G1 Blue Grass Stakes [pp]:
First, let me say I think it is appalling that Love Dubai is back one week after finished dead last in the Illinois Derby to run here. The owners and/or trainer should be taken out behind the proverbial woodshed and have the tar beaten out of them. Ditto for the connections of Time Squared who broke his maiden 8 days ago. That said, I think this is either Street Sense and/or Great Hunter’s race to lose. Great Hunter has the far outside post position (7), and that might be an issue as there is no real early speed in this race. Street Sense got the perfect post (4) between Love Dubai and Time Squared who hopefully won’t impede him (Time Squared “hopped” coming out of the gate last time, and Love Dubai might just be too exhausted to run at all). Street Sense has been working out at Churchill Downs—good prep for the Derby, but not necessarily in getting him ready for the polytrack at Keeneland. His April 4 workout was superior (5f :58.2B), but his April 10 one was not (5f 1:04B). Great Hunter has been working out well enough on the cushion track at Hollywood Park (6f 1:14.1H; 5f 1:00.2H), and he won the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland before his third place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He should hang tight with Teuflesberg out of the gate in order to get good position. I would be thrilled to see Teuflesberg come back here with a strong showing, but am not convinced he can get the 1-1/8 mile distance. Dominican is a nice looking animal, and has a very impressive 5f recent workout at Keeneland (:59.4B). However, his Rushaway competition was weak (to say the least), and he hasn’t been running this year against the quality of competition that Zanjero has. I will secretly be rooting for Zanjero to breakout here. Except for his very first race, he has never been out of the money, and taken on many of the “big” boys—including Nobiz Like Shobiz, and Circular Quay. If Street Sense and Great Hunter get into a speed duel coming down the stretch, Zanjero may be able to take advantage with a well-ridden rail trip from Garrett Gomez.
G2 Arkansas Derby [pp]:
Curlin is the obvious choice here, considering his prior success at Oaklawn, and I can’t find fault with that logic. That said, I would not be surprised to see him get beaten here…just a feeling I have. Deadly Dealer has been installed at the second favorite, but I’m not as thrilled with him, mostly because he’s never gone around two turns (ok, also because I enjoy whenever Todd Pletcher is thwarted). I love Helen Pitts, but once again, For You Reppo has gotten a poor post draw (9). Yet, despite that, she’s able to get him up among the leaders, even if not in the money. His fourth place finish in the Lane’s End was impressive considering he started from the 11-post position and was five wide at the quarter pole. It was also his second time on polytrack at Turfway—and both times, he finished out the money. However, on the dirt track at Gulfstream, he has won or placed in three tries. Maybe he’ll like the Oaklawn surface; he did have a sharp workout there on April 9 (5f 1:00.4B). I think he will be a factor here, as will Officer Rocket who couldn’t run down Curlin in the Rebel, but has had some blistering workouts since then at Oaklawn, including an impressive 5f :59.4B on a SLOPPY track. I also like his breeding, particularly his dam, multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Ocean View (out of Gone West). And what’s with this “mystery” horse, the never-raced Olympic Chief? Why would you pay $15,000 to enter him against this seasoned competition, unless you are just plain crazy?