It is the first of two monster Kentucky Derby prep race weekends this Saturday.
There are three preps Saturday, all worth 170 points in Derby qualifying points as each race will be scored on a 100-40-20-10 scale.
The Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby, and Jeff Ruby Steaks will be run Saturday, April 2. One week later you get the Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, and the Wood Memorial.
Let’s take a quick look at the three April 2 races.
Jeff Ruby Steaks (Turfway Park, 12th race, 3:25 p.m. PDT): The least noteworthy of the three races, but it still hands out 170 points, so there will be Derby runners coming out of the race. Probably the most interesting runner is Tiz the Bomb (Kenneth McPeak trainer, Brian Hernandez, jockey, 2/1). Following a strong 2-year-old campaign, the horse came into this year highly regarded, but then opened the season with a Bomb, finishing 7th, beaten 20 lengths in the Holy Bull in early February at Gulfstream. The horse was sent to Turfway and came back a month later to win the Battaglia over the Turfway surface as the favorite. This is a smart play for the horse as he does appear comfortable with the track and there are more than enough points available here to get him into the Derby starting gate.
Tawny Port (Brad Cox, Manny Franco, 6/1) is another solid looking runner. The horse ran twice over the surface, winning both. For the third start the connections sent the horse to the Fair Grounds for the Risen Star in mid-February. The horse found trouble early and was 7th, beaten almost 8-lengths. Now he is also back in a comfortable spot.
If you like Tiz the Bomb, you probably need to take a look at Stolen Base (Michael Maker, Gerardo Corrales, 7/2). The horse was second by a neck to Tiz at the Battaglia at 4-1. Only one win in seven starts, and that came in an MSW win back in July at Saratoga. Has not crossed the line first in a long time, but there are some solid performances in some good races.
Finally, one other horse that caught my eye was Royal Spirit (Todd Pletcher, Chris Landeros, 10/1). This is not a power move from Fletcher, but it is a Pletcher move of interest. This a horse whose all five starts have come on the grass, but now switches to the dirt. He avoids the big names in the Florida Derby and finds a field he just might be able to handle and kind of back door into the Derby with a big run. Wouldn’t you love a Pletcher horse in a big race at 10/1?
Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park, 14th race, 3:38 p.m.): I think this is the marquee race of the day as one could make a case for three of the runners to not only win here, but on the first Saturday in May. And there is fourth horse that could be sneaky good, and the morning line agrees.
Simplification (Antonio Sano, Jose Ortiz, 5/2) is your morning line favorite and is coming off a win in the Fountain of Youth, pulling away to win by over three lengths. The win was a rebound from a second in the Holy Bull to our next horse.
White Abarrio (Saffie Joseph, Tyler Gaffalione, 3/1) was the winner of the Holy Bull, pulling away from Simplification to win by over four lengths. With the win, the horse got to skip the Fountain of Youth and looks fresh and ready to run after some strong works for the return.
Classic Causeway (Brian Lynch, Irad Ortiz, 7/2) was the King of Tampa Bay Downs this year, taking both the Sam Davis and the Tampa Bay Derby in wire-to-wire fashion. Yes, it will be a tougher field here, but this is the one they may have to catch!
Charge It (Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez, 7/2) is highly thought of for a horse at this point that only has a maiden race win to his credit. That race came back in mid-February, but it was by over 8-lengths and with two big works for the return and the fact it’s Pletcher’s only entry in the race speaks volumes. I am liking this horse more every day!
Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park, 12th race, 4:35 p.m.): While the Florida Derby is a stronger field, this is a more interesting race for a couple of reasons. One, it is the first of the former Bob Baffert runners to run in a race where they can earn points. Two, there is a filly entered here, taking on the boys.
Secret Oath (D Wayne Lukas, Luis Contreras, 5/2) is the filly and is the favorite. She has won her last three races, each by over 7-lengths, and likely already has enough points to get a spot in the Kentucky Oaks. She runs from off the pace and should get a decent pace to run at when they turn for home.
Doppelganger (Tim Yakteen, John Velazquez, 3/1) is the former Baffert runner that is now running eligible for points for the first time. It’s an eggs-in-one basket race for the horse that was fourth in the San Vincente and second in the San Felipe. Personally, I am not all that high on this runner.
Un Ojo (Ricky Courville, Ramon Vasquez, 6-1) was the winner of the Rebel – the prep for this race – at 75-1. Did have two solid runs in New York before pulling the shocker and could be a mild surprise again here.
We the People (Rodolphe Brisset, Flavian Prat, 7/2) is the third choice, which seems like a bit of a stretch since he has two races, a MSW win followed by an AOC winner. Both did come over the Oaklawn track so this could be a horse for the course play.
By Dennis Miller