Analyzing three major Kentucky Derby preps

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 8th, 2017

Kentucky Derby contenders will be featured in major preps at Aqueduct, Keeneland and Santa Anita today. All three races will be held at 1 1/8 miles and let’s take a look at the fields:

Blue Grass (G2)

Deepest of all prep races with McCraken, Tapwrit, J Boys Echo and Practical Joke generally considered to be top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders.

Analysis: J Boys Echo really came on last time winning the Gotham (G3) and multiple Grade 1-winning juvenile Practical Joke will look to jump forward off a runner-up effort in the Fountain of Youth (G2). Won’t be shocked to see either win but going in a different direction.

Win: McCraken is unbeaten from four starts, including a nice tally in the Sam F. Davis (G3) to open year, and appears to be training forwardly for Ian Wilkes in preparation. He needs a strong showing to confirm a spot in the Kentucky Derby field and I will go with the classy colt. Tapwrit is certainly eligible to maintain his form for Todd Pletcher after a convincing win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and will be included in any multi-race wagers. I think the race runs through this duo.

Upset: Irap has registered triple-digit BRIS E1 Pace ratings in his last two starts and Doug O’Neill probably opted for this spot because it was coming up light on pace. Wild Shot could be sent from his inside, but Irap looks quicker and figures to be showing the way. Speed can be dangerous.

Wood Memorial (G2)

Battalion Runner is the 2-1 morning line favorite in his stakes debut and will look to follow suit for Pletcher, who has already saddled Always Dreaming, One Liner and Malagacy to victories in their first qualifying race this year. Gotham runner-up Cloud Computing could challenge for favoritism in his third career start. Irish War Cry and Mo Town are seeking to rebound from unplaced efforts at a short price.

Analysis: A lot of horses want to race up close including Cloud Computing, who didn’t make his career debut until February 11 and is generating plenty of buzz for Chad Brown. Despite being forwardly-placed in both wins this year, Battalion Runner is eligible to take back considering he’s posted century-topping BRIS Late Pace ratings in the last two. Irish War Cry and Mo Town displayed headstrong behavior last time and must settle willingly to turn things around today.

Win: Tabbing an upset with Mo Town, who loves the main track at Aqueduct. He adds Javier Castellano and should enjoy a ground-saving trip from his inside post. But it will be easy to spread in any multi-race wagers, adding Battalion Runner, Cloud Computing, Irish War Cry and Stretch's Stone.

Upset: Stretch’s Stone was an impressive maiden winner two back and exits a solid effort versus entry-level allowance foes, registering BRIS Speed ratings of 96 and 95 for those effort. The improving New York-bred gelding could have more to offer for Bruce Levine.

Santa Anita Derby

A headscratcher. With Mastery sidelined, the California division lacks clarity and 13 sophomores will try to fill the void.

Analysis: O’Neill has four, including 7-2 morning line favorite Iliad. Bob Baffert will send out a trio, including rebound hopeful American Anthem and well-regarded stakes debuter Reach the World.

Win: I am siding with Reach the World, an up-and-coming Tapit colt who exits a fine neck second in an allowance race with little-to-no pace. Should receive a favorable set-up and Mike Smith opts for Reach the World over American Anthem. Not keen on Iliad, who was out of gas by midstretch of the San Felipe, or the John Shirreffs-trained pair of Gormley and Royal Mo. Will add Battle of Midway and American Anthem to at least one multi-race ticket along with a trio of longshots.

Upset: Race is ripe for an upset and I’ll mention three candidates. Term of Art will be running late and I will look for improvement upon an encouraging third in the San Felipe in which he missed the start. Kimbear netted a commendable 95 BRIS Speed rating for an eye-catching maiden tally last time and could have more to offer for Eric Kruljac. Milton Freewater will be tested for class but the California-bred brings improving form into the race and could outrun his odds (30-1 morning line) for O’Neill.

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