Shapiro's picks for three Derby qualifiers

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March 6th, 2020

A big Saturday on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is upon us with three 50-point to the winner races on tap. Here are my thoughts on the events at Tampa Bay Downs, Aqueduct, and Santa Anita Park.  

Tampa Bay Derby

There appears to be a number of runners that like to be on or near the lead in the featured event on Saturday’s card along Florida’s Gulf Coast. This should set things up for a horse from off the pace much like it did in last month’s Sam F. Davis (G3).

#7 Sole Volante was the gelding that took advantage of the contentious early battle in the Sam F. Davis. Normally, I look to play against a horse that got a dream run last time out, but the son of Karakonite should get another favorable race flow on Saturday. The Patrick Biancone trainee has moved forward on Brisnet Speed ratings in each of his first four starts and has proven he likes the tricky Tampa Bay Downs surface.

#4 Chance It is the deserving 5-2-morning line favorite, but he draws in between speed horses which could compromise his trip. I will take a chance against him as he looks to win his first race outside of Gulfstream Park.

Gotham Stakes

The pace in this $300,000 event at 8-furlongs should also be honest.

3-1-morning line favorite #6 Mischeivous Alex sat right off the early pace in his impressive seven-length romp in the Swale (G3) on February 1st. Now the son of Into Mischief gets off the rail, which should allow jockey Kendrick Carmouche to stalk just off the early pacesetters instead of being caught up in the early fray. If the John Servis trainee runs back to his effort in Florida last month he will be very tough to beat in his first try in New York.

If Mischevious Alex gets caught up in the early tussle, #4 Attachment Rate and #8 Montauk Traffic are the likeliest to take advantage. Attachment Rate has shown an impressive late kick in consecutive races at Gulfstream Park, including a 6 1/4-length score in the slop on February 15. 

Montauk Traffic may not get the same ground saving voyage he has in his first two career victories in the Big Apple, but his ability to finish has been impressive nonetheless. His affinity for the surface is a major plus. He makes sense as a key horse in exotic wagers, especially given his 6-1-morning line price. 

San Felipe

To no one’s surprise, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert has the two morning line choices in the 1 1/16-mile event at Santa Anita Park.

#4 Authentic makes his first start since a wire-to-wire score in the Sham (G3) on January 4. He was able to set moderate early fractions that day, but may not be as fortunate on Saturday given the presence of longshot #1 Fort McHenry drawn to the inside. The undefeated $350,000 Keeneland September 2018 purchase is loaded with talent, but I am concerned with the lack of focus he showed in his initial try versus winners.

#5 Thousand Words also comes in with a perfect record for Baffert, but unlike his stablemate has come from off the pace in each of his first three starts to get to the wire first. The Pioneerof the Nile colt has the look of horse that can continue to move forward as the distances get longer. However, I am not in love with his chances at a short price as he is likely to have to come from further out of it than he has thus far.

#2 Honor A.P. has not raced since an eye-popping 5 1/4-length win over this racetrack last October. He may need a race off the layoff, but the talent is there to spring the upset. At the expected win odds in the San Felipe, he makes the most sense from a value standpoint.

Suggested Wagers:

Tampa Bay Derby (R11 Tampa):

  • $30 Win: 7

Gotham Stakes (R10 Aqueduct):

  • $10 Exacta: 6-8
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 4+6+10

San Felipe (R8 Santa Anita):

  • $10 Win: 2