The pressure will be on the favorites in this weekend's major Kentucky Derby preps -- Itsmyluckyday in the Florida Derby (G1) and Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby (G2) -- to earn their way to Louisville.
Although both are consensus top-five three-year-olds, Itsmyluckyday's fleet run in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and Revolutionary's trouble-filled victory in the Withers Stakes (G3) were worth just 10 points each under the new Derby qualifying system, which in my opinion overly weights the final round of Derby preps.
Both colts deserve to be in the Derby, so in the interest of having the best field possible, I am hoping for fair tracks and clean trips for everyone this weekend.
Race 12 6:19 EDT
Florida Derby (G1) 3yos (1 1/8 miles dirt)
I rate 3 Itsmyluckyday not only the most likely winner of this race but the best three-year-old in America. His wins in the Gulfstream Park Derby and the Holy Bull were beauties. This Lawyer Ron colt has a unique combination of relaxed running style and high cruising speed. He came home his final 5/16 in 31-flat last time after tracking 1 Shanghai Bobby through splits of :46-3 and 1:10-3.
Compare that with 6 Orb, whose :32-1 final 5/16 in the Fountain of Youth (G2) looked good visually to many people, but was aided by a fast pace up front and a tiring (injured) leader. I do think Orb will like the added distance he gets here, but I still want to play against him, as he will have to improve to get the win.
There are two price shots I find interesting in this race for consideration in the vertical exotic wagers or on multi-race spread plays. 2 Pick of the Litter was a revelation winning an off-the-turf MSW by 7 1/2 lengths at this track and distance on February 27. Despite the 4-horse field, that was a very good run. He is bounce risk here, but still can be played at a big price.
I also like 9 Are You Kidding Me a little bit, although his best performances have come on turf. He tries dirt for the first time for trainer Roger Attfield and should get a good pace to close into.
Race 9 5:44 CDT
Louisiana Derby (G2) 3yos (1 1/8 miles dirt)
2 Palace Malice ran a respectable third, beaten just a half length, in his two-turn debut in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). Not only was he trying a route for the first time, but he found himself taken back to ninth early and pretty much ran the entire race between horses, both new experiences for this Curlin colt. He responded well to the new scenarios, and he also looked like he got a little tired, shortening stride slightly. He is a candidate to improve mentally and physically here in his third start of the year.
3 Revolutionary should be favored here based on his 2-for-2 record going two turns, a very fast maiden win, and an impressive, trouble-filled victory in the Withers Stakes (G3). But I can't recommend taking too short a price here for a few reasons. Revolutionary will be making his first start in eight weeks and his first start outside of New York. Louisiana is not the most shipper-friendly state, and it would be no surprise if Revolutionary encounters traffic in this 14-horse field.
8 Code West had an interesting running line in the Risen Star, pressing the pace from the inside, falling back to 4th, then nearly re-rallying for the win. His breeding (by Lemon Drop Kid, out of a Saint Ballado mare) suggests the added ground today could be in this grinder's favor.
I believe the winner comes from those three, but I'll mention two others for consideration. 10 Titletown Five is likely to be lone speed on the stretchout, and trainer D. Wayne Lukas is having a renaissance year.
Midnight Lute is red hot as a sire right now and will be attracting all kinds of support at the windows and at the sales, but 11 Mylute should be a big price here. I tend to think he's a cut below these, but having seen most of his races, I do think he is an improvement candidate with the blinkers coming off.