The Final Round: Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby


The final round of the Kentucky Derby preps are upon us. After Saturday, let the games, and the hype, begin.

Blue Grass Stakes

This is the race where we find out what Hansen is all about. With so much early speed in here, he will get the perfect opportunity to rate, not just off of one pacesetter but possibly several. If he can, and then prove he can go nine furlongs, there is a good chance he goes into the Derby as the favorite—and probably deservedly so.

It’s a tough call. Hansen is the most talented horse in the race, but he’ll also be close to even money. From a handicapping perspective he’s worth trying to beat, in my opinion. Whether you agree with me or not, he’s probably a must use in all trifectas and supers.

I’m taking Dullahan for the win. He’s be the second choice—probably somewhere around 5-1—which is pretty good value on a horse that won a grade I over this track last year and had a very good tune-up for the Blue Grass in the Palm Beach. He had a very sharp work at Keeneland on Sunday and is ready to fire a big race. With all the early speed in here, he should sit mid-pack and be in a perfect position to make a winning move around the turn.

If the track seems to be playing toward speed on Saturday, I’ll probably use Politicallycorrect and Ever So Lucky. Prospective is also a horse I’ve liked all along, and so I’ll make sure to include him in my wagers.

Wesley Ward is already off to a great start at Keeneland; his horses seem to always fire and Politicallycorrect ran a big optional claimer last out at Gulfstream with a career best speed figure. His work on Saturday was the best of 70 at the distance.

Ever So Lucky might be stretching his limits here but I think he is well meant. Jonathan Sheppard already said he’s unlikely for the Derby—even if he wins—so I don’t think they are taking any kind of last gasp stab in here. They feel like he belongs.

Prospective might not be fast enough to beat these, but he’s as consistent as they come and deserves to be in all exotics.

Arkansas Derby

Bodemeister from post 11 as the favorite in just his fourth start doesn’t do it for me. Stat should put enough pressure on him up front that he doesn’t get an easy trip (and I actually like Stat better in this spot). I would think Secret Circle would be in the mix again; he already has two wins over the track and there is no reason to think he won’t run well again. I’ll use him, but not to win.

I’m staying with Isn’t He Clever, who I picked in the Sunland Derby. He ran huge that day, but was caught late by Daddy Nose Best in the late stages. He’s tactical and should be able to sit a good trip just off the leaders. He already has a good nine-furlong test under his belt and has a sharp work since that last race. Blinkers come off.

Closers seem to have a tough time at Oaklawn and I think the best horses in this race are the ones that can stay fairly close to the pace. That said, I’ll use Optimizer and Sabercat in the bottom half of exotics, and probably Cozetti.

Sabercat is going to the Derby regardless of his finish on Saturday, but I think you’ll see an improved effort from him in his second start off his layoff. Optimizer’s late Rebel run might have been a fluke, but maybe Lukas has another run in him. Cozetti is one that Romans has liked all along. He’ll probably race mid-pack and try to make a late move.

They will all have trouble running down Secret Circle and Isn’t he Clever, in my opinion. Pletcher’s Stat is the wild card in here. He ran a big number last time in his allowance romp at Gulfstream. If he can carry his speed, he could pop at a big price.

Good luck this weekend. Who do you like?


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