Spot plays on a stakes-packed Saturday

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 7th, 2018

Aqueduct, Keeneland and Santa Anita will feature stakes-packed programs surrounding key Kentucky Derby preps on Saturday.

I won’t go out on a limb in the main events. With his natural speed, Justify appears to have a significant tactical advantage and rates top billing in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). All 14 runners in the Blue Grass (G2) need points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and Good Magic looks poised to rebound in my estimation. And I like Enticed in the Wood Memorial (G2).

Let’s find some value elsewhere:

Gazelle (Aqueduct, Race 6)

Five of the six contestants have stakes experience but #2 Virginia Key (15-1) will be making her first attempt at the level for Todd Pletcher. And she could prove to be the best of a suspect bunch stretching back out to a route. By Distorted Humor, the chestnut filly hails from a half-sister to Whitney (G1) winner Bullsbay and won at first asking in a two-turn maiden at Tampa Bay Downs, parlaying an inside trip to a 1 ½-length decision. She came up a little short cutting back to 7-furlongs from an outside post at Gulfstream, but Virginia Key still managed to earn an improved BRIS Speed rating and should receive a favorable inside trip from post 2 today. This doesn’t appear to be a strong cast and I’ll give the up-and-coming filly top billing.

Commonwealth (Keeneland, Race 6)

#3 Westwood (5-1) has registered better E1 Pace numbers than the other speed and the well-bred 4-year-old gelding will be sent from his inside post by Irad Ortiz Jr. He’ll enter on the upswing for Kiaran McLaughlin, recording back-to-back wins at Aqueduct, and is listed as the third choice on the morning line behind 6-5 Limousine Liberal, who is only 1-for-5 at Keeneland and has recorded all four of his stakes wins at Churchill Downs. I’ll tab Westwood wire to wire.

Santa Anita Oaks (Race 11)

#8 We All Have Dreams (12-1) displayed fine early speed and looked like a serious 3-year-old filly recording a seven-length maiden tally over a muddy track on March 11. The Shackleford filly steps up to face an imposing Midnight Bisou but that rival has only posted a pair of 93 BRIS Speed ratings winning her first two outings this year. We All Have Dreams has plenty of upside after registering a 90 Speed last time and appears likely to receive another favorable tracking trip from her outside post. Paradise Woods jumped straight from a maiden win to defeat Abel Tasman and others in last year’s Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and I’m expecting a big effort from We All Have Dreams. She’ll be used prominently with the favorite in any gimmicks.

Good luck!