Seven weeks...that's all the time remaining before the G1 Kentucky Derby (and, of couse, one day less before the Oaks). Is any trainer sitting prettier than Todd Pletcher? Yes, most years he's looking good around this time, but there's something—nearly intangible to explain—that makes me believe it’s finally his year.
Of the three major Derby preps this week, the G2 San Felipe San Felipe interests me least (other than rooting for a victory by undefeated CA-bred Caracortado). A collection of subpar (i.e. slow) California-raced horses with little to no chance of being competitive on the first Saturday in May—and, let’s be honest, that’s what three-year-old racing is all about this time of year. The best of the West are in Arkansas for the G2 Rebel—Lookin at Lucky, Noble’s Promise, and Cardiff Giant—and only Cardiff Giant has tried real dirt before, finishing a promising third in the G3 Southwest. He was passed late in that race by Dublin who returns here, and I really like him—unfortunately, I’m unlikely to get a good price for him so I’ll probably sit out betting this race.
It’s the G3 Tampa Bay Derby that I anxiously await, for my faith in Odysseus will either be confirmed or crushed—I’m totally with this son of Malibu Moon out of a Conquistador Cielo mare. Love Rajiv Maragh and Tom Albertrani too, so rooting big time for him. I’m also curious about the return of Todd Pletcher-trained Super Saver. What a well-bred specimen—his dam is a full-sister to Wood Memorial runner-up Accelerator, Top Flight victress Daydreaming, Jerome Handicap winner Girolamo, and She’s a Winner, dam of Haskell winner (and Derby and Preakness runner-up) Bluegrass Cat. He has the advantage of early speed, but Schoolyard Dreams could challenge him in that regard, as could newly-blinkered Uptowncharlybrown at the rail.
Of the Kentucky Oaks preps, the Honeybee looks to be the most competitive. BC Juvenile fillies runner-up Beautician returns off a disappointing last place effort in the G1 Hollywood Starlet last December; with only three works in preparation for this, it seems a big ask to send her 8.5f first out. Five-time Honeybee winning-trainer D. Wayne Lukas sends out Decelerator, recent winner of the Martha Washington, but I prefer Bell’s Shoes who closed much the best in that race and should relish the stretch out. For a longer shot, Cindy Jones-trained No Such Word could be a major player. In her last out victory over a sloppy Oaklawn track, she cruised through her final fractions faster than the Martha Washington field did one day earlier on a perfectly dry track. Whether she’s just a mudlark or the real deal remains to be seen, but I like her chances breaking from the rail. Interesting too that Terry Thompson appears to have chosen to remain on her, and jumps off Decelerator (although that one gets hot Corey Nakatani who’s riding regularly for Lukas).
It’s make or break time for She Be Wild in the G3 Florida Oaks, and she’ll be tested by seven-time winner Diva Delite who’s twice won over this track and enjoys the services of Rosemarie Homeister Jr. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of early speed which could work out very well for Tesoro De Amor at the rail.
At Aqueduct, Bickersons makes a quick turnaround in the G3 Cicada, but the expected heavy rains could seriously dampen her chances, even going a mere 6f. Several of her G2 Forward Gal competitors reappear here, including Romantic Hideaway who posted a sharp recent 4f workout and third-place finisher Liam’s Dream who should be well-placed early by C.C. Lopez. Female Drama broke her maiden last year over a sloppy Belmont track (which appears advantageous), but then she failed so badly in the G3 Old Hat last out. However, as the sole early speed, she’s a contender if back in form. For a bit of a price, I’m thinking Donna Getyourgun is a worthy exotic play.
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