As seen at Del Mar recently, the last few Kentucky Derby trail races are not as simple as choosing the best horse. Because the top 3-year-olds own enough points to enter the Run for the Roses, there is less incentive to crank them.
In the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby on Sunday, there is one big entry in Art Collector, the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) last month.
As seen in the replay below, Art Collector looked great in his win at Keeneland. He used his tactical speed to secure a stalking position right outside of Swiss Skydiver.
From there, Art Collector patiently waited in third until the far turn.
Art Collector finally moved approaching the turn, and it turned into a two-horse race at the top of the stretch between him and the filly Swiss Skydiver. He needed some urging to pass Swiss Skydiver, but in midstretch Art Collector proved best and drew clear.
The fact that Art Collector had to use some effort to pass Swiss Skydiver is not a huge concern, as that is one of the top fillies in training. Art Collector beat her by 3 1/2 lengths, with another 4 3/4 lengths between Swiss Skydiver and Rushie in third. Clear margins hint at a fast race.
TimeformUS gave Art Collector a relatively high 123 speed figure for his Blue Grass victory. If this colt only repeats that effort for trainer Tom Drury Jr., he will win at Ellis Park this weekend.
But as suggested earlier, whether Art Collector gives the best version of himself is the question. Art Collector owns 100 Derby points and is in fifth place on the list. He could finish second or third and still qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He could miss the board and still own enough points. No incentive is there to repeat the Blue Grass effort.
In all likelihood, Drury will wait until after this weekend to crank Art Collector up. If that is true, then it opens the door for another horse.
The right alternative option is Shared Sense.
Shared Sense won the Indiana Derby (G3) in early July by a three-length margin over Major Fed, and he did it under only mild urging.
What brought about the improvement?
Some handicappers might point to the lesser competition in the Indiana Derby, but Major Fed is no slouch on his best day. Earlier in the year, Major Fed ran second in the second division of the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2). After those two races, a wide post and trip hurt Major Fed in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3).
Before the Indiana Derby, Shared Sense only crossed the wire first once, when he won by a desperate nose over Marvin in an optional claimer at Oaklawn. But he does not seem the same as that horse.
Two factors probably helped Shared Sense move forward.
The longer nine-furlong distance of the Indiana Derby made it easier for him to rally. At shorter distances, he ran too one-paced in the stretch.
Also, Shared Sense developed since his nose win over Marvin. Two races after that Oaklawn win, he crossed the wire second to Art Collector in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs. Although Shared Sense finished 6 1/2 lengths behind him, he defeated a notable name in Finnick the Fierce for second, with another 2 1/2 lengths back to Necker Island in last.
In terms of speed figures, Shared Sense is kind of low on TimeformUS, with a 112 and 114 in his last two starts. Those numbers are well below Art Collector’s 123.
On BRIS though, Shared Sense is closer. His last two BRIS Speed Ratings resulted in 102 and 95, while Art Collector earned a 104 and 103 on that scale. BRIS users could argue that a one or two points is not insurmountable, especially if Art Collector does not run his best.
Shared Sense drawing Post 12 is a concern. But Florent Geroux is used to this type of position as he piloted Ete Indien from a wide post in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream earlier in the year to victory. Granted, this situation is different because Shared Sense does not run as a pacesetter and typically settles towards the rear.
In a nine-furlong race with a longer run to the first turn, perhaps Post 12 does not matter. Geroux has plenty of time to cross over.
Art Collector is the best horse. But if he regresses slightly while waiting for the Derby, Shared Sense seems like the logical horse to take advantage of the situation and win. After all, Honor A. P. was the best horse coming into the Shared Belief Stakes, and look what happened to him. In horse racing, strange results happen based on trainer intent.
As for underneath options, Anneau d’Or, Attachment Rate and Winning Impression are useable. Anneau d’Or tends to show early speed and stall in the stretch run, while both Attachment Rate and Winning Impression are two closers who can pick off tired runners in the lane.
Use both Art Collector and Shared Sense in multi-race wagers. If Shared Sense holds at 9/2 or higher, then think about playing him to win or on top in exotics.