We are just days away from the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, and it looks as if we are going to have a full field 20 and no clear standout, with Wood Memorial (G1) winner Verrazano and Florida Derby (G1) winner Orb likely to vie for favoritism.
But before we get to Saturday, we have an outstanding Oaks Day card on Friday, with entries coming out yesterday for the 12-race card that features six stakes races.
The $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) drew a strong field of 11 including Dreaming of Julia who is coming off a 21 ¾ length win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in her last outing.
I think she is likely going to get bet down from that 3-1 morning line as she earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure in that outing, which is higher than any of the boys have earned who are running in the Kentucky Derby.
However, the Todd Pletcher trainee is facing three undefeated fillies and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) champion. It is one of the deepest Oaks fields in recent memory and a great betting race.
The Bob Baffert trained Midnight Lucky (9-2) is working up a storm and is perfect in her two starts, last out winning the Sunland Park Oaks by eight lengths.
Pletcher saddles three others including Unlimited Budget (7-2), who is perfect in four starts, winning the Fair Ground Oaks (G2) on March 30.
The Bill Mott trained Close Hatches (6-1) won her third start in as many outings when she took the Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct on April 6.
The Richard Mandella trained Beholder (7-2) has won five of her eight career starts including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall and the Santa Anita Oaks (G1)in her last start.
I will have my full card report for Oaks Day available by Thursday afternoon.
The post position draw for the Kentucky Derby is set for 5:00 ET today and will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network.
It looks as if there will be 21 horses entered, with the field limited at 20. The late addition is the Tony Dutrow trained Giant Finish, who checked in third in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park in his last start.
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Here is today’s opening from Belmont Park to get the day off to a good start:
Analysis: Special Skills makes his first start since last fall where the colt checked in third in the Pilgrim (G3). That was a solid field, with the winner Noble Tune coming back to run second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) while the runner up Notacatbulallama coming back to win a couple of stakes in his next two starts. Two back our top pick crossed the wire first in the Nick Shuk at Delaware Park but was DQ'd for bearing out and causing interference. The barn is solid off the bench, hitting at a 29% clip (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a +180 day layoff. The $200,000 Ocala purchase drops into the allowance ranks for his first go off the bench and has an attractive pedigree, a half to a couple of stakes winners, top earner Love to Tell ($310,204).
Bernie the Jet dueled for the early lead, opened up a clear lead heading for home and did not have enough left late, weakening inside the final furlong to finish third, beaten 1 1/4 lengths. The winner of the race was Winning Cause, who came back to win the Lexington (G3) in his next outing on April 20 at Keeneland. The colt returns to grass and while he is 0 for 8 on the surface he does have a couple of solid tries recently, checking in third two back and four back ran second. Decent value if this guy goes off near his 8-1 morning line.
WIN: #3 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 3,5 / 1,2,3,5
TRI: 3,5 / 1,2,3,5 / 1,2,3,5,8
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Belmont Park:
BEL Race 7 The Owsley (4:13 ET) 2 La Conquerante 5-2 6 Tannery 3-1 1 Kya One 5-1 7 Dream Clover 8-1 Analysis: La Conquerante makes her first start in the U.S. and her first go off a seven month layoff for the Chad Brown barn that is 35% winners with runners coming back off a +180 day layoff. She mixed it up in Group 3 company in her last couple of starts, both third place finishes. Her Timeform and Racing Post ratings fit well here for this level she already has shown she can handle the distance.
Tannery is also coming back off the bench, her last outing coming last fall in the Long Island 'Cap (G3) where she came with a five wide trip and finished a close up fourth, beaten 3/4 of a length for the top spot. The winner Starformer came out of that race to win The Very One (G3) in her next outing on Feb. 16 at Gulfstream Park. Goldberg is another barn that can bring them back off the shelf running, hitting at a 26% clip with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff.
WIN: #2 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 2,6 / 1,2,6,7
TRI: 2,6 / 1,2,6,7 / 1,2,5,6,7
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: #5 Bernie the Jet 8-1
R2: #3 Drink With Pride 12-1
R3: #4 In the Beat 10-1
R4: #6 Regular Business 8-1
R5: #1 Stellaluce 10-1
R7: #7 Dream Clover 8-1
R9: #6 Bargaining Table 12-1
R9: #1 Lucky Vida 10-1
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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