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A trio of recent graded stakes winners, Gormley, Mastery, and Iliad, all figure prominently amongst a field of seven sophomores in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. A key steppingstone to the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 8, the San Felipe has produced five winners that have gone on to victory in the Kentucky Derby: California Chrome in 2014, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Sunday Silence in 1989, Affirmed in 1978, and Determine in 1954.
Long regarded as one of America’s most important Derby preps, the 80th running of the San Felipe holds a total of 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, to be distributed on a 50-20-10-5 basis to the first, second, third, and fourth place finishers.
#4 Mastery – We’ve been waiting for a while now to see him return to the races, and this weekend, we finally get the chance to see what he can do. As of now, he’s my number-two ranked Kentucky Derby horse, but that is based solely on the expectation that his upside is extremely high. In his three impressive 2-year-old wins, he was very workman-like, as he was never asked for his best. His talent level could be extremely high, or perhaps he doesn’t have as much in the tank as we think. I’m willing to bet that he does, though, as Baffert has been high on him since the beginning. Hopefully, we see a performance worthy of him becoming the Kentucky Derby favorite when it’s all said and done.
#5 Gormley – He’s certainly a worthy challenger for Mastery, and you could argue that his resume is a little stronger than anyone else’s in this field. Last time out in the Sham Stakes, he defeated a very talented horse, American Anthem, in what was the best stretch duel of the prep season so far. It’s a bit unfair that, even though Gormley won, it’s actually American Anthem receiving all of the hype out of that race. Gormley, much like Gunnevera, has been a bit underappreciated throughout his career. We saw how that turned out for Gunnevera last weekend, so hopefully for Gormley fans, he proves his doubters wrong this weekend.
#6 Iliad – You can’t sleep on the San Vicente Stakes winner. Each and every year, it seems to be a nice springboard for the 3-year-old colts as they move on to bigger and better things. Last year, Nyquist used this race as a prep for the Florida Derby before eventually going on to winning the Kentucky Derby. The runner-up in last year’s San Vicente, Exaggerator, went on to win the Preakness Stakes. That’s quite a prep, especially for a race that doesn’t offer Derby points. Right now, I have Iliad unranked as far as the Kentucky Derby goes because he’s never gone around two turns, but this will be his opportunity to prove that he can do it. He’s just too talented to leave off of your multi-race tickets.
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#3 Ann Arbor Eddie – He’s a very consistent Cal Bred who’s won two state bred stakes on the dirt and finished a close second in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate last time out. He was beaten pretty easily by Mastery as a 2-year-old, so he has a lot of catching up to do, but I could see him running a big one and hitting the board in this spot. In a race that is very top-heavy with the three mentioned earlier, this is the only horse I see that could run well and offers value.
NONE – It would be a gigantic upset if any of the top three don’t win this race. Just can’t see it happening.
#1 Term of Art – He was beaten badly in both of the Santa Anita Derby preps so far, and this is stacking up to be the toughest one yet. Looks like a tall order, as he may need some class relief.
#2 Vending Machine – He just doesn’t appear to match up with these today, as he was beaten by Term or Art three races back, and Term of Art hasn’t matched up well with weaker Derby prep company. Tough task here.
#7 Bluegrass Envy – Still a maiden and has never really been close to winning. Awfully long trip to the west coast for a horse that will be very high odds at post time.
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