The Player’s Edge – May 4, 2013: Churchill Downs & the Kentucky Derby

Matt Carter

May 3rd, 2013

Churchill Downs - Kentucky Derby 


Churchill Downs - Turf Classic


Churchill Downs - Churchill Downs Stakes


Churchill Downs - Distaff Turf Mile


Churchill Downs – Kentucky Derby
Orb and Verrazano Headline

The feature race this weekend across the country, one that all eyes will be on, is the 139th running of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. The race drew a field of 20 with one also-eligible, but the AE was an early scratch and then late Friday morning Black Onyx was withdrawn leaving a field of 19. Morning line favorite for the race at 7-2 is Orb.

Orb is in the midst of a four race winning streak, which started with a maiden special weight race last November at Aqueduct. The son of Malibu Moon won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby in preparation for the Kentucky Derby and is working very well in the mornings. Post position 16 is perfect for his running style.

Verrazano is also on a four-race win streak and has only made four starts in his career. While he has no two-year-old race, the son of More Than Ready began his career on January 1, winning by almost eight lengths in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park. Pletcher shipped his colt to Tampa for the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and Aqueduct for the Grade 1 Wood. Verrazano is the biggest threat to the favorite.

Next on the morning line is Goldencents, who comes off the fastest speed figure race in the field when he won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. Trainer Doug O’Neill is trying for back-to-back Derby wins after taking down the first jewel of the Triple Crown last year with I’ll Have another. Post eight is another good post and jockey Kevin Krigger should have the Into Mischief colt in a good striking range early.

We can go through every contender and make a novel, but let’s focus on some of the long shots that could hit the board or surprise at a price.

Itsmyluckyday was pegged on the morning line at 15-1, but don’t expect that price. He is making his second start off a layoff and has speed figures that will win the Derby. Another who drew very well in post 12.

Revolutionary gets a mention with first-time Calvin Borel in the irons. The Win Star Farm color bearer is looking to run the same as Super Saver, who ran for the same owner/trainer/jockey combination, in 2008.

Normandy Invasion and Vyjack ran two-three behind Verrazano in the Wood with Normandy Invasion getting to the winner late. Not sure they are coming up to the Derby in top condition after seeing their morning workouts this past week.

Overanalyze won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby with a low speed figure and is 15-1 on the morning line. Not often you get a horse owned by Repole Stable, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Rafael Bejarano at 15-1. The one race that has eluded jockey Rafael Bejarano has been the Derby.

With 19 horses going ten furlongs for the first time, anything can happen. There is a cavalry charge to the first turn then most likely some trouble for one or two horses down the back stretch. Also there is a 50% chance of rain for tomorrow and that could throw a whole monkey wrench into the handicapping.

Post time for the Derby is 6:24 pm ET and two minutes later we will all be looking towards Pimlico and the Preakness.

Churchill Downs – Turf Classic
Point of Entry versus Wise Dan

One of the best races on the Kentucky Derby undercard is the Grade 1 Turf Classic, which drew a stellar field of nine led by Wise Dan and Point of Entry.

The two best older turf horses in the country are meeting for the first time and coincidentally enough drew right next to each other in posts eight and nine. First up is the reigning horse of the year, Wise Dan.

Wise Dan was outstanding in 2012 winning four Grade 1 races with a Grade 1 win on the dirt and three Grade 1 wins on turf. He was scintillating in the Breeders’ Cup Mile defeating Europe’s best miler not named Frankel, Excelebration and the future winner of the Dubai World Cup, Animal Kingdom.

Wise Dan was off after the Breeders’ Cup then came back with style to win the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mark Mile at Keeneland last month. With John Velazquez opting for Point of Entry, Jose Lezcano will have the mount on the favorite.

Point of Entry is a half-length away from winning his last seven starts and has won seven out of his last nine. He won three Grade 1 races last year, all on the turf, and just fell short in the Breeders’ Cup Turf to Little Mike, who got the jump on the favorite and could not be run down.

Point of Entry came back a little quicker from the Breeders’ Cup and won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in February, a length and one-quarter over Animal Kingdom.

Underneath in the race can get a little trick as the other runners all have claims on third.

Slim Shadey returns to Churchill where he was second behind Little Mike in this race last year. Since then he has won two of nine races including the Grade 2 San Marcos and Grade 2 John Henry Turf Cup. He is the likely pace setter along with Optimizer, who drew right next door in post three. Optimizer goes dirt to turf after running surprisingly on the dirt in the Oaklawn Handicap.

Silver Max also shows speed and is one-for-one over the Churchill turf course. Swift Warrior won the Grade 3 Connally at Sam Houston wire-to-wire in late January and picks up Javier Castellano in the irons.

Of them all, Jeranimo is most likely to round out the trifecta. The seven-year-old horse has not run since winning the Grade 2 San Gabriel in mid-January at Santa Anita. The other positive for the son of Congaree is that he has two wins in five career starts at the nine furlong distance.

Trying to upset the two favorites; however, may prove to be too tough.

Post time for the Turf Classic is 4:44 pm ET. This race also starts the last pick-4 on the day, which includes the Derby and the final two races on the card.

Churchill Downs – Churchill Downs
Sprinters Go Seven Furlongs

The namesake stake race of Churchill Downs is the second leg of the Kentucky Derby pick-4 and it looks like a great spot to bet against the favorites, Trinniberg and Delaunay.

The two speed balls are drawn next to each other in posts eight and out, the outside two, and only know one way and that’s go as fast as they can as long as the can. Of course they wouldn’t be the favorites for no reason. Trinniberg won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year and Delaunay has won five straight races, a streak that has been at five different race track, including Churchill where the six-year-old gelding is a perfect three-for-three.

The two also have wins at seven furlongs, but they may get in the way of each other and set the race up nicely from a late-running sprinter, which has been the race profile the last several years.

The best of the deep closers may be Politicallycorrect, winner of the Damascus stakes on Breeders’ Cup Saturday last year. That effort was even more impressive considering the track was very speed friendly throughout the two-day event. He bombed in the Grade 1 Malibu in December, but has been working well at Keeneland since last March.

Pass the Dice is another closer and he is coming off the best race of his career at Gulfstream Park. Jockey Joel Rosario jumps off to ride Politicallycorrect so Julien Leparoux has the mount on Pass the Dice. His two strong works over the Churchill track may suggest that he is ready for another top.

Hierro, Laurie’s Rocket and Unbridled’s Note will be sitting just off the speed from posts two, three and five.

Hierro bombed at odds on, losing by two lengths to Pass the Dice, but actually ran a faster speed figure. The cut back to seven will help if he can work out a trip from an inside post.

Laurie’s Rocket has run 23 times since he began her career in 2011 as a two-year-old and has six wins, four seconds and three thirds. The son of Bluegrass Cat deserves a look in every spot on the tickets, but needs to rebound off his fourth place finish in the Grade 3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park.

Unbridled’s Note runs over any surface, turf or dirt, and drew well in post five. Adding to the appeal of the four-year-old colt is his two-for-two record at Churchill including a seven furlong win last June. He was third in the Grade 1 Malibu, beaten three lengths by Jimmy Creed.

Night Party and Handsome Mike are the remaining two horses in the field and of the two, a case can be made for Handsome Mike. The Scat Daddy colt just won the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland and won the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby over the dirt at Parx. Not sure what the tactics will be from the connections, but anything on the lead would not be advised.

Post time for the Churchill Downs is 3:49 pm ET.

Churchill Downs – Distaff Turf Mile
Fillies and Mares Kick off the Pick 4

The first leg of the Kentucky Derby pick-4 on Saturday is the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile for fillies and mares, three-years-old and upward. The one-mile race is a rematch between several of these, who ran in this race last year. First up is the winner, Hungry Island.

Hungry Island was almost 6-1 last year last year when she ran down the leaders, drawing off to win by a length. After that she did not win her next five starts, but made a winning 2013 debut in an allowance race last month at Keeneland. She is trying a similar prep as she did last year and she may even be a better mare.

Behind Hungry Island last year and back again this year is Daisy Devine, fifth, and Marketing Mix, fourth.

Daisy Devine is a pure race horse having won ten of her 19 career starts. She has only been worse than third four times in her career and is seven-for-ten on the turf. The five-year-old mare tried to wire the field last year and will once again have those tactics. Unfortunately for her there is other speed in the race, including Frontside, who drew right to her outside, and the stretch-out sprinter Stopshoppingmaria.

Marketing Mix was the 3-2 favorite last year, but could not get anything going and finished a backing up fourth. That came in her second race off the layoff last year and now is making her first start off the layoff this year. She is 5-2 on the morning line and is a must use. If she runs her best race, the rest of the field may be battling it out for second.

Stephanie’s Kitten has not been seen since running sixth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland last October and has been working steadily since mid-March. Not sure how she will be off the long layoff; however, so a check of the odds may be the best bet.

Channel Ladyand Karlovy Vary are both 12-1 on the morning line and are two others that do their best running on the front end. Channel Lady finished a non-threatening fourth to Centre Court in March at Gulfstream Park while Karlovy Vary was second behind Hungry Island in the Keeneland allowance.

Drama Drama and Class Included are the two outsiders in the field.

For pick-4 purposes Hungry Island and Marketing Mix look like the main two to focus on with Stephanie’s Kitten on the ticket if she takes support at the windows. Taking a stand against Daisy Devine with all of the speed signed on.

First post on Saturday at Churchill is early, 10:30 am ET with the Distaff Turf Mile scheduled to break from the gate at 2:50 pm.


Thoroughbred Racing Action

Great racing action from across the country this weekend.  Watch these races all on

Saturday– May 4

  • Churchill Downs:  Kentucky Derby - G1, $2-million, 3yo, 10f
  • Churchill Downs:  Turf Classic - G1, $500,000, 3yo & up, 9f turf
  • Churchill Downs:  Churchill Downs Stakes - G2, $400,000, 4yo & up, 7f
  • Churchill Downs:  Distaff Turf Mile - G2, $250,000, 4yo & up f&m, 8f turf
  • Churchill Downs:  Humana Distaff Stakes - G1, $300,000, 4yo & up f&m, 7f
  • Churchill Downs:  Turf Sprint Stakes - G3, $125,000, 4yo & up, 5f turf
  • Hollywood Park:  Cool Frenchy Stakes, $70,000, 3yo & up, 5f
  • Woodbine:  Fury Stakes, $150,000, 3yo, 7f

Sunday – May 5

  • Hollywood Park:  Time to Leave Stakes, $70,000, 3yo & up f&m, 5f