We saw a pair of serious Kentucky Derby prospects in action on Saturday in Essential Quality and Greatest Honour, who have stamped themselves early favorites.
Essential Quality was making his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the Southwest (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
I thought the colt was at a tactical disadvantage as Jackie’s Warrior looked like the lone speed, but that foe was badly exposed. Jackie’s Warrior set sensible early fractions and just packed it in, weakening to finish third.
Essential Quality stalked the early pace and drew off to win by 4 ½ lengths in a good looking effort.
Greatest Honour was sent off as the even money favorite in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. After three-quarters of a mile jockey Jose Ortiz started asking the colt for run and was not getting it. He looked beat.
The colt came with a five-wide bid, getting rolling late and he drew off in the stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths over Drain the Clock. The margin could have been bigger.
Our top pick paid $4.00 and we had the exacta cold but that too came back chalky, paying just $12.00.
We still have a dozen Road to the Kentucky Derby points races to be decided over the next six weeks, but at least for now Essential Quality and Greatest Honor are going to get bet down in early Kentucky Derby future betting.
“America’s Day at the Races” will be televised on FS2 from 2:00 to 7:00 ET covering the action from Aqueduct and Oaklawn Park. You can stream the action from Aqueduct today on YouTube or by using the TVG App. The horse betting company based in the U.S. is offering a 50% deposit match up to $250. In addition, AmWager is offering up to a $500 bonus for new horseplayers.
My Best Plays Report for Sunday includes my nine strongest plays from Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park.
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Here is the opener from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQUEDUCT RACE 1 ANALYSIS (1:20 P.M. ET)
Race 1 Md Sp Wt
#1 Tekila 5-2
#6 Coal Shaft 9-5
#4 Strong Point 3-1
#2 Iaintafraidanoghost 3-1
Analysis: Tekila makes her third career start here for the Hennig barn. She was not much of a threat in a sixth-place finish in her debut which came in the slop in a race taken off the grass. Five runners have come out of that race to graduate next out. Next up over a fast main track here she showed improvement in a good runner up finish going seven furlongs. She tracked the early pace and could not get to the winner Hybrid Eclipse who came back to beat Alw-1 optional claimers by six lengths in her next start. The third-place finisher Maracuja came back to graduate in her next start on Feb. 21 here. She is by Liam's Map out of a Malibu Moon mare. The rains are forecast to come late morning so we likely re going to have a wet track again today. I will overlook her debut in the slop as she is bred to handle it.
Coal Shaft tracked thee early pace and could not get to the gate to wire winner last out in a runner up finish. She caught a racing strip that was kind to inside speed that day. The Gargan trainee was sixth in her debut two back which came on turf. The barn has been on a roll and this gal should move forward off her last effort. She is out of a stakes placed Point Given mare that has dropped five other foals to race with four winners. A decent enough off track pedigree on this gal.
GULFSTREAM PARK RACE 8 ANALYSIS (3:41 P.M. ET)
Race 8 Md Sp Wt
#6 Advanced Placement 8-1
#2 Alexander Valley 7-2
#10 Aviano 3-1
#5 Megayacht 5-1
Analysis: Advanced Placement gets one more shot here as he makes his third career start. He was an even fifth in his debut behind repeat winner Kentucky Pharoah who won the Dania Beach in his next outing here on Jan.2. Second out our top pick tracked thee early pace and came up short in the stretch in another fifth-place finish. Paco sticks and this guy gets lasix today for the first time. He is out of a Royal Academy mare that has dropped seven winners and six have eon on turf including $1 million earner Coffee Clique and G3 turf winner Admission Office ($448,957).
Alexander Valley makes his third career start and second on turf. She was sixth in his debut and showed improvement last out when switching to grass. He came with a good late rally to finish in the runner up spot. He was a $2.15 million Keeneland purchase, the first foal to race out of the stakes winner Tara's Tango ($806,804) a G1 winner on dirt that never tried turf. Mott has been on a nice roll at the meet and this guy should show move here in his third career outing.
AQUEDUCT RACE 7 ANALYSIS (4:25 P.M. ET)
Race 7 OClm $80,000N3X
#6 Wicked Trick 5-2
#7 Letmetakethiscall 2-1
#1 Mihos 6-1
#4 T Loves a Fight 8-1
Analysis: Wicked Trick steps up a condition here after stumbling coming out of the gate and making a mild late rally to finish in the runner up spot last out against Alw-2 optional claimers going six furlongs. He caught a racing strip that was playing to inside speed that day. He was making his first start off a 3 1/2-month break Rice claimed this guy for just $16,000 back in '19 and he reeled off four straight wins. he has run well on wet tracks and looks capable of moving forward off his effort last out.
Letmetakethiscall pressed the early pace, took over the lead heading for home and drew off late to beat Alw-2 optional claimers last out in a sharp effort going six furlongs here. The third-place finisher Madam Mena came back to win his next two starts, beating Alw-2 foes at Philly and then Alw-3 company at Laurel Park. This guy is 4 for 8 in his career on off tracks. He owns a solid pace profile throughout and will be tough to keep out of the exacta.
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.
R2: #2 Jasminesque 15-1
R4: #4 Esor 8-1
R5: #4 Elegant Zip 8-1
R7: #4 T Loves a Fight 8-1
Good luck today!