With the Kentucky Derby now just three weeks away, our highlighted race of the week will be the last prep race for the Derby in the Grade: 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
We will also be looking at the Oaklawn Handicap, a Grade: 2, $750,000 nine furlong contest also for four year olds and up.
Elsewhere, we will take a look at three Graded Stakes races at Keeneland Race Course. The Ben Ali Stakes for four year olds and up, the Jenny Wiley Stakes, an 8 ½ furlong test for four year olds and up fillies and mares on the turf and the Lexington Stakes for three year olds who are desperately trying for some last minute Kentucky Derby points in hopes that a win or a good showing will catapult them into this year’s “Run for the Roses”.
Lastly, on Sunday we will be examining the Grade: 1, $750,000 Apple Blossom back at Oaklawn Park, another 8 ½ furlong race for four year olds and up fillies and mares.
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Keeneland Race Course
Race: 7 (4:24 PM EST Post)
Ben Ali Stakes
If you look up “racehorse rounding back into top form” in the dictionary you might see a picture of Flameaway. The one time Kentucky Derby threat ran a very good third in the Grade: 3 Mineshaft off a nearly six month break two starts back. I really like the way this $400,000 son of Scat Daddy won his last, as he took pace pressure every step of the way while wiring the field. That last race, back to back excellent works since and this being his third start off the layoff, all point to another good effort upcoming. Lastly, I don’t see him having any problems in what is projected to be an off track on Saturday.…………………….Based off his last two races, a win and a fast closing third, both at Laurel Park, Bonus Points also seems to be in peak form right now. The Todd Pletcher trainee draws a good post for his running style and should be coming late in this spot……………………… I know Solomini is quite popular but I’m not a big fan of his. In fact, I believe he is one of the most overrated horses in quite some time…maybe since Keen Ice. Yes, he’s a Grade: 1 winner and yes, he’s hit the board in 9 of 11 career starts but two facts stand out about him to me. 1) He’s won one race since that Grade: 1 win (a span of 16 months) and that was against $40,000 optional claimers and 2) the fact still remains he is 2 for 11 lifetime. This son of Curlin will likely be over bet in this spot. ………….Honorable Mentions: Third Day is a $575,000 son of the corvette looking Bernardini who did well to finish third in the aforementioned Mineshaft Handicap in his last. This handsome colt was trapped behind a slow pace yet finished just a neck behind Flameaway in that race and his one and only race in the slop was an impressive win. Bottom line here is, he could better this rating especially if the track does come up wet…………………The cleverly named Nun the Less looks better suited for the synthetics but note he is 2 for 2 on off tracks. Merits a longshot look if the rains come…………….First Mondays, a $450,000 son of Curlin who missed the break in his last, and Just Whistle, who was a good third in the Peter Pan Stakes last year, both could run well here and neither would be a huge surprise.
Race: 9 (5:34 PM EST Post)
Anothertwistafate rattled off three super impressive, large margined wins over the synthetics this year but looked just as good, if not better, in his neck loss last time out in the Sunland Park Derby on the dirt. This $360,000 son of Scat Daddy sat just off screaming early fractions (:45.3, 1:09.3, 1:34.3) before “running on” to just miss the win. Note the :24 second flat internal fraction as it’s the sign of a quality runner. If this handsome, smooth strided colt, who ripped a sensational half mile work for this (:46.4) last week runs well enough here to make it into the Derby (he’s on the threshold on points), no one better go to sleep on him as he appears to have big time talent and would pose an enormous threat………………….Based off his close up, on the board finishes in the Sham, Southwest and Louisiana Derby, Sueno clearly looks next best………………….I really liked Zenden’s Tampa Bay Derby effort at 20-1 in his last. This son of Fed Biz normally assumes a stalking position early on in his races but in the Tampa Bay Derby, this horse blew the gate and ripped off super fast fractions (:22.3, 45.4 and 1:09.3). He understandably tired late but I thought he did extremely well to finish fourth and was only be beaten by four lengths to the likes of Tacitus and Win Win Win. Looks best of the rest here………………..Honorable Mentions: Call me stubborn, but I’m STILL not giving up on the late running Roiland, who has a habit of running well at double digit odds………………Anyone have any idea what to do with Harvey Wallbanger, who wins the Holy Bull at 30-1 then comes back and completely tanks in the Florida Derby? Because I sure don’t. He’s a tough horse to play with such inconsistencies…………If you are hunting a longshot in this race, take a look at Shang, who is a neck shy of being unbeaten in five starts vs. lesser. Although he obviously will be taking a huge step up in class, it should be noted he ran the last 2 ½ furlongs of his last race in an excellent :30.1, his speed figures are climbing, he handles the wet track very well and the #1 post at this meet is winning at 18% thus far.
Race: 10 (6:12 PM EST Post)
Jenny Wiley Stakes
Rushing Fall is a very special filly. This gorgeous, $320,000 daughter of More Than Ready is 6 for 7 in her career, has already captured two Grade: 1 wins and, had it not been for a questionable ride when losing her one race by a neck, she could be unbeaten. There is nothing not to like about her as she can handle the distance, is adaptable to any pace scenario, handles any “give” in the turf and is 3 for 3 at Keeneland. If you are looking to beat her, which might prove futile, you can use the angle that this will be her first start in exactly 6 months but that’s not enough for me……………………I like Rymska. She is a big, all black (very rare) five year old mare who is 7 for 13 in her career. This multiple Graded Stakes winner could not have looked any better in taking down the Hillsborough at Gulfstream in her last and you get the third start off the layoff angle. Easily looks next best here…………………Bellavais has been gradually improving since October. $485,000 mare by Tapit finished very well in her last and won her previous time out, both at Gulfstream Park. It appears she too can handle a soft turf course and has been on the board in 10 of 15 career races…………….Honorable Mentions: Onthemoonagain is a French invader who has fared very well in all four U.S. starts. Chad Brown trainee could better this rating with the right pace scenario……………Got Stormy came back running off a long layoff when whipping high level optionals. Steps up but that race could set her up for a good effort here……………….The longshot horse in this race is Princess Warrior, who looks overmatched on paper but note her two races on off turf courses were both very good.
Race: 9 (6:22 PM EST Post)
After back to back big efforts at “big balloons,” Rated R Superstar has methodically worked his way back into what appears to be top form. Although his rider is ice cold right now, he does like this track and seems to be ok if it rains as expected. …my best guess in an extremely wide open horse race…………………….Giant Expectations disappointed as the 8/5 favorite in the Essex in his last. This 6 year old by Giant Frost chased Battle of Midway and McKinzie two back and wasn’t embarrassed by any stretch, so you know he has ability. It’s the consistency I question as he hasn’t won a horse race of any kind in 16 months. That said he looks next best…………….Quip was up against it when he had to chase the absolutely streaking right now Prince Lucky in his first race back off a long layoff. This good looking son of Distorted Humor did well to finish third in that race and should be tighter for this…………………Honorable Mentions: Tenfold’s claim to fame is running Justify to three quarters of a length in the 2018 Preakness Stakes. This son of Curlin was a very close up fourth in his first race since, handles the slop just fine and should improve off his 2019 debut. Figures close………………Lone Sailor figures to do his normal “drop way back early but come with big run late only to fall short late” routine. Logically, the faster the pace, the better his chances are and the pace figures to be honest in this race……………..Keep an eye on Chris and Dave here too if it rains. Although he seems overmatched, he is 4 for 6 on wet tracks…………..I got to spend several minutes up close and personal with Lookin’ at Lee last year at Saratoga before the Travers. He is a very nice looking, well made horse, but he just hasn’t run to those looks as his 3 for 21 career record would indicate.
Race: 11 (7:43 PM EST Post)
There are a lot of “moving parts” with the big, almost perfectly strided, Improbable, so this race should tell the tale of where we stand with him. His last race, The Rebel, didn’t answer any questions for me. In fact, it seems to have posed more. Let’s start with why he was run down in deep stretch by Long Range Toddy. Was it because he was “parking lot” wide, off a boneheaded ride by DVD, throughout the entire race and, with that being his first race in 10 weeks, maybe he understandably tired late? I don’t know, like I’ve said before, Baffert is the master at sending them out ready, regardless of the situation. Was it the City Zip breeding that is causing the dreaded distance limitation? I don’t know that yet either being he romped, not once but twice, at 8 ½ furlongs before. Whatever the answers are, I know this much….Baffert is not sitting on his hands with this gorgeous colt. I don’t blame him one bit for making a rider change (from DVD to Jose Ortiz) and he is adding blinkers in this spot as well. I absolutely LOVED his last work where, with blinkers on, he sat just off his work mate, passed him on the turn for home and was reaching out soooooooooo beautifully down the lane I mumbled “wow” while stopping the clock in either 1:13.3 or 1:14 flat depending on what racing publication you read. This might prove futile, but I am sticking with him until he proves otherwise. That said, this race is a “do or die” for him. He will need to step up right now, in this spot to remain a serious Derby threat………………………….Horse Racing is a lot like other sports in the sense that the best baseball/basketball/football team doesn’t always win, but more of who gets hot heading into the playoffs. In this case, it’s who is getting good at just the right time and, aside from Tacitus and perhaps Vekoma, is there another horse in the country who is getting good right now more that Omaha Beach? After losing a couple of heart breaking, maiden races earlier in his career, this very handsome, very well bred colt (by War Front out of a mare super sire from years ago Seeking the Gold) ran a hole in the wind in the slop to finally break his maiden two starts back. He won by 9 that day and stopped the clock in a blistering 1:21 flat for seven panels. His next and last start was in a division of the Rebel, where he assumed command early, fended off a few others early in the race and then dug in and fended off none other than Two Year Old Colt Champion Game Winner in a thrilling stretch run. The Rebel proved two things. 1) He can handle the route distance and 2) he has the guts of a tight rope walker. Back to back bullet works since the Rebel signal he is holding form and possibly getting better. Big Money Mike gets the leg up……………….The aforementioned Long Range Toddy is a stretch runner who is 7-4-1-1 in his career has never finished more than two lengths behind the winner in his three career defeats. That, readers, is consistency. He draws the extreme outside post which could actually help him in this spot and I love his work pattern since his Rebel upset (8-1) win……………….Honorable Mentions: Although Galilean was passed in the stretch of the Rebel by Long Range Toddy, I still like this very handsome, $600,000 son of Uncle Mo. After annihilating Cal-Breds in his two prior races, this colt, who has a very efficient and smooth stride, did very well to finish third, beaten by less than three lengths in his first try vs. open company and outside the state of California as well. Bottom line here is, he is no easy throw out………………………Country House is another late runner who, on the surface, looks to be struggling a bit outside the friendly confines of Gulfstream Park but a closer look shows he had legitimate excuses both times. He broke slowly (again) and chased a streaking War of Will two back and, after you guessed it, breaking slowly again, he was ridiculously wide in the Louisiana Derby. That said, this son of Lookin’ at Lucky could be a menace with a clean break and what is projected to be a hot early pace………………….Gray Attempt has won 4 of 6 in his career and is 2 for 3 on this oval plus he recorded a monster work in the mud last week (5F- :58.3). The problem I’m seeing with him is a mile or a mile a sixteenth looks to be “all of it.” In other words, on paper he looks better suited to sprinting.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
Race: 8 (4:42 PM EST Post)
This year’s renewal of the Apple Blossom features a rematch from the Azeri Stakes with two of the best older females in the land in Elate and Midnight Bisou and this race figures to be a doozy. Midnight Bisou, who I liked since early last year, got the better of it last time and I’m sticking to my guns that she has a world of talent, will continue to get better and have a tremendous year when it’s all said and done. Four year old by Midnight Lute is off to a good start (2 for 2) in winning the Houston Ladies Classic in January and the aforementioned Azeri in March. She “takes her racetrack with her” as she is 7 for 13 in her career while winning on four different ovals in all parts of the country. Lastly, I believe she still holds a fitness edge over main rival Elate as this will be her third start (off the layoff) while Elate will be making her second start in eight months…………………….Elate is clearly the main threat in this spot. Head hunters in New Guinea could see this two time Grade: 1 winner needed her last as it was her first start in eight months. Filly by Medaglia d’ Oro did very well to finish second in the Azeri when beaten by just one length as the even money favorite. When I was at Belmont Park (before heading over to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial) last week, I heard several folks on the backstretch talk about how she may not be coming back the same as last year after, by trainer Bill Mott’s admittance, “a few minor injuries”. I’ll give her a mulligan for the Azeri but like Improbable this weekend, she needs to improve off the Azeri to prove that theory wrong………………….Wonder Gadot is another who probably needed her first race of 2019 when finishing second vs. optional $50,000 claimers on March 8 as it was her first start in over four months. Another daughter of “King of the (sales) Ring” Medaglia d’ Oro, this filly actually won two thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown (beating the boys) last year and still has that very long and flowing stride, which is especially good when on her right handed lead………………..Escape Clause is an absolute win machine while registering a mind boggling 20 wins in 30 career starts. Granted, she was beating up on far lesser competition at smaller tracks for most of it but still that’s quite a feat. That said, she did win a Grade: 2 at Santa Anita in January and could not have looked any better while blowing out her rivals at Sunland Park in her last. Mare by Going Commando (how did the Jockey Club miss that name by the way?), who stands for less than $1,000, won by 7+, getting a mile in a track record 1:34 flat.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2019- Record: 22-72 = 31% (My Plays: -$2,314.14)
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
****Superstar Winx makes her final career start in the Group: 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick. If her win streak continues, this will be her 33rd straight win and 25th Group: 1. The scheduled post time is 11:05 p.m. ET on Friday, April 12th.
**** Lady Pauline, a half-sister to Lady Aurelia, was an eye catching, first time out winner last week at Keeneland.
Going off at an enormous 1-5 betting favorite, the Stonestreet homebred blew the gate and showed a very impressive speed to win by 9 3/4 lengths, stopping the clock in :51:3 for 4 ½ furlongs.
We’ll need to keep an eye on her moving forward.
****In all my years of being involved in this sport, I’m not sure I’ve seen a stronger book of mares to be bred to one first year stallion ever.
Justify, who stands at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Paris, KY., for $150,000, has the following list of mares booked: (although this is not all of them)
A Raving Beauty Multiple G1 winner
A Z Warrior G1 winner
Afleet Maggi Dam of G1 winner Dream Tree
African Jade Dam of G1 winner Lord Nelson
Appealing Zophie G1 winner, dam of Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit
Bar of Gold Won Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
Bella Jolie Dam of champion sprinter Runhappy
Birdatthewire G1 winner
Blossomed Dam of G1 winner Sippican Harbor
Brave Anna G1 winner
Bubbler Dam of champion Arrogate
Caledonia Road Champion 2-year-old filly
Champagne Room Champion 2-year-old filly
Charming Dam of champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi,
Classic Strike Dam of G1 winner Union Strike
Dazzling Song Dam of G1 winner Magnum Moon
Diamondsandrubies G1 winner
Diva Delite Dam of G1 winner Midnight Bisou
Dream Dancing G1 winner
D’Wildcat Speed Dam of filly Lady Aurelia
Emma’s Encore G1 winner
Found won Breeders’ Cup Turf
Got Lucky G1 winner
Grace Hall G1 winner
Grazie Mille Dam of G1 winner Mo Town
Groupie Doll Two-time champion female sprinter and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
Havre de Grace 2011 Horse of the Year, sold for $10 million
Ithinkisawapudycat Dam of G1 winner Sweet Loretta,
Khancord Kid Dam of Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Bar of Gold
Kosmo’s Buddy Dam of G1 winner Knicks Go
Mining My Own Dam of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and G1 winner Dullahan
Misty For Me G1 winner, dam of Cartier champion 2-year-old colt U S Navy Flag
Moonshine Memories G1 winner
Morena dam of Belmont Stakes winner Creator
Noted and Quoted G1 winner
Pretty ‘n’ Smart Dam of G1 winner Cupid
Rare Event Dam of G1 winner Improbable
Sambuca Classica Dam of champion 2-year-old male Classic Empire
Silk and Scarlet Dam of G1 winner Master of Hounds
Silky Serenade Dam of G1 winner Restless Rider,
So Sharp of G1 winner Sharp Azteca
Storm Dixie Dam of Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar
Tapestry G1 winner
Together Forever: G1 winner
Turbulent Descent G1 winner
Untouched Talent dam of G1 winner Bodemeister
Vale Dori G1 winner
Yellow Heat Dam of G1 winner R Heat Lightning
Zipessa G1 winner