Saturday plays: Kingsbarns owns right style for Louisiana Derby

Saturday plays: Kingsbarns owns right style for Louisiana Derby
Photo: Gulfstream Park

Although the common lesson has been to avoid the unproven runner, perhaps one colt trained by Todd Pletcher in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Saturday can overcome this rule. Kingsbarns makes the third start of his career, and he owns the right talent to defeat the expected favorite Instant Coffee.  

Read below for the reasoning behind choosing Kingsbarns, as well as selections and final bets for the Grade 3, $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park.  

Fair Grounds Race 12: Louisiana Derby (G2)

The unproven Kingsbarns brings a two-for-two record into his graded-stakes debut after breaking his maiden at Gulfstream two months ago and winning an optional claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs by an impressive 7 3/4 lengths last time out.  

Even though the Tampa Bay optional claimer runner-up Mikey Bananas did not run well in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), he did endure a wide trip in that race. In any case, Kingsbarns never tried his best when beating him.

Kingsbarns defeated better horses at Gulfstream, including Game Warden, who went on to finish second by half a length in a Feb. 26 maiden special weight on the same course while earning a 102 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which is a decent figure for maidens.  

As for how Kingsbarns stacks up to this field speed figure-wise, he shows a solid 95 Brisnet Speed Rating for his Gulfstream maiden win. The favorite Instant Coffee owns a Brisnet Speed Rating of 96 for his victory in the Lecomte Stakes (G3).

On TimeformUS, Kingsbarns’ high figure is 107, which they gave him for his Tampa Bay optional claiming win. Instant Coffee shows a high of 108 on TimeformUS.  

One point makes little to no difference on any speed figure scale. But the real difference here is that Kingsbarns possesses better tactical speed, or he could even set the pace. In contrast, Instant Coffee will likely close from midpack at best, or lag from the back at worst.

Kingsbarns is the choice.

Win/place: 6 (at 4-1 or higher)

Turfway Race 12: Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3)

Major Dude brings sharp Gulfstream turf form into this race after finishing second in the Dania Beach Stakes and winning the Kitten’s Joy Stakes (G3) over the past two months. In the latter race, he won by a clear 1 1/2 lengths after a wide stretch rally.

Last fall, Major Dude also won the Pilgrim Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct to give him a 4: 2-1-0 record on turf. Forget about his clunker in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.  

The Gulfstream turf to Jeff Ruby Steaks move was once a highly reliable angle in this race. In recent years, Gulfstream shippers lost their former stranglehold on the Jeff Ruby Steaks, but they can pick up another win this year if Major Dude can transfer his form to synthetic. While the rule is not set in stone, most good turf horses handle synthetic the same.

For example, notice Congruent finished sixth in the Kitten’s Joy won by Major Dude and then captured the John Battaglia Memorial on this course by 3 1/2 lengths.  

Major Dude is listed as 5/2 on the morning line though. For smaller bettors, a trifecta play is in order with Major Dude the key.  

Baby Billy also ships in from Gulfstream. In his turf debut on that course over nine furlongs, he made a good closing move to break his maiden by a head. Given his morning line odds of 30-1, he offers some intriguing value for the third slot.   

Two Phil’s offers a familiar face to bettors. This year alone, he ran second by only 2 1/2 lengths to Instant Coffee in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds. More recently, Two Phil’s led the Risen Star Stakes (G2) field at the top of the stretch before fading slightly in the stretch to finish third. In fairness to Two Phil’s, he moved into a pace collapse.

Pedigree-wise, Two Phil’s is supposed to enjoy synthetic. His dam Mia Torri broke her maiden over the old Arlington Park synthetic surface.

Out of the local runners, Event Detail seems interesting at a price. Forget about his bad dirt efforts. At Turfway, he shows one win and one second in two maiden starts. The 10th-place finish in the Rebel Stakes (G2) over the slop at Oaklawn only serves to keep his odds in double-digit range for his return to synthetic on this course.  

Wadsworth won his only two starts over Turfway, including a 10-length maiden win on Dec. 31 and a 2 1/2-length win in an optional claimer on Feb. 11. With Brad Cox training, he will take some money, but he still offers good form and some value without any stakes experience.  

Major Dude is the key over Two Phil’s, Event Detail and Wadsworth in second, and the same three horses plus Baby Billy in third.  

Win: 1 (at 8/5 or higher)

Trifecta: 1 / 3,10,11 / 3,6,10,11  

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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