- There’s a $500,000 guarantee on the Pick 3 that culminates in the Derby. The first leg looks like a single to me, so if I can narrow down my horses in the second leg, which is the Turf Classic, it’s a fairly cheap way to not only hedge against the Derby scenarios that you're not going to bet on but fear the most, but be in line for a nice payoff as well. For example, I won’t shudder upon the sight of Jazil passing horses in the stretch faster than gas prices passed $3 if I have a buck on him in that Pick 3. My regular readers know that I've been posting about this horse and his fabulous pedigree since his first win last December. I soured on him after the Fountain of Youth, when he was stone cold dead on the board and then on the track as well. His rally in the Wood remains a question mark, but I'll have at least a win saver on him in any case.
The other one giving me the chills is Sinister Minister. I was a little shaken by some quotes I read from Sharp Humor’s trainer Dale Romans on Friday.
"The key is that he is relaxed....If he is relaxed up close, he can win. If he gets too aggressive, we may be in trouble." [Bloodhorse]Huh? RELAX? What happened to "I'm going!?" I thought he'd said:
”Sharp Humor's never run from off the pace. I don't see the need to change his style in the biggest race of his life. He just has to be faster than everyone else and keep going." [Washington Post]He can't relax, he's GOT to go for the lead, we're all counting on that! Is he allowed to change that now? Well, there’s always Keyed Entry; I doubt that Valenzuela is going to let anyone get away uncontested even if he was planning to try and rate.
Anyway, about that Pick 3, the 8th is a Grade 1, the Humana Distaff at seven furlongs for fillies and mares, and Baffert has Behaving Badly (Pioneering), the 2-1 morning line favorite. She’s won four in a row by daylight, easily smashing the 100 Beyer mark each time. She simply looks like the fastest mare in the field hands down. The question about her, especially in the wake of Balance’s stunning flameout in the Oaks, is whether she can handle eastern tracks. Her one try was a disaster, but it was at Keeneland, which always carries the automatic excuse that did not excuse the Oaks favorite from defeat. So that is a question mark, but I think it’s well worth the shot to single her here.
I really like English Channel (Smart Strike) in the 9th, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, another Grade 1, this one at nine furlongs on the grass. He came on steadily as last year went on for Pletcher and then lost that tight decision to Shakespeare before failing in the Breeders Cup and going to the sidelines. In true Pletcher style, he returned to the races with a stakes win in March. The second and third finishers in that race, Silver Tree and Miesque's Approval, both went on to win stakes races, a Grade 2 in the case of the latter. English Channel was fully extended to win, so Pletcher has given him nearly two months off to recuperate. He moves outside to the nine post, but there’s no speed inside of him, and he should have no problem clearing the field well before the end of the long run to the first turn.
In fact, that could be a problem. He seems to run better with a target to run at, and I don’t think he’ll have one here. So this race is not a single, but I’m trying to limit it to three. I gotta use Gorella (Grape Tree Road), the tough four-year old filly taking on the boys. Her winning return to the races at Keeneland last month was very similar to her race there last fall that preceded her monster effort in the Breeders Cup Mile. And I’ll use Cacique (Danehill), ridiculously wide when rallying to miss by a neck in the Grade 1 Kilroe at Santa Anita.
I’d like to not use Milk It Mick, who actually won the Kilroe with a better trip, but disappointed as the 6-5 favorite in his last. I’m wavering on him, but I won’t use Silver Tree. Nice horse, but I think he’s a shade below the top three. He faced nothing like these horses in the turf stakes he won at Tampa last month.
And then the Derby. I’ll breathe a big sigh of relief if I get there alive and have the Jazil and Sinister Minister scenarios accounted for, as well as a shot for what should be a decent price with Bob and John and a couple of others. Whichever ones I’m fancying at the time.
- Feel free to email me with comments, questions, links, or whatever.