Just one week after the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, a Kentucky Derby prep race where there were 3-4 horses capable of making a strong showing the first Saturday in May, three prep races take place with little or no fanfare.
The Gotham (Aqueduct), Tampa Bay Derby (Tampa Bay Downs) and Jeff Ruby Stakes (Turfway Park) are three Derby preps with little buzz. In fact, take Instagrand out of the Gotham and there would marginal interest.
There was a fourth prep scheduled to be run Saturday – the San Felipe – but with the track closed at Santa Anita, the race is not being run.
Following is a brief look at the three races in order of post time.
Gotham (2:09 p.m. post): Instagrand (1/1) is getting all the hype for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and deservedly so. The horse has run twice and posted two wins, both by at least 10 lengths. Hollendorfer does not ship his horses east unless they are ready to roll and there’s no reason to expect anything else here. Javier Castellano draws the assignment for Hollendorfer. Mind Control (9/2) is one I would take a good look at as the horse took the Jerome (an early prep) on January 1 at Aqueduct as the favorite. He has proven he can handle the track, taking the race wire to wire. John Velazquez gets the call for trainer Gregory Sacco. Not That Brady (5/1) is also getting some early love for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and jockey Reylu Gutierrez. The horse was second in the Withers – the prep for this race – over the track. One price horse worth taking a good look at is Much Better (10/1). Bob Baffert sends the horse to New York, along with jockey Mike Smith and that means you need to do your diligence on the horse. Third in the Sham at Santa Anita, he came back with an easy win in an optional claimer.
Tampa Bay Derby (2:25 p.m.): The morning line favorite is the Michael Trombetta runner Win Win Win (5/2). The horse took the Pasco over the Tampa Bay track by a cruising seven lengths and he picks up Irad Ortiz Jr. here. Well Defined (7/2) took the Davis (the prep for this) for trainer Kathleen O’Connell and jockey Pablo Morales, wiring the field with a two-length win. Dream Maker (4/1) is your third choice for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Florent Geroux. In his last start he crushed the field by eight lengths in an optional claimer at the Fair Grounds. My value play here is Outshine (8/1), a Todd Pletcher runner than draws the services of Joel Rosario. His last start was a two-length with at Gulfstream in an optional claimer.
Jeff Ruby Stakes (3:37 p.m.): Arguably one of the worst prep races this season, I am not quite sure why this is a points race. Somelikeithotbrown (8/5) took a minor stake over the track for Michael Maker by three lengths. Tyler Gaffalione draws the assignment. Skywire (3/1) is your second choice for Casse and jockey Gary Boulanger. His last start was an easy six-length win in an optional claimer at Gulfstream. If you haven’t been able to tell, I’m not wild about this race.
By Dennis Miller