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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH FL, April 8, 2022 — We’ve solved 40% of the national Pick 5 wager involving graded stakes from Aqueduct Race Track and Keeneland Race Course.

The final edition of the Pick 5 grid will be presented chronologically upon conclusion of the New York research, and a word on the titanic match at Santa Anita Park, too. Meanwhile, here’s a look at the G2 Shakertown and G1 Blue Grass from Lexington.

XC Pick 5 Sequence Order

1-Shakertown, 2-Wood Memorial, 3-Blue Grass, 4-Carter, 5-Gazelle

KEENELAND      G2 Shakertown        Race 8

The last time he was in action, Golden Pal won the BC Turf Sprint impressively in fast time. Prior to that he was an open lengths winner of the G2 Woodford on today’s surface, improving his Keeneland record to 2-for-2–at today’s trip.

On paper, with a lifetime slate that reads (8) 5-2-0, (7) 5-1-0 at the distance, he appears unbeatable.

The most probable winner will be challenged by several in the lineup, the most interesting of those being Gear Jockey, who will appreciate coming back home to Kentucky after a recent practice run Gulfstream Park. The surface switch and added sixteenth are in his favor. We will use both in the Pick 5 but graded choices follow:

A: 10-Golden Pal (4-5)

B: 5-Gear Jockey (10-1)

C: 3-Barraza (6-1), 7-Cowan (20-1), 11-Just Might (4-1)

VALUE WIN PLAY: Gear Jockey at 9-1 or greater

KEENELAND    G1 Blue Grass    Race 9

A two-horse race on paper likely will turn out that way between the fences. Splitting hairs, we prefer Zandon to Smile Happy but, as in the Shakertown, we  will use both in the cross country sequence.

The former was beaten ½ length by the latter but Zandon had the tougher time of it, including a compromised start and a ground losing rally. He needs a top effort, at least a placing, to lock in a spot inside the Churchill gate.

 A: 4-Zandon (5-2), 10-Smile Happy (9-5)

B: 6-Emmanuel (9-2)

C: 7-Golden Glider (20-1), 9-Rattle N Roll (8-1), 8-Ethereal Road (20-1)

VALUE WIN PLAY:  Zandon at 2-1 or greater

AQUEDUCT       G2 Wood Memorial       Race 8

Two horses on paper are hard to separate as both are undefeated and love the surface in Queens. But we’ll shade a winning race at the distance, the longer pedigree, and super pace figures. In addition, he needs Derby points. Using both A’s.

A:  3-Early Voting (5-2),  5-Morello (8-5)

B:  1-Mo Donegal (5-2),

C:  6-Skippylongstocking (15-1), 2-Golden Code (15-1), 4-Long Term (20-1)

VALUE WIN PLAY:  Early Voting at 9-5 or greater

AQUEDUCT           G1 Carter Handicap      Race 9

Speaker’s Corner’s figures have exploded with maturity this year and has visually impressed. Runnerup came back to win Florida Derby Day. Reinvestment Risk returned for layoff in top form and may move forward again. Green Light Go never should have been moved from Jimmy Jerkens’ barn in the first place. Mind Control, second in last year’s Carter, hits hard and has trained brilliantly for 2022 debut. Allowing for conceivable bounce and seeking value somewhere, we’ll consider using all four A’s and B’s.

A:  8-Speaker’s Corner (8-5)

B:  1-Reinvestment Risk (4-1), 2-Green Light Go (9-2), 4-Mind Control (7-2),

C:  6-War Tocsin (20-1)

VALUE WIN PLAY:   Post time decision

AQUEDUCT          G3 Gazelle Stakes        Race 10

Venti Valentine’s only defeat in four lifetime starts was a neck loss to Nest, who crushed the Ashland on opening day at Keeneland. May be special herself. May just belong with the elite in loaded 3-year-old filly division. (If we single Speaker’s Corner, we’ll use A and B’s here. If we don’t, it likely will be Venti Valentine.

A: 5-Venti Valentine (7-5)

B: 3-Nostalgic (9-2), 6-Classy Edition (5-2)

C: 7-Divine Huntress (8-1), 1-Morning Matcha (8-1)

VALUE WIN PLAY:  Nostalgic at 4-1 or greater


This is the race many say that will determine the Derby winner of May. We’re taking a wait and see on that.

There’s no denying Forbidden Kingdom’s brilliance. HIs last was impressive by any measure, any speed scale. But does he go forward on backward from there? We don’t know, our best guess is he run the same race back.

Two things: He’s meeting a rival that is his equal or better. Of greater concern is the bottom side of his pedigree which is light on stamina. And in a big spot, it’s J.J. or J.R.–we’ll err on the side of the Hall of Famer.

Messier ran strongly and fast at 2, and his 3-year-old debut was lights out. He has good spacing into this and trained brilliantly before being turned over to a new trainer. Will he perform Baffert-like, or won’t he? We don’t know.

What we do know is that he now is in the barn of a former assistant and, unlike the former guy, Baffert likely, given his proximity to Hollywood, has heard the term burner phone. The only one who knows for sure is The Shadow. If Messier is all that, he is the more probable winner and is our choice.

I very much look forward to this matchup, but we’ll go to school on this one and keep our hands in our pockets.

this is a live column that will be updated throughout the weekend

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16 Responses

  1. 3 big preps for next month’s Kentucky Derby. Here are my two cents.

    The Wood

    4-Long Term (20-1) Repole Stable sends out a Curlin colt, Trained by Todd Pletcher, blinkers off, switching to Castellano and he’s a maiden. He along with Morello are the 2 fastest colts in the race figure wise. I don’t think this is for funzies, He’s in with a big chance.

    1-Mo Donegal (5-2)Raced against some good horses. Rail is tough on a horse that likes to come from behind. 5-2 is short with no value

    5- Morello (8/5) The fastest horse.

    The Toyota Blue Grass

    4-Zandon (5/2) Watch Mo Donegal’s race or vice versa seeing they finished heads apart in the Remsen. Reaches for Pratt. Beautiful line. locked and loaded

    10-Smile Happy(9-5) Will take some beating

    9-Rattle N Roll(8-1) Grade 1 winner off 2 preps, blinkers on, Last was sneaky good.

    The first race at Santa Anita

    3-Brooke Marie(7-2) (best bet) Should fire off layoff. Kenneally 21% in turf sprints, shipping to SA to get the money.
    2-Toby’s Heart(5-2) on my horses to watch list.

    The Santa Anita Derby

    4-Messier(1/1) In a short field with speed horses the trip should be clean, Messier doesn’t need the lead to win, He should be saving ground behind Taiba and Forbidden Kingdom. The one to beat.

    That’s it from here on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, 3 preps, the Masters and the start of baseball. Spring is in the air so LET”S GO GET THE BAD GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Vin O’

  2. Bluegrass will be an upset and probably the Wood and SA Derby, I feel something weird in the the air today. But it will be exciting for all!! Kat

    1. Well, we have the wet in Lexington, the Wood is tricky beyond the favorites, but can’t see any but the top two out west. Can’t wait to see. Meanwhile, loved the Grand National; hard to get an exciting stretch run after 4-1/2 miles, wow!

  3. Yesterday’s all three Derby Preps did not disappoint, in fact, I don’t recall a year where I can honestly make a case for each horse, Mo Donegal, Zandon and Taiba to WIN the Derby. These performances make handicapping the Derby an even more difficult task than normal. Usually, one of the big three final preps is ho hum so you can eliminate horses from that race but not this year.

    But for now, I’m sticking with Epicenter to Win it. The main reason is his versatility. I like the fact he can rate and sit behind the speed if necessary. My longshot play is Charge It. I hope he gets in the field. He’ll be long odds and could round out my exotics.

    I know, I say this every year, but this year’s Derby is going to be special. Let’s just pray for a dry fast track.

    1. Indeed, we all want a fast track on May’s first Saturday.

      The preps may be over, save for the “saver” Lexington. But the preparation is not.

      Voted for Epicenter for several weeks now on the NTRA Poll. Expect I’ll do so again. But I’m in no hurry to attempt picking the Derby winner.

      As the character Hips (Paul Sorvino) said in The Gambler: “They don’t pay off at the half, Axel. (James Caan)”

  4. With the barn having both Early Voting and Zandon, I wonder if Chad has his rabbit in the Wood runner up. Of course this is also going to benefit Mo Donegal, but maybe Zandon and Mo Donegal fighting down the lane once again is how this is supposed to go.

  5. It was quite the day. Will be writing about the day in our Sunday column shortly.

    Trainers and jockeys who pay attention are aware f biases and/or any quirks in the drainage system that allow certain parts of the course to dry faster than others. A bit surprised you have never ready about it.

    I think that’s what Tyler did aboard Spendarella yesterday, taking her off the fence on the soft KEE turf–in addition to giving her a target

    1. Of course I have known about track bias,,but not to this extreme! Did you see the race ? And,by the way,that National marathon race should be abolished!After a couple of jumps with horses falling down,it reminded me of * The Charge of the Light Brigate* and General Custer,Errol Flynn, at Little Big Horn in * They Died With Their Boots On*. It was reckless. Only watched the first and last thirty seconds. Such ridiculous *Events* make people leave horse racing.No mention if any horses or jockeys get hurt,but then again,why would they want to make that public ?!?! Heartless, even after a dozen alcoholic drinks… What,half the starters finished the painful marathon. .?

      1. This ridiculous event will be renewed for the 175th time in 2023.

        No, I have to feed the HRI beast, take time to respond to commenters, read, research and replay prior to handicapping analysis and commentary on issues. This one just slipped between the cracks.

        Appropos of nothing, I remember, when my parents to me to the movies in the early 1950s, when they were preceded by “Movietone News” from around the world, my earliest memory was a brief stretch run of the Grand National.

        Great story emerged from that race which we will touch on at a later date…

  6. If that were to happen Doc, I will be rooting for Zandon to exact revenge for the non-DQ in the Remsen. Most egregious non-disqualification I can ever remember.

    (It was as if the NY stewards–different officials, of course–took the Allumeuse decision and stood it on its head.)

    1. Yeah Irad did everything short of throwing a left hook at Zandon’s snout that day. He did get suspended in part due to that performance but the DQ should have happened and didn’t.

      1. Yes, it was part of the 30 days Irad got; no justice for the horsemen and horseplayers.

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