Races could preview Derby entries


The next two point races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby will be in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park on Sunday.

Before you dismiss them as minor stakes, remember that two recent Derby winners prepped in them: Animal Kingdom (2011, Turfway) and Mine That Bird (2009, Sunland).

Turfway has a synthetic surface, so it’s no surprise a field of 12 is led by horses with turf and synthetic resumes.

Tamarando ships in from Northern California with three graded stakes wins (El Camino Real Derby, Cash Call Futurity, Del Mar Futurity) over synthetics. He is my choice from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

We Miss Artie prefers grass and synthetics, so he is a perfect fit for Turfway from the Todd Pletcher barn. After an awful race in the Fountain of Youth on dirt, he should rebound nicely.

A final alert goes to Solitary Ranger, who looks like a synthetic track freak. He is a front running type of horse, the kind that is always dangerous.

Trainer Bob Baffert won the Sunland Derby last year with Govenor Charlie. He has two in this year in Midnight Hawk and Chitu. On speed figures alone, both tower over the rest of this field. If they ran 1-2, I suspect both will cement a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Midnight Hawk is co-owned by Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice.

Trainer Todd Pletcher shipped in a pair from Florida in Commissioner and Global Strike. Global Strike just broke his maiden, so this is a big step up in class.

Commissioner looked bad and ran bad in the Fountain of Youth. He is adding blinkers so this is his litmus test. He has zero Derby points, so it’s now or never.

■ RAINBOW PICK 6 — A real issue with the Gulfstream Park Rainbow Pick 6 is when races come off the grass after the wager has begun. If you know South Florida weather, a thunderstorm can strike at any time.

The rule is the race, or races, are treated as “All” winners. It’s done for the protection of the players. But in this case, it makes having a unique ticket impossible.

One remedy may be allowing for alternate main track picks in turf races.

Gulfstream also announced that closing day will be June 29. On that day, the entire Pick 6 jackpot pool must be paid out.

■ HORSEPLAYER WORLD SERIES — This is a final reminder to sign up for the Boyd Gaming Horseplayer World Series, which will start on March 27. The entry fee is $1,000.

■ SOUTH POINT TWIN QUINELLA — The South Point will be offering Twin Quinella wagers based on the “Road Thru the Kentucky Derby.” The first two will be worth $2,500 using the Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby on March 29, and the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby on April 5. A $5,000 bet will feature the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby on April 12. The last one will offer $10,000 using the Kentucky Derby and another Churchill Downs stakes on May 3.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Reach him at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him @richeng4propick on Twitter.