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UPDATE FINAL: DERBY QUALIFIERS, VALUE FROM GULF AND TAMPA BAY, LA DERBY ALL-STAKES PK 5

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 24, 2022 – Finally, the hundred-points round, where the scores can really change.

Some Kentucky Derby dreamers have a chance to jump from obscurity into the big dance with a single thrust. Even a runnerup can earn 40 Derby points which often is enough to break through the qualifying process.

This one big-win tack leaves no margin for error beyond the short-rest, short-pointed Lexington Stakes on April 16, when a mere 20 points is available to the winner.

It is fitting, one supposes, that a CDI track would lead them, as in Saturday’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, six weeks from May’s first Saturday and run at 1-3/16s miles. So for the lightly raced or least qualified, it’s exacta finish or bust.

If form is the measure, then all except the current leader of the sophomore division, per the latest NTRA 3-year-old Poll, Epicenter, are running for second money.

Considering the 40 points and the place finish share of a million-dollar purse, those qualify as worthy consolations.

With Epicenter already assured entry with 64 points, there is no urgency attached to a victory in Saturday’s race. Think playoffs mentality. But some need to run well to enter the Churchill starting blocks.

The most viable consensus candidates among Epicenter’s (7-5) eight rivals having the best upset chance are Pioneer of Medina (5-1), Call Me Midnight (6-1), Rattle N Roll (6-1),  Zozos (8-1) and Kupuna (8-1).

But let’s get this clear right now. With any effort resembling his completely comprehensive victory in the Risen Star, racing might be watching a brilliant star in its ascendency. And Epicenter has all the tools; physicality, athleticism, and pedigree.

The contenders named above all appear to be nice colts, either demonstrably or potentially. At the moment, however, Steve Asmussen’s charge stands above them, and by a significant margin.

For one million dollars, one would have thought that a small handful of others would have lined up, unless of course, they are ducking–not a bad idea in this instance. But everyone wants into the world’s most celebrated race.

Maybe some horsemen didn’t want to expose their owners to disappointment in their horse’s ability to handle 9-1/2 furlongs on Saturday, or believe six weeks with three-year-olds at this stage of the season is a conditioning no man’s land. The Louisiana Derby figures to be the last prep for any would-be Kentucky Churchill horse that runs well two days from now.

Meanwhile, the Fair Grounds hosts the second Derby prep of the weekend as the UAE Derby will be contested Saturday morning in Dubai (available for viewing on Fox Sports 2 and TVG). Six weeks gives international players with KY Derby fever an opportunity to qualify with sufficient recover time to chart future plans.

As for the weekly Tote Busters wagering feature, Saturday’s schedule includes an All Stakes Late Pick 4 from Fair Grounds, and betting grids for races featured in HRI’s video section. An analysis of those races From Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs will be available later. Stay tuned.

Messier Among Four 3YOs Transferred from Baffert Barn

According to a press release from Bob Baffert, four 2022 three-year-olds will be transferred to other trainers to give them an opportunity to run in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Baffert has been barred from competing in the Derby in 2022 and 2023.

Three three-year-olds, including the very highly regarded Messier, along with Doppelganger and McLaren Vale, will be transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen and remain in California in the near future. Yakteen is a former Baffert assistant.

Blackadder was transferred into the barn of Rodolph Brisset and will be based in Kentucky for the present time.

All owners and trainers are monitoring the situation, which remains fluid. Baffert is scheduled to begin his suspension April 4.

GULFSTREAM PARK

MELODY OF COLORS STAKES Race 7

WIN: Mystic Eyes at 2-1 or greater. Saver Last Leaf at 10-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: Mystic Eyes, Artos (8-1), Last Leaf (15-1) and Cardio Princess (8-1). Trifecta Key Box Mystic Eyes first and second with his three rivals above.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS

Starter Handicap Race 10

WIN: Road to Meath to win at 7-2 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: Road to Meath, El Pillo (7-2), Jimmy D (3-1) and Isaias Dream (8-1). Trifecta Key Box Road to Meath in all positions with the three rivals above.

FAIR GROUNDS ALL STAKES PICK 5

Graded first, then listed in order of preference

Tom Benson Memorial Stakes               Race 8

A: Hendy Woods (5-2), Gam’s Mission (7-2), Lake Lucerne (5-1)

B:  Clara Peters (10-1), Lovely Ride (9-2)

C:  None

Hendy Woods is classy, fast, and working very well. Gam’s Mission showed promise and demonstrated ability in 2021; barn live this meet. Lake Lucerne has been developing very slowly but developing none the less. Pole sitting with Rosario and might offer excellent value.

G2 New Orleans Classic Stakes            Race 9

A:  Promise Keeper (3-1), Olympiad (8-5)

B:  None

C:  Proxy (5-2) and Chess Chief (6-1)

Promise Keeper steadied at the start, loaded all the way around, was going well 5-wide at the line and galloped out strongly; set to peak. Olympiad was monstrous winning his last and might exceed that performance, but today?

We’re taking Promise Keeper to win at 5-1 or greater, an exacta box with Olympiad, and adding the ‘C’ horses second and third in verticals.

Muniz Memorial Classic Stakes             Race 10

A:  Sacred Life (2-1), Devamani (5-2), Another Mystery (12-1), Santin (7-2)

B:  Two Emmys (15-1), Captivating Moon (15-1)

C: Cavalry Charge

Sacred Life was surrounded on the backside and never had a fair chance; consistently fastest figures. Angled out late stretch and was going very well at the finish. Another Mystery turns back from marathon but a fast one in which he came from the clouds. A faster pace might actually help him here. Santin disappointedly was outkicked late last time but had a right to need the race. Forward move highly likely.

G2 Fair Grounds Oaks                 Race 11

A:  Echo Zulu (3-1)

B:  Turnerloose (6-1), Favor (8-1)

C:  Hidden Connection (5-1)

Echo Zulu lays over, even if only 90%. In winning dirt debut at the trip, Turnerloose was remarkable, few win after a z-pattern run on the turn. Not the prettiest mover. Favor is slow by comparison but was much best winning her last and has explosive look here.

G2 LOUISIANA DERBY                     Race 12

A: Epicenter (8-5)

B: Pioneer of Medina (5-1), Zozos (8-1)

C: Call Me Midnight (6-1), Rattle N Roll (6-1), Kupuna (8-1)

Epicenter might be a special 3-year-old, dazzling in Risen Star, Pioneer of Medina suffered wide trip in that race, forward looking here. Switch to Tyler may mean late run tactics. Zozos will meet better and much strong pace but finished very well in two-turn debut. Rattle N Roll was virtually surrounded in Fountain of Youth.

Basic Pick 5:   1.4.6 / 1.2 / 2.3.4.6.7.8.9 / 1 / 6   

Proportional Wagering: All exotic bets at minimums allowable, straight plays as $2 units

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

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2 Responses

  1. Great writeup thanks. I am actually kind of looking forward to the Aqueduct claiming stakes card today. Good little lead up to the big races at FG late in the day; your stakes writeup will be helpful. GL today!

  2. Thanks Doc, my dance card never seems to be empty so we concentrate on the day’s brightest shiny object, today belongs to Fair Grounds and it’s lynchpin La Derby. Have safe and speedy journeys in NY before shipping south…

    JP

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