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Derby Countdown - Part III

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Part I · Part II · Part III · Part IV
Welcome to the Derby Countdown, your source for anything and everything in the last days leading up to Kentucky Derby 139 on May 4 at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Anthony Stabile, best known for picking 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide at odds of over 12-1, will break down the top contenders for this years’ Run for the Roses, exclusively on VegasInsider.com, culminating on Friday, May 3th with an extensive analysis of every runner that steps into the gate for the most exciting two minutes in sports. On both May 3rd and May 4th, Kentucky Oaks and Derby Day, you’ll be able to purchase Stabile’s Pick Packs, full of selections and plays for two of racings’ most exciting days of the year. To purchase Anthony Stabile Kentucky Derby products, CLICK HERE!

We’ll play a little hopscotch in today’s edition of the Derby Countdown as we’ll cover the who runners earned their way into the Derby via the Fair Grounds, Aqueduct and, this is a good one, Europe by way of Dubai. We’ll start in the Big Apple.
 
The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct may turn out to be the most influential prep of the season, especially in a pari-mutuel sense as the winner Verrazano, who I covered in Part I of the Countdown, and runner-up NORMANDY INVASION figure to be two of the top three wagering choices.
 
Trained by Chad Brown, Normandy Invasion broke his maiden at second asking at the Big A early last November by over nine lengths before wheeling back three weeks later in the Remsen on Thanksgiving weekend. Breaking from post 10 on an inside, speed biased course, the son of Tapit closed form far back and looked like a winner in deep stretch before falling a nose short to Overanalyze.
 
Three months later, Normandy made his sophomore debut in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds. Brown figured the race was a great opportunity for the colt to earn Derby points while given a chance to use his late running style to his ability over the long stretch. His old rider had other ideas.
 
After breaking slowly under Jose Lezcano, Normandy Invasion was held towards the back of the pack for most of the way before unleashing a sporadic, choppy rally through the lane while seven wide, with Lezcano having the look of a deer caught in the headlights while settling for fifth and more importantly, zero points. Brown decided to make a change.
 
Javier Castellano, who’s back aboard for the Derby, choosing this colt over a colt he won a pair of stakes on in Revolutionary, had the call for the Wood Memorial and did everything he could to ensure that his mount would not suffer the same fate he did in his prior start. Keeping Normandy Invasion a bit closer than usual through soft early fractions, Normandy Invasion shook loose in the stretch and flew home under a hard riding Castellano to finish second, three parts of a length behind Verrazano.
 
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As it turned out, third place would have gotten him more than enough points but no one knew that on that day. Since arriving in Louisville, few horses have gotten more positive press in regards to their recent training. He’s worked twice at Churchill, covering a half mile in :48 1/5 on 4/21 before blazing five panels on 4/27 in :59.
 
Speaking of third place in the Wood Memorial, that brings us to VYJACK, beaten just a length when settling for the show dough last out for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. Vyjack will have a new rider for the second time in his career as Joel Rosario opts of this colt to ride Orb, leaving the mount open for Garrett Gomez.
 
Prior to the Wood Memorial, Vyjack was undefeated and a three time stakes winner. He started out with a pair of sprint victories over the main track at Aqueduct before trying two turns in the Jerome Vyjack was a bit rank in the Jerome while alternating for the lead for most of the way and won by just a head. It was a close enough call, however, that it cost Cornelio Velasquez the mount.
 
Rosario climbed aboard for the Gotham and took Vyjack, who was never more than a half-length from the lead in his three prior starts, all the way to the back of the pack. The change in tactics resulted in a powerful, off the pace score by over two lengths.
 
Vyjack, a son of Into Mischief, raced in mid-pack last out and took a solid run at Verrazano on the far turn but couldn’t get to the winner and settled for third. Since then, things haven’t gone perfectly. Rodriguez has come under fire for some drug positives and had his license application reviewed in Kentucky, eventually agreeing to 24 hour surveillance of Vyjack, who hasn’t been in the best of health and spent some time at a clinic in the Mid-Atlantic region. He’s worked twice since his last start, a leisurely half mile at Fair Hills near the clinic in :51 3/3 on 4/19 and five eighths at Churchill on 4/26 in 1:00 2/5.
 
From South Ozone Park, New York to Dubai……that’s what the Derby Trail is all about. And while most of the time the Euro import is an easy toss, it may be a tad different this time around. Though he’s never raced on conventional dirt, LINES OF BATTLE is a perfect two for two over synthetic surfaces.
 
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Lines of Battle won at first asking going six furlongs on the turf, then lost his next two before galloping home in his synthetic debut. A trip to California for the B.C. Juvenile Turf didn’t pan out as this son of War Front drew outside post 14 and was caught wide the entire way finishing, a non-threatening seventh.
 
Lines of Battle didn’t run for almost five months when he resurfaced last out in the U.A.E. Derby. Over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Meydan, in his first start over a mile, Lines of Battle stayed close to the early pace and took over in deep stretch en route to a handy 1 ½ length victory. He didn’t arrive in Louisville until early on the morning of 5/1 and won’t go to the track until Friday. Ryan Moore flies in for the ride.
 
MYLUTE comes into the Derby off a second place finish behind Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby last out when he raced without blinkers for the first time in his nine race career.
 
Mylute made seven starts as a juvenile, winning twice while hitting the board in four other, including three stakes for trainer Tom Amoss. After a seventh place finish when beaten just 3 ½ lengths in the Risen Star in his first start of the year, Mylute came home strongly through the stretch in tandem with the winner but was out gamed to the wire.
 
By Midnight Lute, Mylute will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik on Saturday. Napravnik rode Mylute three starts back to a daylight allowance score and is looking to become the first female rider to win the Kentucky Derby. Mylute has worked three times at Churchill, going six furlongs in a sharp 1:12 1/5 on 4/14 then a pair of half miles in :47 4/5 on 4/21 and :50 3/5 on 4/27.
 
Robby Albarado will pilot GOLDEN SOUL for trainer Dallas Stewart on Saturday off a fourth place finish in the Risen Star despite racing widest of all. In five career starts, Golden Soul sports just a maiden win and two runner-up finishes, including a second place finish in the LeComte three starts back behind daylight winner Oxbow. Golden Soul breezed twice at Churchill, covering six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 on 4/18 and five panels in 1:00 4/5 on 4/26.

  
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  HORSE RACING EXPERT
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Mike 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.
Last Year Mike had a solid Triple Crown, 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 has 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.

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