For long shot seekers, the most interesting 3-year-old Derby points race this weekend is the Grade 1, $1 million Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. The 11-horse field feels open with only a few entries not offering a valid case to win.
Over at Aqueduct and Santa Anita, the best horse to use in the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial and Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby feels more straightforward with the favorite the best option in each race.
Here are final selections and bets for each race.
Keeneland Race 9: Blue Grass Stakes (G1)
The 30-1 long shot Clear the Air has been a magnet for trouble.
In Clear the Air’s Feb. 12 optional claiming race at Turfway, he became shuffled back and lost position before coming on again to finish fourth.
Then in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, Clear the Air started to pass horses in the stretch after rating near the rear, but he got stuck in a tight spot between Uncorrelated and Lugan Knight at a critical point.
Once Clear the Air freed himself of those two horses, he passed a few more runners towards the wire. But most his momentum had already been shot.
On the rider switch to Ricardo Santana Jr., perhaps Clear the Air can use his tactical speed to secure a more upfront position in this spot. Back in his career debut last summer at Ellis Park, Clear the Air took up a stalking position in a six-furlong sprint race. His two synthetic efforts show him using speed too. He does not need to close from the rear.
If Clear the Air can sit closer, he might turn the tables on Raise Cain and find a way to hold off the late charge from the talented Tapit Trice.
As long as Clear the Air starts at 15-1 or higher, he is worth a bet.
Win/place: 2 (at 15-1 or higher).
Aqueduct Race 11: Wood Memorial Stakes (G2)
Hit Show made a splash in the local Withers Stakes (G3) when he stalked a fast pace and put away Arctic Arrogance in the stretch for a 5 1/2-length win. The stretchout to nine furlongs resulted in a step forward.
In the Wood Memorial, Hit Show gets the opportunity to run nine furlongs again. Hit Show drew the widest post, but with a good ride he might use his tactical speed to cross over and secure a decent position.
With Arctic Arrogance, Uncle Jake and Dreamlike set to contest the pace, Hit Show can find a stalking position on the outside behind the speed and strike again on the far turn. Give Hit Show’s odds are 5/2 on the morning line though, long shots are needed in the underneath spots.
Crupi made up a ton of ground in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. Unfortunately, he began the race in last and 19 lengths behind. After moving forward in the stretch, Crupi could only pick up seventh late, but he ended the race full of run nonetheless.
In this spot, Crupi faces easier competition. He might start the race closer to the leaders this time. Note his previous races before the Gotham where he sat anywhere from two to 10 lengths back in the first quarter and never ran worse than third in five starts at the maiden level.
Another good long shot candidate for second is Classic Catch, who shows two wins in two starts at nine furlongs. Back in November on this course, Classic Catch beat Crupi by 2 1/2 lengths in a nine-furlong maiden race. More recently at Gulfstream, Classic Catch won an optional claimer at the same nine-furlong distance.
Classic Catch does not give the impression of a fast horse. But he loves the distance and runs as a stalker. If Classic Catch hangs around long enough, he could simply inherit second once the other horses get tired.
Win: 13 (at 2-1 or higher)
Exacta: 13 / 9,11
Santa Anita Race 6: Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Practical Move stands as the best horse here after wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and San Felipe Stakes (G2). In the latter race, he won by 2 1/2 lengths over Geaux Rocket Ride while earning a 119 on TimeformUS. After the race, Practical Move galloped out powerfully.
Although Practical Joke is not known as a longer route sire, Practical Move shows enough stamina names on his bottom side. For example, the second dam Dash for Money is a half-sister to Flaming Heart.
Who is Flaming Heart? The dam Flaming Heart ended up producing Commissioner, the runner-up in the 2014 Belmont Stakes, as well as Mythical Bride, the dam of 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso.
Despite the low price, Practical Move is the choice.
For second, the Japanese shipper Mandarin Hero seems interesting as he makes his debut in North America. He shows a 5: 4-1-0 record, with one stakes win and one runner-up finish in a stakes race in his most recent start.
The winner in Mandarin Hero’s last start, Hero Call, had run fourth behind Derby contender Derma Sotogake in the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, a race on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Also consider the long shot I Don’t Get It for second. In his most recent start, he broke his maiden locally in a March 11 maiden race around two turns. I Don’t Get It won by 3/4 length over Yellow Brick, who has some talent for trainer Richard Mandella.
Two starts ago, I Don’t Get It also ran fourth by 3 3/4 lengths to Skinner in a local one-mile maiden race on Feb. 12. In his next start in the San Felipe, Skinner made a wide move to pick up third while hanging late.
I Don’t Get It might improve on the stretch out to nine furlongs.
Win: 5 (at 6/5 or higher)
Exacta: 5 / 1,8