The Road to the Kentucky Derby runs through the Fair Grounds in Louisiana this weekend as our highlighted race will be the $1 million Louisiana Derby for three year olds going a mile and a sixteenth.
While at the Fair Grounds, we will also be looking at several races on the under card including The New Orleans Handicap for four year olds and up and the Muniz Memorial on the turf.
Then on Sunday, we travel to Sunland Park in New Mexico for the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby, also an 8 ½ furlong contest for three year olds, and the Sunland Park Oaks, which will feature an excellent matchup between American Pharoah’s little sister Chasing Yesterday and the super talented and super gorgeous Bellafina.
Before moving forward, just a few notes about last week:
Even after a ridiculously wide trip, Improbable still looked like a winner in mid-stretch of the first division of the Rebel but was run down late by Long Range Toddy. I’m 99% sure he was “short” as it was his first race in almost three months. I know I said otherwise in last week’s breakdown, but the other 1% is the City Zip angle. His next race will be a huge one as it will hold the key to answering that question.
Two Year Old Champion Game Winner did absolutely nothing wrong and was flat unlucky in losing a head bob on the wire in the second division of the Rebel. I’m not worried about him as he will probably get a lot out of that race and seems to be on target to be peaking on the first Saturday in May.
Kudos to the winner Omaha Beach, who signaled a big effort was upcoming with a monster 6F work (1:10.3) several days before the race. This was a big “coming out” party for the very handsome, very talented, beautiful striding colt and he too seems to be peaking at just the right time. I couldn’t be happier for trainer Richard Mandella, who is clearly one of the best trainers in the game today and has an excellent sense of humor as well.
Midnight Bisou was “talking” to us leaving the three eighths pole right through the wire while winning the Azeri Stakes on the Rebel under-card.
I loved the way she was flipping her ears back and forth and the look on her face on the far turn. She was clearly waiting patiently for a cue from jockey Mike Smith and when he gave it, she took off. I also loved how she pricked her ears about 50 or so yards before the wire as if she was saying “ok, I got this….hey look at that over there”
Monomoy Girl or no Monomoy Girl, I expect a big year out of this super talented filly.
As far as Elate goes, she clearly needed the race. I’m still hopefully she can return to her Grade:1 form and hasn’t lost a step due to having “a few physical issues” over the past several months.
Lastly, and I didn’t catch his name, but a big shout out and props to the guy who was the sole survivor in a pick seven, $100,000 tournament at Oaklawn on Saturday. The man went 6 for 6 and had Game Winner as the final leg…..need I say more?
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Race: 10 (4:34 PM EST Post)
New Orleans Handicap
Copper Bullet proved he’s more than just a top notch sprinter in the Razorback Handicap in his last which was his first try at route of ground. This good looking son of More Than Ready came with a furious stretch run but just missed catching the talented Coal Front. The combination of that race and back to back very strong, stamina building works in the month of March should set him up perfectly for this………………….…Silver Dust is a $510,000 son of super sire Tapit who is three quarters of a length away from coming into this riding a four race winning streak. Although his speed figure was a little light, I was most impressed with his last (Mineshaft Handicap, Feb. 18) when he overcame a slow early pace, yet took command of the race on the turn and won easy all while coming home the last 2 ½ furlongs in a very good :30.3. …Looms a solid threat here …………………….Although Mr. Buff will be making his first start in 56 days for underrated trainer John Kimmel, he clearly comes into this race razor sharp. The son of Friend or Foe, who stands for $1,000, impressively went “Coast to Coast” in his four straight at Aqueduct in NY, registering speed figures that are higher than most in here. I’m not too worried about the time off, as his last two works signal he is most likely holding form……Figures bang up and the one to catch……………….Honorable Mentions: Although Core Beliefs will be making his first start in 181 days, he might go well in this spot. If you draw a line through his last two races last year where he was overmatched against Good Magic then McKinzie, you’ll see he’s hit the board in all six career starts including finishing third to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Santa Anita Derby. I like his work pattern coming into this as well……………………… Lone Sailor had several issues when disappointing as the 2-1 favorite in the aforementioned Razorback. The now four year old was making his first start in 103 days, was hung wide on the first turn and was trapped behind a slow pace. This stretch runner should be tighter for this and should also get a faster pace. Of course, it’s always hard to endorse a horse who is 2 for 16 in his career, 1 for his last 11 and 0 for 4 on this surface. ……A couple of other side notes about this race: After winning two straight at Gulfstream Park, Souper Tapit stumbled at the start of the Razorback and was five wide at the half mile pole…could be a menace with a cleaner start and trip. Noble Indy is not as bad as his last four races indicate. This Todd Pletcher trainee has been beaten by a, no exaggeration, 141 lengths over that span. “Ignore Pletcher, leave the track on a stretcher”. (My Play: $50 win on Copper Bullet, .50 triple box using the top 5. Cost: $80)
Race: 11 (5:10 PM EST Post)
Muniz Memorial Handicap
Bricks and Mortar was visually impressive coming “over the top” and beating some of the best turf horses in the world while taking down the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf in his last. This now five year old by Giant’s Causeway improved his career record to 6 for 8 that day. This Chad Brown trainee won’t be facing nearly as tough of field here…….hard to go against in this spot………………….Synchrony is a hard hitting, multiple Graded Stakes winning stretch runner who sports a 12-6-2-3 career record on the turf. This chestnut colt by Tapit’s 2019 debut was very good as he took down the Fair Ground Handicap on Feb. 16. What makes it especially good is he got the last furlong of that race in a smoking :11.4 after being six wide at the quarter pole. Of course, being 4 for 4 on this turf course also merits attention….Should be coming late once again in this spot……………..Although Divisidero has disappointed time and time again (1 for 8 over the last two years) and finished behind Inspector Lynley last time out, I’m going to use him in my exotics once more. The late running, now seven year old son of Kitten’s Joy gave several good accounts of himself vs. Grade: 1 competition last year, so there is a left handed drop in class in this spot………………………….Honorable Mentions: Inspector Lynley, who is consistent (14 of 22 on the board), but doesn’t actually win (5 for 22) as much as you’d like to see but still merits a look regardless………………..Hot Springs will be asked to take on Bricks and Mortar in his first start in over four month, that’s a tall order. With his running style, drawing the rail won’t help his cause either. That said, he is 4 for 7 on the turf and has shown me some talent in watching his replays. (My Play: $200 win on Bricks and Mortar, $1 triple box using all 5. Cost: $260)
Race: 12 (5:44 PM EST Post)
Fair Grounds Oaks
If you draw a line through Serengeti Empress’ Breeders’ Cup debacle, you see she’s won her last three races by 13, 19 and 4 ½ lengths with each being more impressive than the next. The 13 and 19 lengths wins speak for themselves but note she was basically being pulled up in the last 50 yards of her last race (the Grade: 2 Rachel Alexandra) but still won by plenty of daylight. Still another who is hard to go against…………………Eres Tu has been seriously unlucky in her last two starts yet finished admirably in both. Good looking filly by Malibu Moon just missed in the Silverbulletday Stakes two back after being “assaulted” leaving the five-sixteenths pole and being pushed five wide for the stretch drive. She then came back with a ridiculously wide trip, all the way around, yet still passed five horses in the last 4 ½ furlongs in the Rachel Alexandra while checking in third. That horrid ride probably cost regular jockey Ricardo Santana the mount as Jose Ortiz gets the leg up for the first time…………………Liora probably need the Silverbulletday, her first start of the year, because she ran much better in the Rachel Alexandra last time out. Although this well bred filly (by Candy Ride out of Giant’s Causeway mare) was “no match” for the winner that day, she was making up ground in deep stretch. Third start off the layoff angle figures here too. (My Play: $200 win on Serengeti Empress and $5 exacta box using all 3. Cost: $230)
Race: 13 (6:13 PM EST Post)
War of Will is unbeaten and, by and large, untested in three starts since switching over to the dirt surface in November. This handsome colt broke his maiden, then took down the LeComte Stakes and the Risen Star Stakes all very impressively. I don’t blame his connection for running him on the turf in his first four races as his pedigree, by War Front out of Sadler’s Wells mare, screams “grass” and “distance”. He will be seeking to be only the third horse (the gorgeous Friesan Fire in 2009 and “little” International Star in 2015) in 100+ years to win all three Fair Ground prep races for the Kentucky Derby. Being 2 for 2 over the track and firing a big work last week both signal he is holding form. With Game Winner and Improbable each tasting defeat for the first time last week, if this very tactical colt wins here, and I suspect he might, I’m sure he’ll catapult to the Kentucky Derby favorite in a lot of people’s minds. So this is a very big race for him……………………. Country House’s maiden breaking win at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 17 still stands out in my mind as one the most impressive races I’ve seen all year. Colt by Lookin’ at Lucky broke slow but executed an eye catching move on the turn, swept by the field and won going away by 3+ lengths. The Bill Mott (who is loaded for bear in the 2019 Kentucky Derby hunt) trainee proved that race was no fluke as he had a rough trip (broke slowly, 5 wide on the turn then lugged in down the lane) in the Risen Star, yet still managed to get second. Figures bang up here; especially with a better trip…………………..The regally bred Spinoff is another who appears to be getting his act together at just the right time. Colt by Hard Spun, who remains one of the best looking horses I’ve ever seen, out of Grade: 1 winner Zaftig, absolutely blitzed a “NW1X other than” at Gulfstream Park in his last. This chestnut took command of that race leaving the half mile pole (in :45.4) and drew away impressively from that point on, winning by a colossal margin and stopping the clock in 1:40.1 for 8 ½ furlongs. Two sensational works at Palm Beach Downs since only adds to it and he figures prominent throughout……………….Honorable Mentions: I hate to put Sueno this far down, I really do, as he’s done nothing wrong in his last four races dating back to last August. Most recently, he just missed behind Gunmetal Gray in the Sham Stakes then again in the Southwest Stakes behind upset winner Super Steed. His speed figures continue to climb and he posted a big six furlong work (1:12.2) last week………………………..In my article breaking down the Risen Star, I mentioned I wasn’t giving up on Roiland just yet and this colt by Successful Appeal did me proud in finishing third at almost 70-1. He came screaming from last, and some 16 lengths back, to be beaten by less than four lengths in the end including passing an astounding eight horses down the lane. I hate he drew the one hole but perhaps his rider can work out a decent trip………………………I’m probably underrating Hog Street Hustle in this spot. Here’s a colt who was making up ground vs. War of Will late while finishing second in the Lecomte, then had a nightmare trip in the Risen Star (checked early and seven wide on the turn). Through all that, he came from next to last to grab fourth…..long shot possibility right here………………..The same goes for Limonite, (underrating) who probably needed the Risen Star as it was his first start in almost three months. Another stretch runner, he draws a decent post and should be tighter for this……………………..Bankit also possesses a strong late run but fizzled in his last two races. (My Play: .50 triple box using the top 5. Cost $30)
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Race: 9 (6:27 PM EST Post)
Bellafina was runner up as Champion Two Year Old Filly last year and has come out running thus far in her 3 year old campaign. This $800,000 filly by Quality Road annihilated the field in the Santa Ynez in January, and then wired her foes in the Las Virgenes in her last in Feb. I’m not worried about the perhaps little kink in the armor we saw in the last 100 yards of the Las Virgenes. She had every right to tire in deep stretch being she ran fast through the first six furlongs, on a track labeled “good” in just her second start of the year. Third start off the layoff and a big work last week are more signs pointing towards a peak performance from this winner of 5 of 7 starts including a pair of Grade:1’s………………………………I can see my moniker of “American Pharaoh’s little sister” Chasing Yesterday is about to be changed to just Chasing Yesterday. Filly by Tapit has won four of five career starts including the Grade: 1 Starlet to end the year last year and seems to still be getting better. Bellafina will clearly have a fitness edge in this spot and that’s one of the main reasons why I’m lining them up this way. That said, I will tell you her 5F work (:57 flat) last week was…well…beyond supersonic. It has been a while since I’ve seen a horse work that fast………………..Victim of Love has speed, the rail and has won three straight including beaten several of these in her last. Filly by Speightstown is 2 for 2 over this surface also………………Honorable Mentions: Backflash made a run at Victim of Love in her last but just wasn’t getting by her. In the end, she was only beaten by less than two lengths…………………Although K P Slickem hasn’t crossed the finish line first yet through five career starts, she hasn’t been off the board yet in any of those five starts. (My Play: Pass, I’m seeing enough value)
Race: 11 (7:30 PM EST Post)
Sunland Park Derby
Mucho Gusto is a $625,000 colt by Mucho Macho Man who gets lost in the Bob Baffert barn sometimes thanks to Game Winner and Improbable. This talented chestnut colt, who is 3 for 4 in his career with his only loss coming to Improbable which is nothing to be ashamed of, showed a new weapon in his arsenal when he learned how to rate off the pace like he did in winning his last. He’ll be making his first start in 50 days here but his work pattern coming in is tremendous, topped off by a monster 5 furlong move (:57.4) on March 10. He draws the rail, which is a good thing with his running style and the distance will be no problem whatsoever………………..Anothertwistafate is a synthetics surface running sensation. This $360,000 son of Scat Daddy broke his maiden (by 4 lengths), beat mid level optionals NW1X (by 5 lengths) and was nothing short of dominating in his last while winning the El Camino Real Derby by 7 lengths, with strong speed figures in all three races. I was super impressed with his win in the El Camino. I love the way he was moving from the eighth pole to the wire as he leveled off and was “reaching out” really well. Of course, the elephant in the room is how will he handle the switch back to dirt? Because his one and only try over says he won’t……………………………….Wicked Indeed closed ground well, late in the Mine That Bird Stakes at 1 1/16th miles in his last and chased War of Will two races back. I like the fact that this gray colt by Tapit’s speed figures have risen through all four career starts. Logical contender with the added distance in this spot……………………….Honorable Mentions: Hustle Up has owned the state of New Mexico for the past 364 days. This speedster is 8 for 10 in his career, including being 4 for 4 on this oval. He draws toward the inside, so that should help his chances as should the back to back big works coming into this. He looms the one to catch in this spot. That said, he’ll be a big step up in class and will have to run longer than he’s ever been before. ….If you are shopping for a longshot, take a gander at “the maiden” Pasamonte Man, who has gotten progressively better through each of his three career races, including just missing two back. Note how he was quietly making up ground late against Wicked Indeed and Hustle Up in the Mine That Bird Stakes. Still another who should relish the stretch out in distance. (My play: .50 triple box using all 5. Cost$30)
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2019- Record: 16-52 = 31% (My Plays: -$1,652.19)
2018- Record: 107-261= 41%
2017- Record: 92-235 = 39%
2016- Record: 91-229 = 40%
2015- Record: 67-180 = 37%
2014- Record: 29-73 = 40%
2013- Record: 20-59= 34%
2012 -Record: 24-73= 33%
2011 –Record: N/A
2010- Record: 24-74= 33%
Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** WinStar Farm’s top stallion Pioneerof the Nile died suddenly Monday, the farm announced. He was only 13.
The impeccably bred son of Empire Maker–Star of Goshen bred a mare in the morning and started acting “strange” once he was back in his stall. He was en route to the clinic when he died.
“We are all extremely saddened by the loss of Pioneerof the Nile,” said WinStar Farm president and CEO Elliott Walden. “He was a superior physical specimen, a Triple Crown sire (American Pharaoh), and a unique personality. All of us at WinStar are heartbroken.”
**** Danthebluegrassman, a 2002 Kentucky Derby contender, was euthanized Monday at Park Equine Hospital in Woodford due to an irreparable small intestinal obstruction that was causing chronic colic.
The 20 year old gelding had been pensioned at Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement center in Georgetown, K.Y., since 2008.
Trailed by Bob Baffert and owner Michael E. Pegram, Danthebluegrassman won the Gold Rush Stakes as a two year old and later convinced his connections he was Kentucky Derby worthy with a win in the Grade: 3 Golden Gate Derby and a close 2nd in the Grade: 3 El Camino Real Derby.
Although being listed at 50-1 on the morning line, he was forced to scratch after he “tied up” following a gallop at Churchill Downs.
“Dan” eventually fell down to the claiming ranks and was retired to Old Friends in the spring of 2008. His final career stats were 47 starts with 8 wins and earnings of $423,794.