Big Stakes Race Weekend – California Chrome Back In Action

This coming Saturday (February 7th) will be a huge day for the sport of horse racing. There are four big races to go along with the fact that 2nd Pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers will be active starting February 6th at 11AM CST through February 8th 5PM CST.

Here are the key races with the rematch of California Chrome vs Shared Belief in the San Antonio Stakes being the biggest of the weekend and televised on Fox Sports 1:

Derby Trail Races for 3-Year-Olds:

1) The Withers Stakes at Aqueduct (Race #8)- 1 1/16th mile graded stakes race. Post time: 3:13 PM CST.

Last year’s race winner Samraat and second-place finisher Uncle Sigh both competed in the Kentucky Derby. This year’s race will feature El Kabeir who should be the race favorite. Also entered in this seven horse field are Classy Class, Far From Over, March, General Bellamy, Unrivaled and Tencendur.

At first glance, this looks like it should be an easy win for El Kabeir. However, I am expecting a competitive race and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset as five out of the seven horses in this field won in their last start. The only two horses that didn’t win in their last start were General Bellamy and Classy Class.

Far From Over is a Todd Pletcher-trained horse that won in his first and only start at Aqueduct on December 12th. Classy Class is another good horse trained by Kiaran McLaughlin that Mike Battaglia thought enough of to list in Pool #1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers. March is coming off a win at Aqueduct on January 11th.

My prediction: 1) El Kabeir, 2) Far From Over, 3) Classy Class and 4) March. However, small wagers on this one as the payout won’t be huge and the predictability is very low.

2) The Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park (Race #5) –a 1 1/16th mile graded stakes race. Post time: 4:36 PM CST.

Last year this race was won by Candy Boy with Chitu finishing 2nd–both competed in the Kentucky Derby. This year’s race will feature Dortmund and Firing Line, a rematch of the exciting Los Alamitos Futurity where Firing Line lost to Dortmund by a nose. This is a six-horse field that is top-heavy on talent with Dortmund and Firing Line. Santa Anita Park isn’t as speed-favoring as the Los Alamitos circuit so I expect Dortmund (a big horse that prefers distance) to beat Firing Line a little more comfortably this time around.

Rock Shandy has a second and third place finish in his last two starts in graded stakes races and it a good bet to complete your trifecta.

My Prediction: 1) Dortmund, 2) Firing Line, 3) Rock Shandy

Big Purse races for 4-Year-Olds & Up:

1) The Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park (Race #13) – 1 1/8th mile graded stakes race with a $500,000 purse. Post time: 4:58 PM CST.

A total of three horses that have won “The Donn” went on to be named American Horse of the Year or American Champion Older Male Horse: Saint Liam, Skip Away and Cigar. Lea, the 2014 winner, is expected to defend his title against a field that includes Tom Pletcher-trained horses Constitution (2014 Florida Derby winner), Commissioner (2nd in the 2014 Belmont Stakes) and Protonico. Other entries: Prayer for ReliefCatholic Cowboy, Elnaawi, Blue Tone, East Hall and Sloane Avenue.

My Prediction: Bettor beware, there are a number of good horses with great jockeys on them that could spring the upset. This should be one of the more competitive races this weekend. It is hard to bet against Lea for the repeat. He has won three straight races at Gulfstream. I am leaning towards boxed superfectas that include Lea and Commissioner.

2) The San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita Park (Race #8) — 1 1/8th mile graded stakes race with a $500,000 purse. Post time: 6:00 PM CST.

California Chrome (2014 Horse of the Year) and Shared Belief (2013 2-year old Male) highlight this field in a rematch of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This race is expected to be California Chrome’s tune-up race for the Dubai World Cup. Hoppertunity, who won San Pasqual Stakes in impressive fashion on January 10th, will be Bayern’s replacement from Baffert’s stable. Alfa Bird won an allowance race on January 2nd at Santa Anita at the same 1 & 1/8 mile distance with a decent time of 1:48.31.

My prediction: 1) California Chrome, 2) Shared Belief, 3) Hoppertunity, 4) Alfa Bird. I would probably key California Chrome to win in a superfecta wheel with 4 horses.


The Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Pool #2

Overall, I recommend waiting until after the Robert B. Lewis and Withers Stakes to see how Dortmund, Firing Line and El Kabeir perform before placing any future wagers.

Listed below are the morning line odds. Horses that are bold font are ones that I recommend considering placing bets on. However, this is dependent on where their live odds go. I like a few of the 30-1 and higher odds horses provided that their odds don’t shorten dramatically.  Last year in Pool #2, California Chrome started off at 50-1 odds and finished with 30-1 final odds. A $20 bet on California Chrome in last year’s Pool #2 would have paid out $634.

Ocean Knight at 50-1 odds is the closest fit in this year’s Pool #2 to California Chrome in last year’s pool. Expect his odds to shorten over the weekend.

# horse (trainer)/morning line odds

1. American Pharoah (Baffert) 10-1

2. Carpe Diem (Pletcher) 15-1

3. Competitive Edge (Pletcher) 30-1

4. Daredevil (Pletcher)  30-1

5. Dortmund (Baffert) 12-1

6. El Kabeir (Terranova) 20 -1

7. Far Right* (Moquette) 50-1

8. Firing Line* (Callaghan) 30-1

9. Frosted (McLaughlin) 30-1

10. Gorgeous Bird* (Wilkes) 50-1

11. Imperia (McLaughlin) 30-1

12. International Star* (Maker) 50-1

13. Itsaknockout* (Pletcher) 50-1

14. J S Bach* (Pletcher) 30-1

15. Khozan* (Pletcher) 20-1

16. Lord Nelson (Baffert) 30-1

17. Mr. Z (Lukas) 50-1

18. Ocean Knight* (McLaughlin) 50-1

19. Ocho Ocho Ocho (Cassidy) 20-1

20. Prospect Park* (Sise) 50-1

21. Texas Red (Desormeaux) 15-1

22. The Great War (Ward) 30-1

23. Upstart (Violette) 12-1

24. All other 3-year-olds even

Odds by Mike Battaglia. * denotes new wagering interest in Pool 2.

Out after Pool 1: Blofeld, Calculator, Classy Class, I Spent It, Lucky Player, Ostrolenka, Punctuate, Unblunted.

–Michael

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