Race 9: The J.W. Murphy at one mile on turf
There is a noticeable lack of pace in this race and many of the top contenders like to linger near the back of the pack early. I like Hammers Terror (#9), who figures to sit just off the likely pacesetter ,Two Months Rent, and get first run on him off the turn. Hammers Terror is a son of turf specialist Artie Schiller, but has only made on start on grass in six career races. In that race, the Black Gold Stakes, at Fair Grounds, he finished fourth, but had a valid excuse as he was squeezed out of contention at a critical point in the stretch. He really stepped up to run a nice race in the Lexington over Keeeland’s Polytrack last time, so I’m hoping he can take another step forward and move up on the grass. The bet:
$10 Win 9
Race 10: The Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3) at 1 1/16 miles
Absinthe Minded looms as the likely favorite, but I think she’s vulnerable. She’s a horse who runs best when she is able to be on or near the lead and there is plenty of other pace in this race. I also was not thrilled with the way she completely threw in the towel last time in the La Troienne (G2) on the Oaks undercard. I like Awesomemundo (#5), who was very impressive winning her first dirt race last time at Santa Anita. Although that race was in February and I’m not sure where she has been since, I doubt Bob Baffert would ship her across the country if she weren’t doing well. She was also coming off a lengthy layoff into that previous start so perhaps she is a horse who runs well fresh. I will use her with Daring Reality (#4), who was really coming into her own at the end of last season and put in some decent rallies in the Cotillion (G2) and Gazelle (G1). If the pace collapses late, she could be a factor at a big price. The bets:
$10 Win 5
$4 Exacta Box 4-5
Race 11: The Dixie Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf
This is a well-matched field in terms of ability, but one horse looks to have a distinct advantage. Straight Story (#4) is the lone speed and he is nearly unbeatable when he is allowed to set the tempo. No other horse in here has the zip to be close to him early in the race and 10-1 on the morning line looks like a gift.
$10 Win 4
Race 12: The Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles
Many people are discussing this race as if it is a foregone conclusion that Bodemeister is going to win because he was the best horse on Derby day. I don’t dispute that he ran by far the best race that day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the right horse to bet in the Preakness. I just keep looking at his past performances and realize that this is his sixth race in a four month period. There are really asking a lot of this horse, and while he is obviously very talented, I’m just not sure that he is going to be able to produce the same performance coming back in just two weeks.
By contrast, I’ll Have Another’s spring campaign was designed with the idea of running in all three Triple Crown races in mind. He was a fresh horse in the Derby and all reports about how he has done in the two weeks since that race have been glowing. Steve Haskin of the Bloodhorse called his gallop on Thursday the most impressive he has ever seen from a horse preparing for a Triple Crown race. He was clocked coming home his final two furlongs that day in 26 and change. This horse looks ready to run another top race and Bodemeister is going to have to really run a top race once again to beat him.
My only concern about picking against Bodemeister is pace. He is the lone speed on paper, but I think that because there has been so much talk about that very fact, someone is going to apply pressure. Whether it be Creative Cause or I’ll Have Another or potentially both, I don’t think that this field is going to let Bodemeister waltz early. No one’s going 45 1/5 seconds to the half, but I foresee the pace being at least honest.
And then there is value. In the early wagering Bodemeister is 7-5 and I’ll Have Another is 7-2. I just don’t think such a discrepancy in odds makes sense. Creative Cause sits at 6-1 and even he has an excellent chance with the right sort of ride. I’m picking the Derby winner, partly because of value, partly because he is training so well, and partly because it’s easy to root for a Triple Crown. I’ll use in the exacta with Creative Cause and will hope Bodemeister has an off day. But really, I wouldn’t be surprised by any of the three winning.
$10 Win 9
$5 Exacta Box 6-9
Before I go off to watch the races, I’ll make quick mention of the one “Horse to Watch” running in the Preakness, Zetterholm. He’s a nice horse and I would have picked him in a race like last weekend’s Peter Pan, but these horses are probably going to be too much for him. Also, the pace doesn’t figure to do him any favors. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him beat half the field, but I think a top placing is just out of his grasp.
Using the above picks, I’ll put together a thin Pick 4 play:
Race 9: $1 Pick 4 9 with 4-5 with 4 with 6-7-9