Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
The 2014 Kentucky Derby Trail rolls on this weekend with action up north at Aqueduct in The Withers Stakes, and down south at Tampa Bay Downs in the Sam F. Davis. Both races came up a little bit light, but as we have said before, this is the time of year 3 year olds can improve a great deal. Derby points will be up for grabs in The Withers while none are being offered in the Sam F. Davis. While that is the case at Tampa, I am sure the top runners from that race will end up in preps down the line so it is crucial we pay attention to the action down there as well. Let’s start in the Big Apple and work our way south. Here’s my quick take on both…
This field came up very light with only a field of six heading to the gate. I wouldn’t talk you off anyone in here. They all have chance for improvement, but they also have major questions to answer as well. I ended up going with Uncle Sigh and Scotland as my top picks, but I cannot argue if you like any of them. I think they all have somewhat of a shot today. Here is my logic on how I ended up where I did. For Uncle Sigh, he has back to back Beyers over 90 and a win over this track. He broke his maiden while being afforded an easy lead up front, but I don’t expect him to be on the lead today. I think he should be fine if he can secure a nice pressing trip. He has shown he possesses the ability to pass horses in his first career start while closing for place in that contest. Some of the questions he will have to answer today are this is his first time against winners and out of the state-bred ranks. To me personally, I think he should be able to handle the task. As for Scotland, I used him in here because I thought he deserved another chance after his troubled showing in the Jerome earlier this month. He got walloped at the start and was a little bit rank while routing for the first time. I’ll take another shot with him today. The obvious question with him is can he cross the wire first as he still is a maiden. I will trust Tony Dutrow one more time and give this guy another shot today.
As for the ones that I am unsure of, I am against Classic Giacnroll because I did not like his last start in the Jerome. The fact he did not switch leads cost him the win in that race in my opinion and I am not so sure he likes going a route of ground. He may improve with this being his second try routing, but I’m not convinced and will be siding against him today. Street Gent I feel needs an easy lead that he probably will not get. I will say though, I do really like his workout pattern going into this. Samraat looks better on paper than in reality in my opinion. That 95 last out Beyer just jumps off the page at you. It did happen on an off track though, and I am going to discredit it for that reason. He should be on the lead though, and if they leave him alone he very well could take them gate to wire. Lastly, Honorable Judge, I almost used him, but after watching his last race I just think he got a perfect set up.
As you can see, I have no super strong opinion here. If I were playing multi-race exotics, depending on what I thought in the other races, if I could I would hit the all button. If not, I would be okay using just Uncle Sigh and Scotland. It is a pretty tough race though and I wouldn’t try to talk you off anyone.
The Sam F. Davis
Even though there are no Derby points at stake here I thought this field came up pretty interesting. I landed on two horses that I would feel comfortable with keying in multi-race exotics, or in an Exacta, with Noble Cornerstone and Vinceremos. Noble Cornerstone is a nose shy of being two for two lifetime and after watching both of his races I was impressed. He broke his maiden in fine fashion and then was jumped up into the Springboard Mile at Remington Park. I thought he closed very nice in that stakes race and he should like the added ground of today’s contest. He is my top pick and I believe he should show a fine account of himself today. As for Vinceremos, he had all sorts of trouble in his maiden breaking score after being bumped hard at the start, having to muscle his way into the lane, and then drifting in and swapping leads before eventually gutting out a win. This is his first start verses winners and around two turns, but I think he showed enough grit and talent in his last that I think he should run well today.
As for the ones I am against, I do not like the ones exiting turf races (Imaginethatmom and School On a Hill), or synthetic races (Asserting Bear and Matador). I am just not so sure how they will take to the different pace dynamics and getting dirt kicked in their faces. I know Imaginethatmom broke her maiden on dirt a while ago, but that was against much lesser at Calder in September so I will pass. Harpoon and Cousin Stephen scare me a little bit, but after watching their last races I think I am against. Cousin Stephen got a perfect pressing trip behind a slow pace and had no kick for the stretch. Maybe it was the distance, who knows, regardless I am against him today. As for Harpoon, I watched his last two races and I just wasn’t that impressed. He could win, but I am siding against today. Especially since I imagine he will be a short price.
As you can clearly see these are a couple of tough races to decipher. What the future holds for these contestants from here I am not exactly sure. I will be watching closely and will offer up my post race thoughts sometime in the middle of next week. Good luck this weekend, folks.