Friday, April 8, 2011

Santa Anita Derby / Illinois Derby / Wood Memorial

Santa Anita Derby / Illinois Derby / Wood Memorial

This weekend is usually one of my favorite racing weekends of the year. The winners of the Santa Anita Derby, Illinois Derby and Wood Memorial will accrue enough graded stakes to insure a spot in the Kentucky Derby – for me there’s something very special about watching three horses score a date with destiny.

In previous years I believed that the winners of the Santa Anita Derby, and occasionally the Illinois Derby had a solid shot at winning the Kentucky Derby or any of the Triple Crown races. This year, however, the Santa Anita and Illinois horses lack the promise that we’re seeing in other areas of the country – such as the Florida Derby winner Dialed In….or the Wood Memorial Favorite, and Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Champ Uncle Mo.

Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita received some bad news this week as it appears the San Felipe Winner, and morning line favorite Premier Pegasus will be scratched due to a minor injury that will take him off of the Triple Crown trail. In my opinion Premier Pegasus was the only horse still on the West Coast that could have been a difference maker in the Kentucky Derby.

Also *possibly scratched is Jaycito. Jaycito had a number of experts excited about him from his efforts in 2010. Personally I never saw the potential in this horse that others seemed to see.

With these two horses off the Kentucky Derby trail and out of the Santa Anita – the Santa Anita Derby becomes a much more wide open affair, however I don’t think the winner of this race gives the West Coast much of a “contender” in the Triple Crown.

(#4) Silver Medallion will most likely be the favorite in this race, and he’s in a great starting spot for his style.

(#5) Comma to the Top had a lot of people excited about his potential at the beginning of the year, but he hasn’t been able to make the leap from potential to winner’s circle yet….could be his golden opportunity.

(#9) Anthony’s Cross – winner of the Robert B. Lewis stakes in Feb. here at Santa Anita could go off as the second favorite and if he doesn’t win – I suspect he’ll finish second.

(#10) Bench Points – Morning odds have him at 12-1, but I suspect his odds will go down when the other horses are officially scratched….I think this horse could pull off a minor upset here – I’m not crazy about his outside post, but if the price is right - he might be a tempting win bet.
In closing I’m rooting for Anthony’s Cross – I think he’ll need a little help, but I believe he’s the best horse left in this bunch.

Illinois Derby

Twelve horses take the field in the Illinois Derby – and the morning line favorite is Tampa Bay Derby winner, and former 43-1 long shot, (#4) Watch Me Go who scored an impressive victory in the T.B. Derby against quality talent like Brethren.

The second favorite in this race is (#10) El Grayling, the 8th place finisher in the Fountain of Youth, followed by the 5th place finisher in the Gotham Stakes (#7) The Fed Eased.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a 10-1 horse or higher (meaning like 20-1 odds) wins this race. While Watch Me Go was fantastic in the Tampa Bay Derby – it was a complete surprise and it may end up being a fluke, especially now that he’s traveling to a new track.

My confidence doesn’t increase when I see 8th place and 5th place finishers immediately behind him on the tote board. I think The Fed Eased could do very well in this race – and I also believe (#6) Sour has a great opportunity to score a trip to Kentucky….but I think this race is completely up for grabs.

As a Triple Crown enthusiast I would be very happy to see Watch Me Go repeat his last outing and show some great momentum as we head to the Triple Crown….but if I were betting on this race I might just throw some money at:

15-1 (#2) Smarter Than Ever, sired by Smarty Jones,
15-1 (#5) Vouch For Victory – who won his last race here at Hawthorne
30-1 (#12) Future Empire, sired by Empire Maker – who is being ridden by red hot jockey Anna Napravnik.

Too many variables and not enough evidence – if you’re somebody who just likes the color of a horse, a funny name or a jockey….this might be the race for you.

Wood Memorial

The real reason to tune in this weekend – is to see what Uncle Mo is going to do in the Wood Memorial. There are a number of people writing that this horse is more hype than talent – and they point to a sloth-like ¼ mile in the Timely Writer to back-up their premise that this horse isn’t as good as he’s cracked up to be.

Well the morning line seems to think that Uncle Mo is exactly as good as he’s cracked up to be. His odds for this race are 1-5.

That’s no typo, 1-5, which is about as strong of odds as they dole out at the track (there’s also 1-9 odds – however both pay $2.20 for a $2 win ticket).

Perhaps it’s a more telling sign to look at the odds board and see that there are two horses going off at 20-1, followed by three horses going off at 50-1, and one horse going off at 100-1. I don’t believe these horses are that bad – it’s just that Uncle Mo has looked that good!

I think a few of these horses would be the favorites in either the Santa Anita Derby or the Illinois Derby – like (#8) Norman Asbjornson who receives 15-1 odds here, or (#2) Toby’s Corner going off at 8-1.

As a racing enthusiast I want Uncle Mo to receive a challenging race that really tests his ability, I’d like to see how he handles an early speedster flying out for a 21 second ¼ mile – in the end however I’m hoping to see him in the winner’s circle for his fifth straight victory.

As a bettor – I’m thinking take the six long shots (20-1 thru 100-1) and put them in an exacta with Uncle Mo. So that if Uncle Mo wins and a long shot comes in second you’ve got a winning ticket….and if a long shot wins with Uncle Mo finishes second you’ve got a really great winning ticket. It would cost $12 for a $1 exacta bet covering those horses.

These are still very young horses – so Uncle Mo could come out flat, and another horse could finally put together his talent and find a winning stride….it happens.

Closing Speed likes:  Anthony's Cross / Future Empire and Anna Napravnik / Uncle Mo

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