Brisnet Handicappers Edge Kentucky Derby Notes 3/4/10

KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT

MARCH 4, 2010

by James Scully

For the second time this year, Santa Anita was forced to postpone a graded prep race due to unsuitable conditions on the Pro-Ride. The Sham S. (G3) will be brought back one week later, on Saturday's Santa Anita H. (G1) undercard, weather permitting.

The second Kentucky Derby Future Wager begins its three-day run on Friday.

Gulfstream allowances

In a slow week for Kentucky Derby (G1) hopefuls, RADIOHEAD (GB) (Johannesburg) made some noise with an impressive allowance score on Saturday. The Richard Dutrow-trained colt showed speed from the start in his dirt debut, pressing pacesetter General Maximus (Freud) in second down the backstretch of the one-mile test, and struck the front while turning for home. He accelerated clear in midstretch with an excellent turn of foot that netted him a 116 BRIS Late Pace rating, registering a 101 BRIS Speed rating for the 3 1/4-length decision.

Dutrow holds a strong hand for any three-year-old stakes race at a mile or less. Radiohead looks like a better candidate for two turns than stablemate D' Funnybone (D'wildcat), but remains questionable at the Derby 1 1/4-mile distance. There's plenty of speed on his female side, and his connections ran him early and often in Europe last season, with six starts at six furlongs or less. He may be able to stretch out effectively to 1 1/8 miles, but 10 furlongs is a different ballgame.

Last seen finishing third in the one-mile Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs, SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Maker) returned to the races with a smart performance last Thursday. The long-striding colt rallied through the stretch of the seven-furlong event to record a narrow victory, giving every indication that he will relish longer distances as he drew off late, and the tightener sets him up for his two-turn debut next time. Out of an A.P. Indy mare, Soaring Empire is well-bred for classic distances and has earned solid BRIS Speed numbers in his sprint starts so far. He's an interesting prospect from the barn of Cam Gambolati, who saddled 1985 Derby winner Spend a Buck.

FLY DOWN (Mineshaft) and FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even), the one-two finishers in a February 21 allowance at 1 1/8 miles, also merit watching in the future. A maiden scorer at Churchill Downs in his juvenile finale, Fly Down closed determinedly to win by a head in his first start against winners, posting a career-best 96 BRIS Speed rating, and the lightly-raced colt looks like one who will keep improving for Nick Zito. Recent Gulfstream maiden victor First Dude ran too well to lose in an ultra-game showing. The Dale Romans colt took it to 3-5 favorite Colizeo (Distorted Humor) from the start, pushing fast early splits before disposing of the well-regarded pacesetter, and drove hard all the way to the wire. Fly Down and First Dude could both make an impact in upcoming stakes.

Sportsman's Paradise

Sanford S. (G2) winner BACKTALK (Smarty Jones) made his first appearance since October a winning one in Friday night's Sportsman's Paradise S. at Delta Downs, getting up in deep stretch to record a half-length decision over the sloppy track, and he's headed to the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 27. It was encouraging to see him succeed at a two-turn distance, but his 89 BRIS Speed rating was pretty dismal. He'll be tested for class and stamina next time.

Battaglia & Borderland

Saturday's John Battaglia Memorial S. at Turfway Park won't have any impact upon this year's Kentucky Derby. CODOY (Bernstein), a graded stakes-placed turf performer at two, was the best horse in the Battaglia but wound up being disqualified from the top spot due to interference in deep stretch. He received an 88 BRIS Speed rating and may have a decent future on synthetic tracks as well as turf.

Canadian champion juvenile Mine That Bird (Birdstone) used the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park as a steppingstone to his Derby upset, but there were no runners of his caliber in Saturday's field. RAISE THE BRIDLE (Spanish Steps), who was exiting a second in a February maiden special weight, finished first by a neck over STORMING SAINT (Sweetsouthernsaint) but remained eligible for maiden contests after being disqualified to second. Storming Saint, who was stepping up to a route off a third in the 6 1/2-furlong Riley Allison Futurity, earned an 85 BRIS Speed rating for his first stakes win.

KDFW

What does D. Wayne Lukas look for in a sire? Speed, speed and speed. When analyzing the Derby Future Wager, one can't go wrong searching for value, value and value.

I played three futures in pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager at odds of 20-1 or higher: Maximus Ruler (Roman Ruler) (76-1), Drosselmeyer (Distorted Humor) (20-1) and Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway) (22-1). Maximus Ruler is no longer viable after being knocked off the Derby Trail with a physical setback. Drosselmeyer can still make the field with a strong showing in his final Derby prep, but he lost his luster when finishing a dull fourth in the Risen Star S. (G2) and isn't an individual interest in Pool 2. Eskendereya is sitting pretty right now.

I'll recommend two horses in Pool 2: DUBLIN (Afleet Alex) and TEMPTED TO TAPIT (Tapit).

The Lukas-trained Dublin will draw some support, but his 15-1 morning line looks realistic with three straight setbacks since his Hopeful S. (G1) victory in early September. I liked his runner-up performance in the Southwest S. (G3) last time and expect him to run big in the March 13 Rebel S. (G2).

Tempted to Tapit (50-1 morning line) will be one of the longest shots on the board, but I'll take a flier on the well-built gray colt. A maiden winner two starts back on the inner track at Aqueduct, he easily proved second-best in the Risen Star and owns a big upside for Steve Klesaris. He owns good BRIS Speed ratings, can be placed anywhere with his tactical speed, and is bred to handle 10 furlongs.

Upcoming

Saturday's Gotham S. (G3) marks the U.S. debut for AWESOME ACT (Awesome Again), who ships in from Newmarket, England, for Jeremy Noseda. A fast-finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2), the highly-regarded colt is bred for dirt and lands in a favorable spot without any graded winners. Whirlaway S. and Finger Lakes Juvenile S. hero PEPPI KNOWS (Stephen Got Even) is a top draw.

Saturday's Sham S. (G3) won't feature any graded winners either. SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect) and NEXTDOORNEIGHBOR (Lido Palace [Chi]) both merit serious respect in their first stakes attempt, and CashCall Futurity (G1) fourth-placer THE PROGRAM (Harlan's Holiday), who exits an allowance triumph on Pro-Ride, is a threat for Bob Baffert.

Eskendereya commands respect in Pool 2 of Future Wager

A dominating victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2) has made ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway) the co-morning line favorite with champion LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike) among individual wagering interests for Pool 2 of Churchill Downs' 2010 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW), but it's the mutuel field, or "all others," that will be favored again when the three-day pool opens its March 5-7 run on Friday.

The "all others" wagering interest -- which includes all three-year-olds other than the 23 individual horses in each KDFW Pool -- was a strong 3-2 favorite at the conclusion of February 12-14 opening pool of the Derby Future bet. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia installed the mutuel field as the 7-2 favorite in the morning line odds for Pool 2, while Eskendereya and Lookin At Lucky are the co-second choices at 6-1. Eskendereya closed at 22-1 in February's opening KDFW pool, but his status rose sharply following an 8 1/2-length victory in the February 20 Fountain of Youth. The Bob Baffert-trained Lookin At Lucky, the 8-1 favored individual in KDFW Pool 1, is scheduled to make his 2010 debut in the March 13 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

Betting on KDFW Pool 2 opens at noon (all times EST) Friday for wagering at racetracks and satellite wagering centers, along with TwinSpires.com and other on-line wagering platforms. Wagering will conclude at 6 p.m. Sunday.

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager provides fans with an opportunity to bet weeks in advance on contenders for the Kentucky Derby (G1) at odds that could be more attractive than those they would receive on Derby Day. All KDFW pools also include exacta wagering. The Derby Future bet is a $2 minimum "win" wager. The minimum wager for a straight exacta, which requires the bettor to select the Kentucky Derby's top two finishers in the exact order of finish, is $2, while the minimum for exacta boxes and wheels is $1. There are no scratches and no refunds in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

Eskendereya is one of six Pool 2 horses trained by Todd Pletcher, the four-time Eclipse Award winner who has yet to win the Kentucky Derby in 24 attempts.  Other Pletcher trainees are AIKENITE (Yes It's True) (50-1), El Camino Real Derby (G3) winner CONNEMARA (Giant's Causeway) (20-1), Risen Star (G3) victor DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft) (30-1), RULE (Roman Ruler) (20-1), and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) scorer SUPER SAVER (Maria's Mon) (20-1).

There are 10 new betting interests in KDFW Pool 2 that include Robert B. Lewis winner CARACORTADO (Cat Dreams), Connemara, Hutcheson (G2) winner D' FUNNYBONE (D'wildcat), Discreetly Mine, NEXTDOORNEIGHBOR (Lido Palace [Chi]), ODYSSEUS (Malibu Moon), RADIOHEAD (GB) (Johannesburg), SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect), SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy's Ride [Arg]) and Risen Star runner-up TEMPTED TO TAPIT (Tapit).

Information on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager and real time odds are available online at www.kentuckyderby.com, the official Web site for the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby and the definitive online resource for information about the Kentucky Derby experience. 

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