How to Bet the Blue Grass
Saturday’s $1 million Blue Grass (G2) is worth a total of 170 points (100-40-20-10 scale) toward a Kentucky Derby berth and with the defection of Quip to the Arkansas Derby (G1), all 14 runners need points to qualify.
Let’s preview the field:
#1 ZING ZANG – A sharp two-turn maiden winner at Fair Grounds in mid-December, Zing Zang recorded a rallying fourth when making his stakes bow in the Lecomte (G3) but has experienced less-than-favorable outside trips in his last two stakes attempts. Perhaps the Steve Asmussen pupil creates his own trouble, but the well-bred Tapit has been stuck toward the outside in the starting gate in the last three outings and should appreciate a ground-saving trip from the innermost post. Will try to get involved in the latter stages.
#2 SPORTING CHANCE – Juvenile Grade 1 winner returned from a lengthy layoff with a pair of even efforts at Oaklawn where he stalked the action in fourth. That wasn’t the same Sporting Chance who broke his maiden and won the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga on the lead and with a pair of starts underneath him and an inside post, expect a change from tactics here from the Wayne Lukas trainee as Luis Saez probably tries to send from the start.
#3 CALIFORNIA NIGHT – Aqueduct shipper could add to the pace but California Night has never been two turns or run fast (89-80-88 BRIS Speed ratings). Mike Maker runner probably needs easier company to be effective.
#4 KANTHAKA – Rallied into a fierce pace to win 7-furlong San Vicente (G2) going away two starts back and wound up a non-threatening third after bobbling at the start of his two-turn bow, the San Felipe (G2). Concerned 9-furlong distance won’t prove optimal for a colt with plenty of speed on both sides of his pedigree but won’t be surprised to see Kanthaka come running late for a minor award.
#5 QUIP -- SCRATCHED
#6 MARCONI – Half-brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, Tapit colt posted a fine maiden tally three starts back but has been a bit one-paced in both stakes attempts. Picks up services of Ryan Moore and while we’re a little concerned he could be overbet from the Todd Pletcher stable, Marconi remains a viable candidate to challenge for a top 3 placing from off the pace.
#7 BLENDED CITIZEN – Didn’t show anything in his first three dirt starts but Blended Citizen returns to the main track in good form, earning his second consecutive triple-digit BRIS Speed rating posting a win in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on Turfway Park’s Polytrack last out.
#8 GOTTA GO – A juvenile stakes winner, Gotta Go has faltered in both two-turn stakes but raced too close to a moderate pace before coming up empty in the Fountain of Youth (G2) most recently. Ian Wilkes trainee is better making one run and will try to crash the vertical exotics, but faces a daunting stretch out to 1 1/8 miles.
#9 TIZ MISCHIEF – Broke his maiden at Keeneland and concluded 2017 on a high note recording a head second in Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), but Tiz Mischief has not gone on at age 3 for Dale Romans, recording a pair of dull efforts in which the late runner failed to make up any ground in the stretch. He’s probably better than he’s shown but can’t back the confirmed closer with any confidence today.
#10 FREE DROP BILLY – Opened sophomore season with an encouraging second in Holy Bull (G2) but difficult to get excited following a non-threatening third as the favorite in the Gotham (G3). Romans charge posted a four-length decision in Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last fall, but Free Drop Billy has never recorded a triple-digit Speed rating from six stakes attempts and may eventually prove better on turf. Not too keen on his chances as the second or third choice in the wagering.
#11 GOOD MAGIC – Champion 2-year-old lost some luster with an even third but can reestablish himself as a top Kentucky Derby contender with a strong showing. Chad Brown should have him cranked for his best and Good Magic appears likely to receive a prime stalking trip behind the speed. Won’t go against the Curlin colt in his second start back.
#12 FLAMEAWAY – Rough start cost him but offered a commendable rally for second in Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Flameaway may have benefited from slow paces in the last two starts and not sure about tactics from an outside post given he likes to race on front end and may be forced to gun in order to establish forward positioning. Added ground also a concern.
#13 MACHISMO – Sharp 11-length maiden scorer two back, Machismo offered a belated rally for fourth in the Holy Bull and is eligible for further improvement in his second stakes appearance. But it won’t be easy from an extreme outside post and More Than Ready colt will probably be forced to show speed from the gate to avoid getting caught shuffled back/caught too wide. He’s still a little interesting at expected long odds.
#14 ARAWAK – Exits a pair of thirds versus stakes rivals on Turfway’s Polytrack and could show improved speed with addition of blinkers, but Arawak doesn’t look fast enough to challenge.
#15 DETERMINANT – Last-out turf maiden winner an unknown on dirt and Determinant faces serious class check from difficult outside post.
Good Magic is the pick but Sporting Chance will be key to the pace; I expect Sporting Chance to hustle from the gate and he’ll likely have California Night applying pressure to his immediate outside. Flameaway and possibly Machismo could also be involved early and I’m expecting a contested pace that sets up nicely for Good Magic and late runners.
I’m recommending straight exactas over Zing Zang and Blend Citizen, and I’ll save by using the pair in the third slot of the trifecta.
$20 exactas 11 over 1,7 ($40)
$1 trifecta part-wheel: 11 over All over 1,7 ($24)