Five value plays on a busy Saturday

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 9th, 2016

Saturday marks a huge day of racing from coast to coast, with a trio of major preps for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, and I’ll be picking my spots while following the action at Keeneland.

My best bet of the day is Songbird…just kidding. The exciting filly should cruise in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and even though a potentially difficult test awaits in the Kentucky Oaks, there’s no escaping the massive speculation surrounding her first match-up against males if she remains unbeaten. Mike Smith also rides Danzing Candy, a top Santa Anita Derby (G1) contender, and both horses are speed-based. Smith hopes to emulate the recently retired Calvin Borel, who swept the 2009 Kentucky Derby and Oaks aboard Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra.

Here are five horses I like Saturday from a betting perspective, all listed at 6-1 or higher on the morning line.


Race 7: Barbados (#10, 6-1 morning line) posted a 5-length maiden win at Keeneland in October 2014 and returned to the Lexington, Kentucky oval with a good late-running second to Runhappy in the Phoenix (G3) last October. Connections ambitiously placed him in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) next out, and announced he would be running with a bar shoe, and Barbados went off form. Look for him to show more at age 4. He prepped for the Commonwealth in the February 20 Pelican at Tampa, closing boldly to win the tightener going away, and the Speightstown colt is returning to his favorite track. With plenty of speed to his inside, Barbados can be along in time.

Race 9: Sunday Rules (#4, 8-1) likes to win, capturing 8-of-9 career starts, but raced sparingly during her first three seasons on track. The mare gained plenty of fitness over the winter, reeling off three straight wins over a two-month period, and her last two performances were impressive. After dusting open foes in the December 20 Kalookan Queen, the Cal-bred speedball came back to thrash males in the restricted California Cup Sprint on January 30, registering an outstanding 105 BRIS Speed rating, equal to the figure Wavell Avenue registered in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Sunday Rules – she has more to prove for trainer Phil d’Amato – and the 5yo shows a work over the track. They won’t catch her with Edwin Maldonado.

Race 10: Star Hill (#13, 10-1) has the look of a rapidly-improving type who can post a minor upset in a well-matched Blue Grass. The Elusive Quality colt impressed breaking his maiden two starts back at Gulfstream, scoring by a 7 ¾-length margin from just off the pace, and gained valuable seasoning rallying for third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) behind Destin and Outwork, a pair of colts who are arguably better than any Blue Grass rivals. Star Hill will look to settle in midpack from post 13 before offering his best.


Race 8: Mo d’Amour (#3, 6-1) needed a couple of stakes attempts before discovering her best form but turned the corner when recording a convincing allowance win at Laurel on February 6. The Todd Pletcher charge came back three weeks later with an authoritative two-length decision in the Busher over the inner track and a repeat of her last could be good enough to handle the expected betting favorites, Lewis Bay and Clair de Lune. I’m expecting further improvement that puts Mo d’Amour in the winner’s circle.


Race 9: Ready to Confess (#6, 8-1) didn’t receive the right trip when making her stakes debut in the Martha Washington last time, winding up a one-paced fifth from off the pace, but she registered a field-best 94 BRIS Speed rating leading all the way in an Oaklawn allowance two starts ago and will revert back to front-running ways in this spot – none of her five rivals are confirmed early types. Freshened 63 days for the Fantasy (G3), the More Than Ready filly won off a similar layoff in the aforementioned allowance and Donnie Von Hemel figures to have Ready to Confess primed for her second stakes attempt.

Good luck on Saturday!

Sunday Rules photo courtesy of Benoit Photo is offering players the chance to compete for 3 million Points Across the Board in Saturday’s three Kentucky Derby preps