Risen Star - Fair Grounds
I expected to see many of the same horses from the Lecomte in here (there are four), but didn't expect to see a total of 13 entered. It has made for a very good, but challenging betting race. We'll find out a lot about several so-called Derby contenders after this one is over.
If you watched That Handicapping Show you will know that I like Indygo Mountain in this spot. Throw out his Lecomte, where he was coming off two bruised feet, had missed two works and drew the outside post. To make matters worse he hit the gate at the start and had no chance. He has been healthy and training better since that time and draws post 2. Bret Calhoun says he has matured a lot in the past month and his stride has improved. I think Theriot will have him near the lead and will be looking for a big stretch run.
Many will settle on the two probable favorites - Giant Oak and Friesan Fire - and there is not much reason to dislike either. Friesan Fire finally lived up to Larry Jones' billing in his Lecomte win and seems to be a more focused colt with the addition of blinkers. I did not like his last work on Feb. 2, however, and think Indygo Mountain will turn the tables. I'm also going against Jones' other horse, It Happened Again. He really had no excuse in the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds two race ago, which could mean he isn't crazy about the track. He will also be stretching out for the first time.
Nobody has been training better than Giant Oak, who makes his 3-year-old debut. Big bucks were offered for this colt, but the owner turned it down - a sign that he is the real deal. He will be coming from off the pace under Edgar Prado and many are expecting him to pick up all the pieces. The major negative on Giant Oak is that he has been off for more than two months. He may very well win this thing, but I usually take a stand against favorites when coming off lengthy layoffs. I think he needs a race and his best effort will come in the Louisiana Derby.
Steve Asmussen, who won this race last year with Pyro, has entered three - Uno Mas, Dumar and Soul Warrior. Leave his horses out of exotics at your own risk. Uno Mas is likely to improve after a wide trip in Lecomte and don't forget that he beat Friesan Fire here two starts back going a mile. Dumar and Soul Warrior broke their maidens over this track last out, both going long. I prefer Dumar here since Bridgmohan stays on and he has a better post, but I'll use both underneath.
I still like Au Moon, but not in this spot. Drawing the 13 post is probably too much to overcome.
The Pick: My win money will be on Indygo Mountain and I'll use him in an exacta box with all three Asmussen horses (2/5,8,10). For trifectas, I'll include Friesan Fire and Giant Oak.
Robert. B Lewis - Santa Anita
Another good betting race, especially if you think the probable favorites are vulnerable, which I do. Pioneerof the Nile comes off a nose victory over I Want Revenge in the CashCall, and those two will likely be the post time choices. If Pioneerof the Nile handles these, he shoots right to the top of the West Coast Derby contenders. I Want Revenge, who adds blinkers for the first time, has been working very well leading up to this race and should be in contention. I think both will be sharp, but prefer the horse that both of them beat in the CashCall, Bittel Road.
This is a make-or-break race for Bittel Road, who finished fourth in the CashCall while making his first start off turf and breaking from unenviable post 10. He was also hung wide on both turns under Mike Smith. I expect him to improve in his second try, especially since Pletcher flies Johnny V. in for the mount. He broke his maiden and also won the Bourbon Stakes at this distance and draws the inside, which means he'll probably be in a good spot for a late run. A $340,000 yearling, I can't help but think we haven't seen the best of this colt just yet.
Other possibilities here are Shafted and Brother Keith. Both of them are head-scratchers at this point. Shafted won his allowance race back on Jan. 2 at this distance after making his first two starts in Canada. But this is a big step up in class and I'm not yet sure what he's made of. I'm also not sure what to think about Brother Keith after he was rank and blew the first turn in the San Rafael. There is no doubt he'll improve from that one, but will it be good enough to tackle these? Probably not.
The Pick: I prefer Bittel Road here, but don't see any way of leaving Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge off exacta tickets. I'll box a 1/2,4 exacta.
Finally, in the Whirlaway from Aqueduct, Haynesfield is the one to beat but I'll take a shot with a Philly Park shipper, Hehasnosay, who came from the clouds to win a two-turn allowance race in December for Steve Klesaris.
Be sure to click on the Risen Star and Robert B. Lewis links for Ultimate PPs courtesy of Brisnet.com.
Good luck to everyone this weekend. Let me know who you like.