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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM

PREPPING FOR THE DERBY - 2014
Volume V...Number 5

Friday, February 7, 2014

SEVEN SET TO CONTEST ROBERT B. LEWIS...SEVENTY FIVE AVAILABLE FOR EARLY DERBY WAGERING

Is There A Good Wager Available On Saturday?

On Saturday just about everyone that has seen the value of getting involved as early as possible with 2014 Kentucky Derby analysis will be focused on the one and only Derby Prep race scheduled this weekend, the Grade II Robert B. Lewis from Santa Anita.

Seven three-year olds, about the usual annual size of the field for this race have past the entry box.

Development is the name of the game in the Lewis as only three of the entrants have ever competed in Stakes Company with Midnight Hawk being the last out winner of the Sham Stakes here on January 11. Candy Boy having finished a well-beaten second to 2-year old champion Shared Belief in the Grade I Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park on December 14 and Diamond Bachelor who was winner of the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar in September and second on the lawn in the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita.

Four stakes newcomers, Home Run Kitten, Cool Samurai, El Nino Terrible and Chitu will attempt to justify their inclusion in the club in the Grade II Mile and a sixteenth test.

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How these seven runners perform on Saturday and what it means regarding the Kentucky Derby will result in as differentiated a mixed bag as this race has filled in recent years. Over the course of the last 4 years only one 3-year old from the eight combined first and second place finishers has even made it to the gate in the Kentucky Derby. Of course that one colt was 2012 winner I’ll Have Another who returned $88.60 in the Lewis and went on to win the Derby at $32.60. As for the other seven...you can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten the likes of Empire Way (second behind I’ll Have Another in 2012 for that famous $798.00 Exacta), Flashback and Den’s Legacy in 2013, Anthony’s Cross and Riveting Reason in 2011 and Caracortado and Dave In Dixie in 2010.

On another note, staring today (Thursday) and running through 6:00 PM (E) on Saturday there is another 3-year old mixed bag that is wide open and that is Pool Two of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager in which you can place that early bet (and lock in early odds that could make you look like a genius if that future bet wins the Kentucky Derby at much higher odds than it pays on the first Saturday in May.

Between right now and the Saturday closing time you can place a wager on any individual one of 23 designated contenders varying from 8-1 on recent Holy Bull dominator Cairo Prince or 10-1 on the undefeated Grade I Cash Call Futurity winner Shared Belief to 50-1 on the likes of California Chrome, a daylight winner of the King Glorious Stakes and Cal Cup Derby in his last two, Candy Boy, who ran second to Shared Belief in the Cash Call and is scheduled to compete in the Lewis and Uncle Sigh, who ran a dogged second to Samraat in last weekend’s Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

On the other hand, Pool Number Two also gives you the option of "bundling" 52 "other three-year olds," any of which can get to the Kentucky Derby and prevail and make you a winner. Of course if you take the field you do so at 7-5.

10 MORE POINTS ON THE LINE IN GRADE II ROBERT B. LEWIS

With two definitive wins already under his belt from as many career starts Midnight Hawk will look to add the Grade II Robert B. Lewis and the 10 qualifying points it rewards towards the Kentucky Derby to his resume as he faces six opponents at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Midnight Hawk, a son of Midnight Lute who is trained by Bob Baffert overcame a sluggish start in his debut and easily drew clear by 6 ¼ lengths travelling 7 ½ furlongs at Hollywood Park. In his most recent he faced just three rivals in the Grade III Sham Stakes here 4 weeks ago and after drifting in a bit at the start moved on the pace setter early and drew clear off the turn and through the lane in the mile event. Now he makes the next step forward in class and distance in the 1 1/16th mile test and does so off three in hand drills since 1/21.

On paper Midnight Hawk appears to have the kind of versatility that should serve the intent(s) of jockey Mike Smith well. In each of his races, despite his greenness at the start he turned in very quick half miles half mile times with a :45 3/5 in his MSW win and a :46 1/5 in the Sham. However, he was not truly tested once he got position a half mile into each race, but might get that pressure on Saturday from the very fast Chitu who is also two-for-two with a MSW win in his debut at Hollywood and an entry level allowance win here on 12/27.

It would appear as though all Chitu needs is a clean break from his outside post in order to be the pace setter. He turned his half mile in the recent allow3ance win in :44 2/5 after a :45 3/5 in his debut. Chitu has also turned in a pair of half mile drills in :46 2/5 and :46 3/5 that ended a 5 drill series since his last win, a series that included a best of eleven 6 furlong work in 1:11 1/5 on January 14 and another 6 furlong work in 1:13 on January 22 prior to the pair of half mile bullets. All this makes for interesting speculation regarding this colt because the two winning races were each at 6 furlongs. Nonetheless the colt has the perfect breeding for the distance with mile speed on the male side from sire Henny Hughes and distance on the female side form the A.P. Indy mare Sea Gift. But what could be most interesting is that Chitu appears to be the only other bona fide speed along with Midnight Hawk...and of course as is that one, Chitu is trained by Bob Baffert.

El Nino Terrible, who broke his maiden vs MSW foes in his third career start and second in California after beginning his career in Peru also showed front end winning ways in the maiden breaker but the time was about 6-8 lengths slower than the aforementioned pair. The Peter Miller trained son of Malibu Moon will likely be one of the lesser considered at the windows but what makes him interesting is the prospect of him using capable tracking speed to lay just off of Midnight Hawk and Chitu in the early going but a length or so clear of the remaining four, each of whom has shown so far to be a committed closer. If pace winds up making the race it wouldn’t be a complete surprise for this guy to get a piece.

Of the four runners that figure to be coming from off the pace, the most accomplished to date is Candy Boy. The John Sadler trained son of Candy Ride needed four tries to break his maiden yet once he broke through ran a most credible second to Derby Future Pool second choice Shared Belief in the Grade I Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood on December 14. The colt has been a consistent closer in his career and as he prepares for his first start as a 3-year old his 4 works through the month of January indicate he is well in hand and should be ready right off the break. Gary Stevens, who is having a strong 26% meet and rode Candy Boy for the first time in the Cash Call takes the assignment.

Cool Samurai is another that has shown a deep closer mentality. The son of First Samurai shipped east for his debut and rallied for the place at 56-1 in a mile MSW at Belmont Park in late October. The winner of that race was Wicked Strong who followed the maiden win with a third in the important Grade II Remsen Stakes but was a major disappointment in the recent Holy Bull in his 3-year old debut. After the failed debut Cool Samurai returned to the west coast and broke his maiden at the same mile distance with an impressive final quarter in :24 1/5 on December 27 and has worked forwardly for trainer John Shirreffs as he gets ready for his 2014 debut. Corey Nakatani replaces Mike Smith, who opts for Midnight Hawk.

The remaining runners will have to prove that they can handle situations that they have yet to face.

The Patrick Biancone trained Diamond Bachelor is a tough read. From a cursory look it would appear as though he prefers grass over dirt. His first three career races were on grass and included three mile tries. He broke his maiden in his career debut when he pressed the early pace and drew clear through the lane at Del Mar. He followed that up with a wire-to-wire win in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar on closing day of that meet and then once again pressed the pace and settled for a hard fought second in the Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita on October 6. His connections decided to go for broke in his juvenile finale and sent him to the main track at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and were disappointed as he was no factor with a ninth place finish. We did say earlier that this figured as a two horse pace battle between Midnight Hawk and Chitu given the published PP’s but Diamond Bachelor was nothing but speed in his three turf races and if the early four wide trip in the BC Juvenile was a mitigating factor and the connections feel he deserves this second chance on dirt, his early entry into the pace could make things very interesting.

The final piece to the public is Home Run Kitten a son of Kitten’s Joy who has yet to race beyond 6 ½ furlongs in his two race career and has completed both races on grass. The David Hoffman’s trainee was most impressive in breaking his maiden vs special weights in his most recent and is definitely bred to get a distance of ground, but despite his speedy sprint victory in his last, if his connections are looking to see what he can do on dirt it is more likely that jockey Joe Talamo, who has ridden him in both his starts will take back and use the tactical closing kick that most progeny of champion sire Kitten’s Joy have exhibited. His most recent works, a pair of 6 furlong drills in 1:14 3/5 and 1:13 3/5 would also hint at that speculation.

All in all this is a tricky race that could turn out as Flashback ($3.00) won and Den’s Legacy finished second for a 4.80 Exacta (although even the favorites this year would return much more) or as over the top as in 2012 when I’ll Have Another won and paid $88.60 and Empire Way checked in second at 11.9-1 for a $798.00 Exacta...and that race had only one more entrant in a field of eight than Saturday’s seven horse field.

KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE POOL NUMBER TWO REMAINS OPEN UNTIL 6 P.M. [E] SATURDAY

Although scant attention and even les in the way of invested involvement has been the history of the Derby Future Wager in recent years there is still a pundit now and then that likes to rehash the tale of how the connections of I’ll Have Another made a huge score in the 2012 Future Pool when they bet their eventual Kentucky Derby winner in the very first pool and collected much more than they would have on Derby day, even though the colt returned $32.60 on the first Saturday in May.

So the question becomes, is there anything of value in the Future Wager?

First off let’s just consider the most obvious downfall. If you bet any other horse but the field and your Future Wager horse does not make it to the starting gate you are a loser. No refunds if the horse doesn’t go. So of course that is the biggest gamble of all.

O.K. can there be a positive that is anything but remote? Hard to say because in searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, which is the only journey the Future Wager should encourage, one should resign himself or herself to the historical reality that the wager is indeed a leap. But of course if that leap proves successful and the speculated upon early wager pays so much more in the early investment than it does should it actually win on Derby day then a player will not only collect the spoils but will also have a great bragging rights story.

Look at it this way. Should California Chrome, who has been a dominant winner of his last two races, the King Glorious at Hollywood and the Cal Cup Derby at Santa Anita continue to move forward when he steps away from restricted Cal Breds and performs equally well in the San Felipe and/or Santa Anita Derby or wherever else his connections might decide to continue his Derby Prep campaign, the 50-1 you will lock in this weekend could make you look like a genius.
Pool Number Two of the Future Wager includes 24 wagering options. There are 23 single 3-year olds ranging from 8-1 to 50-1 and 52 other nominated sophomores all available on the same "Field" ticket at 7-5. And just in case you thought that at least waiting until the Robert B. Lewis Stakes was finished in order to get additional help in making a decision regarding that race’s participants in the pool, the Wagering on the Future Pool closes at 6:00 PM [E]...before the Lewis will be run.

The odds that you will accept if you wager on any of the 23 individual options between now and Saturday at 6:00 PM as well as a brief note is as follows:

  • Bobby’s Kitten - 30-1 - Last seen running third in BC Juvenile Turf on 11/1. If he takes to dirt his champion sire bloodlines will help.
  • Cairo Prince - 8-1 - At the head of the pack after dominating Holy Bull victory in 2014 debut. Sky’s the limit.
  • California Chrome - 50-1 - At the top of his game following King Glorious and Cal Cup Derby wins. Just needs to prove it outside of Cal Bred restrictions.
  • Candy Boy - 50-1 - Some pundits like his chances in Saturday’s Lewis. If he wins that his 50-1 before hand will look very juicy.
  • Commissioner - 20-1 - Well regarded Pletcher runner was a handy winner of one of those Gulfstream 9 furlong allowances that have proven useful developments in recent years.
  • Conquest Titan - 30-1 - Late running Birdstone colt is bred for 10 furlongs and showed big improvement with second in Holy Bull.
  • Havana - 30-1 - Based on 2 wins and second in BC Juvenile from 3 career starts this looks like a big overlay for a Pletcher runner.
    Honor Code - 10-1 - Still well regarded despite hiccup in training schedule due to bruised hind ankles. Trained by last year’s Orb conditioner Shug McGaughey.
  • Indianapolis - 20-1 - Has so far only sprinted but both wins; including San Pedro Stakes were impressive and is bred to get the distance.
  • Intense Holiday - 50-1 - Well conditioned with 6 career starts including a late circling close for third in the Holy Bull.
  • Kristo - 30-1 - Has done nothing wrong since stretched out to two turns and second in Sham in first in 10 weeks was very useful.
  • Matterhorn - 50-1 - Well bred Tapit colt hasn’t raced since winning debut in mid-November but is a 625K yearling purchase from the Pletcher barn.
  • Midnight Hawk - 20-1 - Combination of Baffert and a win in the Lewis would move him forward and make 20-1 seem like a bargain if he gets that far.
  • Noble Moon - 30-1 - A third in the Grade II Nashua and a win in the Grade II Jerome on ¼ when he went two turns for the first time have him pointed in the right direction.
  • Rise Up - 30-1 - Has won 4 of 6 in his career with the latest the Delta Jackpot. If he transfers his talent to major circuit racing he could surprise.
  • Samraat - 30-1 - Speedy NYSB colt flew through restricted conditions and handled open rivals in winning Grade III Withers February 1. Could he be Funny Cide incarnate?
  • Shared Belief - 10-1 - Brilliant Candy Ride gelding ha works interrupted recently by popped abscess and missed scheduled return in Lewis. But if all turns out well and he gets back on track...10-1 on Derby day could be the steal of the year.
  • Strong Mandate - 20-1 - Sooner or later trainer Wayne Lukas will take charge with the Tiznow colt and make his 2014 debut.
  • Tapiture - 20-1 - Hasn’t been seen since impressive win in Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at CD at end of November. Working lights out at FG for likely 2014 debut in Risen Star.
  • Tonalist - 50-1 - Long way to go after breaking his maiden in career start number two on January 18 at GP. But well bred (Tapit) and in good hands (Christophe Clement.)
  • Top Billing - 15-1 - Curlin colt has yet to face stakes foes but has won two of three by dominant margins and lone loss was by a neck to Commissioner. Another well regarded prospect from McGaughey.
  • Uncle Sigh - 50-1 - Though beaten a length by Samraat in recent Withers it was his first vs winners and around two turns and is better bred to handle increased distance.
  • Vicar’s In Trouble - 20-1 - Louisiana bred has been most impressive in breaking maiden and following up with daylight win in Lecomte at FG. Working towards Risen Star.

Remember that we update our Derby Prep Analysis every few days so bookmark these pages and return often.

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