HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, April 2, 2021 — A look at the three major “win-or-place on you’re in” Kentucky Derby preps, and we’ll do so in ascending order, from least interesting/inscrutable to two potential money makers via either the vertical or straight pools:
SANTA ANITA Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby
This is Medina Spirit’s (9-5) race to lose. He been class-tested, and passed, is fast enough, earning top figures consistently, and owns enough versatility to adapt to any scenario. The outer draw will give Johnny Velazquez options, assuming a clean getaway.
There are several fast enough to win this. The problem is not knowing exactly what to expect. Do we get the JAN 23 The Great One (8-1), a maiden breaker by 14, or the San Felipe version, who made a tepid mid-race move but came off the bridle almost instantly? His maiden effort can win this.
Same can be said of Dream Shake. Coming into this off a distance progression, Peter Eurton is profitable with second-time routers, colt owns two strong works subsequently, and picks up Flavien Prat, as Joel Rosario rides at Keeneland. His maiden figure on debut can win this.
Rock Your World (6-1) is undefeated in two starts–on grass–and has been pointed to this purposefully by John Sadler, which makes him interesting. The pedigree is there. Parnelli (20-1) has worked strongly in blinkers ,and Roman Centurion (8-1) has to be better than his last race indicates. Let the tote be your guide.
KEENELAND G2 Blue Grass
Juvenile champion Essential Quality (3-5) is a deserving favorite. Undefeated in four starts, he’s never taken a back step on the Thoro-Graph scale and while this is not a “must win” with respect to Derby qualifying points, with only two preps scheduled pre-Derby the screws will be tight. He could ‘bounce’ and still win this. The champ is laudably versatile and Luis Saez fits as snugly as OJ’s glove.
However, we will take the value offered on Highly Motivated (3-1) who showed on Breeders’ Cup weekend that he loves this surface. He was a good third in his Gotham season’s debut after bobbling slightly at the break and steadying inside at the three-quarter pole but could not handle the two leaders.
Chad Brown runner will benefit from the effort, the added ground suits, and his figure, while not as fast as the favorite’s, is forward-looking. The lion’s share of this will be settled between these two, but there are two others we’ll use in exactas and to complete trifectas:
Untreated (10-1) has a similar profile to Known Agenda’s, Todd’s Florida Derby winner, and he was visually impressive winning his two-turn debut at Tampa Bay, showing a high turn of foot and power through the lane. Maiden breaker attracts Joel Rosario. Think he’s live?
We’re also using Hidden Stash (20-1) in the exotics. His figures are progressive, has all the pedigree needed for the added trip, progressed nicely from the Sam Davis to the Tampa Derby, and both wins have come beneath Rafael Bejarano. Further, he won his only start on this surface last fall. Low profile connections should ensure long odds.
AQUEDUCT G2 WOOD MEMORIAL
Chad Brown saddles the early line favorite and third choice. Risk Taking (5-2) might not be as brilliant as some of his competition but he’s undefeated in two starts going today’s distance after getting blinkers. In fact, he is the only horse with experience at the distance and he figures to get sufficient pace.
Crowded Trade (4-1) showed marked improvement stretching out in his second start, unlucky to lose a head-bob to the very stubborn Weyburn (9-2). After bobbling slightly at the start, he recovered nicely to make a strong move at headstretch and sustained his run, just missing.
Weyburn did the dirty work and still won. He stalked/pressured the early leader, put that one away when Crowded Trade jumped all over him into the stretch, taking a brief lead in fact, but Weyburn was resolute.
Weyburn owns the longest pedigree in the field, had a brilliant blowout in preparation for this–best of 64 3YOs to work that week. He recently was made a late Triple Crown nominee. Jimmy Jerkens thinks he might be more of a Belmont prospect than future Derby type. But that could all change Saturday.
The most brilliant sophomore in the field is undefeated Prevalence (3-1) He absolutely spread-eagled the hottest maiden field at Gulfstream, a loaded race going 7 furlongs. He came back to win a one-mile allowances in comprehensive style.
Note that Tyler Gaffalione rode him out into the lower turn, providing a useful learning experience. He is, however, an early line underlay.
Potential Value WIN Plays:
Santa Anita Derby: The Great One at 6-1 or greater
Blue Grass: Highly Motivated at 3-1 or greater
Wood Memorial: Weyburn at 9-2 or greater