A superb 100 point Kentucky Derby prep in beautiful horse country of Lexington, Kentucky. A talented field signs on including the current Derby favorite but the race is devoid of any speed which will make it very hard on the closers.
1. Hidden Stash - This horse hung in Tampa Bay with no excuse. While eligible for improvement in 3rd start of year, trainer is 3% with that angle and is 0 for 42 in graded stakes. This horse could save ground and keeps Bejarano. Use underneath only.
2. Untreated - This horse was in the lead by the second call in Tampa maiden race and with lack of speed may be tactical early. Still, this is a big step up in competition. Respect the connections and horse is eligible for major improvement. Maybe.
3. Highly Motivated - Horse was short in last race with weak work-out pattern and the finish time appears slow in that one turn mile. Horse has never raced two turns and will need to improve significantly. Work-outs still look light to me. One advantage is this horse will likely be on the lead early and if he improves 2nd start of 3yo season, he may hold on for a big piece. But price is low making horse a play against.
4. Essential Quality - Legitimate contender who will be odds-on favorite and justifiably so. Should stalk the pace in 2nd/3rd and blow by them easily coming for home. Was really impressed by his sloppy victory in Southwest Stakes and horse should improve in 2nd start of year. Horse won twice over this surface as a 2yo.
5. Rombauer - Bet this horse in Future Wager 4 at 109-1 so will be rooting for him here. Hasn't raced since slow 9F win in Feb on synthetic surface against much weaker. However, horse has two good dirt races in his form lines as a 2yo. One was a second in G1 stakes where he beat Spielburg by 5 lengths. Then in BC Juvenile, horse passed 6 horses and gained 5 lengths on the leaders. Horse is eligible to improve in this race in 2nd start of year & return to dirt at a big price. Pure closer who may not be able to beat Essential Quality but has potential to make big impact on the board. Legit long-shot.
6. Leblon - Tough read. Took 4 starts to break maiden which is not a good sign. In first start as a 3yo he ran an okay 4th against much weaker on a muddy track with some traffic trouble. Connections are average but trainer does very well on ROI in graded competition. This looks like an ambitious placement to see what they have. Not without a shot to hit the board.
7. Hush of a Storm - Respect the move to skip the Jeff Ruby and try legit dirt Derby prep. Trainer is flat bet profitable in 281 dirt starts (unbelievable) and is also profitable with last out winners and with this jockey so several positives. Win in John Battaglia was impressive but the field was weak and time average. With that said, I respect these long-shot connections and horses often jump up in first start dirt. His lone dirt effort was a very poor debut but pedigree looks fine for dirt out of Creative Cause. Another viable long-shot.
8. Sittin on Go - This horse is legitimately over matched and don't understand why he's here. Toss.
9. Keepmeinmind - Horse is high in sheet off 2yo form but I thought this horse was very over rated in the Future Wagers. Training was interrupted in Arkansas due to bad weather and his return race was very weak in the Rebel. Switches back to Keeneland where he was only 2 lengths in back of Essential Quality. He's going to get bet too hard in here for me to like him and his post position is not ideal.
Bottom Line - This is a hard race to bet. The favorite is legitimate and will win. You need to single him on top of Exactas & Trifectas. But who will run underneath. The pace will be slow which gives #3 an advantage but as the second choice you can't use him and he has a lot of risk. The #2 is a better horse to use to hold on for a piece because he's so lightly raced. I'm also going to play against the #9 who will be over bet and coming off a bad race. The 5,7,2,6,1 (listed in order of preference) all are legit long-shots that have potential to hit the board at huge prices. My play will be vertical exotics with #4 on top and 5,7,2,6,1 underneath playing against both the 3 & 9 for the value. Single the #4 on serial wagers.