Top picks for the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Santa Anita Derby

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

April 7th, 2017

Saturday is always one of the most fascinating racing days on the calendar. Three of the four biggest Kentucky Derby (G1) preps will be held at Aqueduct, Keeneland, and Santa Anita, along with accompanying Kentucky Oaks (G1) preps and other graded stakes. The Derby preps, of course, are the main attraction, and here's who I like.

Wood Memorial (G2): Mo Town and Irish War Cry, if they can bounce back off recent poor attempts, look live in this race. The lightly-raced Cloud Computing can also move forward off his sharp second in the Gotham (G3), though I'm a bit wary of him given the relatively late start to his career.

He would have been my selection in last week's Florida Derby (G1) if he had run, but trainer Todd Pletcher has a strong chance to notch his fifth Wood with Battalion Runner (#3, 2-1). Because the barn does so well here and has been rather hot in the past six weeks in Derby preps, in particular with first-time stakes starters, I have to think this colt is well-meant and will find the stretch-out agreeable. He's by 1995 Wood winner Unbridled's Song.

Blue Grass (G2): Given he still only has 20 eligibility points toward Kentucky Derby participation, McCraken (#2, 7-5) needs to run well here. Like others in the field, though, a win is not essential, especially with the big one four weeks down the road.

That said, the undefeated colt has turned in three solid works over this track and seems to be back in fine fettle after missing the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) with a minor injury. He proved superior on the day against Tapwrit in the Sam F. Davis (G3), who he faces again here. Practical Joke should move forward off his comeback in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and J Boys Echo comes off a huge win in the Gotham, but I've felt all winter McCraken is better.

Santa Anita Derby (G1): The one race of the three I'm taking a bit of price, this has come up a contentious affair. Iliad is the one to beat off his clear and distant second to Mastery in the San Felipe (G2), but I'm willing to give American Anthem (#6, 5-1) another shot.

A complete no-show in the Rebel (G2) and later found to have lost a shoe in the running, American Anthem had earned high accolades with his brave second in the Sham after setting a contested pace against Gormley. That rival, who is also in here, didn't flatter the form in the San Felipe. However, owners WinStar and China Horse Club, and trainer Bob Baffert, are apparently willing to draw a line through the Oaklawn race and not give up on the Bodemeister colt's classic prospects quite yet. New jockey Martin Garcia obviously has a long history of success with this barn.

Click the above links for FREE Past Performances for the three Derby preps.

If you're qualified for the Final Round of's $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet, be sure to get your $5 Win/Place bets down on all three races Saturday. is offering a Survive the Spring at Keeneland for a $10,000 Bonus promotion during the 15-day Spring Meet. Place a $10/Show bet on the last race every card and all players who can hit the board in the last race every day will split a $5,000 bonus. Hit the Win wager to split a $10,000 bonus. Be sure to “Opt In” for eligibility.