Nothing crazy in Derby preps but expecting prices elsewhere

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

April 4th, 2014

Even if spring isn’t in the air everywhere, there’s certainly a spring in racing’s step with four weeks to go until the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, and what better way to hit the homestretch of the Triple Crown trail than opening weekend at Keeneland Race Course and a pair of 170-point races on the Kentucky Derby Championship Series?

Both the Wood Memorial Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby feature a trio of logical contenders: Social Inclusion, Samraat, and Uncle Sigh are in the former, and California Chrome, Candy Boy, and Hoppertunity in the latter.

I think an upset is more likely in the Wood than at Santa Anita, as Kid Cruz and Harpoon both intrigue me whereas I see no alternatives to the aforementioned Santa Anita trio.

Taking it a step further in the Wood, I don’t even like Social Inclusion all that much. I’m absolutely willing to let him beat me as the favorite, and the only way I’ll win if he hits the number is if Harpoon wins.

Samraat is the top pick, but he’s vulnerable. If he rates off a similar pace as last time, then I like him to go on with it, but if Social Inclusion goes too fast and Samraat moves too early then a late run by Harpoon could get the job done. I’ll use those two in the multis and key both in the top two spots of the exotics.

For players, added wagering strategy occurs when factoring that we will REFUND ALL WIN BETS if the Wood Memorial winner also captures the Kentucky Derby. Based on Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool 4 and Wynn Las Vegas odds, there is about 4-to-1 (20%) chance that the Wood field includes the Derby winner.

The wrinkle is that the Winback only kicks in if the Wood winner wins the Derby, so a Funny Cide or Monarchos situation doesn’t help.

Still, there’s obvious value here, and the Winback promotion makes dutching attractive. I’d play Samraat and Harpoon to win, and if any either wins I’ll profit (assuming Samraat is more than even money), and even if Social Inclusion surprises me and wins, I’m in good shape with a top Derby choice to get that money back.

The TwinSpires Wood Memorial is legs 2 and 3 of a pair of pick 4s, including an all-graded-stakes affair guaranteed at $500,000 that begins with the Bay Shore, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about a race, as Oliver Zip is my best bet of the weekend and a Pick 4 single at 10-to-1 morning line.

If you rank the last 16 Speed Ratings each of the Bay Shore entrants has earned, Oliver Zip’s last two would rank 1st and 3rd. That type of recent speed isn’t an automatic bet, but when you factor in his price and that he’s the top-ranking horse on both Prime Power and Class Ratings plus his pace advantage it’s a no brainer play.

Yes, the extra furlong could be a concern, but we’re talking a $20 horse here, not a favorite. I’m really excited to play this horse if the price holds up, and there’s no reason to think it won’t with the likes Kobe’s Back, The Admiral, and Coup de Grace in here and underlaid. In addition to playing Oliver’s Zip straight, I’ll use him and Favorite Tale heavy in exactas with Charleymillionaire, Financial Mogul, and Loki’s Vengeance. This is a no chalk zone!

Speaking of bombers, the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland is the bomb squad’s next stop, as both Saturday Bliss at 20-to-1 and Rosalind at 15-to-1 look worth those prices. Saturday Bliss has crushed in her two races, and while inner dirt form isn’t as strong at Keeneland as other venues, the price on this one more than compensates. Rosalind had trouble as the favorite in her three-year-old debut and now looks somewhat forgotten despite a decent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies try and a pair of solid runs on synthetic last year.

Here’s hoping all this info puts a spring in our wallet!