There are three Kentucky Derby preps on the calendar this weekend, as well as the Dubai World Cup. Plenty of good betting opportunities all around, so let's get right into it.
What was rumored to be a short field only about a week before entries turned into a full field of 13. Mucho Macho Man is the 9-5 morning-line choice after scoring the Risen Star impressively. All indications are that he continues to thrive and looks great on the track. He is the most logical winner of a race that has only one other graded stakes winner, but I just can't play chalk here. Mucho Macho Man is a nice story and I hope he makes it to the Kentucky Derby, but at a short price I will take a chance at beating him. He received an ideal stalking trip last time into a slow pace. There doesn't look to be too much speed in here either, but I expect Pants On Fire to go and we may see some speed from a couple of others (Left, Majestic Harbor, Liondrive). I don't expect them to let him steal the race.
My pick is Nacho Business, who makes only his third start for Kelly Breen. He's a late-blooming but extremely talented colt who has faced some pretty good horses at Gulfstream. It's no secret that I think the best 3-year-olds in the nation reside in Florida, so I'm using that angle here. Breen admits that Nacho Business is a couple months away from being at his peak, but thinks on talent alone he is good enough to be right in the mix here. He has enough tactical speed to lay fairly close and the plan is for stablemate Pants On Fire to help ensure a decent pace.
I picked Pants On Fire in the Risen Star when he disappointed to finish sixth. In that race he broke uncharacteristically poorly and was rated, which I don't expect to be the case here. I would be slightly surprised if he won this race but a wire-to-wire job is not out of the realm of possibility. At any rate, him being a coupled entry with Nacho Business can't hurt. I'll take two for the price of one any day.
I am also going to use Wilkinson in my exacta, as well as Left and longshot Nehro. I've liked Wilkinson since he was a juvenile and somehow got off of him for the Lecomte when he put in nice, rail-skimming stretch run to nip Pants On Fire. Garrett Gomez stays with him, which is a good sign, and he comes in fresh. I like him better than stablemate Machen, who will again be heavily backed.
Left is a bit of an unknown. Also lightly-raced for Al Stall, he is undefeated in two starts over the Fair Grounds strip. He gets a good local rider and Stall has won a few races in Louisiana before. I'll take 10-1 and see what happens.
Nehro is a hunch play. He was being considered for last week's Rebel at Oaklawn, where he broke his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths going one mile last month. Steve Asmussen, who has also won a few races at Fair Grounds in his day, thought this was an easier spot. A deep closer, he needs a quick pace to have a chance, but at 30-1 on the morning-line he is worth taking a shot on.
I don't believe there are any real Derby threats in this race, but with a full field of 12 it's a good betting race. Unfortunately, nothing really stands out for me, so I am going to do the smart thing: take the advice of Tom LaMarra, who handicaps Turfway better than anyone I know.
Tom likes three horses--Positive Response, Preachintothedevil, and Taptowne. California shipper Positive Response was brilliant in the March 5 Battaglia and stayed in Kentucky after that race. This horse loves synthetics and two turns. He is a deserving favorite that I don't think you can leave out.
Preachintothedevil ships in from New York for Gary Contessa. He was a decent third in the Whirlaway and has improved his Bris speed numbers every race. For what it's worth, when I asked him about his best 3-year-olds way back in January, Contessa told me Preachintothedevil was the top one and he has always been high on him.
Taptowne will be a big longshot and is worth using if for no other reason that he gets a savvy local rider and a solid local trainer--both with good in-the-money percentages. The trainer, Wayne Mogge, likes this colt, who hit the board in both local preps. He was an eight-length maiden winner over this track in December.
At Turfway, in Tom I trust.
Astrology makes his belated debut after missing some training and drew the 11 post. They are reasons enough to make me try to beat him here. I will have him in my exotics, but I'm going with Sinai, who ran fifth in the San Vicente. Horses coming out of that race have done fairly well, as The Factor and Premier Pegasus both won graded stakes. Martin Garcia ships in for Bob Baffert and I expect him to have Sinai very close to the pace. Baffert likes this colt, who should improve off that last race and relish two turns.
Bourbonette Oaks--Summer Soiree with Lilacs and Lace as a longshot exacta play
Dubai World Cup--Musir
Good luck this weekend. Who do you like?