68°F
weather icon Clear

Saturday preps to bring Derby picture into focus

Three Kentucky Derby preps — the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby and Illinois Derby — take center stage Saturday. It’s crunch time with just four weeks until the Run for the Roses.

The Wood features my top pick for the Derby — Any Given Saturday — facing Nobiz Like Shobiz and Summer Doldrums.

The Santa Anita Derby could have the weakest field because it has only two stakes winners starting: Bwana Bull and King of the Roxy. Neither horse is favored. That honor goes to Liquidity.

In the Illinois Derby, a good group led by Cobalt Blue, Cowtown Cat and Bold Start could jump up. Cowtown Cat also was entered in the Wood but will run at Hawthorne.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has a shot at sweeping all three. He’ll start Any Given Saturday in the Wood, Sam P. and King of the Roxy at Santa Anita and Cowtown Cat at Hawthorne. In all, Pletcher has an nine colts still on the Derby trail.

The trainer record for most Derby starters is five, held by Nick Zito (2005) and D. Wayne Lukas (1996).

When you’re watching these preps, remember that running well might mean just as much as winning. Trainers know the goal is to peak May 5 in the Derby, not in a final prep.

Also, Circular Quay, Scat Daddy, Hard Spun and Notional might not start again before the Derby, leaving them with layoffs ranging from five to eight weeks.

KEENELAND — The rich Keeneland meet begins today at Lexington, Ky. Its signature Derby prep, the Toyota Blue Grass, will be April 14. Expect Street Sense and Great Hunter to headline. Keeneland uses the innovative Trakus system, so bettors can follow the horses as colored “chicklets” moving across the top of the simulcast picture.

CONTESTS — There was one perfect ticket in the Santa Anita Pick 5 contest Thursday at South Point. The winner got $39,060. The $5,000 Horse Handicapper’s Contest is Sunday at the Cannery and Rampart race books.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Irish War Cry due for good race, pick to win Belmont

With Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness champion Cloud Computing skipping the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, the Triple Crown races will produce three different winners for the second consecutive year.

This weekend is filled with festival-style horse racing

Today the trend is for racetracks to cluster their stakes in a festival-style program. Thus, the Met Mile will be among nine graded stakes on the Belmont Stakes card June 10.

Always Dreaming’s Preakness run proves ‘horses are human’

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming by various accounts came bouncing out of Churchill Downs in good order. His Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher felt good about his preparation.

Kentucky Derby offers clues for Preakness winner

Always Dreaming is the horse the racing industry will be rooting for. A win in the Preakness sets up another Triple Crown chance in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Preakness questions immediately face Always Dreaming

After Always Dreaming crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby, the first question was, “Is he good enough to win the Triple Crown.”

McCraken gets nod to win Kentucky Derby

Many experts are calling this the most wide-open Kentucky Derby in years. When I hear that, I get cynical. Wide open was in 2009 when Mine That Bird destroyed the field at 50-1 odds.

Kentucky Derby week means betting seminars in Las Vegas

The Kentucky Derby attracts the most novice and casual bettors of any race in our sport. With that in mind, there are all kinds of free Derby seminars next week.

Patience is necessary for future bets in horse racing

I love making future bets, not only in horse racing but also other sports. That’s because horseplayers learn a basic tenet early on. Our goal is to bet a little to win a lot.

‘Super Saturday’ should solidify Kentucky Derby field for many horses

When the folks at Churchill Downs dreamed up the Kentucky Derby points system, I was skeptical at first. Not anymore. It has worked by producing fields of in-form horses that, for the most part, are also bred to race two turns.