Arkansas Derby Preview Day Preview Blog

As I discussed in varying ways on the Hello Race Fans Derby Prep Alert and Steve Byk’s At The Races Radio Program, I don’t expect a lot of sexy results on Saturday at Oaklawn Park in terms of payoffs, but it will be fun to watch some (future) stars shine at likely low prices.

That’s good news for the 82 people still alive for $1-million in the Road To The Kentucky Derby Showdown, as I expect either Tapiture or Strong Mandate—the 1-2 finishers, respectively, in the Southwest Stakes—to not only win the Rebel Stakes but also comprise two-thirds of the trifecta. I.e., I think both will hit the board to advance what I suspect would be at least 75% of the remaining players to next week.

I see 2-to-1 as fair value on either horse, and would be one of them to win at 5-to-2 or better, but I’ll use both in the multi-race wagers and just be done with it. Any of the other six could win except Jet Set, but I see more value in going deep in the Razorback Handicap or the nightcap maiden than getting cute in the Rebel.

Contest wise, I took Strong Mandate in the West Point Thoroughbred/Paulick Report Derby Dollars Contest because at the time of my selection he had a lower percentage of backers than Tapiture. It would be nice if those percentages actually meant that’s the price they’d be in the race because I’d have no problem dutching (betting both of) them to win at those odds.

As far as the 1-million point, all-graded-stakes Pick 3 hit-it-and-split promo on, the Azeri Stakes is similar to the Rebel except you only need one horse to cover and that one is multiple Grade 1 winner Close Hatches making her four-year-old debut.

None of Don’t Tell Sophia, Flashy American, or On Fire Baby would surprise anyone here, but doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the cost of the ticket when your single wins this more than 50% of the time is touchy.

The price could come in the Razorback Handicap, the meat in a potentially chalk sandwich, as both Called To Serve and Govenor Charlie look underlaid to me at 5-to-2 and 3-to-1, respectively.

Taptowne on the rail is also 3-to-1 on the morning line and entices most of the favored trio, but Right To Vote at 10-to-1 would be fine at even around 6- or 7-to-1, as this one has looked good in his two starts this year—both two-turn efforts after a long string of one-turn races—and gets Calvin Borel. Moquett’s 30-race winless streak in graded stakes concerns, but the price compensates.

My Pick 3 strategy would be to use Close Hatches with Taptowne and Right To Vote with Tapiture and Strong Mandate in a big way for $2 per $.50 bet. Then sprinkle in some others you like on more tickets to give yourself a chance to hit it multiple times while maybe covering a bigger payout if one of the favorites falters.

The Pick 4 concludes with a maiden special weight race for fillies and mares, and Sea Shadow stuck out to me even though she’s facing elders in her three-year-old debut, but I like the debut last fall behind Unbridled Forever, and she’s been training all winter at Keeneland and don’t think they’re shipping down for a tightener when Turfway is just up the road for that purpose. She’s shipping in for a check, and she could get one at a nice price (12-to-1 morning line).

Ed DeRosa is director of marketing for

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