouse Ride, who earned Beyers of 105 in each of those outings. His previous high was 94. The gelding ran second in this race back in 2011 to Duke of Mischief over a sloppy track, earning a 97 Beyer. Does he regress off his back to back career tops or does he get involved in a fast early pace? He likely gets bet down below the 4-5 morning line, making him tough to back here for the top spot.
Ron the Greek was 9 ¼ lengths back of Game On Dude last out in the Santa Anita Handicap. The six year old earned a career top two back winning the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in the slop. The Bill Mott trainee is going to be the beneficiary of what looks likely to be a strong early pace. He still needs to work out a good trip on the tight turns, and there are three of them in this race. He looks unlikely to offer much value as the 5-2 morning line seems light.
WIN: #6 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 3,6 / 1,3,5,6
TRI: 3,6 / 1,3,5,6 / 1,3,4,5,6
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.
Mike DempseyMike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup. The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes. Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick. Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively. No handicapper in the industry works harder to bring you analysis that produces profits at the track! Mike's Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card. Join Mike daily with top picks from Aqueduct or Gulfstream Park. You can also get his Weekend Best Plays Report in his Multi-Track package or sit at the track with him for 30 Days with his Monthly Horse Package!
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Jerry SessaJerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to VegasInsider.com. When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins. Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.
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