Will Concert Tour Produce a Winning Tune?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Our quest to pick 50% winners in 2021 took a hit last week when our plays in three major Kentucky Derby preps all fell to defeat. As a result, we enter the second weekend of April with an 11-for-26 (42%) record—not bad, but not quite our goal.

Essentially, we need a 4-for-4 week to catch back up. A 100% strike rate across four races isn't easy to produce (unless you dig for 1-10 favorites at small tracks), but we'll nevertheless chase this lofty goal with a series of carefully-chosen spot plays at Keeneland and Oaklawn Park.

Let's begin!

Keeneland, Race 10: Jenny Wiley (G1)

Few performances impressed me as much last year as the romping victory posted by #2 Tamahere (5-2) in the one-mile Sands Point (G2) at Belmont Park. Making her U.S. debut for four-time champion trainer Chad Brown, Tamahere settled back in seventh place early on, then unleashed a breathtaking rally to swoop past her rivals and dominate by two lengths.

From a visual standpoint, this was a spectacular effort. Tamahere crushed her opposition under hardly any urging at all, and she finished legitimately fast on the clock, sprinting the third quarter in :23.75 and the final quarter in :23.14.

Tamahere subsequently misfired when finishing sixth in the Matriarch (G1) over a very firm turf course at Del Mar, but she was only beaten 2 1/2 lengths against a deep field. She's since been freshened and pointed specifically toward the Jenny Wiley, a race Brown has won three times in a row and four times overall. With rain in the forecast for Saturday at Keeneland, Tamahere should encounter a turf course with some give to it, a benefit since Tamahere's final start in her native France produced a 7 1/2-length romp over soft turf in the Prix la Sorellina Stakes.

For all these reasons, I'm expecting big things from Tamahere in the Jenny Wiley. If she's as talented as I suspect she might be, I think she'll deliver an eye-catching performance.

Oaklawn Park, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight

Did you know Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert went 3-for-3 saddling sophomores in maiden special weight sprints at Oaklawn last year? One was a first-time starter, but the other two (future graded stakes performers Ragtime Blues and Merneith) entered off runner-up efforts on the California circuit, which is exactly the profile presented by Baffert's #8 Following Sea (2-1) in Saturday's fourth race at Oaklawn.

A son of Runhappy out of a Speightstown mare, Following Sea ran a solid race in his debut at Santa Anita last month. Favored at 9-10, the Spendthrift Farm homebred advanced from fifth place into hot fractions of :21.75 and :44.94, then battled on to cross the wire second behind stablemate Defunded, who came back to finish fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

This was a solid debut, and one that stamps Following Sea as the horse to beat at Oaklawn. Ultra-hot jockey Joel Rosario (a 57% winner when teaming up with Baffert over the last two months) takes the mount, and Following Sea has drawn well in post eight, setting the stage for a clean trip. I believe Following Sea will be difficult (or impossible?) to defeat, so 2-1 would be a great price.

Oaklawn Park, Race 6: Carousel Stakes

Five-time stakes winner #4 Frank's Rockette (7-5) is certainly more accomplished than #5 Edgeway (9-5), who has yet to succeed at the stakes level. But although their respective resumes suggest Frank's Rockette is the horse to beat in this six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, I suspect Edgeway may be the more likely winner.

After all, Frank's Rockette finished just a neck ahead of Edgeway when they ran 2-3 in the Purple Martin Stakes at Oaklawn last year, and I would argue Edgeway has improved significantly since then. After all, the daughter of capable sprinter/miler Competitive Edge recently returned from a long layoff to post an impressive victory in a six-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita. After tracking fast fractions of :21.93 and :44.99, Edgeway confidently took command and pulled clear under a hand ride to win by three lengths.

Frank's Rockette likewise enters 2021 in promising form, having tracked a fast pace to win the six-furlong American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn in comfortable fashion. But Frank's Rockette's is set to carry top weight of 124 pounds in the Carousel, conceding five pounds to Edgeway. The latter has been training strongly for her second run of the season and has the advantage of starting outside her key rival, so my money is riding on Edgeway to secure her first stakes triumph.

Oaklawn Park, Race 9: Arkansas Derby (G1)

In this compact six-horse field, I find it difficult to make a case against morning line favorite #5 Concert Tour (1-1). What's not to like? He's versatile, capable of winning on the lead or while stalking the pace. He's beaten tough competition, winning two graded stakes. He's proven at Oaklawn, having crushed the Rebel (G2) by 4 1/4 lengths under a hand ride. He's trained by Bob Baffert, who has won the Arkansas Derby three times since 2012. And he's drawn perfectly in post position five, setting the stage for another clean trip under hot jockey Joel Rosario.

In short, I expect Concert Tour to post another sharp victory in the Arkansas Derby, and I won't play against him. However, I will get a little creative with the horse I emphasize underneath.

Four of Concert Tour's five Arkansas Derby rivals are exiting the Rebel: #3 Hozier (3-1), who rallied up the rail to finish second; #1 Super Stock (6-1), who came running belatedly to gain fourth place; #2 Caddo River (7-2), who faded to fifth after fighting his rider from a pace-tracking position; and #4 Get Her Number (6-1), who ran into trouble while finishing seventh.

Of the four, I prefer the chances of Get Her Number, who defeated future stakes winners Rombauer and Spielberg in the American Pharoah (G1) last fall. In my opinion, Get Her Number ran a deceptively good race in the Rebel. Making his first start off a 5 1/2-month layoff, the Peter Miller trainee was rallying nicely around the far turn and appeared capable of challenging for a top three-finish until things went wrong at the top of the stretch. When Caddo River ducked outward and bumped eventual third-place finish Big Lake, the latter also came out and knocked Get Her Number badly off stride.

It was only after this incident that Get Her Number faltered to finish seventh, so I'm inclined to draw a line through his poor showing. With a clean trip in his second start of the season, Get Her Number can outrun expectations and round out the Arkansas Derby exacta.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like this week?


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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.

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