Kellie Reilly picks the Louisiana Derby & UAE Derby for Kentucky Derby Dream Bet

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March 26th, 2016

Saturday’s the last chance saloon in the Qualifying Round for the Kentucky Derby Dream Bet. If you haven’t made a successful $15 win bet in one of the designated preps yet, hop on board in either the UAE Derby (G2) early Saturday morning (9:35 a.m. EDT) or the Louisiana Derby (G2) (6:12 p.m. EDT).

Cupid restored my fortunes in last Saturday’s Rebel (G2), bumping up my total to three wins during the Qualifying Round (thanks, too, go to Mohaymen and Gun Runner).

Although a sense of loyalty makes me want to stick with Gun Runner in the Louisiana Derby, it’s an open question of just how much he benefited from an ideal trip around an inside-favoring track in the Risen Star (G2). He’ll get another inside trip here, breaking from post 1, but he might not get the dream passage twice in a row.

That left me with three main alternatives. Mo Tom moved up markedly in my estimation with his terrific third in the Risen Star, despite being sawed off in upper stretch. He will appreciate the added ground, and I almost went for him here. But he is a short price for a deep closer who’s hostage to fortune. While Greenpointcrusader is an attractive type, that Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) form is starting to look slightly iffy. Rested until his second in the Holy Bull (G2), he got another a two-month layoff ahead of this 1 1/8-mile test. That’s a pretty light schedule to me.

I just can’t resist the unexposed class climber in #9 Dazzling Gem (12-1), who’s won both career starts routing at Oaklawn. On paper, he may not catch the eye, but the replays tell a different story.

Trained by the high-percentage Brad Cox, Dazzling Gem is a strong-traveling stalker who gathers momentum the farther he goes. In his debut, he ranged up on the outside to challenge, only to have American Pioneer zip through on the rail. If you paused the replay at that instant without knowing the result, American Pioneer looks as if he’s capitalized. But in fact, Dazzling Gem found another gear to put a hard-trying American Pioneer away.

Dazzling Gem followed up promptly in an allowance, despite being hung out five wide on the first turn and having to catch a pacesetter who’d opened up on the far turn. Lugging in on his left lead, and looking inexperienced, Dazzling Gem mowed him down. That pacesetter was Gray Sky, who subsequently finished sixth in the Rebel. Back in third was Madtap, a next-out allowance winner who garnered some support before flopping in the Rebel.

Where was Dazzling Gem? I’d been looking forward to him in the Rebel, but he came up with a foot abscess that cost him a few days’ training time, and he skipped it. Meanwhile, American Pioneer came back to crush a Rebel Day maiden in a time nearly as fast as Cupid, earned himself a late Triple Crown nomination, and highlighted just how good Dazzling Gem might be.

Apparently, if you were going to have a foot issue on the Derby trail, Dazzling Gem picked a decent time to be done with it. Judging by the calendar, he missed one work. He got back on the worktab with a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 3/5 (best of 40) on March 15, and fired another solid move in 1:00 4/5 this past Monday.

According to his pedigree, and the way he travels and stays on strongly in his races so far, Dazzling Gem will handle every yard of the 1 1/8 miles at Fair Grounds. From the first crop of Santa Anita H. (G1) winner Misremembered (a son of Gun Runner’s sire Candy Ride), Dazzling Gem is out of a Vindication mare, and his second dam is by Preakness (G1) winner Summer Squall. This is the family of Hall of Famer Serena’s Song.

Cox has indicated that Dazzling Gem may well contest the Arkansas Derby (G1) too, a great idea to give him more experience ahead of a possible Kentucky Derby tilt. After all, as an unraced 2-year-old, he has the Apollo curse against him. For the same reason, he’s entitled to improve from whatever he does in the Louisiana Derby. But I’m willing to put some faith in him here.

If you’ve been following my Dubai scribblings, you’ll already know that #2 Polar River (3-5) is my UAE Derby pick. Although it’s a terrible price, she’s up against a short field, and her characteristic panache ought to be enough. Given how open the Louisiana Derby appears, Polar River might prove an easier way to clear the Qualifying Round.

Check out the Kentucky Derby Dream Bet contest, where you can play to win a trip to this year’s Kentucky Derby and Oaks and a $25,000 win bet on the Kentucky Derby. is offering a Louisiana Derby 5 million points rolling Pick 4 bonus on Saturday’s card at Fair Grounds, with a 1-million point bounty on the Early and Late Pick 4s and a 3 million-point “Hit It and Split It” bonus on the All Graded Stakes Pick 4 (races 7-10).