Ky Oaks and Derby Picks

I’m going to my make picks blog very simple this year:

Kentucky Oaks: Summer Applause

Kentucky Derby: Union Rags

Kentucky Oaks

I have a strong feeling on Summer Applause. Of course, I was alive in the late pick 4 going into the final leg last year singed to Joyful Victory and was counting my money before they got in the gate. We all know how that turned out.

Anyway, Summer Applause has impressed me all year. And when I went back and watched her Fair Grounds Oaks a couple times I was sold. She was about five lengths back of Believe You Can (who she beat in her previous start) and closed a ton of ground in deep stretch to lose by a neck. That track was very speed-favoring and the extra distance will only help her here. I think she will get a very favorable pace set up too, as On Fire Baby, Broadway’s Alibi, Eden’s Moon, and Believe You Can will all be gunning it pretty good. Garrett should save ground the whole way and make his late charge.

Summer Applause is 15-1 on the morning-line but I expect her to be more like 7-1 by post time. I spent time with her and the assistant trainer earlier in the week. She looks great and she is getting over the Churchill track even better than Fair Grounds. He work on April 20 was so strong they decided she didn’t even need a final work, so they just galloped her up to the race. I’m all in on Summer Applause.

Grace Hall will be on all my exotic tickets. She is definitely the one to beat. You can’t argue with anything she’s done and should be right in the mix. Ramon will give her a good stalking trip.

And Why Not, Broadway’s Alibi, and Eden’s Moon will fill out my tickets.

For the record, I’m playing a late pick 4 that will look like this: All/2 (Successful Dan)/All/3 (Summer Applause).

Kentucky Derby

Union Rags will win the Kentucky Derby. I gave my reasoning in previous blogs and on That Handicapping Show, but here is a quick recap.

Union Rags obviously did not get an ideal trip in the Florida Derby; we all saw that. But beyond his trip, he wasn’t cranked for the race. Look at his two works leading up to it: He went five furlongs in 1:04 on March 17—the slowest of 22 that day—and four furlongs in :49 the week prior to the race. Do you think Matz had him primed for the Florida Derby? No way. The horse is dead fit and has been since last year. His two works leading up to the Derby have been sensational, and he looks like a million bucks at Churchill this week.

I keep hearing people questioning Leparoux’s ability to win a big race and I’m dumbfounded by it. He’s won plenty of big races in his career and he knows Churchill better than anyone, save Calvin Borel. If Union Rags doesn’t win it won’t because of the trip—it will because he isn’t good enough. But he will be.

If I told you that you were going to get 9-2 or 4-1 on Union Rags after the Fountain of Youth you would have jumped on it. That’s what you’re going to get on Saturday, so take advantage of the generous odds. He’s going to run a big race. He’s the most physically impressive horse in the race, he’s as classy as anyone, he’s ready for a peak performance, and he should sit a good trip—somewhere mid-pack with a lot of speed in front of him.

Underneath Union Rags is where things get complicated. I’m going to use Daddy Nose Best and Hansen for sure, and probably Alpha, Gemologist, Dullahan, and Sabercat. I’ll Have Another and Take Charge Indy will be the horses I’ll be most worried about leaving off. I give both of them decent chances to hit the board.

If Union Rags doesn’t win, my backup selection is Daddy Nose Best. I’ve explained my reasons for liking this colt several times—lots of bottom, two straight wins at nine furlongs, Asmussen has been very confident this week, he has worked at Churchill all month and has looked great, he drew well and should sit a stalking trip, he is battled tested and game, and I like the switch to Garrett. Is he fast enough? I don’t know. But he is peaking and coming into the race as well as anyone. I’ll take 15-1 or 20-1 on a horse like that.

The horse that worries me the most? Dullahan. I’ve gone back and forth on him over the last two weeks. I loved his run in the Blue Grass and the quick expected pace should suit him very well. Romans said he’s is dead fit and ready for this race. The backstretch buzz earlier in the week was that he’s wasn’t getting over the track all that well, but I think that might be off the mark. When I saw him he looked good. The connections are very confident. If someone is flying from off the pace, it will be Dullahan, or Sabercat.

Good luck everyone. Let us know your picks and, as always, I will look forward to the post race analysis on Sunday or Monday.

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