Doug Salvatore's Best Derby Day Plays
Here are my best plays for Saturday's card at Churchill Downs.
Race 3: #7 Jazzy Times (3/1 Morning Line) was my favorite horse from last years OBS March 2-year-old sale. It's taken him a while to make the races, but I can promise you that this is an exceptionally talented horse. The son of Discreetly Mine has reportedly been training very well for this race. Bet Jazzy Times to win and use #1 Seeking The Soul and #10 Jimbo Fallon underneath him in exotics.
Race 5: #10 Freestyler (4/1 Morning Line) was victimized by a brutal wide trip when ambitiously spotted in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap last time out. He's taking a significant class drop and should be able to stalk a soft early pace and put this group away. Single him in the first leg of the Pick 3. Single Tepin in the second leg. And use Limosine Liberal, Speightster, and Holy Boss in the final leg of the Pick 3.
Race 10: #7 Forevamo (6/1 Morning Line) ran a deceptively good race in the Louisiana Derby, when hung-up extremely wide throughout. Two starts back, he was second beaten only a half length to Gun Runner, a horse who is taking a good bit of action in the Kentucky Derby. The expected pace scenario in this race looks as dreamy as it can possibly be for Forevamo, and I love the idea of this son of Uncle Mo cutting back in distance to a one-turn mile. Bet him to win and box him in exotics with American Freedom and Fellowship. Use all 3 of those horses starting a Pick 3 in this leg, with Divisidero singled in the 2nd Leg and #'s 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 18, 19, and 20 in the final leg.
Race 11: #8 Divisidero (15/1 Morning Line) is the horse I'm most excited about betting today. This son of Kitten's Joy has been victimized by slow paces and wide trips in recent races, but figures to get the pace setup of a lifetime in this spot here today. Look for Divisidero to come flying through the stretch and get the job done. Bet him to win and box him in the exotics with the two Chad Brown runners Big Blue Kitten and Slumber.
Race 12: This is the most mind-numbing and confusing race to handicap that I've looked at in quite a while. I've considered going about seven different ways in here. I even gave the Japanese raider Lani a very hard look, as his effort in Dubai was sneaky good and if ever there's a year to try a foreign runner in this race, surely this would be the year, as this field really doesn't impress me on exposed form. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of interesting horses in here. Some are very lightly raced and have late-maturing pedigrees that suggest stamina. I'm sure there's going to be some horses from this group prove to be impressive at a later stage in their career, and perhaps so much so that fools will eventually look fondly on this group many years from now.
I'm going with #14 Mohaymen (Currently 12/1 odds in the early betting) -- this son of Tapit was the market leader for this race for much of the winner. In his most recent start, he was bet to 4/5 favoritism in the Florida Derby and had the daunting task of making first-run into Nyquist, the latter enjoying a perfect front-end trip. Mohaymen was also hung up very wide on both turns and understandably spit the bit in the stretch run. Mohaymen's trainer Kiaran McLaughlin almost won a Kentucky Derby with 71/1 longshot Closing Argument in the 2005 edition of the race, as the horse was beaten only a half length in a career best performance after a complete dud of a final prep.
The main reason I went to Mohaymen is because I've had my most betting success in this race with hyped horses who have seen their reputations fizzle with bad final preps. In 2005 I picked the John Shirreffs trained Giacomo to win the Derby and scored at 50/1 odds. Giacomo, people forget, was actually a brief favorite in the Vegas future book for the Kentucky Derby after his fast closing 2nd in the Hollywood Futurity. He was made out to be the disappointment of the prep season after being defeated as the big favorite in the Sham (a race where he threw a shoe and was hung wide) the San Felipe (second to Consolidator on a ridiculously speed favoring track) and the Santa Anita Derby (a wide 4th in a race where no one besides him closed any ground) In 2001, I stabbed with Invisible Ink, who finished 2nd at 55/1 odds. He was the son of a Derby winner and everyones darling after an impressive two-turn win in January at Gulfstream. He took good action in all 3 future wagers, but after a disappointing 4th place finish at 2/1 odds in the Blue Grass, a race where Johnny V tried to press Millennium Wind and Songandaprayer from the 3 path at old Keeneland, everyone jumped ship on that horse.
Did the Florida Derby really tell us enough to make Mohaymen six times the price of Nyquist, who is currently the 2/1 favorite? Certainly, a lot of gamblers who "have always loved" Mohaymen have probably already bet him in future wagers...and the way gambler psychology works, that might make them less inclined to want to bet him again in a different pool after such a defeat. Look, Mohaymen closed at 7/2 odds to win this race in Pool #3 on March 13th. He's had one poor result since, but the performance was excusable enough for me to take 12/1 odds today. Mohaymen is my selection.