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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


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.


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.


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

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10 Responses

  1. You can’t always get what you want…. even if you’re getting winners! Ok,not exactly the Rolling Stones lyrics but yesterday at Aquaduct there were so many chalkies that whether some played vertical, horizontally or obliquely it might not have been profitable,not when the highest winning payoff was less than $ 7. I mean,considering the combinations in exactas,triples,PK 4 et al ,these “Monticello” style prices reminded me of the fable about a Queen who was Never satisfied, not even with a full stomach. Of course,besides betting stables,those who’ve been betting Heavily on place and show bets on fav$ must have had a good day while for others who try to use the odds- on behind the second,third choice had to accept this active ‘ form’ also evident in the fresh turf course.I bet four middle races,winning two of them and,,losing a bit. Went back to finish my Pizza and then grilled some fish. Even washing dishes was more interesting than what was going on at the old track. Cold ,anchovy pizza, anyone?🍕🍕🍷

    1. Small fields have been the norm at this time of year for a decade. Generally, smaller fields come with smaller prices…

  2. Saturday April 3, 2021
    Keeneland Race Track

    Race 11- The Blue Grass Stakes

    It looks to me like a two horse race one month from the derby with Essential Quality being the one to beat. How does that old saying go “Hardly a man is there alive to pay the bills at 3/5” So although you can’t use him as a win bet you can’t throw him out either.

    #3- Highly Motivated (3-1) With Essential Quality in the race you should get all of 3-1 and he might even float up a hair

    #4- Essential Quality (3/5) The pick if the odds weren’t so low. Cox, Godolphin and Saez spell outstanding connections.

    #2- Untreated (10-1) Rosario stays for this lightly raced 3 year old. Pletcher sends out previously trained Chad Brown horse in a 800,00 grade 2 derby prep. Hmm.

    #1- Hidden Stash- (20-1) Could make your exotics if he hits the board. Coming off a top that with a repeat puts him in the mix.
    The Wood Memorial

    #8- Weyburn (9/2) As fast as any contender, Home Court favorite of this James Jerkins trained winner of the Gotham in his 3 year old debut. Speed to his inside may leave him wide on the first turn. It’s Jerkins and value.

    #1 Brooklin Strong (6-1) This would be the pick if his debut at 3 wasn’t the grade 1 Wood. Never took a step backwards at 2 and his last race at 2 makes him competitive here. Good dropping off point for his 3 year old season. If he has designs on the derby off one prep he should be wound tight, If he’s feeling the Belmont then we have a different story. Underrated trainer should get all of 6-1 or more.

    #4 Risk Taking (5/2) Last puts him right there. He had a great deal of development since his 2 year old season. Vunerable.

    #2 Crowded Trade (4-1) Nostrilized by Weyburn in last and got a better number. The one to beat. Cancel takes this one.
    That’s it from here on this big day of Kentucky Derby Preps and as always “Let’s go get those bad guys”. Vin O’

  3. Well, we agree on the Blue Grass outfit. But will but think that Essential Quality will be a tad lower than his early line at post time. Hope not. I’m betting, but absolutely no less than 5-2 for me…

    Believe that any of four horses could win this Wood. Once again, opinions are carbon copies. Once again, betting Weyburn to win–absolutely at no lower than 4-1. (Wish I really knew what to do with Prevalence)?

    BTW, It’s JerkEns (common misspelling) and, of course, BrooklYn Strong… Nice pattern, fast enough with improvement but four months into 9 furlongs? Trainer is a move-up guy, but today’s a very tall order. Good story, though…

  4. But sometimes you get what you “need”. Two ten cent SF boxes please. For only $4.80, I get all eight of Vincent’s horses in play. What a steal. Add in $6 more for John’s FRA at Tampa (see FRA analysis) and I am quite content. If I “want” something at SA later in the day I can always revisit. Broadway John’s verse has me leaning towards taking a flyer (just for the fun of it) on Roman Centurion in the SA Derby. What the heck? John Pricci? John Wayne? Talking myself into an Easter ticket is all. Two bucks? Riders up is all!

    Let’s go get those bad guys indeed. Get the grandchildren too. Let’s go get a few of those hidden Easter Eggs as well.
    Happy Easter to all celebrating.

    Adding a note for the I-Man as I suspect we share a bit of the same DNA Indulto. It is not always about the winning, as we more often get what we need just in trying to. Just content and grateful for the play.

    “When horses turn for home, we are all wild and free, sweating and cheering, the dream on our breath and clutched in our fists. I admit I love that blood-sport rush.” – Wright Thompson quote from Pappyland, a journey across times, places, and generations, all deeply rooted in horse racing and the bluegrass country of Kentucky.

    1. That’s a great quote, McD, although I don’t picture seeing it all framed hanging on a wall inside the PETA home office. Then again, being human is a blood sport these days.

      Nice try at the bi-partisan pitch; Wayne and Pricci together? I’m a frayed knot.

      “Sands of Iwo Jima” is my fave; proof that cigarettes an kill, indeed. Too soon?

  5. John Wayne’s Roman Centurion scratched. Back to scrambled eggs at SA. Ten cent super box in the Derby. Going with John’s 2/3/7/9.

    Safe journey to all.

  6. “That truly was the Son” was the famous Roman Centurion’s crucifixion scene quote John. Just attempting a cross connection play with Easter was all before the scratch. Nothing sacrilegious, or bipartisan, intended mind you. As for blood sport and PETA, my take on the comment is the rush of adrenalin rushing through my inner mind as they come out of the far turn for home. A fans pulse and associated blood flow most assuredly picks up with all of us. Right up there with my grandkids in the race to score a few Easter Eggs on the back lawn. Happy Easter to you and Toni as well my friend.

  7. Apparently there is nothing wrong with following and wagering on stake races as long as the money holds out. My ‘wad’ for stake races disappeared many, many years ago; the only arena in my life where I was a fast learner.

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