This weekend’s Kentucky Derby preps bring an air of mystery

Updated March 30, 2017 - 6:23 pm

I do a lot of handicapping seminars in Las Vegas race books and once in a while out of town. In 2009, I was doing a Kentucky Derby seminar at Sunset Station and I said this about Mine That Bird: “He has no shot.”

Of course, Mine That Bird won the 2009 Derby at 50-1 odds in a stunning upset in the slop. I vowed then to never use that term again. About any horse.

Just imagine the time frame then compared to now. Mine That Bird had just run fourth at 13-1 odds in the Sunland Derby. It was not the kind of race where you would run over to Wynn Las Vegas and make a $100 Derby future book bet.

But his trainer, Chip Woolley, saw enough to load Mine That Bird onto a van and drive from New Mexico to Louisville, Kentucky, and Churchill Downs. The rest, they say, is history.

That brings us to today, when dozens of trainers harbor the same hopes that Woolley did eight years ago. It is why there always will be 20 horses in the Derby because you just never know.

The two Derby preps on Saturday are big ones — the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds. A top-two finish will earn enough points to make the Derby field even if you have zero right now.

In the Florida Derby, Gunnevera (9-5) is favored off a sharp win in the Fountain of Youth. Battalion Runner (3-1) is next, but he will scratch and run elsewhere for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Gunnevera would be a slam dunk for me if he drew an inside post. But he drew post 11, and with the shape of the Gulfstream oval, it looks as if he is starting from the parking lot.

A horse with a big tactical edge is State of Honor (8-1), who drew post 1. Even though trainer Mark Casse is taking the blinkers off, jockey Julien Leparoux should still send State of Honor to the lead. Not only will the colt save every inch of ground, but Gulfstream historically is a speed-favoring track.

Pletcher has an exciting prospect in Always Dreaming (4-1), who is making his stakes debut. He figures to stalk the early pace and rally late.

My pick is State of Honor to pull off a major upset.

At the Fair Grounds, Girvin (8-5) is favored off a win in the Risen Star. He has progressed nicely in only three career starts for trainer Joe Sharp. This will be a good test because he got a perfect trip in the Risen Star win.

Local Hero (7-2) was the pacesetter in the Risen Star that Girvin ran past in the stretch run. Early speed is always dangerous, and this is the kind of colt who may forget to stop on Saturday.

Guest Suite (4-1) ran a better-than-looked race in the Risen Star. He rallied late for fourth after being far behind early. If the pace is quicker, which it should be with newcomers Patch (9-2), Monaco (12-1) and Hotfoot (30-1) in the field, then he has a huge chance.

I will pick Guest Suite to win the Louisiana Derby from off the pace.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can buy his Santa Anita Park picks at racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at rich_eng@hotmail.com and follow @richeng4propick on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Sports Betting Spotlight Videos
Sports Betting Spotlight: College Basketball Week 15
Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart and Westgate Sports Book Director John Murray.
Sports Betting Spotlight: College Basketball Week 14
Adam Hill and Kelly Stewart discuss betting strategies for college basketball.
Sports Betting Spotlight: Super Bowl prop futures
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Todd Dewey, handicapper Bernie Fratto and CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt preview Super Bowl LII prop futures.
Sports Betting Spotlight: Super Bowl LII prop bets
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Todd Dewey, handicapper Bernie Fratto and CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt preview Super Bowl LII prop bets.
Sports Betting Spotlight: Super Bowl LII picks
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Todd Dewey, handicapper Bernie Fratto and CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt preview Super Bowl LII.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL conference championships
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Todd Dewey, handicapper Kelly Stewart and CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt preview the NFL’s conference championship games.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL divisional playoffs
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Todd Dewey, handicapper Kelly Stewart and CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt preview the NFL divisional playoffs.
Sports Betting Spotlight: College Football National Championship
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Todd Dewey, handicapper Kelly Stewart and CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt preview Monday’s college football national championship.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Wild Card playoffs
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Todd Dewey, handicapper Kelly Stewart and CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt preview the NFL’s Wild Card playoff weekend.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Week 17
Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart and Matt Holt go over their picks for week 17 of the NFL.
Sports Betting Spotlight: College Bowls Week Three
Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart and Matt Holt go over their picks for week three of the college bowl games.
Sports Betting Spotlight: College Bowls Week 2
Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey, handicapper Bernie Fratto and The Mirage sports book director Jeff Stoneback preview the college football bowls.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Week 16
Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey, handicapper Bernie Fratto and The Mirage sports book director Jeff Stoneback preview Week 16 of the NFL season.
Sports Betting Spotlight: College Football Bowl Edition
Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart and Las Vegas Wynn Sports Book Director Johnny Avello go over their picks for the college bowl games.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Week 15
Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart and Las Vegas Wynn Sports Book Director Johnny Avello go over their picks for week 15 of NFL football.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Week 14
Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey, handicapper Kelly Stewart and TI sports book director Tony Nevill preview NFL Week 14.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Week 13
Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey, handicapper Kelly Stewart and The Mirage sports book director Jeff Stoneback preview Week 13 of the NFL regular season. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sports Betting Spotlight: College football Week 14
Review-Journal reporter Todd Dewey, handicapper Kelly Stewart and The Mirage sports book director Jeff Stoneback preview Week 14 of the college football season. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sports Betting Spotlight: College Week 13
Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart and Matt Holt give their picks for week 13 of college football.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Week 12
Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart and Matt Holt give their picks for week 12 of NFL football.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like