Hot barn should land Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes at Kempton
by DICK POWELL
Weather permitting, the Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes will be run on Wednesday at Kempton Park. Scheduled to be run last Thursday, the meet, as many in Europe have had to, was abandoned due to record cold and snowy conditions.
The top four finishers are due to receiv 20-8-5-2 Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility points and there were originally 14 three-year-olds scheduled to be entered. Now, a field of seven is entered and the top three from last week still look tough to beat. There are no new shooters.
The week's delay in the Conditions Stakes makes for some scheduling difficulties for trainers of the upper echelon horses. Had the race been run last Thursday night, it would have given them 30 days until the $2 million U. A. E. Derby (G2) on the dirt at Meydan which gives away 100-40-20-10 points.
Now, the gap in the schedule is 24 days, and if any of these seven have Kentucky Derby aspirations, they might want to use the Conditions Stakes as a tightener before going for the big money and points in Dubai.
As we mentioned before, the betting pools are a bit different to what you might be used to. "Place" betting is similar to show betting and it pays down three places. If you bet a horse to place and it runs third, you cash. The "Swinger" is a combination bet and is similar to having three quinella bets in one. If a race finishes 1-3-9, the Swinger pays for 1-3, 1-9 and 3-9. They don't pay a lot but at least you can cash if you have two of three in the money.
I still like THREE WEEKS to win here for William Haggas. The homebred son of Tapit has won his last two starts going a mile on synthetic tracks and Haggas has won 20 percent here over the past five years. He draws well in post four and gets a huge rider switch to Ryan Moore for this.
GRONKOWSKI will get a lot of attention from American bettors because of the name and Phoenix Thoroughbred Limited has been paying big money for young horses and winning all over the world. This colt by Lonhro cost over $400,000 as a two-year-old and comes in here off two straight wins on synthetic tracks going this distance. The first-time starter that he beat by six lengths last out, Loyal Promise, came back to break his maiden next time out.
The other major contender is FORTUNE'S PEARL, who is the only starter in the field that has not tried a synthetic track. He finished up last year with an even effort in a Group 3 stakes race on soft turf at Newmarket and now returns over five months later for a Polytrack try.
What makes Fortune's Pearl interesting is that in the past 14 days, trainer Andrew Balding is five-for-10 with starters at Kempton and jockey Oisin Murphy is seven-for-32. Even though he is listed as the 5-2 co-favorite on the morning line, he has not been bet very strongly in his last two starts and this is a tough group.
With the race down to seven starters, the only pari-mutuel value I can find is a win bet on THREE WEEKS. He is 5-1 on the morning line and if the race turns into a slugfest in the stretch, my money is on Ryan Moore.