DeRosa Needs a Kentucky Derby Dream Bet Miracle
There are two ways to approach the final round of Kentucky Derby Dream Bet: 1. Pretend I’m on or near the top of the leaderboard and pick the horses I think have the best chance of winning, or 2. Recognize that I’m so far out of it that I need to “stab” at longer-priced horses to have any chance of winning.
The reality is number 2, but the fantasy is number 1, and since I could never win anyway, I’ll partially indulge in the fantasy by listing my picks under both scenarios.
The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn and Lexington Stakes at Keeneland conclude the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. The former could produce the second choice to undefeated champion Nyquist in morning line favorite Rebel Stakes winner Cupid while the latter can provide important class clues.
Cupid is a worthy but not invincible favorite. My pick “on top” pick is Whitmore, who couldn’t get by Cupid in the Rebel despite clear aim even as Cupid ran erratically in the stretch. That would be a major concern if Whitmore were the favorite, but it’s easier to forgive at twice the price of a horse he looked like he could beat last time under the capable hands of trainer Ron Moquett. The added distance (1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles) should help as well.
In trying to actually win this thing, though (I’m currently last among my five colleagues in a little side squeeze) I have to go with Dazzling Gem, who has been targeting this race on a tight schedule even before running credibly in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby, a race that already has produced a couple key Derby contenders in Gun Runner and Mo Tom.
Dazzling Gem needs to improve, but what horse wouldn’t after such a limited career. There are some solid closers to fear in this group like the aforementioned Whitmore and Southwest Stakes winner Suddenbreakingnews, but Dazzling Gem could get the jump on all of them and first run at Cupid in the process.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert holds a strong hand in the Lexington as well, and if I were near the top of the leaderboard and had the luxury of playing the best horse to try to win, then his Collected would be my pick in the Lexington.
Collected was the 5-to-2 favorite when he shipped to the Southwest off a victory in the Sham Stakes, and he finished fourth behind Arkansas Derby starters Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore, and American Dubai. He then regrouped and won the Sunland Festival of Racing Stakes at 11-to-10 over another Arkansas Derby starter in Gettysburg. He won that race gate to wire and will probably have to employ that tactic from post ten in the Lexington with Riker from post 8 his likely company early.
From a I-need-a-bigger-price-perspective I’m going to use the word “squeeze” for a third time in this blog post and tab Big Squeeze as the best play with an upset in mind. Big Squeeze flattered Counterforce with a win right back after finishing second to that foe two back, and Counterforce himself returned to win a stakes on Friday at Oaklawn. Chris Landeros is normally based at Oaklawn, and gives up mounts on a HUGE day of racing there to ride this one at Keeneland.