Kellie Reilly picks the Tampa Bay Derby & San Felipe for Kentucky Derby Dream Bet

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March 12th, 2016

Saturday offers two more chances to qualify for the Kentucky Derby Dream Bet’s Final Round. If you haven’t qualified in the contest’s first three races, just cash a $15 win bet on Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2), or San Felipe (G2), and you’ve cleared the Qualifying Round.

As tests of the 2016 Kentucky Derby establishment versus the insurgents, both races have significance going forward on the campaign – er, Derby – trail. But that’s also what makes them fascinating exercises in handicapping and betting.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, I’m siding with the establishment in the form of Brody’s Cause (#8, 5-2). The Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner is following same trajectory as Carpe Diem – another son of Giant’s Causeway who captured the 2014 Breeders’ Futurity, placed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and kicked off his 2015 campaign successfully in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Beyond facile parallels, however, Brody’s Cause should get the perfect pace set-up for his big late kick. And after training forwardly at Gulfstream, the Dale Romans pupil fired a strong half-mile at Tampa in :48 2/5 last Sunday, suggesting that he’s taken kindly to the surface. Up-and-comers Economic Model and Destin have a right to keep progressing, but neither is compelling enough to switch my vote.

In the San Felipe, I have an inkling that an insurgency could be brewing in the form of Smokey Image (#6, 4-1). In part that’s because of a slight uncertainty about the establishment. Exaggerator hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations in his sternest tests (the Breeders’ Futurity and BC Juvenile). My concern is that he may have plateaued, and if so, he could run well again here in defeat. Mor Spirit is a top-tier Derby candidate himself, but I’m a little iffy on the form of his Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and Robert B. Lewis (G3) wins. He could well dispose of better rivals as he goes, of course, and we’ll start finding out here. 

Smokey Image is an attractive alternative, not just in light of his perfect 6-for-6 record, but also considering his tactical versatility compared to the inside-drawn Danzing Candy. When there’s plenty of early speed (as in the San Felipe), Smokey Image can sit just off the pace and rally. Relying on a state-bred tackling graded company for the first time isn’t my usual modus operandi. Yet any horse who can make his 2-turn debut off a 3-month layoff and crush them, as he did in the Cal Cup Derby, is above average.

There’s also a hidden pedigree angle: his third dam, Madame Sunshine, is extremely inbred (2x3) to the blue hen Special, dam of Nureyev and granddam of Sadler’s Wells. That mare’s Rasmussen Factor could be the genetic dynamo to explain where a son of Southern Image, out of a Free House mare, gets his talent. is also holding contests associated with the Tampa Bay and Santa Anita cards on Saturday – the 1 million Points Tampa Bay Derby Betting Contest and the 1 Million Points Big ‘Cap Show Streak.

And 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.