Your Guide to the 2017 Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 8th 2017

Below is a cheat sheet for the three big Kentucky Derby prep races today. All three races will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network. Live coverage begins at 4:30 PM CST and will end at 6:30 PM CST at the conclusion of the Santa Anita Derby.

For a more in-depth look at each race, I have hyperlinked race previews of each race. Just click on the name of the race.

The Wood Memorial   1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 4:52 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network & TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1.  Glennrichment – Carmouche/Rodriguez – 15/1
2. Mo Town – Castellano/Dutrow – 6/1  
3. Battalion Runner – Velazquez/Pletcher – 2/1 
4. Bonus Points – Saez/Pletcher- 20/1
5. True Timber – Lopez/McLaughlin – 12/1
6. Stretch’s Stone – Franco/Levine – 15/1
7. Cloud Computing – Ortiz Jr/Brown – 5/2
8. Irish War Cry – Maragh/Motion – 7/2 

My Pick: Battalion Runner. For reasons of inconsistency of form from Irish War Cry and Mo Town, I don’t like exotic bets for this race. I am not sold on the second favorite Cloud Computing. And Todd Pletcher’s other entry, Bonus Points, hasn’t had shown enough in workouts or previous races to make me think he will be a factor. So I like straight win bets on Battalion Runner. I expect his live odds to shorten from 2/1 and be closer to 1/1.  Unless Irish War Cry has a return to form, I think Battalion Runner runs away with this one. This may be a better race to just watch than lay any money on.


The Blue Grass Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Keeneland– Post-Time: 5:17PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network and TVG

Post/Horse//Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. It’s Your Nickel – Graham/McPeek – 20/1
2. McCraken – Hernandez Jr/Wilkes – 7/5 
3. J Boys Echo  – Albarado/Romans – 4/1
4. Tapwrit  –  Ortiz/Pletcher – 5/2  
5. Wild Shot – Lanerie/Arnold III – 12/1
6. Irap – Leparoux/O’Neill – 20/1
7. Practical Joke – Rosario/Brown – 7/2

My Pick: McCraken.  I like the undefeated McCraken. I think the handicapper Mike Battaglia has this one pegged right: 1) McCraken, 2) Tapwrit, 3) Pratical Joke, 4) J Boys Echo. However, I would probably box an Exacta bet of McCraken and Tapwrit knowing how hot Todd Pletcher has been on the Derby trail of late.


The Santa Anita Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 6:12 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network and TVG

Post/Horse//Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Term of Art  – Baze/O’Neill – 12/1 
2. Reach the World  – Smith/Baffert – 5/1  
3. Battle of Midway – Nakatani/Hollendorfer – 5/1 
4. Comma Sister – Ocampo/Papaprodromou – 50/1  
5. So Conflated – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 15/1
6. American Anthem – Garcia/Baffert – 5/1
7. Kimbear – Talamo/Kruljac – 12/1
8. Gormley – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 9/2 
9. Iliad – Prat/O’Neill – 7/2 
10. Milton Freewater – Pereira/O’Neill – 30/1

11. Irish Freedom – Bejarano/Baffert – 20/1
12. Midnight Pleasure – Theriot/Ruis – 30/1
13. Royal Mo  Stevens/Shirreffs – 10/1

My Pick: Reach the World. There are too many variables and uncertainties in this race for me to predict a finishing order. The pace and jockey’s race strategies will go a long way in deciding the outcome. I expect to see a few surprises and my intuition tells me that this race my come down to a battle between Iliad and Reach the WorldReach the World displayed a nice closing speed in his last start and his second place finish by a neck was mainly a byproduct of him getting tied up briefly in traffic. So I like a Boxed Exacta of Iliad and Reach the World to play it safe but I really like Reach the World as the surprise winner here.


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening. Then I will preview the Arkansas Derby which is scheduled for Saturday April 15th.

–Michael

 

2017 Blue Grass Stakes Preview

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 6th 2017

Coming up this Saturday is a huge weekend of racing with three very important Kentucky Derby prep races: the Blue Grass Stakes, the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby. All three races offer a $1 million dollar purse, 170 Kentucky Derby points and are run at the 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) distance.

I will preview all three races individually and will start with the Blue Grass Stakes since the morning line odds have been released. 

The Blue Grass Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Keeneland– Post-Time: 5:17PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network and TVG

Post/Horse//Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. It’s Your Nickel – Graham/McPeek – 20/1
2. McCraken – Hernandez Jr/Wilkes – 7/5 
3. J Boys Echo  – Albarado/Romans – 4/1
4. Tapwrit  –  Ortiz/Pletcher – 5/2  
5. Wild Shot – Lanerie/Arnold III – 12/1
6. Irap – Leparoux/O’Neill – 20/1
7. Practical Joke – Rosario/Brown – 7/2

Race Commentary: The Blue Grass Stakes doesn’t have the history of producing a lot of Kentucky Derby winners that a few of the other big Derby prep races have. The last Blue Grass Stakes runner to win the Kentucky Derby was Street Sense in 2007.  Then you would have to go all the way back to 1995 with Thunder Gulch. Oddly enough, neither Street Sense or Thunder Gulch won Blue Grass Stakes (Street Sense finished 2nd, Thunder Gulch finished 4th)

However, this year could be different as the 2017 Blue Grass Stakes field is small but very talent-packed. All the horses who I have bold-fonted above really have a legitimate chance of winning this race. However, I see this more as a showdown between McCraken and Tapwrit. The race favorite McCraken is undefeated in 4 career starts. His trainer, Ian Wilkes, has said that McCraken has gotten bigger and stronger since his last start in February. 

McCraken’s biggest threat is the Todd Pletcher-trained Tapwrit. However, remember that Tapwrit was defeated by McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (shown below) back in February. When reviewing this race, Tapwrit did display late speed and may have made this more of a race if he had an additional 1/2 furlong to work with. He will have that extra 1/2 furlong in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Other horses to keep an eye on are J Boys Echo and Practical Joke. Practical Joke won two Grade 1 races as a 2-year-old in the Hopeful Stakes and Champagne Stakes. He finished 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race behind Classic Empire and Not This Time. He had a decent performance coming back after a long layoff in the Fountain of Youth Stakes with a second place finish behind Gunnevera. It will be interesting to see if he has improved off of that performance.

J Boys Echo won in his last start in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. He received a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for this win despite the fact that his time of 1:46.34 for this 8 1/2 furlong race was very pedestrian. Even his final 2 1/2 fraction time, that I estimated at 32.4, wasn’t impressive.

My Prediction:  I think the handicapper Mike Battaglia has this one pegged right: 1) McCraken, 2) Tapwrit, 3) Pratical Joke, 4) J Boys Echo. However, I would probably box an Exacta bet of McCraken and Tapwrit knowing how hot Todd Pletcher has been on the Derby trail of late.


On the docket…

Previews of the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby.

–Michael