By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
The COVID-19 outbreak has
shuttered racing at many tracks throughout North America, which means there isn't
a single graded stakes race on the agenda in the U.S. this weekend.
But never fear! Even though
there isn't much racing action to cover, we can always start planning for the
future. Literally. Since the Kentucky Derby has been postponed from May 2 to Sept.
5, Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4—which opens for betting on Friday—promises
to be more intriguing than usual.
With the Run for the Roses
suddenly five months away, are the established stars still worth betting at
short prices? Or should we think outside the box? Depending on how the odds
unfold, here are three options I'll consider betting this week:
#4 Enforceable (50-1)
As a son of Tapit out of the
Dixie Union mare Justwhistledixie, Enforceable is a half- or full-sibling to Mohayman,
Kingly, and New Year's Day, all graded stakes winners running a mile or
farther. And since Tapit's best 3-year-olds tend to thrive running long (think
Belmont Stakes winners Tonalist, Creator, and Tapwrit), it seems safe to assume
Enforceable has the pedigree to excel over classic distances.
Enforceable has already
shown talent running long. Winner of the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte (G3) at Fair
Grounds, Enforceable was compromised by slow paces when finishing second in the
Risen Star (G2) and fifth in the Louisiana Derby (G2), but despite these unfavorable
setups, he refused to give up and was gaining ground late in both races.
Considering Enforceable has been
racing steadily since May 2019, the postponement of the Kentucky Derby might
actually be to his benefit, allowing him to slow down and refresh before
gearing up for the second half of the season. I'm optimistic he'll keep
improving with maturity, in which case he'd be an intriguing play at 50-1 or
#18 Sole Volante (30-1)
Although he's bred to thrive
on turf, Sole Volante has shown a lot of potential on dirt this winter. I was
particularly impressed with his performance in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis
(G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Reserved far off the pace early on, Sole Volante unleashed
a tremendous rally during the second half of the race, sprinting the third
quarter-mile in :23.26 and the final five-sixteenths in :30.53 to win by 2 1/2
lengths over the talented Independence Hall.
Sole Volante was
subsequently beaten 4 3/4 lengths by King Guillermo in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa
Bay Derby (G2), but I believe his effort was better than it appears at first
glance. In a slow-paced race dominated by speed horses (the three pacesetters
finished first, third, and fourth), Sole Volante was the only late runner to
make an impact, rallying up the rail to finish clearly second-best. He again
posted strong fractions during the second half of the race, sprinting the third
quarter in :23.61 and the final five-sixteenths in :30.62.
Sole Volante has already put
up some solid Beyer speed figures, and if he keeps improving through the spring
and summer, he can be a factor on the first Saturday in September. He's bred to
relish 1 1/4 miles, and the main track at Churchill Downs has a reputation for
playing kindly toward turf horses, so it's possible Sole Volante will enjoy the
footing at Churchill even more than Tampa Bay Downs. At 30-1, I think he's
worth a bet.
#24: All Other 3-Year-Olds (5-2)
It might seem as though we're
right in the thick of Derby season, but a lot can change between now and the
first Saturday in September. One only needs to review the list of recent
Travers (G1) winners to see how different the 3-year-old landscape can look in
late summer compared to spring. Arrogate (2016), West Coast (2017), Catholic
Boy (2018)... they were nowhere to be found during the spring classics, but by
September they had emerged as the best sophomores left standing. Arrogate and
West Coast even earned championship titles.
Of course, the postponement
of the Kentucky Derby could change the typical flow of the season. Today's top 3-year-olds
won't have to go through the grind of the spring classics, which might help
them avoid burnout and remain competitive through the summer. But even still,
the picture could change quickly as hoses hit growth spurts and improve or
regress as a result. Considering all the variables in play, doesn't 5-2 seem
like a fair price for the All Other 3-Year-Olds option?
Think of what you're
actually betting here. Odds of 5-2 represent a perceived 28.57% chance of
winning. If you believe there's a ~1 in 3 chance of an unheralded sophomore
stepping up to surprise on the first Saturday in September, then 5-2 is a fair
bet. There are certainly plenty of promising prospects out there—for example, the
powerful Fair Grounds maiden winner Mystic
Guide, a beautifully-bred son of Ghostzapper out of the five-time Grade 1
winner Music Note. Or Bob Baffert's Cezanne,
a highly regarded son of Curlin who sold for $3.65 million as a
Betting individual horses is
a lot more fun, but assuming the 5-2 morning line odds hold up, I think the
best value in this pool will come from the All Other 3-Year-Olds option.
Now it's your turn! Which
horses look most appealing to you in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.