Can't starve this fever

The old wives’ tale to starve a fever doesn’t work with the Kentucky Derby variety—not because the charms of the First Saturday in May are so irresistible 13 weeks away but because sustenance is unavoidable.

Not that I’m trying to avoid it, mind you, but even if the highlight of your week is Louisiana Premier Night and our 3:10 to Delta 1-million-point promotion, it’s going to be tough to elude chatter of the Withers (a Kentucky Derby points race), Sam F. Davis, or Hutcheson (race name hyperlinks go to FREE Ultimate PPs for each race) Also on Saturday afternoon is the release of the early Triple Crown nominations, and will have FREE past performances for each of those as well.

The feast doesn’t stop there, however, as Tuesday (February 4) is the release of the 23 individual betting interests for Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2, and Wednesday draws the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, which kicks off’s $1-million Road To The Kentucky Derby Showdown game.

Pick a horse to finish third or better in 20 consecutive prep races ending with the Kentucky Derby and win or share $1-million!

We’ll talk more about that promotion, including strategy, next week, as well as who I should draft in my Triple Crown Fantasy League on Wednesday night, but for now all eyes will be on the Withers and its 17 points up for grabs as well as the Davis and Hutcheson, which while offering no points, could help determine a horse worth betting in next week’s future pool, drafting in a fantasy league, and other information.

The Withers offers the typical two-standout question: Do you use both Uncle Sigh and Samraat and consider the race a free square or zero in on one to halve your ticket and catch some value elsewhere? In this case, it depends on the bet. For something like the grand slam, go ahead and pick one, but in something like the Pick 4, use both if you don’t like favorites elsewhere and pick one if you do like the favorites.

My “pick one” in the Withers is Samraat, who is drawn ideally outside (the rail going 1 1/16 miles on the inner this meeting has 2 wins from 21 races with an impact value of 0.67, and posts 1-3 are 7-for-63 with an impact value of 0.78). I’d have a tougher time picking Samraat in a race like the Gotham or Tampa Bay Derby where there’d be other shippers besides Parx conditions winner Honorable Judge, but his Damon Runyon easily handles these, and I like that he’s gotten faster each race before a 6 ½-week break with trainer Richard Violette in South Florida.

For the Sam F. Davis, 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs has the opposite profile as Aqueduct, in that the inside is favored with the rail 3-for-16 with an impact value of 1.27. “E” types have won 25% at this trip with an impact value of only 0.79, but E/P (early pressers) are at 38% with a 1.50 Impact Value. This profile benefits Harpoon on the rail, who finally broke his maiden after three seconds sitting behind the pace and making a middle move going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream. I worry about what kind of money Todd will take, but 4-to-1 would be fair.

Noble Cornerstone immediately to Harpoon’s outside also fits at 7-to-2 getting post 2 after a wide trip in the Springboard Mile from post 8. He could make a huge double for My Meadowview and Sequel Stallions sire Noble Causeway if Noble Cornerstone and Samraat both win.

I’m against Cousin Stephen as the favorite, as this looks a case of Chad Brown hype on the heels of finishing behind some good ones at Gulfstream, but it’s too early for me to bet class when talking about a fifth-place who faded off a slow pace.

The Hutcheson could go to whoever gets the lead, as through the last 57 seven-furlong races at Gulfstream (June 25-January 29), “E” types have won 49% with an impact value of 1.60 with 46% gate-to-wire winners.

The only two “E” types in this field are Pablo Del Monte and Gambler’s Ghost, and while the latter has more Quirin Speed Points, I like the former to turn things around shortening up a bit and drawn better after racing four wide last time. Dirt remains a question, but I’ll try any horse who can run that first early as he did at Keeneland getting this price on a speed-favoring track.

And what would any discussion of gambling this weekend be without a "THE BIG GAME" pick? I'm taking the points and the under. Even if you don't have an opinion on the game, you can earn a stake in it by hitting a double at any one of ten tracks on Sunday by playing in's 2-million points BIG GAME squares.

Have fun this weekend!

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