Recap of the Big Derby-prep Stakes Action

“and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start [off the layoff] was his best.”

by Justin Dew

As a fan of Good Magic, I was happy to see him win and win nicely. He was wide around both turns and outran two horses (Flameaway and Sporting Chance) who I feel had better trips. And while it didn’t appear that Good Magic was getting stronger as the race went on, keep in mind that this was just his second start off a layoff, and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start was his best. From a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, the 95 he earned in the Blue Grass was six points better than he earned in the corresponding race from his juvenile campaign, the Champagne. Additionally, if you compare his career debut and his 2018 debut, he ran seven points better as a three-year-old. So, he ran 82-89-100 to start his career, and 89-95 this year. Might another 11-point Beyer jump be in the cards for his third start of the form cycle? It’s something to think about.

Nyquist KY Derby 2016I also happen to think Jose Ortiz may have moved a few seconds too soon, and perhaps could have given Good Magic a chance to finish a little stronger with better timing. It’s not going to surprise me at all if we ultimately see Good Magic make a nice life for himself at a mile, but for now, we can still give him the benefit of the doubt based on what he’s done in his five-race career.

Flameaway is just a hard-knocking fighter and he’ll get nothing but respect from me. I don’t think 10 furlongs is in his wheelhouse, but if More Than Ready can run 4th in the Kentucky Derby, so can this guy. As for Free Drop Billy, let’s see how he trains at Churchill Downs. I suppose one can make a case that he could clunk up in the Derby.

It looks like Justify is headed for something around 3-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Maybe even lower. I don’t really have anything meaningful to add about the Santa Anita Derby. Justify is good. If you want to take low odds on a son of Scat Daddy going 10 furlongs, be my guest. I may even join you to some degree.

Without going back and looking at the charts for every New York Derby prep to be run over the last decade, my general sense is that winter/spring racing in New York attracts the horses that aren’t good enough to compete elsewhere. Enticed lost at Gulfstream, then won at Aqueduct and was favored in the Wood. Vino Rosso lost twice in Florida, and then came to New York and won. And a maiden winner from California, Restoring Hope, came to the Wood and ran 3rd. So, I’m just not impressed by anything out of the Wood. I highly doubt I’ll use any of them in the Kentucky Derby.

With the Arkansas Derby still to be run, I’m feeling like the list of horses who can be labeled as prime Kentucky Derby win candidates is taking a more firm shape. Same for the longshots to watch:

Prime Win Candidates: Justify, Bolt d’Oro, Audible, Good Magic

Top Longshots: Hofburg, Runaway Ghost

Logical horses that I don’t particularly like: Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, Enticed, Vino Rosso

The Weekend Wagers According to Dew

by Justin Dew

At some point, the idea of needing to race as a juvenile in order to win the Kentucky Derby will be a thing of the past. It’s really the last remaining Derby jinx. Is it possible, even remotely, that Bob Baffert knew what he had all along in Justify and decided, a mere three years after winning the Triple Crown, that he wanted to be the one to accomplish the impossible yet again? Maybe that’s a reach. And maybe Justify is a monster among boys. Will he need to be to break the Curse of Apollo? He’s defeated a grad total of eight horses in his two-race career. If he wins the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday and heads to Louisville as the favorite, he will do so having faced just one more horse in his career (14) than Enticed defeated in just one race.

Since I’ve never been a fan of Instilled Regard, I think the race pretty much comes down to a match between Justify and Bolt d’Oro, just like everyone else. If you think Bolt d’Oro needed his last, then maybe you give him an edge here and play a straight exacta that will pay 2-1 rather than accept 6-5 or even money on Bolt d’Oro. It’s not going to surprise me in the slightest if both horses end up 4-5 on the tote board at some point in the wagering.

The Bet: Straight Exacta: Bolt d’Oro-Justify

 

I had forgotten that Good Magic finished ahead of Enticed in the Champagne last fall. That bolsters my opinion ever so slightly that Good Magic is the most likely Kentucky Derby winner at this point, as Enticed has returned to win two graded stakes at two turns. He’ll likely go favored in the Wood Memorial on Saturday against a field that can best be described as the JV of this crop. Bob Baffert sends Restoring Hope from out west. Todd Pletcher will look to give Vino Rosso another shot at Kentucky Derby points. I don’t think Firenze Fire wants to go this far. Most of the rest seem at least a notch below the main contenders. Two horses intrigue me: Old Time Revival and Evaluator. I thought Old Time Revival ran a big race in both the Gotham and the Miracle Wood, and if he gets loose on the lead in here, don’t be surprised if he hangs around for a long, long time. And Evaluator has acquitted himself nicely in his two dirt starts. Both were around one turn, so I’ll be interested to see if he can close strongly with the added distance and class hike. He probably can’t, but at the price and against this bunch, I’ll take a chance that he can.

The Bet: Exacta Box: Enticed, Evaluator, Old Time Revival

Just because I’m a huge fan of Good Magic doesn’t mean I think he will win or has to win the Blue Grass Stakes. One thing for sure is that he’ll be overbet. Maybe he’s good enough to overcome the bad post, but I still have this nagging feeling that Chad Brown is setting this horse up to peak on Derby Day. So I could easily see Good Magic running an honest 3rd and heading to Louisville under the radar, so to speak. Quip and Kanthaka are near and dear to my heart, as I won big money on each of them this year at 18-1 and 11-1 respectively in their big stakes wins. But I think both wins were products of race shape and I don’t particularly like either of them in here. I prefer Free Drop Billy over Flameaway and Tiz Mischief among the remaining contenders with a win over the Keeneland surface, but the horse that I really expect to run big is Sporting Chance. I don’t think the ride he got last out at Oaklawn was all that strong, and I think D. Wayne Lukas will have him cranked to run big.

The Bet: Exacta Key: Sporting Chance over Free Drop Billy and Good Magic

 

handicappers Dew Justin Rich Nilsen

Justin Dew (Left)

Justin Dew is a regular contributor to the educational horse racing site, Agameofskill.com.  He was one of the original bloggers for the official KentuckyDerby.com website.