Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

At the Gate - Saturday

The past few Saturday’s I thought we would start to make sense out of this Road to the Kentucky Derby, but I have been left scratching my head, and it could be more of the same this afternoon.
We have three Road to the Kentucky Derby points races today, and I am not convinced by the time they are decided that the Derby picture will be much clearer.
Perhaps if Game Winner runs huge in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) we will have our betting favorite for the Run for the Roses stamped.
However, the colt, who was beaten nose in the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park in his three-year-old debut will have to contend with his stablemate Roadster, who could pull off he upset.
The Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct has not been a very productive Derby prep over the past 15 years, but we do have a good betting race with a field of 11 heading to the post.
Withers (G3) winner Tax, Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tacitus and the Gotham (G3) champ Haikal square off.
The Toyota Blue Grass (G2) has produced 23 Kentucky Derby winners but is another race that has lost its luster and Grade 1 status in recent years.
We have 14 lining up led by the 9-5 morning line favorite Vekoma. The George waver trainee was third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his last outing. I can’t remember the last time I took the chalk in such a large field in a Derby prep, but yes, I landed on the favorite. 
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Here is the opening race from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQU Race 1 Md Sp Wt (1:00 ET)
#1 Vehement   8-5
#6 Mo Gotcha   7-2
#2 Punchline   5-1
#4 Labeq   2-1
Analysis: Vehement goes turf to dirt here for the Mott barn. The colt dueled for the early lead and battled on gamely, unable to go with the top pair late in a third-place finish going five furlongs on turf at Gulfstream Park The winner Yes I Am Free came back to win the Texas Glitter in his next outing on Feb. 23. His lone go on dirt came in his debut at the Spa last summer where he checked din fourth. By War Front out of an Arch mare, he should be able to handle the main track. Mott is coming off a good winter meeting here and in Florida.
Mo Gotcha debuts for the Englehart barn that is 19% winners with first time starters. The gelding is by Uncle Mo (15% winners with debut runners) out of a Hard Spun mare, her first foal to race. Decent works including a near bullet out of the gate back on March 8. Looks as if he may be ready to go at first asking.
WIN: #1 to win at 9-5 or better.
EX: 1,6 / 1,2,6
TRI: no play
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:
AQU Race 7 The Excelsior G3 (4:11 ET)
#8 Life's a Parlay   4-1
#3 Monongahela   5-2
#6 Discreet Lover   9-5
#7 Shivermetimbers   8-1
Analysis: Life's a Parlay dueled for the early lead and battled on gamely to beat Alw-2 optional claimers last out at Oaklawn park going a mile in his first start off nearly a four-month break. Two back in his stakes debut he ran second as the beaten chalk in the Gio Ponti in a race taken off the turf. He figures to move forward in his second start off the break by Pletcher and this guy is bred to handle the extra ground. He was a $725,000 Keeneland purchase by Uncle Mo out of a Tale of the Cat mare.
Monongahela stalked the early pace, came with a five wide bid and was bumped at the eighth pole and just missed by a neck last out in the John B. Campbell at Laurel Park at nine furlongs. He has two seconds in three trips at nine furlongs, also landing in the bottom half of the exacta two back here in the mud in the Queen's County. He makes his second start since landing with the Servis barn.
Discreet Lover just keeps outrunning his odds, winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last year at 45-1 and running third in a couple of graded stakes at 41-1 and 39-1. He makes his first start since running eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). The barn is just 1 for 29 (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a 61-180-day layoff. His price is going to be much lighter here.
WIN: #8 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 3,8 / 3,6,7,8
TRI: 3,8 / 3,6,7,8 / 1,3,6,7,8
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Keeneland:
KEE Race 10 The Blue Grass G2 (6:23 ET)
#2 Vekoma   9-5
#3 Signalman   5-1
#1 Somelikeithotbrown   10-1
#8 Win Win Win   7-2
Analysis: I am never thrilled about backing the favorite in a 14-horse field but here we are. Vekoma stalked the early pace and finished evenly in good effort in a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park off a four-month break. The top pair in the race came back to run third and fourth in the Florida Derby (G1). The colt broke his maiden in his debut last September at six furlongs and then won the Nashua (G3) going a one-turn mile in fast time in his first start against winners. The runner up in that race was Network Effect, who came back to run second in the Remsen (G2) with a 94 Beyer Speed Figure while the third-place finisher Call Paul came back to win the Pennsylvania Nursery and the Swale (G3) in his next two starts. The colt should get a good stalking trip behind what appears likely to be a sharp early pace. He has enough pedigree to handle nine furlongs, by Candy Ride out of the stakes winner Mona de Momma ($384,399), who won the 2010 Humana Distaff (G1) at seven furlongs.
Signalman looked like he needed a race when running seventh in the Fountain of Youth off a 3 ½ month break. The colt won the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in the slop at Churchill Downs in his final start as a juvenile. He ran second in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in his first start against winners and then was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The late running colt is going to get a solid early pace to close into and figures to move forward second off the shelf. McPeek has won this race twice, with Java’s war in 2013 and Harlan’s Holiday in 2002.
Somelikeithotbrown makes first trip over a fast dirt surface. Her made his debut in the slop and then has raced four-time son turf and twice on the fake stuff. He won the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) last out at Turrfway Park over the polytrack. He won the prep for that race, the John Battaglia two back off a 3 ½ month break. The colt has not yet run fast enough to win at this level but looks headed in the right direction form wise and if he takes to dirt, he can be in the mix here at a decent enough price.
WIN: #2 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 2,3 / 1,2,3,8
TRI: 2,3 / 1,2,3,8 / 1,2,3,8,9
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.
R3: #4 The Big Lebanese   8-1
R5: #10 Wicked Freud   8-1
R7: #7 Shivermetimbers   8-1
R9: #4 Identity Politics   8-1
R9: #5 Skyler’s Scramjet   10-1
R11: #9 Sam and Jax   8-1
R11: #8 Indimaaj   10-1
Good luck today!

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