We’ll get to one of the biggest weekends of the year on the road to the Triple Crown shortly, but first as your captain, I’d like to address the screams, maydays and splashes you may have heard from your cabins last weekend.
While the wailing may have been disturbing, I can assure you that you and your loved ones were never in danger. Those were merely lost souls leaping from a nearby bridge after ignoring the captain and betting on Good Magic to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes.
We all now know the source of their misery. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup juvenile champ, sent off at 3-5, ran decently, but never threatened 18-1 winner Promises Fulfilled or runner-up Strike Power and checked in third, 4½ lengths behind the winner.
Losing bettors, as we know, always scream bloody murder after suffering a bad beat. But the only thing bad about this particular defeat was that they didn’t heed clear signals that Good Magic was not primed for a top effort in his first race of the year.
Trainer intent is one of the most difficult factors for handicappers to assess on a daily basis. But in this case, Chad Brown was clear in remarks leading up to the race that the Fountain of Youth was just the first step toward having Good Magic ready to uncork his A race in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, which figures to be his third start of 2018.
Could he have won the race anyway? Of course, but 3-5 was a ridiculously short price to accept given the situation.
In the interest of providing you with a restful weekend, your captain again recommends thinking twice or maybe even three times before backing Bolt d’Oro in Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes (Grade 2) at Santa Anita, unless his odds drift up from the morning line of 2-1.
The colt also was one of the top 2-year-olds last year, but is likewise being pointed for Louisville and can’t be counted on to run lights out in his first try since the Breeders’ Cup.
#RJhorseracing featured races
With three intriguing Kentucky Derby preps scheduled for Saturday, I would have riled the #RJhorseracing handicappers by leaving out either the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2), the San Felipe or the Gotham Stakes (Grade 3) at Aqueduct. So for this week only, we have three handicapping puzzles to unravel.
In the Tampa Bay Derby, the ’capping crew narrowly sides with 3-1 morning line favorite Flameaway, winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes last out, to defeat World of Trouble (5-1). Vino Rosso (4-1) will pick up the pieces for third, they say. I’ll take Vino Rosso on top, figuring a hot pace and his new blinkers might land him in the winner’s circle.
In the San Felipe, our group is evenly split between Bolt d’Oro (2-1) and the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie (the 8-5 morning line favorite), with Kanthaka (4-1) drawing considerable support to finish third. I give McKinzie a slight edge over Bolt d’Oro because of his recency advantage.
Finally, in the Gotham Stakes, the handicappers like Firenze Fire (5-2) over 9-5 favorite Free Drop Billy, with Enticed (7-2) finishing third. I’ll go with Free Drop Billy to beat Firenze Fire and toss in Beautiful Shot at 8-1 in exactas to add some value.
You’re invited to join the fun next week. Just email me or hop on Twitter and let me know you’d like to get involved.
Ellis Starr’s Tampa Bay Derby analysis
World of Trouble has dominated in two of his three career starts, winning by margins of 14 lengths in those two winning races and missing by a half-length in the other. Although both of his wins came leading from start to finish and although he has yet to demonstrate whether he can carry his speed around two turns as he’s trying to do for the first time today, World of Trouble appears to have all the tools to do just that, particularly as Irad Ortiz, Jr. rides him for the first time.
Flameaway ran nearly as fast as World of Trouble when victorious in the Sam F. Davis Stakes last month, earning a career-best 106 figure. Considering Flameaway won the Bourbon Stakes in October on the main track at the same distance of the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby, and with logical improvement in his third start following a layoff, Flameaway appears very capable of winning for the sixth time in his eighth career start and gaining enough points in the “Road to the Derby” system to garner a start in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Vino Rosso is another horse we can expect to improve significantly. Winner of his first two starts last fall including a two-turn race in December at Tampa Bay Downs, Vino Rosso improved a lot in his first start as a 3-year-old last month when third behind Flameaway in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Although he only rallied mildly from fifth early to third on the wire, Vino Rosso was only three-quarters of a length behind runner-up Catholic Boy but more importantly was eight and one-half lengths clear of the fourth horse. With the addition of blinkers and for the barn of top trainer Todd Pletcher, Vino Rosso is another strong win contender in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Ellis Starr is the national racing analyst for Equibase. Visit the Equibase website for more on the race or to purchase handicapping products.