Shapiro's verdict on SoCal runners on Kentucky Derby undercard

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TwinSpires Staff

May 4th, 2017


Southern California based colts are extremely unlikely to make it four straight wins in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, but there are several horses in with significant chances on the monster card that includes seven graded stakes races.

Here is a quick look at few of the more prominent runners from the West Coast competing at Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon:

Finest City (Race 6, The Humana Distaff, Grade 1)

The 2016 champion female sprinter makes her first trip out of Southern California to take on the likes of Carina Mia, Paulassilverlining and Lightstream in the $300,000 Humana Distaff.

On paper, the five-year-old daughter of City Zip is the deserving favorite having won 2 of her last 3, including a three-quarter length score in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last November. Trainer Ian Kruljac cuts her back to her ideal distance of seven furlongs after a solid runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes in March.

The Seltzer Thoroughbreds mare has won 5 of 16 lifetime and has been extremely durable running on multiple surfaces at both one and two turns. She projects to be prominently placed early by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith and if so will be tough to run by with the foundation built in the nine-furlong effort last time out. However, while I greatly respect Finest City’s ability, I have concerns on how she will run away from home at a likely short price.

She has never shipped out of California and even when she has traveled on the short 112 mile trek from Arcadia to Del Mar it has taken her some time to settle down in the unfamiliar surroundings. Her inability to relax could be a huge issue with the massive crowd that will be on hand at Churchill Downs. She certainly has a shot to capture her second career Grade 1 win if she relaxes, but I prefer Lightstream and Carina Mia given their success in the state of Kentucky.

Big Score (Race 9, The American Turf, Grade 2)

This George Krikorian colt has done little wrong to start his career for trainer Tim Yakteen. He beat me out of a nice Pick 5 score in his debut with the first of many strong late runs and from there has finished first or second in 3 of his 4 stakes tries going a route of ground on the lawn. His only off the board finish was when he encountered a less than ideal trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf won by fellow American Turf entrant Oscar Performance.

In his first start of 2017 he got a perfect ride from Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano to nail loose leader Holiday Stone at the wire. Castellano opted off impressive maiden winner Arklow to stay onboard the son of Mr. Big, which is obviously very encouraging.

Good Samaritan is the one to beat in the American Turf if ready to fire his best shot off the bench, but outside of the Bill Mott colt, this is a wide-open rendition of the Grade 2 mile and a sixteenth turf event for three-year-olds. If Castellano can once again save ground and work out a perfect trip Big Score can definitely make it two in a row.

Masochistic (Race 10, The Churchill Downs Sprint, Grade 2)

The seven-year-old gelding makes his second start of 2017 after setting slow fractions at odds of 1-2, but being unable to hold off Denman’s Call in the lane at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 Triple Bend.

The winner of 8 of 15 has mostly beaten up on small, non-competitive fields over the past couple of years in Southern California and while he has a 3-for-4 record at seven-eighths I would argue he prefers a little bit shorter at this stage of his career.

The Ron Ellis-conditioned son of Sought After will have to contend with Bluegrass Singer early and in general a much larger field than he has encountered outside of his last-place effort in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.

He is all but certain to take a ton of money based on his performance ratings and early speed, but I cannot endorse him in this spot. He will likely hang around for a minor share and is capable of winning on his best effort, but I am going to lean on Awesome Slew and El Kabeir to start off the late Pick 5 instead.

For my full card selections and analysis of Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs check out my spotlight selections here:

Keep an eye out tomorrow for my final verdict of the greatly anticipated 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Big Score photo courtesy Keeneland/Coady Photography