Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

At the Gate - Saturday

It is the biggest day of the spring when it comes to Derby preps, three on tap this afternoon—the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2), $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) and the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1).

The top two finishers in each race stamp a ticket to Louisville and then the mad scramble is on to making up the rest of the field. There are 19 spots open, as Gronkowski won the European Road to the Derby, and it appears no contenders will be coming over from Japan.

In 19th place right now is Firenze Fire with 29 points. The colt goes in today’s Wood. With the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Lexington (G3) next week, it looks as if it will probably take at least 40 points to earn a ticket in the starting gate on the first Saturday of May.

Among those looking to get in is Justify, who is the early betting favorite for the Kentucky Derby at [...] at +535. The Bob Baffert trainee must finish first or second in the Santa Anita Derby.

The colt is the 4-5 morning line favorite but has to face the more accomplished Bolt d’Oro, who is safely in the Kentucky Derby with 64 points.

The Wood drew a weak field led by Entice, the 6-5 morning line favorite. The colt won the Gotham (G3) in his last outing. He has 63 points and is locked into the Run for the Roses regardless of the outcome this afternoon.

The Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland drew a full field of 14 and is the most wide open of the Derby preps. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion Good Magic is looking to move forward off his disappointing third place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his three-year-old debut.

The Chad Brown trainee needs to fire a good effort. He has 34 points which place him in 15th place, and it looks as if he needs a third or fourth place finish to earn a Derby spot.

There is plenty of outstanding stakes action on the undercards at all three tracks. At Aqueduct we have the Carter Handicap (G1) and Bay Shore (G3), Keeneland has an outstanding card that includes the Madison (G1) and Ashland (G1) and at Santa Anita the co-feature is the Santa Anta Oaks (G1).

My Best Plays Multi Track Report for Saturday includes my 13 strongest plays from Aqueduct, Santa Anita and Keeneland including all of the major stakes action.

To purchase my Aqueduct, Keeneland and Best Plays Reports for Saturday click here.

Here is the opening race from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:

AQU Race 1 Clm $10,000 (1:00 ET)

1 Bon Heir 8-1

4 Special Dividend 2-1

6 Exchanging Secrets 5-2

5 Soxy Ruby 7-2

Analysis: Bon Heir dueled for the early lead over a wet track and faded to finish fifth last out against $16,000 foes and drops in for a $10,000 tag here. She was claimed out of her last outing by the Gullo barn that is 24% winners first off the claim. She won for $25,000 last fall and was in the mix in two starts this year for that tag with a couple of thirds. Lopez takes over and while she tends to land for minor shares she is better than she showed last out and is going to be a decent price in this weak spot.

Special Dividend dueled for the early lead and finished gamely to come up just a half-length short as the beaten favorite behind 18-1 longshot Slam Chowder. She makes her second start off the claim by the Englehart barn. She owns a solid pace profile throughout and fits here with her best.

WIN: #1 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 1,4 / 1,4,6
TRI: no play

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 9 The Bay Shore G3 (5:17 ET)

2 A Different Style 6-1

4 National Flag 7-5

5 Engage 9-5

6 Aveenu Malcainu 5-1

Analysis: A Different Style bounced back from fading to finish fourth in the Heft with a smart gate to wire win in the Jimmy Winkfield here in the mud on Feb. 10. The Servis trainee has now won three of his last four starts. He owns solid early and mid pace numbers and while there is plenty of early zip signed up this guy looks as if he still has some upside and among the top three is going to offer the best value for the top spot.

National Flag came off a six-month layoff with a big win versus Alw-1 optional claimers at Gulfstream Park earning a career top speed fig. he showed some promise as a juvenile breaking his maiden in his second career start and then was fifth in the Hopeful (G1) after setting the early fractions. The legit one to beat but his price is going to be on the light side.

WIN: #2 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 2,4 / 2,4,5,6
TRI: 2,4 / 2,4,5,6 / 2,3,4,5,6

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Keeneland:

KEE Race 8 The Madison G1 (5:10 ET)

10 Ami's Mesa 6-1

8 Miss Sunset 9-2

2 Lewis Bay 7-2

11 American Gal 4-1

Analysis: Ami's Mesa makes her first start since her tough nose loss in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) in her first start on conventional dirt. That loss snapped a four-race winning streak on the fake stuff which included a 100 Beyer earned in her win in the Seaway (G3) at Woodbine at seven furlongs. She has been prepping at Palm Meadows for the Carroll barn that is 10% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. She ran well off the bench last June and could here against a very competitive group. She is bred to handle the off going if we get it.

Miss Sunset took the field gate to wire to win the Irish O'Brien against Cal breds in a race washed off the turf last out at Santa Anita. She has now won 9 of her 15 career starts and she won the raven Run (G2) here last fall at this distance. She comes in here off a career top speed fig but there is plenty of early zip signed up to go here and she needs to avoid getting hooked early. Leparoux takes over from Mike Smith and he rode her to her raven Run win last year.

WIN: #10 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 8,10 / 2,8,10,11
TRI: 8,10 / 2,8,10,11 / 2,4,8,10,11

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Santa Anita:

SA Race 5 The Providencia G3 (1:30 PT)

4 Paved 2-1

2 Lexington Grace 8-1

5 Ms Bad Behavior 5-2

1 Pulpit Rider 9-2

Analysis: Paved beat the boys last out on the fake stuff at Golden gate Fields in the El Camino Real Derby. The Santa Anita Oaks (G1) seemed like the next logical step but the connection say this gal is better on turf. The third-place finisher in her last race was Blended Citizen, who came back to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park in his next outing. Our top pick was a smart looking maiden winner on turf two back and has a couple of sibs that have also won on turf.

Lexington Grace makes her third starts since landing in the U.S. She made a good late run to finish fourth in the Jimmy Durante (G3) and then she rallied to finish third last out in the China Doll. She has plenty of pedigree to handle the extra furlong and she is going to be a decent price in this spot.

WIN: #4 to win at 9-5 or better.
EX: 2,4 / 1,2,4,5
TRI: 2,4 / 1,2,4,5 / 1,2,3,4,5

Live Longshots:
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: #1 Bon Heir 8-1
R2: #10 County Court 10-1
R5: #3 Caitriona 10-1
R5: #8 Queenofeverything 12-1
R7: #1 Backsideofthemoon 8-1
R11: #10 Adventist 12-1

Good luck today!

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