The Road to the Kentucky Derby ends this afternoon in Hot Springs, with a field of six going in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
The race drew a compact field led by the even money favorite Concert Tour from the Bob Baffert barn. The undefeated colt won the Rebel (G2) in his last outing, stamping his ticket to Louisville in the process.
That even money morning line may look more like 3-5 when they lead the field into the gate. I am taking a small look at Caddo River to pull off a mild upset, but it is not much of a betting race. The race offers 100-40-20-10 Derby points to the top four finishers.
The $200,000 Lexington (G3) at Keeneland will offer up 20-8-4-2 Derby points. Proxy is sitting with 34 Derby points and Hockey Dad has 20, and they could make the Derby field with a good performance this afternoon.
I am looking for a bit more value and landed on Swiftsure, the Steve Asmussen trainee who is making his stakes debut. He won his first two starts sprinting but has the pedigree to go two turns and will be a decent price.
We have a pair of stakes at Aqueduct today. The $100,000 Top Flight Invitational drew a field of six led by Horologist (6-5) who makes her first start since running ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). That price is light, and I’ll look for better value with Thankful (8-1) having a shot of an upset.
The $100,000 Danger’s Hour is a one-mile test on the turf with a field of eight going. The Christophe Clement trained Decorated Invader (5-2) returns off the bench after winning three of his six starts last year.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my 13 strongest plays from Aqueduct, Keeneland and Oaklawn Park including the two Road to the Kentucky Derby points races.
The NBC Sports Network will televise the Arkansas Derby this afternoon during a one-hour telecast that gets underway at 7:00 ET. “America’s Day at the Races” will be televised from 1:00 to 3:00 ET on FS1, and then from 3:00 to 8:00 ET 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.
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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 Clm $30,000N2L
#4 Amistad 9-2
#9 Scuttlebuzz 9-5
#6 Disciplinarian 3-1
#8 Red Mule 8-1
Analysis: Amistad was beaten double digit lengths in each of his last three starts, all on the main track, his last two on wet tracks. He makes his first start on turf since his maiden breaker for a $40,000 tag last November at six furlongs, which was his second start off the layoff. He ran pretty well in his other two trips on turf and will appreciate the cut back in distance and the surface switch.
Scuttlebuzz takes on winners for the first time after breaking his maiden last out against $40,000 state breds. The gelding was away last and came with a good late rally to get the job done as the 4-5 favorite. He was making his first start for a tag and it was just his second turf sprint. He is in good hands with the Thomas barn that is off to a strong year, hitting at a 31% clip overall. He should see some pace in front of him and we have seen some late runners fare well in turf sprints at the meet.
AQUEDUCT RACE 8 ANALYSIS (5:19 P.M. ET)
Race 8 The Danger's Hour
#4 Decorated Invader 5-2
#7 Analyze It 7-5
#2 Rinaldi 9-2
#8 Delaware 10-1
Analysis: Decorated Invader makes his first start since a fifth in the Hollywood Derby (G1) last November going nine furlongs. The Clement trainee has been better at a mile where he has won 3 of his 5 trips and was beaten just a head at a mile two back in the Hill Prince. He has been prepping at Payson for his return for a trainer that is 18% winners with runners coming back off a 61–180-day break. The colt rarely runs a bad one, landing in the exacta in 7 of his 10 career outings.
Analyze It makes his first start since last October where he was eighth in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). This guy has landed to make just two starts since running a solid third in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1). He won the Red Bank (G2) two back at Monmouth Park off the nearly two-year layoff. The six-year-old has had foot issues which kept him on the sidelines, and he now returns off another break. Brown is 28% winners (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a +180-day layoff. Back in '18 this guy came out on the wrong ends of back to back photos in G1 company, a head loss in the Belmont Derby and a neck loss in the Secretariat. It would be no surprise to see this guy run big, but his price is going to be small.
KEENELAND RACE 8 ANALYSIS (4:57 P.M. ET)
Race 8 The Giant's Causeway
#3 Elle Z 7-2
#1 Into Mystic 2-1
#7 Karak 8-1
#10 Jakarta 7-2
Analysis: Elle Z took the field gate to wire to win the Mardi Gras at Fair Grounds in a race taken off the grass. This gal has won 3 of her 6 trips on turf in her career including the Pan Zaeta where she also beat Into Mystic by a length in agate to wire score. She owns the edge in early and mid pace numbers, and she sure looks capable of taking this group gate to wire.
Into Mystic broke inward coming out of the gate, tracked the early pace and could not catch our top pick last out. She is pretty good on a fast main track, a winner of 4 of 8 but her last two wins have come on turf. She also earned a career top in a tough nose loss in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) over the grass here last fall. Irad picks up the call for Walsh but is not crazy about the inside post. The mare is in good hands with Walsh and seldom runs bad one.
OAKLAWN PARK RACE 9 ANALYSIS (5:49 P.M. ET)
Race 9 The Oaklawn Mile
#3 Wells Bayou 4-1
#6 By My Standards 5-2
#4 Rushie 3-1
#5 Blackberry Wine 5-1
Analysis: Wells Bayou came off the long layoff last out with a decent effort in a third-place finish in the Louisiana (G3) at Fair Grounds. It was his first start since running fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) here last May. He took the field gate to wire three back to win the Louisiana Derby (G2) and was a solid second in the Southwest (G3) here last year in his stakes debut. Cox should have the guy tighter here and he looks very capable of moving forward off his last outing.
By My Standards did not finish off 2020 very well, an eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and a seventh in the Clark (G1). His four previous starts produced a couple of wins including the Oaklawn 'Cap (G2) here and four straight triple digit Beyers. The question is whether he is cranked up enough off a 4 1/2-month break. The Calhoun barn is 12% winners with runners coming back off a 61–180-day break. He ran well last February off the bench, but this is a bit tougher spot.
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: #8 Red Mule 8-1
R2: #5 Harlem Heights 15-1
R5: #6 Thankful 8-1
R6: #8 Castagno 15-1
R7: #2 Texas Swing 8-1
R8: #8 Delaware 10-1
Good luck today!