I’ve decided to change-up my race previews and divide the horses into four categories: Likely Winners, Exotic Plays, Party Crashers, and Throw-outs. Likely winners are self explanatory, Exotic plays are horses I don’t think can win but I think can hit the board, party crashers are horses that can pull off the huge upset and ruin your day, and throw-outs are horses that I don’t think have any chance to win.
#7 El Padrino (KY) – He’s the number one rated horse on my Derby Top 20 so obviously this is my pick to win the race. El Padrino’s allowance win at Gulfstream was breath-taking, and I believe he’s on the fast track to the Kentucky Derby. It’s a huge race for him however, considering the fact that he needs graded earnings in a big way. Look for him to sit mid-pack and make his big move when turning for home.
#1 Mr. Bowling (KY) and #1A Mark Valeski (KY) – Mr. Bowling won the LeComte stakes at Fair Grounds in his last start and Mark Valeski won a recent allowance here. The fact that they are coupled makes this a very interesting play seeing as how you usually don’t get this kind of quality with both entries. I’m on the fence with both of these horses, but after El Padrino this one could be a mad scramble and having two horses is better than one.
#8 Shared Property (KY) – I’ve got him listed as a Kentucky Derby sleeper so my hopes are high for Shared Property in this one. His trip in the LeComte was brutal, but his outside post draw in this one might not help him much in that area. I feel like going long is what this horse wants to do, and with a better trip he could be finishing strong when they turn for home.
#4 Optimizer (KY) – Optimizer is another horse that’s on my Kentucky Derby Sleeper list. Trainer D Wayne Lukas decided to skip the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn because of the mile distance, and wait for this race seeing as how it’s a mile and one-sixteenth. The extra distance and long Fair Grounds stretch will suit this horse perfectly, so I look for him to have a great chance to hit the board. If not for El Padrino, I probably would have put him in the likely winners category. His lack of early speed probably will prohibit him from being able to tackle him at this distance.
#5 Z Dager (KY) – I thought Z Dager got a pretty solid trip in the LeComte, and had every opportunity to win it, but in the end he finished second. Maybe the added distance is what he needs to pass Mr. Bowling this time out. His breeding suggests he’ll be fine going long, but I’m not sold on him yet.
#3 Afford (KY) – One reason made me put this horse in the Party Crashers category; he’s the son of Street Sense. Afford’s past performances don’t add up to some of the others in this field, but neither did Castaway’s in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn last week. Afford will need to step up, but with his pedigree it’s possible that the added distance might help him take that step a little easier.
#6 Ted’s Folly (OK) – I’m willing to give Ted’s Folly one more chance after a flat effort in the LeComte Stakes last time out. He’s 20-1 on the morning line, and if you don’t like playing short prices, Ted’s Folly might be worth a look. Hard to ignore his six for nine win record.
#9 Tizanexpense (KY) – He’s two for two over the Fair Grounds track so I threw him in this group. Plus, he’s bred to go long so I don’t see this distance tripping him up at all. I’m worried about his outside post though.