Kentucky Derby Dream Bet UAE Derby, Louisiana Derby picks from Vance Hanson

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March 25th, 2016

Saturday's $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) and $2 million UAE Derby (G2) bring to an end the qualifying rounds of's $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet. These are the final opportunities for players to cash a $15 win bet and advance to the Final Round, which begins next week with the Florida Derby (G1) and Spiral (G3).

Given my sub-par handicapping prowess in recent weeks, I'd like to personally thank current Derby favorite Mohaymen for coming through like a potential champ in last month's Fountain of Youth (G2) at odds-on. The pressure has certainly been off since I qualified for the Final Round in the second race of the contest, but that perhaps led to a bit of complacency on my part.

I'll try and build some momentum heading into next week with these recommendations.

UAE Derby -- As much as I'd like to try and beat the undefeated filly Polar River (#2, 3-5), there is very little depth to this 1 3/16-mile race. None of the major Dubai-based colts are in here, with UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) runner-up Lazzam not thought much of at 30-1 on the morning line. The Japanese contingent, led by the Tapit colt Lani, are unknown against this kind of competition, while American invader Frank Conversation went unplaced in his only previous try on dirt.

That leaves UAE Oaks (G3) runner-up Vale Dori, who finished three parts of a length behind Polar River, as the strongest alternative. However, as a South American-bred, she must concede the favorite 10 pounds again in this rematch. Reportedly not quite her best in the Oaks after having a tooth extracted, the conventional wisdom is that Polar River will be back to her best stuff in the Derby and push her career mark to five-for-five. That's a proposition most everyone, including myself, will get behind.

Louisiana Derby -- The Risen Star (G2) was one of those preps that is hard for handicappers to wrap their brains around. Both the winning Gun Runner and third-placed favorite Mo Tom appeared to benefit, by varying degrees, from racing on the favorable inside part of the track most of the way. Rivals that raced well off the rail seemed to have little chance.

I tend to believe Gun Runner and Mo Tom are still among the best horses in the field and would have fared well even if there had not been an inside bias, but how much do you downgrade their performances if at all? Do you upgrade the chances of the vanquished even if they appear on paper to be a cut below the top pair? Difficult questions.

Rather than get mired in over-thinking the takeaways from the Risen Star, I'm more inclined to believe Greenpointcrusader (#2, 7-2) is capable of upending all of the locally-based colts. Last year's impressive Champagne (G1) winner enters off a solid second to Mohaymen in the January 30 Holy Bull (G2) after finding himself in the unusual position of pressing (and then leading briefly) through a soft pace. He's been much more effective rallying from mid-pack, and it's the kind of trip he can see again in this race.

There are certainly concerns, after a pair of two-turn losses, that Greenpointcrusader might be better as a one-turn closer. However, I'll take my chances that a son of Bernardini and a Cryptoclearance mare has a winning race in him at nine furlongs against a talented field like this.

For free Brisnet past performances for the UAE Derby and Louisiana Derby, click the above links. 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).