So with only two months to go before 20 Thoroughbreds make their Run for the Roses, let me share my fleeting thoughts on the Tampa Bay Derby, take stock of where my Kentucky Derby future picks sit this weekend and a few random Derby thoughts...
While nine, three-year-olds look to punch Kentucky Derby tickets in the Tampa Bay Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher's curious courses to get his trainees to the big dance continues. Verrazano, much touted through two starts, makes his two-turn debut and will likely go off at as the heavy favorite. Sure a 16-length allowance win in just his second start stamps this horse something, but a Derby favorite really. At a 4-5 morning line and a few of the eight others having a chance to improve, I'd strongly suggest you take a pass.
Among the strongest in the group to "upset" Verrazano are the top two returning from the Tampa Bay Derby prep, Sam Davis Stakes, Dynamic Sky (4-1) and Falling Sky (10-1). Falling Sky was scheduled to start and then scratched from the Fountain of Youth after his Sam Davis Stake win while Dynamic Sky is more highly touted and may have learned a thing or two off his first try going a distance over a mile.
A couple worth just as much of a look as Verrazano are Honorable Dillon (6-1), a stakes winner at seven furlongs, but a son of Tapit that just might relish extra ground and Park City (12-1), owned by the same partnership, Starlight Racing, that has two-year-old champ, Shanghai Bobby. With a broodmare of Pleasant Colony on the bottom and graded-stakes producing sire, Harlan Holiday, on top, it would be ironic if Park City came from nowhere to become a leading Pletcher Derby contender. With the way it's going for Pletcher along the Derby trail, I wouldn't be surprised with such an outcome.
If the Tampa Derby is part of a online contest I'm playing on Saturday, I'm taking Park City. If you would like my advice - wheel Verrazano underneath in exactas.
Now an area in which I find more challenge then triumph - Kentucky Derby future wagers. Usually such picks fail to earn their way into the Derby gate, get hurt or like Rousing Sermon make little noise once the Churchill gate opens. So please take all my selections with heavy doses of salt, pepper and Tabasco.
Super Ninety Nine - I basically thought at the time he was Baffert's best shot and he tends to get a few to Louisville. Just after I made my $2 win wager at 45-1 in Kentucky Derby Pool 1, Super Ninety Nine won by daylight in the Oaklawn slop. Just recently he fired a bullet drill in preparation for a return to Arkansas and a probable start in the Rebel Stakes.
Will Take Charge - A renewed D. Wayne Lukas looks to regain Triple Crown glory. If nothing else, it could be a feel good story about a onetime leading trainer once again getting back to the Triple Crown winner's circle for a record 14 time. But back to reality, Will Take Charge was never part of the very wet Southwest Stakes after winning the Smarty Jones Stakes. He's worked well, and I'm hoping he runs back to his earlier form.
Falling Sky - dropped a $2 minimum on him since he was the highest price horse in Pool 1, and he just happened to be a stakes winner - Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay. If Todd Pletcher trainees continue to sputter this Derby season, Falling Sky just could qualify for the Derby with a follow up win or runner up finish in Tampa on Saturday. By the way he closed at 114-1…
Finally clearing out my cluttered Derby Trail mind...
Off of his fantastic Holy Bull win and continued quick works, Itsmyluckyday continues to be my top choice. The Holy Bull may emerge as a key Derby prep as third place finisher from that race, Cleary Now, came back to win the seven furlong Swale Stakes and the second place finisher just happens to be the two-year-old champ Shanghai Bobby. While many feel Shanghai Bobby has distance limitations (don't they all?), he certainly has heart and runs fast up to 1 mile and a 1/16.
Twitter accounts (both official and unofficial) for Thoroughbreds seems to be on the rise. In addition to Shanghai Bobby, there's Revolutionary, Verreazano, Overanalyze, Oxbow, /goldencents and Flashback to name a few Derby hopefuls. So just about anyone can get info straight from the horse's mouth.