Here we are. The biggest day of the year in the sport, the 1st Saturday of May. After the thrilling performances we witness on Friday, including the narrow victory of Blind Luck over Evening Jewel in the Kentucky Oaks, we come upon the big show. Unfortunately, mother nature is scheduled to be a bit of a party pooper on the big day, with massive and downright scary thunderstorms scheduled to hit at some point during the card. The weather will clearly have an effect on the track, so the selections here are made in mind for an off track and less than firm turf course in mind.
(If there are key scratches that occur, i will put any change of picks into the comments below.)
Race 6: Eight Belles S. - 7 and 1/2 furlongs
This sprint for three year old fillies has the shortest favorite among all the stakes in Hot Dixie Chick. This very fast filly will be winging from the gate and does look tough to beat. But this blog will try. Visavis cuts back after finding the 1m & 1/16 too far in the Kentucky Oaks. She has had three strong works in the interim, is bred to handle the slop and can rate just off the pace. The unique distance looks to be a good fit for this daughter of Indian Charlie. Hot Dixie Chick stretches out to furthest she has ever ran, but has immense talent and has run well on an off track before. Bell's Shoes, beside the obvious hunch play, also cuts back, attracts Calvin Bo-rail and looks like a horse who might be alright a this trip. She has never been on an off track, but could take to it.
#2 Hot Dixie Chick.
#3 Bell's Shoes
Race 7: Distaff Turf Mile S. - 1 mile (Turf)
This tough race is an example for this blog in which can you take a shot based on track condition. Churchill Downs's turf course is known to play in favor of those inclined to run near the front. This is why this blog is taking a chance on Cure for Sale. This mare may not be the fastest horse in the race, but her combination of positional speed and positive results give her a great chance to pull the upset. Tizaqueena won this race last year under similar circumstances and is riding a two race win streak. She is a much use on your tickets. While Diamondrella is a deep closer, she is no longer owned by IEAH. This development, plus her good efforts on off turf, intrigues this blog enough to put her in the top 3.
#8 Cure for Sale
Race 8: Grade 1 Humana Distaff - 7 furlongs
The champion mare Informed Decision is the solid favorite in this race. But this blog will try to beat her, with the reasoning that she seems to pair up how she runs off the layoff, good or bad. Warbling is the choice to beat her. She can sit just off a fast pace, and she can handle the slop. She has had 3 good works in the interim and look ready to go. Mona Di Momma ships in from Socal after winning the Grade 3 Las Flores last out. She has worked well off her last race, but this is her first dirt, slop and run at the distance. Too many questions to put on top, but the form is good enough to suggest a chance.
#3 Informed Decision
#10 Mona Di Momma
Race 9: Grade 2 Churchill Downs S. - 7 Furlongs
This blog is going for a price in this race. A big one. Atta Boy Roy ships in, stretches out and is coming in guns blazing with the workouts. He should handle the off surface and at 20/1 under Calvin Borel, he's worth a flyer. Ventana is good horse who has run into two horses who just freaked in Kinsale King, who came back and won the Golden Shaheen, and Bob Black Jack, who just ran them off their feet that day. If nothing else, this horse will have the jump on the third choice turning for home, Warrior's Reward is a stone cold closer who has won on this track in the expecting conditions. He has three steady works since he narrow victory over Musket Man in the Carter, hinting that he is holding his form.
#9 Atta Boy Roy
#7 Warrior's Reward
Race 10: Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic - 1m & 1/8 (turf)
This race is very tough because of the three horses who have showed some speed, which is crucial on the CD turf course when it wet, one does not like less the firm turf (Wise River), one has not been on the grass in a very long time (General Quarters) and one seems to have lost the "winstinct". Battle of Hastings is the one that seems to have the lost the will to win, but he is given one more chance. He has been working well and the mile an eighth could just what he needs to find the wire. General Quarters has run well on Polytrack, and given his position in the race turning for home, is worth a shot @ 8/1 ML. Court Vision is one of the few who has closed on a wet turf course, but i just don't think he get nothing more than a minor award
#6 Battle of Hastings
#2 General Quarters
#3 Court Vision
Race 11: Grade 1 Kentucky Derby - 1m & 1/4
This year's Derby Trail has been like high school for this blog's author. In September, I thought I had found the one for the Derby in a horse named William's Kitten. He won an off the turf two turn stake on the Super Derby undercard, and by the time he hit the wire, it was love. We "dated" for a while, including when he came to visit for the Breeder' Cup Juvenile, in which he had a troubled trip. He then ran second to Super Saver in the Kentucky Jockey Club S., showing at least a likeness for the track. William's comeback race in the Holy Bull was good, in which he ran third while being much closer to the pace, showing some promise for bit of positional speed.
Then the news came that he was off the trail with an injury. It was deflating. It was like a break-up after your first serious relationship in high school. In the aftermath, you just shuffle the halls moping along, trying to fill a need, a hole in the soul left by the one who's gone. Then the dating process comes along where the search for a new love goes in weird places, with a wide net cast in the hope of latching on to someone. My list of "one-offs" included Backtalk, Rule, Super Saver, Interactif and Drosselmeyer. But none were a good fit.
The search was beginning to look fruitless, with the conclusion that maybe its okay to be that creepy loner dude who can't find love. Then, when it is least expected, "the one" appears out of nowhere. It comes from a place where you have recognized it, but only at a passing glance. Then, when you come face-to-face with it, it is obvious that the search is over. Endorsement was "the one". Coming from a race where I was tracking the 2nd and 3rd place finishers, in which he was the winner, his entry in the Sunland Derby was a sign to to pay attention. I knew the week before (scroll down to the comments and you'll see it) that he was live. Once he easily won the race, it was a lock that he would be my Derby pick. He then trained great going into the race, including having the best work of the contenders, according to DRF's Mike Welsch. Unfortunately in that work, he injured himself and had to have surgery.
Why did I bring all of that up? It is to show that right now, i feel like a person scrambling for a date right before prom, with only slim pickings to choose from, none of which are very attractive or interesting. I ended up on Awesome Act, who is bred not only for the off but the distance. he is inbred to Natalma, the dam of Northern Dancer, and could get a nice trip sitting 6-8 lengths off the pace. Paddy O'Prado had a great workout in the slop and could be sitting the "Smarty Jones" trip, 4th, sitting behind the pace. Super Saver is actually my 7th or 8th pick to win, but my number #1 choice for the place spot. Breeding, style and Borel all point to this being the winner. BUT his lack of passing ability relegates him to the place spot. Lookin at Lucky didn't get any breaks at the post position draw and i can't imagine a horse with his luck getting any sort of a good trip. There is one thing i am sure of: Sidney's Candy is not winning. No way, no how. No.
#16 Awesome Act
#10 Paddy O'Prado
#4 Super Saver
So there it is. If you wish to see my live thoughts about the runners (or today's Hollywood Park card) follow my twitter feed here. Good luck everybody!