Three Kentucky Derby prep races take place this weekend, bringing some highly thought of 3-year-olds taking center stage.
There is two Saturday – the Holy Bull (Gulfstream) and the Withers (Aqueduct) – with the Robert B. Lewis (Santa Anita) running on Sunday.
Here is a quick look at the three, with post times being Pacific Daylight Time.
Withers (Aqueduct, 8th race, 1:25 p.m.): I am not a fan of the New York prep races, in that the weather always seems horrible. Run a horse in those elements and it has to take a toll. This will be bad weather as the forecast by post time will be in the low 30s, high 20s.
Additionally, it seems like the top trainers who keep horses in New York, like Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, send their best runners to Florida for the winter.
But Derby points are still awarded and there’s little chance you will see a Bob Baffert runner show up to spoil the party.
Early Voting (Chad Brown, trainer; Jose Ortiz, jockey) is the 3-1 favorite. The horse brings just one start to the table, a one-mile MSW win on December 18. Not sure if the morning line odd is more indicative of this runner’s skill set or the apparent lack of talent of the rest of the field.
Constitutionlawyer (Raymond Handal, Jose Lezcano) is 7-2. The horse is one for three – all three is MSW races. The last start was one Jan. 2 and he handled two turns in the slop to get the win. Need to see a couple more before I am convinced.
Courvoisier (Kelly Breen, Ruben Silvera) is the third choice at 9-2, but he was the winner of the Jerome, the Derby prep over the track Jan. 1. Has a pair of wins, two places, and one show in five starts, but is only the third choice.
Good luck with this one.
Holy Bull (Gulfstream, 11th race, 2:10 p.m. post): We’ll get to see some runners in this spot.
Mo Donegal (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz) is the 5-2 deserving favorite here. Last start was a win in the Remsen at Aqueduct in early December, and that Pletcher sent the horse north speaks volumes to me. One of the best trainers and one of the best jockeys makes tough to beat.
Giant Game (Dale Romans, Luis Saez) sits at 7-2 and is coming into the race off a break since he ran third in the BC Juvenile on Nov. 5. May need one, but this is one to watch as we get closer to the Derby.
Simplification (Antonio Sano, Javier Castellano) is sitting at 4-1 and is coming off a front-running score in the Mucho Macho Man over the Gulfstream track on Jan. 1.
Tiz the Bomb (Kenneth McPeek, Brian Hernandez) is 6-1 and has been gaining popularity in fantasy contests. Last start was a third in the BC Juvenile Turf on Nov. 5, but before then he had a nice streak of three straight wins, two of those in stakes races. Will be interested to see what he has here!
Robert B. Lewis (Santa Anita, 8th race, 4:12 p.m., Sunday) is another chance for trainer Bob Baffert to have his way with the Kentucky Derby people at Churchill Downs. Baffert is suspended from running horses in the Derby this year, and while his horses can run in Derby preps, they are not allowed to earn any points towards qualifying for the Derby.
Last week in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park it was a perfect example of the mess, when Baffert’s Newgrange won the race. Since it’s Baffert’s, the horse, nor any other horse in the field, did not receive the 10 prep points.
That may happen here as well. Messier (Baffert, John Velazquez) is the 6-5 favorite, but is coming off a disappointing second in the Los Alamitos Futurity. The horse did easily win the Bob Hope back in November at Del Mar and has a blistering work Jan. 30 at Santa Anita.
Sir London (Simon Callaghan, Flavian Prat) is right back on the morning line at 9-5 and has gained a lot of support following his 10-length maiden score at Los Al in mid-December. He had two second-place finishes in his first two starts and has been putting together an impressive work tab for the return.
Wharton (Baffert, Juan Hernandez) is another Baffert runner and the third choice at 4-1. One start, one win with an impressive 5-length maiden score.
By Dennis Miller