The road to the 147th Kentucky Derby will heat up this weekend with three major prep races and I'm offering up my analysis and top selections all of the races.
Tampa Bay Derby
San Felipe Stakes
Before you check out Saturday's Best Bets, don't forget to check out my power rankings for the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
Stabile's Seven Derby Power Rankings
Gotham (G3) Betting Analysis
Distance: 1 Mile
Location: Queens, New York
Post-Time: 5:07 p.m. ET
1 – Atlantic Road (30/1)
Rare to see such a high early line on a Todd Pletcher runner in a Derby prep but this colt owns just a maiden win from two starts. Blinkers seemed to help when added last on stretch out to seven furlongs and the added furlong shouldn’t be an issue but I believe, when you look at his pedigree, he’ll ultimately be a turf horse.
2 – The Reds (30/1)
Burned a ton of money as the favorite two starts back then inexplicably took all the late money before airing by almost four lengths going nine furlongs. He cuts back a furlong for this but would have to improve by leaps and bounds to be a player here.
3 – Highly Motivated (8/5)
Took a tough beat on debut from his uncoupled stablemate in the mud at Saratoga before an impressive maiden tally at Belmont and eye-opening stakes win to kick things off at Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup Friday when last seen just four months ago. Castellano comes up from Florida to keep the mount. He’s yet to race beyond 6.5 furlongs but he’s by red-hot sire Into Mischief so it should be the least of his worries. If he runs his last the rest are running for second money.
4 – Wipe the Slate (6/1)
Finished over nine lengths behind Life Is Good in his debut before handling maidens easily next out. He was part of an honest pace before folding his tent on the turn of the Robert Lewis last out at Santa Anita going 8.5 furlongs. Blinkers come off for Doug O’Neill and he cuts him back to the one-turn mile. Leading rider at the Big A Carmouche takes the reins.
5 – Crowded Trade (9/2)
There have been some fine efforts at the Big A this winter, but this colt’s debut could have been the best non-stakes win we’ve seen. Green isn’t the right word but he seemed a bit lost early on in his debut going six furlongs before seemingly figuring things out in the lane to explode past the leader for a one-length victory. He gets a rider change to Cancel who has had a breakthrough meet and is one who figures to be running late at what figures to be an honest enough pace. Along with Highly Motivated, he gives Chad Brown and Klaravich a solid one-two punch.
6 – Capo Kane (5/1)
Put in a huge effort when taking them gate-to-wire in the Jerome in the mud at this trip and over the course two starts back on New Year’s Day but appeared to get a little tired during the extra furlong of the Withers when he wound up third to another Brown/Klaravich runner in Risk Taking. He’s done his best running when able to control things up front and that’s not likely to happen here. If he can pass horses he may have a chance but I think he’s just a cut below some of the others in here.
7 – Freedom Fighter (5/2)
Ho-hum maiden debut score in August at Del Mar was followed by a near-upset of Rebel-bound stablemate Concert Tour in the seven-furlong San Vicente some six months later last out. He set soft fractions last out and still got run down but he could improve second off the bench. I think the notion is that he’s Bob Baffert’s third string since he drew the proverbial short straw by getting on the plane to New York. Truth of the matter is if you want to win any of this weekend’s preps it’s the Gotham because everyone knows the Big Apple is the place to be.
8 – Weyburn (20/1)
Got out of the maiden ranks in his third try last out when catching a sloppy track at Aqueduct over three months ago. Should be forwardly placed but isn’t as fast as some of the others. Would need major improvement
If I had $100: $80 Exacta 3-5; $20 Exacta 5-3
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) Betting Analysis
Distance: 1 1/16 Miles
Track: Tampa Bay Downs
Location: Tampa, Florida
Post-Time: 5:25 p.m. ET
1 – My Liberty (30/1)
Fourth try was the charm as far as getting out of the maiden ranks in what was his first start over the local strip. He’ll be making his first start beyond seven furlongs. Looks like he’s in too deep.
2 – Super Strong (8/1)
Broke his maiden first out in the slop in Puerto Rico back in mid-December and is now trained by one of the leading trainers in Florida, Saffie Joseph, Jr. Son of Super Saver, third in this event before winning the Ky. Derby back in 2010, got a pair of blinkers and stretched out from seven furlongs.
3 – Candy Man Rocket (2/1)
Parlayed a perfect trip into a one-length tally in the traditional prep for this, the Sam F. Davis over his stablemate Nova Rags. He didn’t really improve much off his maiden win sprinting two starts back, which is a concern, but he could always improve. He’s a major player and the most likely win candidate but I don’t know how short of a price you want to take on him.
4 – King of Dreams (20/1)
Failed to fire in his debut in the slop on the dirt at Aqueduct before leading them on a merry chase when stretching out on the turf to win at 16-1 at Gulfstream most recently. I’m thinking he’s better suited for the lawn.
5 – Boca Boy (15/1)
Set the pace before tiring in the Davis in what was his first start in over four months and, oddly enough, first start on a dry track. He won a Florida bred stakes before going to the bench and could improve with his last under his belt.
6 – Awesome Gerry (15/1)
Winless in four starts since starting his career with a pair of wins. Was no match for his graded stakes rivals in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream but he does shed the blinkers he’s worn in his last two tries.
7 – Moonlite Strike (20/1)
Returns from a fourth-place finish behind Caddo River in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn back in January sporting a fine worktab and gets one of the leading riders on the circuit in Centeno. He should work out a decent trip but turf may be his endgame.
8 – Hidden Stash (4/1)
Was absolutely flying at the leaders, to use a line from Tampa Bay track announcer Richard Grunder, in the Davis when he finished third in his first start of the season. Closed out his juvenile season with a couple of wins at Keeneland and Churchill going this trip and under Bejarano, who is back aboard for this. One of the ones in here.
9 – Unbridled Honor (20/1)
Got up in the final strides to break his maiden in his local debut after a pair of disappointing efforts at Aqueduct for Pletcher. He’ll likely take some money based on his connections but I prefer others.
10 – Helium (6/1)
Romped in both of his starts at seven furlongs on the synthetic course at Woodbine for Mark Casse but now stretches out and tries dirt for the first time while making his first start in over four months. He would need to improve and handle a new surface to be a player here. I’m not against using him in exotics but would need the price to be right.
11 – Promise Keeper (8/1)
Finished well behind the favorite in his debut but came back to romp in the slop when stretching out to a mile. Saez rides for Pletcher and he’ll have to work out a trip from this post but he’s dangerous as it appears he’ll run all day.
12 – Sittin On Go (20/1)
Has been awful in three starts since taking the Iroquois on Derby Day last year. Would need a huge reversal in form and a major pace collapse.
Tampa Bay Derby Predictions
If I had $100: $1 Trifecta 3,8,11 with 3,8,11 with All; $2 Trifecta 3 with 8,11 with All
San Felipe Stakes (G2) Betting Analysis
Distance: 1 1/16 Miles
Track: Santa Anita Park
Location: Arcadia, California
Post-Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
1 – Life Is Good (1/1)
We’ve come to expect maiden wins like his from the Baffert barn. There is seemingly at least one every year now and he was impressive. I did NOT love his Sham win. You can say whatever you like about the stretch run and I will just say it was not good. That’s my opinion. Maybe yours is different. I’ll say this: he better finish up better in here because he’ll have at least one or two bearing down on him in the lane.
2 – Dream Shake (6/1)
There was supposed to be a monster in the maiden race on 2/7 at Santa Anita that was supposed to win by daylight and announce his Derby Trail presence. It was supposed to be Bezos. Bezos was a dud. This dude, however, was not. He passed horses, finished up nicely and has a wonderful route pedigree. Be afraid, Life Is Good. Be very afraid. If you don’t believe me just ask Bezos.
3 – Medina Spirit (7-2)
After just missing Life Is Good in the Sham, he took the Lewis on the front end while staggering home the final 2.5 furlongs in 34 seconds. Baffert sends for fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez to ride but after his last race I’m not sure I want anything to do with him.
4 – None Above the Law (20/1)
Lone win came in his debut for a $50K tag. He’s lost his four subsequent starts on turf and dirt, going long and short. Would be a complete shocker if he were to win this.
5 – The Great One (9/2)
Romped against three other rivals as the 8-5 second choice when Baffert-favored Fenway failed to show and ran last. This colt was first time Lasix that day in his fourth start but lost it because it would disqualify him from Derby points. His effort two back when missing by a nose in the Los Al Futurity was solid but he figures to have company on the front end here.
6 – Governor’s Party (30/1)
Maiden win came via DQ for $40K tag at Del Mar while the other score was on all-weather at Golden Gate against much lesser two starts back. Finished third in the El Camino Real Derby at almost 120-1 most recently.
7 – Roman Centurian (6/1)
Came from a long way back before missing by just a neck in the Lewis and has improved with every start. He figures to get a better pace scenario. Looks like he’ll want even more distance than this offers but could get a big piece of this pie anyway.
San Felipe Predictions
If I had $100: $40 Win on 2; $20 Exacta 2 with 1,7; $10 Exacta Box 2-7
Anthony “the Big A” Stabile can be heard regularly on the Horse Racing Radio Network from 3-6:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday and 3-7:00 p.m. ET Thursday and Friday. Tune in on Sirius 219, XM 201 or streaming live at horseracingradio.net. He also is a contributor on NYRA-TV as the co-host of Talking Horses and a backup racetrack announcer. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigAStabile
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