Rather than get too complicated, this post covering Saturday stakes races will stick to win bets for the three Derby races across the country.
The first of those three races runs at Belmont Park, as they host the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on turf. Next at Horseshoe Indy, the action is on dirt for the Grade 3, $300,000 Indiana Derby (G3). Last, but not least, the $250,000 Iowa Derby and its evening post time puts the night spotlight on Prairie Meadows.
Here are the three selections and reasoning behind them.
Belmont Race 9: Belmont Derby (G1)
Tiz the Bomb shows excellent 2-year-old turf form as the winner of the Bourbon Stakes (G2) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
In more recent times, Tiz the Bomb also won the John Battaglia Memorial and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) over the synthetic course at Turfway Park. Most synthetic racetracks lean towards favoring turf horses more than dirt horses.
Although Tiz the Bomb ran a non-threatening ninth in the Kentucky Derby, that kind of ugly running line could help him offer more value. The presence of Europeans shippers in this race will also make sure Tiz the Bomb’s odds do not become too low. On the morning line, he is 6-1.
Nations Pride and Stone Age bring plenty of talent over from Europe. Stone Age lacks a win over a firm or good turf surface though, while Nations Pride threw a lackluster effort in the Cazoo Derby (G1) with his eighth-place finish. Both of them are contenders, but the public sometimes overbets the classier European invaders in this kind of race.
Tiz the Bomb is the choice.
Win/place: 9 (at 9/2 or higher)
Horseshoe Indy Race 12: Indiana Derby (G2)
In his first start of the year, Actuator broke his maiden on June 8 in a seven-furlong Churchill Downs dirt sprint by an impressive 7 1/4 lengths with a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure, the highest figure in the field.
For BRIS users, Actuator earned a 95 BRIS Speed Rating, which is second only to Rattle N Roll and his 97 for the American Derby.
Actuator owns the tactical speed advantage since he can press or stalk the pace right behind New Year’s Fever and Best Actor, while Rattle N Roll figures to settle in midpack. He can only stalk if the pace is slow.
Can Actuator transfer his form to a two-turn dirt route? For what it is worth, Actuator’s dam Indian Rock is an Indian Charlie half-sister to R Heat Lightning, the winner of the 2011 Gulfstream Oaks (G2) at nine furlongs.
Cross out Actuator’s two losses in turf routes as an undeveloped 2-year-old.
With Rattle N Roll likely to attract money as the name runner, the lesser known Actuator might hold at his 7/2 morning line odds. Do not accept too low of a price, as he is unproven in dirt routing and stakes races.
Win: 8 (at 3-1 or higher)
Prairie Meadows Race 8: Iowa Derby
Conagher broke his maiden in a six-furlong Keeneland sprint on April 13 by 6 3/4 lengths with an excellent 119 TimeformUS Speed Figure.
If that is not impressive enough, Conagher then took a seven-furlong optional claimer at Churchill Downs on June 3 by 5 1/4 lengths with a massive 129 on TimeformUS. For a 3-year-old, that is a huge number.
In all seven career starts to this point, Conagher competed only in sprints. Now he tries one and one-sixteenth miles while making his stakes debut.
If it means anything, Conagher’s dam You Should Be Here won four times in a 23-race career and all four wins came in routes. Seeing Jimmy Creed on top though as Conagher's sire is possibly a negative.
Conagher faces no monsters in this race and no blazing early speed types, which should help him handle the distance. Expect Conagher to sit near the likely pacesetter Major General and take over on the turn.
Win: 5 (5/2 or higher)