A huge weekend of racing like this, which includes three Derby preps and opening weekend of Keeneland, needs little introduction. Let's get right to it.
Santa Anita Derby
It was a major bummer to see a talented horse like Premier Pegasus injured and out of the race. It's a reminder of how fleeting Kentucky Derby dreams can be, and unfortunately, we will probably see other contenders go down in these last four weeks leading up to May 7.
Premier Pegasus' absence opens the way for Jaycito to assume the role as favorite and he should be very tough to beat. There is plenty of speed in here, which should set things up for the closing Jaycito, who will likely improve off of his San Felipe runner-up effort. This colt will benefit from the additional sixteenth of a mile and now that he has a start under him this year, should be geared up to run a big race. Don't worry about the outside post.
It seems like a pretty chalky race to me. I also like both Silver Medallion and Anthony's Cross, who will probably be the second and third choices, respectively. Silver Medallion makes his first start on dirt but trains over the Santa Anita main track for Steve Asmussen. He enters off consecutive wins, including the nine-furlong El Camino Real Derby, an impressive effort that prompted a private sale of the colt with the Derby in mind. Silver Medallion needs at least a third-place finish to make the Derby and should run well, especially with Gomez back aboard.
Anthony's Cross also needs earnings. He comes off a nearly two-month layoff after winning the Robert Lewis on Feb. 12. The Indian Charlie colt sat just behind testing fractions that day and finished up gamely in 1:48 3/5. He's the only horse in the race with a win over the track at 1 1/8 miles, which is attractive, as is getting the red-hot Joel Rosario back in the irons.
I will play the aforementioned three in a trifecta, and may also include Bench Points, who has never finished off the board in five starts. It's a chalky play, but that's how I see it.
Uncle Mo is 1-5 on the morning-line and will be probably be every bit of that low price on Saturday. Rightfully so. He's the only graded stakes winner and absolutely towers over this overmatched field.
Mo might find himself on the lead right from the start. If there is one horse that could go with him, it might be maiden winner Duca, but he draws outside of Mo. Either way, Mo will be on or very close to the lead and it's hard to foresee him not having the lead turning for home and cruising from there.
I think Toby's Corner will run much better than his third-place Gotham, and see him as the only potential threat to Mo. His win in the Feb. 5 Whirlaway was in the slop, so if the track comes up wet--which it might--he moves up even more. Graham Motion is adding blinkers on Toby's Corner to keep him more involved early. There is a good chance it will help.
Arthur's Tale would be the other colt I would use under Mo. The $750,000 son of Bernardini was fourth in both of his stakes starts but rebounded with a one-mile optional claiming win Feb. 5 at Aqueduct--also in the mud. He has a decent chance to get a piece, but they are all running for second.
Well, Watch Me Go won the Tampa Bay Derby by a neck at 43-1 and is the only stakes winner in a field that includes four, yes four, maidens. That pretty much sums up the quality of this race. However, even though it may not be the strongest of fields, it does present a good betting opportunity, especially after I toss favored Watch Me Go.
There should be a solid early pace and it could work out well for Sour, who enters off a good second in allowance company against stablemate Left, who wound up in the Louisiana Derby. He also ran second to Machen in his debut, so he has faced some decent horses so far. Sour should appreciate more distance and the stalking trip he'll get. He's my pick.
I will also use Joe Vann, who is on Todd Pletcher's B Team but has won two straight by wide margins. Pletcher has won this race three times. I'll also use New York shipper The Fed Eased, who had the lead at the top of the stretch in the Gotham until tiring. He shows three good works since then for a high-percentage trainer Rick Violette.
At Keeneland, I'm going with Great Mills to upset Pluck in today's Transylvania and Excited with Kathmanblu and Wyomia in tomorrow's Ashland.
Good luck this weekend. Who do you like?