Kentucky Derby Dream Bet Blue Grass, Wood Memorial & Santa Anita Derby picks from Jennifer Caldwell
The action gets underway at 5:30 p.m. (ET) with the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct in New York. The Blue Grass S. (G1) is scheduled for a half-hour later at 6 p.m. at Keeneland in Kentucky, then cross-country in California the Santa Anita Derby (G1) will wrap up the trio around 6:30 p.m.
Eight were entered in the Wood Memorial, including undefeated Gotham (G3) victor Shagaf. The bay colt could very well bring a perfect mark into the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 7, but I’m going to try and beat him with Outwork (#8, 5-2).
Why Outwork, you say? Well, it’s quite simple. I like Destin and that one handed stablemate Outwork his first loss when the pair met up in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) last out on March 12. Destin not only ran down the fellow Todd Pletcher trainee, he did so in track record time.
Outwork isn’t no slouch, either. The bay son of Uncle Mo romped in his initial two starts, including a 4 1/4-length victory going six furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs against allowance/optional claiming rivals. He successfully passed the distance test, at least the 1 1/16-mile distance, and has shown steady improvement in terms of BRIS Speed figures with each effort. John Velasquez has been aboard each time and retains the mount on Saturday.
The Blue Grass drew a much deeper group, including two also-eligibles, with 16 entered at Keeneland. It’s tough to ignore Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up Zulu, but I’m going to anyway with yet another Destin connection.
This time it’s Star Hill (#13, 10-1) who’s getting my vote. Trained by Rusty Arnold for owner/breeder Calumet Farm, the bay colt broke his maiden two back by 7 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park going seven furlongs. He then stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the Tampa Bay Derby one month later.
Star Hill rallied between rivals to take third at 14-1 in the Tampa Bay Derby. He was beaten seven lengths by Outwork, but could really jump up here with a top effort. There are only a couple of real standouts in the Blue Grass field, and Star Hill has as much chance as any of the others. The Elusive Quality colt has been breezing well at Palm Meadows to ready for this effort and gets Emisael Jaramillo, aboard for his maiden win, back in the saddle on Saturday.
Finally, the 10-strong Santa Anita Derby and a break from all the Destin worship. Mor Spirit (#4, 8-5) didn’t get the best of runs in the San Felipe (G2) last out on March 12, and could easily rebound in this spot for trainer Bob Baffert.
Mor Spirit entered the San Felipe off wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and Robert B. Lewis (G3). He was sent off the 8-5 favorite on that day, but found himself squeezed between rivals when the gates opened and shuffled back behind runners.
Mor Spirit was forced to check hard rounding the first turn, which seemed to rile him up quite a bit. The Eskendereya ridgling tugged hard on jockey Gary Stevens entering the backstretch and once again had to take up off another foe’s heels. Finally settling, he had just one horse beat on the backstretch and found himself briefly in last nearing the final bend.
Mor Spirit looked beat in the stretch but Stevens angled him out and the dark bay suddenly kicked into gear just in time to get up for second. Any kind of improvement on that trip in the Santa Anita Derby could see Mor Spirit turning the tables on Danzing Candy for the win.