2018 Holy Bull and Wither Stakes Previews


February 2nd 2018 – Updated February 3rd 4AM 

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues tomorrow with three point paying races scheduled: The Withers Stakes, the Robert B. Lewis and the Holy Bull Stakes. I will only preview two of the races as I have been a bit under the weather and feel that the Withers Stakes and Holy Bull have the more talented fields.

After the Pegasus World Cup, I spent time researching and compiling a Top 25 2018 Kentucky Derby contender list. I did this in anticipation of a Pool #2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers opening up next Friday February 9th. Five of the horses on my list are entered in races tomorrow. These colts are: Firenze Fire, Marconi and Avery Island in the Withers and Enticed, Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief in the Holy Bull.

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes usually has at least one high profile Derby contender but none of the 9 horses in that field were in my Top 25 list.

The Withers Stakes

The Withers – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: Saturday February 3rd at 3:35 PM CST. Televised by FS2 (Fox Sports 2) 

1. Firenze Fire (122) – McCarthy/Servis – 9/5
2. Marconi (116) – Lopez/Pletcher – 3/1
3. Bal Harbour (118) – Carmouche/Pletcher – 6/1
4. Avery Island (122) – Bravo/McLaughlin – 8/5
5. Coltandmississippi (118) – Alvarado/Pletcher – 12/1
6. California Night (116) – Hernandez/Maker – 15/1

Race Commentary:  Although this field is small with six horses, it has three talented colts in Firenze Fire, Marconi and Avery Island. The 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile distance) will provide a good measuring stick as the final Derby preps before the Kentucky Derby are all run at the 9 furlong distance.

As far as who I think will win? This one is too tough to handicap. I’d probably lean towards Avery Island or Marconi since they both have raced at Aqueduct at the same 9 furlong distance back in December. But Firenze Fire ran very well in his last start at Aqueduct in the Jerome Stakes at 8 furlongs. So if you are planning on betting, how about a Boxed Trifecta using these three horses?

The Holy Bull Stakes

The Holy Bull Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #12 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: Saturday February 3rd at 4:49 PM CST. Televised by FS2 (Fox Sports 2) and TVG

1. Enticed (122) – Rosario/McLaughlin – 3/1
2. Free Drop Billy (122) – Saez/Romans – 6/1
3. Master Manipulator (116) – Ortiz/Guillot – 20/1
4. Audible (116) – Castellano/Pletcher – 6/1
5. Bandito (116) – Zavas/Romans – 20/1
6. Hollywood Star (116) – Ortiz Jr/Romans – 12/1
7. Tiz Mischief (116) – Albarado/Romans – 4/1
8. Pony Up (116) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 8/1
9. Tip Sheet (116) – Jaramillo/Gold – 30/1
10. Aequor (116) – Lezcano/Delgado – 15/1
11.Mississippi (116) – Leparoux/Casse – 5/1

Race Commentary:  Overall, I think this race comes down to Enticed and Tiz Mischief. The two horses battled for the win in the Kentucky Jockey Club stakes at Churchill Downs back in November (see below)

The Godolphin owned colt, Enticed, would rank in my Top Five 2018 Kentucky Derby contenders. He has a great pedigree (Sire: Medaglia d’Oro out of a Mineshaft mare It’s Tricky). His mother, It’s Tricky, was a great runner herself, winning the 2011 Acorn Stakes, the 2011 Coaching Club American Oaks, the 2012 Ogden Phipps Handicap.

However, I am anxious to see how Todd Pletcher’s entries Audible and Pony Up fare. In a field of 11 with such inexperience, anything can happen. So expect the unexpected. Perhaps the best bet would be a 1-7 Boxed Exacta (Enticed-Tiz Mischief). A sleeper in this field could be the Mark Casse-trained colt Mississippi. However, he will have to overcome an unfortunate far outside post-position. This race will answer a lot of questions and hopefully produce an early Florida Derby frontrunner.

On the Docket…

My next blog will focus in on the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers scheduled for next weekend, opening up Friday February 9th and closing on Sunday evening February 11th.


The Road to the Kentucky Derby — The 2018 Jerome Stakes


January 11th 2018

The month of January begins the unveiling of how well last year’s promising 2 year-old colts have developed over the layoff. Some improve by leaps and bounds, other regress. The Sham Stakes last Saturday (shown below) told us that the Bob Baffert-trained colt McKinzie is a serious Kentucky Derby contender. He’s a perfect 3 for 3 thus far. However, unlike many of the other Kentucky Derby hopefuls, McKinzie had remained in training since he debut in late October of last year.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby trail continues this Saturday with another qualifying point paying race at Aqueduct with the Jerome Stakes. 17 Derby points are up for grabs. The Jerome Stakes has been run since 1866 and has some notable race winners in Kelso, Bold RulerTom Fool and Afleet. The John Servis-trained colt Firenze Fire is the 3/5 race favorite. The race record is 1:33:20 held by Noble Nashua (1981).

Below are the post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and morning line odds.

The Jerome Stakes

The Jerome Stakes – 1 Mile – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: Saturday January 13th at 2:50 PM CST. Televised by TVG

1. Coltandmississippi (118) – McCarthy/Pletcher – 6/1
2. Seven Trumpets (118) – Lopez/Romans – 3/1
3. Regalian (116) – Reyes/Englehart – 20/1
4. Factor This (116) – Davis/Barker – 30/1
5. Smooth B (118) – RoccoJr/Reid Jr – 10/1
6. Old Time Revival (116) – Alvarado/Decker – 10/1
7. Firenze Fire (122) – Franco/Servis – 3/5
8. Glenwood (118) – Carmouche/Wilkinson – 50/1

Race Commentary:  Overall, I like two colts in this field: Seven Trumpets and Firenze Fire. And I think the race will come down to these two. Firenze Fire won the Champagne Stakes and finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Seven Trumpets has won his last two starts. However, keep an eye on Coltandmississippi. He is a paternal half brother to American Pharoah and he’s trained by Todd Pletcher. Coltandmississsippi and has been inconsistent in four career starts (two wins, a 5th and 10th place finish) thus far. But you have to love the pedigree/trainer combo.

Overall, you never know what to expect with these January Derby trail races with colts coming off layoffs. So this isn’t a good betting race but one a great one to watch anyway. Perhaps a new star will emerge.

On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park scheduled for Monday January 15th–Martin Luther King Day. After that, my next blog will be one on the 2018 Pegasus World Cup contenders. I will have Smarty Jones Stakes preview out by Sunday night at the latest.