TRACKING THE 3-YEAR-OLDS
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that if Old Fashioned is your Kentucky Derby pick, this is the time to get down in the Churchill Downs Future Book.
As of Friday morning, with $50,000 in the pool, Old Fashioned is the lowest-priced individual horse at 12-1. The favorite, quite naturally, is the 378-horse mutuel field at 4-5.
Since the pool closes on Sunday, one day before Old Fashioned gets to make his 3-year-old debut in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, run don't walk to your nearest wagering facility.
Don't take this to mean that Old Fashioned is my Derby pick. Yes, I have him on top in my current Derby Top Ten, but a lot can -- and will -- happen in the three months to Derby Day.
But I do know, after speaking to trainer Larry Jones, that Old Fashioned has shown a liking for the Oaklawn surface in his morning gallops (and work), and is sitting on a big race in the Southwest.
But here's a caveat. And I don't mean the 1984 Belmont winner. Some barn insiders prefer Friesan Fire to Old Fashioned, and, at the present time, Friesan Fire is listed as the 25-1 seventh choice.
Dr. Large, currently third on trainer Jones' 3-year-old depth chart, is one of those 378 horses in the odds-on field. As is Mr. Fantasy, who presently is third to Old Fashioned and Friesan Fire in my Derby Top Ten.
I have to believe my Derby Top Ten is significant inasmuch as last year the top three in my final Derby Top Ten were Big Brown, Eight Belles and Denis of Cork. And that is precisely how they finished, paying $141.60 in the exacta and $3,445.60 in the trifecta for those fortunate enough to be on my Kentucky Derby Package.
In addition to the Southwest, there are three Saturday stops on the Derby Trail this weekend -- the $225,000 Sam B. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, and the $125,000 Hallandale Beach at Gulfstream Park.
Let's take a look...
SAM DAVIS STAKES
There are three unbeaten colts in the field of 11 going a mile and a 16th, and, as such, they are hard to separate.
Free Country (2-for-2) is getting the most ink because his trainer is Ken McPeek, a prominent player on the Triple Crown trail for years, and currently the top dog at Gulfstream Park.
McPeek has a long history of buying good horses on the cheap, but Free Country is the topper. McPeek got the grandson of A.P. Indy for $10,500 at Keeneland.
Free Country was a well-kept secret when he won first pop at Churchill Downs back in November at 16-1, and then converted a perfect rail trip into a neck score in a Gulfstream allowance - a $6.80 score for callers to the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612- 2283).
Free Country sheds four pounds off that win, and Kent Desormeaux will be up from south Florida to ride him.
Jose Lezcano likewise makes the trip from South Beach to ride Musket Man (3-for-3) for trainer Derek Ryan.
Musket Man, a $15,000 son of Yonaguska, has won over three different racetracks -- Philadelphia Park, Belmont Park, and Tampa, and last week worked a bullet 1:00 4/5 five furlongs over the Tampa strip.
Then there is Top Seed, a $65,000 Grand Slam colt who likewise is 3-3 over three different tracks -- Colonial Downs, Laurel Park and Tampa
Top Seed will fly the maroon and gray silks of Harry and Tom Meyerhoff, who campaigned a pretty nice 3-year-old exactly 30 years ago.
That was Spectacular Bid!
Local hotshot R. D. Allen Jr. has been named by trainer Michael Trombetta to ride Top Seed, replacing Eibar Coa, who will be at Santa Anita on Saturday to ride the favorite, Leah's Secret, in the $300,000 Santa Maria Handicap.
That said, the likely Sam Davis favorite will be Atomic Rain, a two-back second to Old Fashioned in the Remsen at Aqueduct. Johnny Velazquez may be giving up two or three Gulfstream winners to ride this Smart Strike colt for trainer Kelly Breen, who also has West Side Bernie on the Derby trail.
That brings us to Cliffy's Future, who has only a Monmouth Park maiden victory to show for seven starts.
This son of The Cliff's Edge (whom historians will recall was the morning-line favorite over Smarty Jones in the 2004 Kentucky Derby), posted a Sam Davis best Beyer of 94 in running second for Bruce Levine last month in a two-turn Aqueduct allowance.
Within minutes, owner Maggi Moss's phone was ringing off the hook with offers to buy the colt, and Maggi accepted the best one, from the folks at Silverton Hill Farm.
"The money was right," Maggi explained by phone from her Des Moines home.
Obviously, the Davis will be Cliffy's first start for trainer Darrin Miller, and Eclipse apprentice Paco Lopez gets the mount.
Cliffy is listed at 10-1 in the morning line.
EL CAMINO REAL DERBY
Chocolate Candy and Axel Foley, the one-two finishers in the California Derby, hook up again for respective trainers Jerry Hollendorfer and Doug O''Neill in this nine-furlong fixture.
"Chocolate Candy is doing everything easy, he's ready to go," says Hollendorfer who last year won the Santa Anita Handicap with Heatseeker, and last week should have won the Strub with Blue Text.
Blue Text, touted strongly on these pages, was making a winning move under Mike Smith at 19-1, but got stopped by a horse ridden by Chantal Sutherland -- who just happens to be Mike's roommate -- and got beat by a diminishing neck.
Mike reportedly slept on the couch that night.
As for Axel Foley, trainer O'Neill says the colt "has handled everything we've thrown at him. He's a confident, smart, conserving-your-energy kind of colt."
The Camino Real field is completed by Merus Miami; Rendezvous (no relation to the Memphis ribs place); Aquicksting and Raising Memo.
But if any of these four win, it will be a bigger shock than the Pro Bowl getting better TV ratings than Kobe-Lebron.|
HALLANDALE BEACH STAKES
Six of the first seven finishers in the Dania Beach Stakes a month back over the Gulfstream grass course, are entered back for this mile and a 16th turf test,
but Jack Spratt, the winner of that race, was entered "main track only."
This means Jack will scratch before the weather conditions will be ideal this weekend in south Florida.
So what am I doing in central Jersey?
Cot Campbell's Lime Rickey, a troubled second to Jack Spratt in the Dania Beach, will be favored under Julian Leparoux in a wide-open betting race.
The competition includes Into My Soul, Tamborim and Beacon Hill Road.
The Gulfstream program also includes the 4-year-old debut of old friend Tale of Ekati in the $150,000 Richter Scale for four and up at seven furlongs, and the 3-year-old debut of Imperial Council in a six and a half-furlong allowance race.
Edgar Prado has return calls on both for respective trainers Barclay Tagg and Shug McGaughey.
Z Day, who will be the second choice to Imperial Council, is first-time Dick Dutrow.
Finally, I found it interesting that the page one lead in Friday's editions of Daily Racing Form was a well-written piece on Larry Jones hanging up his tack at the end of the year.
But it needs to be noted that readers of this venue were informed of that fact last October.
And, speaking of The Form, kudos for making Knothead Will the consensus best bet Friday at Oaklawn. The 4-year-old Arkansas-bred has raced only once for trainer Chris Richard, finishing a troubled third two months back at Hawthorne Park.
Chris Emigh has the return call on Knothead Will, who is named for the loosy-goosy 9-year-old grandson of breeder-owner Gerald Prince.
Enjoy the weekend. See you back here on Tuesday.
|"John is very knowledgeable about horseracing, an expert handicapper, and an all around good guy."|
JOHN SERVIS - trainer of 2007 Kentucky Derby & Preakness winner Smarty Jones.
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