We are four weeks away from the first Saturday of May and the Kentucky Derby (G1) and we have three major preps on tap this afternoon around the country.
The chalkiest race could be the $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) where Essential Quality puts his undefeated record on the line as the 3-5 morning line favorite.
Last year’s champion juvenile kicked off his three-year-old campaign by winning the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park and has a pair of wins over the Keeneland main track.
He has a serious foe to contend with in Highly Motivated (3-1) from the Chad Brown barn. The colt made a good late run to finish third in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct in his last outing.
At Aqueduct a field of nine will line up in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2). The Brown trained Risk Taking is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The colt is coming off a victory in the Withers (G3) in his last outing.
He looks as if he may be an underlay and both Candy Man Rocket (12-1) and Weyburn (9-2) are worth a look.
The $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) lost the heavy favorite Life Is Good to injury, but that made several other trainers look at the race and now we have a field of 10 that will go.
Trainer Bob Baffert saddles the favorite Medina Spirit, the 5-2 morning line favorite. The colt was no match for his stablemate Life Is Good last out in the San Felipe (G2), beaten eight lengths.
My selection in the San Felipe was longshot Roman Centurian and I am going to give him another look today at a decent enough price if he goes off near his 8-1 morning line.
Between the three tracks hosting the Derby prep races there are a total of 17 stakes races on tap this afternoon.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my 14 strongest plays from Aqueduct, Keeneland and Santa Anita including the three Road to the Kentucky Derby points races.
The NBC Sports Network will televise the three Road to the Kentucky Derby points races this afternoon during a two-hour telecast that gets underway at 5:30 ET. “America’s Day at the Races” will be televised from 1:00 ET to 7:00 on FS2.
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.
To purchase my Aqueduct and Best Plays Reports for Saturday click here.
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Here is the opener from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQUEDUCT RACE 1 ANALYSIS (12:50 P.M. ET)
Race 1 Md $40,000
#4 Bastet 7-5
#3 My Delicious 4-1
#5 Despeight All Odds 3-1
#6 Artyistheparty 5-2
Analysis: Bastet is going to be tough here in the opener at a short price. The filly chased the early pace and could not get to the winner late in a runner up finish last out for this tag. She was the runner up two back going seven furlongs here behind repeat winner Did I Stutter, who came back to beat $40,000 non-winners of two and $50,000 starter allowance foes in her next two starts. She gets a jock upgrade here from Worrie to Ortiz who is off to a good start at the meet.
My Delicious prompted the early pace and was no match for the gate to wire winner last out who drew off to win by 9 1/2 lengths over a speed friendly racing strip. She owns solid early and mid pace numbers and picks up Irad. The Summers barn sent out three runners here in March and won with all of them. She fits well in this spot.
AQUEDUCT RACE 9 ANALYSIS (5:09 P.M. ET)
Race 9 The Gazelle G3
#5 The Grass Is Blue 4-1
#3 Mia Martina 6-1
#8 Search Results 1-1
#6 Always Late 8-1
Analysis: The Grass Is Blue is one of two in here sent out by the Brown barn and she will be the higher of the duo. She needs to turn the tables on her stablemate after a third in the Busher where she was beaten 6 1/4 lengths. She did not have the best of trips. She was down along the inside early which was the deeper part of the racing strip, then got steadied briefly at the 5/16's and could not make up any ground late. She won the Busanda two back at today's nine furlong distance. I like he stretch back out to nine furlongs and the price should be right.
Mia Martina was outrun early and made a mild late run to finish third last out in the Florida Oaks (G3) on turf at Tampa Bay Downs. She won her first two starts, beating Alw-1 optional claimers two back in her first start for the Motion barn. She switches to dirt for the first time for a trainer who is 20% winners moving runners from turf to dirt. She is by Not This Time out of a Proud Citizen mare and should take to the surface switch. It looks as if there is going to be enough pace in front of her and she may end up getting overlooked on the tote in this spot.
KEENELAND RACE 9 ANALYSIS (5:30 P.M. ET)
Race 9 The Ashland G1
#5 Malathaat 9-5
#3 Simply Ravishing 5-2
#6 Will's Secret 7-
#4 Moon Swag 10-1
Analysis: Malathaat makes her three-year-old debut here for the Pletcher barn after reeling off three wins as a juvie. She trounced the field in the Tempted two back at a one turn mile by 7 3/4 Lengths, then won the Demoiselle (G2) last December in the slop at nine furlongs. She stalked the early pace and came with a five wide run, getting up late to win by 3/4 of a length. The runner up Millefeuille ran second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in her most recent start last Saturday. This gal was a $1.05 million Keeneland purchase, out of the brilliant mare Dreaming of Julia ($874,500). She should be ready to go off works at Palm Beach Downs. The trainer is 19% winners with runners coming back off a 61–180-day break.
Simply Ravishing came up short at 3-5 last out in the Golden Rod (G2) last November in a fourth-place finish. She was fourth two back in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), beaten two lengths. She won her first three starts including taking the Alcibiades (G1) over the main track here. She has been working sharply at Gulfstream Park for her return off a four-month break. McPeek has done some of his best work here at Keeneland but is on the light side with layoff types, hitting at a 9% clip with runners coming back off a 61–180-day layoff. Here at Keeneland dating back five years the trainer is 2 for 27 with runners coming back off a 61–180-day layoff.
SANTA ANITA RACE 8 ANALYSIS (7:15 P.M. ET)
Race 8 The Santa Anita Derby G1
#1 Roman Centurian 8-1
#7 Medina Spirit 5-2
#10 Defunded 8-1
#9 The Great One 8-1
Analysis: Roman Centurian was my top pick in the San Felipe (G2), and we got the price as he went off at 10-1 but after running last early, he could not made up enough ground and checked in fourth behind the eight-length winner Life Is Good who was injured and is missing this race and the Triple Crown. Two back our top pick came with a good late rally to miss in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) by just a neck in his first go against winners, beaten by Medina Spirit. The Callaghan trainee figures to bounce back here and the extra ground here at nine furlongs should suit him. The 8-1 morning line looks fair.
Medina Spirit goes for Baffert and will be the favorite. The Hall of Fame trainer has won this race nine times and has completely dominated the Derby preps races in SoCal over the years. This colt was no match for his stablemate, beaten eight lengths. He owns a solid pace profile throughout and should get a good trip on or more likely sitting just off the early pace. I am not convinced he really wants more ground, but he has talent and had to toss Baffert out of the equation here even at a light price.
Defunded is the other Baffert trainee. The gelding stretches out from maiden score going six furlongs here in his second career start, earning an 83 Beyer which is light. The $210,000 Keeneland purchase won with a little something left and should be able to handle more ground. He is by Dialed In out of a stakes placed Tough Gold mare. Baffert won this race with Midnight Interlude in 2011 who was coming off a maiden win and two of his other winners since were coming in off allowance wins.
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 wager.
R5: #5 Day’s Humor 15-1
R8: #1 Haikal 10-1
R9: #6 Always Late 8-1
R10: #7 Candy Man Rocket 12-1
R11: #2 Eight Weeks Long 10-1
Good luck today!