Wow, where do I start? We have a fantastic day of racing today with no less than seven Grade 1 races, including three (Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland) for 3 year olds only over 1 1/8 miles worth $1m each.
If I were being curmudgeonly I would ask that, given Nyquist and Mohaymen ran last week, is there enough quality 3 year olds to fill 3 races with exactly the same conditions, given they are all deemed Kentucky Derby trials? However, I am not so negatively inclined and feel these are important races in their own right with their own histories. A win in one of these races is a huge achievement and will ensure the winner has a lucrative career at stud.
8 horses face the starter for the feature race of the evening, the $1m Wood Memorial, worth 100 Kentucky Derby points to the winner. This is a race rich in potential but without a huge amount of proven stakes form. The Morning Line favorite (2/1) is Shagaf, who is 3 from 3 including two wins at the track. The last win was in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, which is the strongest form in this race. He has a rail draw, which he also had when winning the Gotham.
An interesting contender is the beautifully named Matt King Coal. This is a big step up in class for the horse as he is coming out of allowance company but he is improving and will have early speed having clocked up Beyers in the 90s in his last three races.
The other Grade 1 on the card is the Carter Handicap for 4 year olds over 7 furlongs and worth $400k. Salutos Amigos is the Morning Line favorite (2/1) of the 8 starters. This horse is a seven time course winner. He didn’t seem to enjoy his trip to Santa Anita but returned to form when back at Aqueduct with a win in the Tom Fool Handicap. Everything looks set for a good run but his best form is over 6 furlongs so I would not go too short on him. The dangers look to be Majestic Affair, who is improving with age and Calculator, who seems to be coming into his best form.
Other excellent races on the card include the Gazelle Stakes for fillies over 1 1/8 miles, the Bay Shore over 7 furlongs and the Excelsior for older furlongs over a mile and a quarter.
There has been a lot of rain at the track and more is due so the condition of the track is an unknown quantity at present. Will it be sloppy, muddy, wet fast or sealed? This makes the search for the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby a tough call. The fancied runners are:
- Danzing Candy (ML 9/5), beat a number of the horses he faces today when winning the San Felipe here in March. Is 3 from three here and for jockey Mike Smith. Is rated as a good wet track performer.
- Mor Spirit (ML 8/5), was beaten by Danzing Candy in the San Felipe but his prep for the race wasn’t perfect. Is working exceptionally well and will appreciate the step up in trip.
- Exaggerator (ML 4/1), third behind Danzing Candy but will enjoy the extra distance and has a second to Nyquist in his resume.
The other Grade 1 race on the card is the Santa Anita Oaks for three year old fillies over a mile and an eighth. With Jade Princess scratched due to colic, we are down to 6 runners or, to put it another way, five opponents to the mighty Songbird. Not a whole bunch to say about this race other than it is well nigh impossible to see past Songbird, whose ML price of 1/9 does not flatter.
Keeneland stages a wonderful card today with three grade ones, topped by the Blue Grass Stakes for three year olds over a mile and an eighth worth $1m. We Have a maximum field for the race, which, like the Wood Memorial, is full of potential rather than proven performers.
The race looks very open with ML favoritism going to Zulu (5/2), who brings a very strong run in the Fountain of Youth to the table. He is trained by the mighty Todd Pletcher, who has a fine record in this race with wins in 2005, 2008 and 2015. Other contenders include My Man Sam and Donegal Moon if we are to believe the Beyer (99) achieved in his last run at Parx.
For the fillies we have the Ashland Stakes, a Kentucky Oaks trial over a mile and a sixteenth worth $500k. Just the five fillies face the starter in this cracking contest. Cathryn Sophia is the ML favorite at evens. She is unbeaten with wins in the Forward Gal and Davona Dale to her name. She was very impressive in the Davona Dale, beating Lewis Bay (fancied for a Grade 2 at Aqueduct today) by 7 lengths. The key opposition comes from Rachel’s Valentina and Carina Mia.
The final Grade 1 on the card is the Madison Stakes for fillies and mares over 7 furlongs. This is a race full of quality that would grace a Breeders’ Cup. Stopchargingmaria looks to have a great chance having won over course and distance when winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.