By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
The Road to the Kentucky
Derby continues this Saturday with a trio of prominent prep races: the $250,000
Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, the $250,000 Withers S. (G3) at
Aqueduct, and the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.
We'll take a look at all
three races in this week's edition of Unlocking Winners:
Sam F. Davis S. (G3)
A competitive 12-horse field
has turned out to contest the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis, and you can make a case
for almost anyone to visit the winner's circle. That's why I hesitate to pick
obvious favorite #7 Dubyuhnell, even
though he brings strong credentials to the table. The son of Good Magic rallied
to victory in a one-mile maiden special weight at Aqueduct and followed up with
a determined tally in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen S. (G2) at Aqueduct, in which he
defeated Arctic Arrogance (see below) with a 100 Brisnet Speed rating that tops
the Sam F. Davis field by a wide margin.
But Dubyuhnell hasn't run in
two months and is racing outside of New York for the first time, so rather than
support him at a short price, I'll think outside the box with the capable turf
campaigner #1 Worthington.
Trained by Mike Maker (who
wins at a solid 18% rate with horses switching from turf to dirt per Brisnet
statistics), Worthington exists a respectable third-place finish in the Dania
Beach S. at Gulfstream Park. The quality of competition that day was deep; 1-2
finishers Candidate and Major Dude returned to run second and first in the
Kitten's Joy S. (G3) last week. Major Dude has won two graded stakes and also
competed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
As a son of Breeders' Cup
Juvenile (G1) hero Classic Empire, Worthington has the pedigree to handle dirt,
so there's a distinct possibility this Triple Crown nominee will improve while
switching surfaces for the Sam F. Davis. Throw in accomplished Tampa Bay Downs
jockey Pablo Morales (a 20% winner here since 2018), and I'm confident
Worthington will outrun his 20-1 morning line odds.
Withers S. (G3)
The obvious choice to win
this 1 1/8-mile contest is #1 Arctic
Arrogance, whose four efforts to date at Aqueduct include game runner-up
finishes in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen S. (G2) and the one-mile Jerome S. on the
Road to the Kentucky Derby. In both of those races, Arctic Arrogance was
prominent from the outset (he even set the pace in the Remsen) before coming
out on the losing end of prolonged homestretch battles.
Arctic Arrogance is adding
blinkers for the Remsen, which has the potential to sharpen his focus and propel
him to the winner's circle. But after two straight defeats in races he had
every chance to win, Arctic Arrogance is a little tough to trust at a short
price, so I'll try to beat him with #4
Hit Show trounced his debut
sprinting seven furlongs at Keeneland, then ran fourth in a $100,000 allowance
optional claimer racing 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs. That turned out to be
a deep race, as the winner (Confidence Game) returned to finish third in the
Lecomte S. (G3) while the runner-up (Rocket Can) won the Holy Bull S. (G3) last
Hit Show likewise returned
to run well, crushing a $100,000 allowance optional claimer racing one mile at
Oaklawn Park by 3 1/2 lengths. Hot trainer Brad Cox has compiled a 12-6-3-0 (50%)
record at Aqueduct since Nov. 1, and jockey Manny Franco has won at a 21% rate during
the same timeframe, so all signs suggest Hit Show is sitting on a fine run.
El Camino Real Derby
Hall of Fame trainer Bob
Baffert has won two of the last three editions of the El Camino Real Derby, and
he's poised to pick up another courtesy of #1
Gilmore, one of only two Triple Crown nominees in this 1 1/8-mile Tapeta
Gilmore ran respectably in
his debut sprinting six furlongs at Del Mar, gaining 3 1/4 lengths through the
final furlong to finish third by three-quarters of a length. Subsequently
stretching out in distance for a one-mile maiden special weight at Los Alamitos
worked wonders for the son of Twirling Candy, who trounced next-out winner Roll
On Big Joe by four lengths.
Twirling Candy has already
sired 2021 El Camino Real Derby winner Rombauer, so there's no reason to think
Gilmore won't handle the switch to Tapeta. I'm optimistic this gray colt will take
home top honors in his stakes debut.
For the minor awards, #4 Passarando and #2 Chase the Chaos are obvious choices after running 1-2 in the
one-mile Gold Rush S. at Golden Gate Fields. But don't overlook the speedy #5 Harcyn, who boasts a perfect 2-for-2
record sprinting over the Golden Gate Tapeta. Harcyn trounced a $50,000
allowance optional claimer by 3 3/4 lengths last month and looms as a dangerous
pace player while stretching out in distance for the El Camino Real Derby.
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in this week's Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers?
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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.