Just three weeks until the big day now. I hope everyone is starting to narrow down their Kentucky Derby choices. After Saturday, we should pretty much know what the field will look like. Only next week's Lexington Stakes remains.
Just a reminder to join me right here for the live blog chat on Saturday, April 11 at noon EDT. We'll go over the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby in more depth and talk about the graded earnings picture. Should be fun.
And now on to races...
Blue Grass Stakes
Like last year, this looks like a wide-open field. On paper, I can make a case for nine of the 11 starters. Like always, I will look for a price, which means that even though I do like Hold Me Back a bit, I won't go near him at 3 or 4-1.
I'm going with Terrain in this one, for several reasons. First, he ran pretty well in his third-place Louisiana Derby, which came off a more than three-month layoff. He developed an illness which caused him to miss the Risen Star in February, so he definitely needed the race.
Terrain's last five races have come in graded stakes company and he has been solid in all but the tricky Delta Jackpot. He has more earnings, by far, than anyone in the Blue Grass. Most importantly, Terrain's best races have come over the synthetics. He ran second in the Breeders' Futurity over the Keeneland Polytrack last year and a good fourth in the Breeders' Cup juvenile on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride. In talking to trainer Al Stall on Wednesday, he reminded me that Keeneland is Terrain's home track, having trained over the strip from April to October of last year. That is a huge plus.
You know what else is a huge plus? Getting Julien Leparoux for the first time. Leparoux is off to a great start at Keeneland and just loves it there. In my opinion, other that Gomez, he is the best rider in the nation right now. He'll have Terrain in the right spot.
I'll fill out my exotics with Patena and Theregoesjojo. Patena makes his second start for Rick Dutrow after a disappointing run in the Louisiana Derby. But he needed that race too, as it was his first start since suffering a minor injury. And, he also looks like a horse that prefers Polytrack. His two wins came on The Woodbine Poly up in Toronto, including the Display Stakes in December. I also like that he drew the rail. I expect him to be part of the pace with Join in the Dance. If Keeneland is speed favoring, watch out. Will he really go off at 10-1?
Theregoesjojo will be making his first start on synthetics for Ken McPeek. If he takes to it, he'll be tough. He ran competitively against Quality Road in both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, and as you know, I didn't think he received the best of rides in either. I like that he gets Calvin Borel here. All McPeek is looking for is an on-the-board finish, which will get him in the Derby.
I'll play a win bet on Terrain and an exacta box with Terrain, Patena and Theregoesjojo.
Less than a month ago Old Fashioned was near the top of almost everyone's Derby contender list. It's funny how one second-place finish has made him the forgotten horse. I think he rebounds in a big way here and will be right back in the Derby mix after Saturday.
Old Fashioned gets a rider switch to Terry Thompson after Ramon Dominguez's suspect ride in the Rebel. Thompson was aboard Old Fashioned for the first two wins of his career and knows Oaklawn very well. I expect Old Fashioned to be more relaxed and sit back off the pace, which should be set by Papa Clem. I think he'll wait to make his winning move at the top of the lane this time. Let's see if can get the distance, which many believe he cannot.
Papa Clem is dangerous here. He looks like lone speed, like he was in the Louisiana Derby. He ran into a monster in Friesan Fire that day, but still did well to hold second over Terrain. Two races back he was a half-length from beating Pioneerof the Nile and was a length better than I Want Revenge. That is very telling. Now he makes his second start on dirt and should get better. He'll be tough.
I'll play an exacta box with Old Fashioned and Papa Clem, and if I play trifecta, will use Flat Out and Captain Cherokee.
Good luck this weekend! Who do you like?