Shapiro: Against the favorites in trio of Kentucky Derby preps

Profile Picture: Scott Shapiro

January 31st, 2020

A busy Saturday of 3-year-old racing features a trio of 10-point races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Here are my thoughts and suggested wagers on the three events.

Withers (G3) (Aqueduct, Race 8)

Coming off his half-length score in the Remsen (G2) in December, #5 Shotski is the 2-1-morning line favorite for trainer Jerry O'Dwyer. The son of Blame set a slow tempo in his first victory against winners nearly two months ago, but on paper it looks like he will have to work much harder upfront on Saturday afternoon. The presence of #1 Mr.Shortandsimple, #2 Monday Morning Qb, and #4 New Commission drawn to his inside, and #7 Vanzzy to his outside should lead to a contentious early pace. Given the expected race shape, I will look for a horse to come from off the pace to get to the wire first.

#3 Max Player took a while to figure things out in his debut at Parx, but he ran on well late to miss by just a half-length in the end. The Kentucky-bred then moved forward in his second lifetime try when he sat much closer early on and kicked away impressively in an event over the sloppy going. Trainer Linda Rice has given the son of Honor Code three works at Belmont Park leading up to his initial try versus winners. I like his chances to run this group down on the stretch out to 9 furlongs. The price should be fair.

Suggested Wager: $20 Win 3

Holy Bull (G3) (Gulfstream Park, Race 11)

The second prep race of the day features a compact group going 1 1/16 miles. All seven of the colts signed on for the first of the points races at Gulfstream Park like to be on or near the early pace. #5 Clear Destination and #6 Relentless Dancer are probably the fastest of the bunch out of the gate, but they are unlikely to have the stamina to stick around late at this level.

#3 Tiz the Law has not been seen since a disappointing third in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in late Nov. The son of Constitution found traffic issues that day in the slop but still had every chance to get to the eventual winner Silver Prospector, who came back to run a somewhat excusable fourth against the flow and track profile in the Smarty Jones last Friday.

The Sackatoga Stable colt comes in off a solid series of drills at Palm Meadows and should get the right trip under Manny Franco. However, the price is just too short.

#1 Toledo has just one victory in three starts for trainer Chad Brown, but all three tries have come at one turn. He draws favorably to the inside in his initial effort around two turns and appears to have the upside and talent to beat the 3-5-morning line favorite after a posting a 100 Brisnet speed rating in his runner-up finish to #4 Ete Indien back on Dec 20. I am not sure we will get 7-2, but I am okay with anything 5-2 or above.

Suggested Wager: $20 Win 1

Robert B. Lewis (G3) (Santa Anita, Race 6)

None of Bob Baffert's five Kentucky Derby winners have won the Lewis, but the Hall of Fame trainer has captured this race four times since 2013 with the likes of Flashback, Dortmund, Mor Sprirt, and most recently 2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner Mucho Gusto.

Baffert holds a strong hand once again in this year's rendition due to the presence of #2 Thousand Words. The $1 million Keeneland September purchase is a perfect 2-for-2 and looks to be a colt that should continue to get better as the distances get longer. I am not overly excited to try to beat the son of Pioneerof the Nile, but much like Tiz the Law his expected price is unappealing.

#3 Tizamagician struggled to break his maiden for trainer Richard Mandella, but finally put it altogether in his sixth career start winning for fun in a special weight event at one mile over this racetrack. The son of Tiznow should once again find himself in a perfect stalking trip off of the other Baffert runner #5 High Velocity. If he can take another step forward on Saturday perhaps he can spring the upset.

Suggested Wager: $5 Win 3