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Kentucky Derby Service Plays

Kentucky Derby Service Plays

ATS triple crown package

Gayego to win and place

play Gayego with these for exacta's, tri's and super's

Court Vision
Big Brown
Colonel John
Smooth Air

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Rick Needham

#10 Colonel John
#20 Big Brown
#05 Eight Belles
#13 Bob Black Jack

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Winner's Choice

Churchill Downs Race 10:

Top 3 Picks: 20-9-19 Class: 12-20-5 Speed: 20-9-13 Pace: 2-20-17

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The Scratch Sheet:

Churchill Downs Race 10

Top 3 Picks: 20-12-18 Top Speed: 8-20-9 Top Class: 20-12-5

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Teddy June.

derby picks.
Pyro accross the board.

exacta and trifectas.
Colonel John.
Tale of Ekati.

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The Professor's Selections & Analysis of KY Derby

Kentucky Derby-G1

20-Big Brown 4-1 - Won by daylight in all 3 career starts earning best Beyer & Sheet figure in this field. Must overcome FAR OUTSIDE post and a history of foot problems. Trainer Richard Dutrow is extremely confident of his chances. Logical favorite but may be overbet at probable 2-1 odds.
9-Pyro 5-1 - Am willing to overlook his poor performance on the Keeneland "follytrack". Won his only race at Churchill Downs and can handle a wet surface. May rebound at his 6-1 morning line odds.
4-Court Vision 12-1 - Strong closer will be flying late with a clean trip
5-Eight Belles 12-1 - Unbridled's Song filly is undefeated in 4 starts this year. Her Beyer & Sheet figs indicate she fits with the boys. May surprise at her 20-1 ML odds.
10 Colonel John 12-1 - Improving Tiznow colt is untested on a dirt surface. His blistering 5 furlong work at Churchill Downs earlier this week may indicate he can handle it. Capable with minor improvement.
8-Visionaire 15-1 - His best race was his Gotham-G3 win on a sloppy track. May get the same surface if the expected thunderstorms materialize. Contender from mid-pack.
16-Denis of Cork 15-1 - Disappointed in the Illinois Derby-G2 after winning his first 3 races. Late runner may rebound at long odds with a clean trip.

Wagering Strategy
$1 Trifecta wheel: 9-20 / 4-5-9-10-20 / 4-5-8-9-10-16-20 = $40
$1 Superfecta wheel: 9 / 20 / 4-5-8-10-16 / 4-5-8-10-16 = $20

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On Saturday, our selection is on Pyro, and our recommendation is to wager on Pyro to win, place and show.

It's hard to remember a more wide-open Kentucky Derby field in recent memory than this 134th running. The favorite is a lightly-raced colt by the name of Big Brown (reportedly named for the nationwide delivery service UPS), who drew an impossible far outside post (otherwise known as the "20 hole"). And the best 2 year-old from 2007, a colt named War Pass, had to withdraw when a small fracture in his leg was recently discovered. When War Pass was racing last year, and beating every other two year-old in the country rather easily en route to his two year-old horse-of-the-year title, there was one horse who was always clearly second-best and that horse was Pyro. When it came time to race in 2008 as three year-olds, War Pass and Pyro went their separate ways, and Pyro did not have to face his nemesis in any of his three tune-ups for the Derby. Prior to his injury, War Pass went into training in South Florda, while Pryo's connections sent him to the Fair Grounds race track in New Orleans. In the Big Easy, Pyro won his first two starts of 2008 with amazing ease, coming from far off the pace in both efforts to win comfortably with his regular rider, Shaun Bridgmohan aboard. Then Pyro suffered a disappointment in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Track in Kentucky. But the Blue Grass is run on an artificial surface, and it just may have been that Pyro didn't care much for it. If he had won the Blue Grass the way he did his other two starts of 2008, then he probably would have been no worse than the co-favorite in the Derby with odds somewhere in the 3-1 range. But because of that last, unimpressive effort on the Polytrack, Pyro has been installed as no better than the third choice at 6-1. Trainer Steve Asmussen (who has another, much less accomplished horse in the Derby) drew a perfect position of #9 and Pyro has been training superbly for this race. I wouldn't be surprised if Pyro floats up to 7-1 or 8-1 by post time, as he seems to be somewhat the forgotten horse in here. But even if the odds tick down slightly from 6-1, I still love the value. Asmussen has had an amazing last 12 months with 2007's horse of the year, Curlin, having crushed all the best older horses in the world, winning the world's richest race in Dubai back in March, and it just may be that Asmussen has a few more bullets in his chamber for the first Saturday in May. Bet on Pyro 'across the board' to win, place and show. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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Wizard's Major Stakes for Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Wizard's Major Stakes for Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
Churchill Downs Race 10 - 134th Running of the Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs Race 10 - 134th Running of the Kentucky Derby 1 1/4m Grade I 3yo, Purse: $2,000,000. Post Time: ET

Race Synopsis
The Kentucky Derby, then and now. Handicapping thoroughbred races has always been a complex process. Now, with the emergence of synthetic tracks the last few years, that task has become increasingly more difficult, if not down right impossible as these “fake” surfaces have wreaked havoc with handicapping. Case in point is the recently concluded Keeneland meet, where favorites took it on the chin, winning at a rate that is far below the national average. While it is true that no dirt tracks are alike, each synthetic surface has its own nuance as well. Perhaps even more so, these artificial tracks are supposedly comprised of relatively the same materials. Even if a thoroughbred possesses the so-called “proper breeding” necessary to handle this new wave type of surface, there is no guarantee that they will ultimately find it to their liking, as it has been stated that they change constantly due to weather, racing, and even track maintenance. While I am all for safety in racing for all concerned, bettors have voiced their discontent as to the complexities of handicapping those tracks who have made the change to synthetic.

As a result, handicapping has become more difficult at these venues, and the Kentucky Derby has been impacted as well. Handicappers must ascertain whether those horses that lack traditional dirt form, will be able to produce their “A” race at Churchill Downs. Also, some of the trainers who once dominated the Kentucky Derby have fallen by the wayside. In recent years, D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert, who were a conspicuous presence in the Run for the Roses, and could be counted upon to have a legitimate contender or two, have been absent of late. And, while trainer Nick Zito will be represented this year, he is not the major force he once was. I suppose it is great to have an infusion of new blood, but it seems these changes are all happening at once. Undoubtedly, there has been a changing of the guard, as every year there seems to be a different trainer, a relative newcomer to the Triple Crown trail, who journeys to Louisville seeking fame and glory at Churchill Downs, and ultimately comes away with his or her name etched in the annals of racing history.

Life, as we all know, is full of changes. We all do our very best to adapt to these new challenges whether they be in our daily lives, or even something, as inconsequential at times, as isolating the winner of a horserace. Selecting the Kentucky Derby winner, which has always been demanding, seems to be more troublesome these days. This year, several major contenders are unproven over a conventional dirt surface, let alone Churchill Downs. In years past, horses were eliminated based upon their Dosage Index, which indicated their ability, or lack thereof of getting the 1 1/4 mile Derby distance. Also, runners which failed to be within 10 lbs. of the top horse on the Experimental Free Handicap were cast aside due to lack of accomplishment as a two-year-old. Number of starts, days away, and even the finish position from a horse’s last prep race, have been angles used by handicappers at one time or another to pare a bulky Derby field down to a palatable number of contenders.

While I may have gone off on a tangent, what I am trying to say is that it is extremely difficult these days to eliminate any horse from consideration in the Kentucky Derby based solely upon a predetermined set of rules. The Kentucky Derby may just be the most difficult race in the world to handicap, in addition to being the most recognized. While everyone wants to brag about picking the Derby winner, I am thrilled whenever I show a profit in the race. Despite the fact that most everyone believes that handicapping the winner is the path to profitability in thoroughbred racing, the key that unlocks the door is diligently betting what you have handicapped. Keeping that thought in mind, good luck in this year’s Kentucky Derby!

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First Selection: (20) BIG BROWN (Dutrow Richard E/Desormeaux K J)

It was closing day at Saratoga when Big Brown made his debut going two turns on grass. Racing without lasix and ice cold in the betting at 14-1, it was unlikely that he would win. When the gates opened, Big Brown zipped to the lead and never looked back, scoring a scintillating eleven length victory. I was mesmerized by his performance. Big Brown moved effortlessly with giant strides. I said to myself that he was going to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, to be run for the first time at Monmouth Park in late October. It never occurred to me that Big Brown’s bright future could also be on dirt and as the favorite to win this year’s Kentucky Derby.

IEAH Stables purchased a majority interest in Big Brown from owner Paul Pompa Jr. after his maiden win and gave him to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. Dutrow is the son of Richard Dutrow Sr. who was one of the most successful trainers on the Maryland circuit. When he passed away in 1999, he had won 3,665 races, placing him 13th in all time in victories. Big Brown was pointed for Juvenile Turf, but during a workout on grass at Aqueduct before the race, Big Brown developed a foot infection. It was discovered shortly after that he had a quarter crack. Quarter cracks are vertical cracks in the hairline or coronary band of the horses hoof. They can be large or small and they can make a horse lame. Big Brown was given time to recover. Later in the year he was shipped down to Palm Meadows training center in south Florida to begin training again. He soon developed another quarter crack in the opposite foot and had to be put on the sidelines once again. It wasn’t until early February that his foot problems were behind him and he could go back to serious training. Big Browns workouts were strong. When he easily outworked an older stakes winner named Diamond Stripes, Dutrow knew he had a potential star in his barn (Diamond Stripes has since come back to win the $1 million dollar Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup Day).

On March 5, Big Brown finally returned to Gulfstream Park. The race was scheduled for the grass, but wet weather forced it to be switched to the dirt track. Despite not being a 100 % fit, Big Brown demolished the field winning by twelve lengths. Even Dutrow was shocked by the performance. He told reporters “we did get very lucky for it to come off the grass. If it hadn’t, we might have not run in the Florida Derby!” Twenty four days later Big Brown entered the gate as the heavy favorite for one of the “key” Kentucky Derby prep races. Big Brown had a tough task having to overcome an outside post in a field of twelve. Following is my Stakes write up on Big Brown when I selected him to win the Florida Derby.

All I have read this week is that any horse breaking from post 12 at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream is unlikely to win. History in this race has confirmed this. The Wizard feels differently. They said that about top grass miler Lure when he won the BC mile from post 12. I can go on and on about the critics knocking horses because of false myths. Racing has changed in the US. Horses are not bred the same as in the past. I like to go the other way when others take the path of least resistance. That is why I like Big Brown to win the Florida Derby. I could be wrong, but so can trainer Richard Dutrow who has elected to stay in Florida to saddle this 3 year old, instead of flying to Dubai and enjoying the luxuries only we can imagine and dream off. That tells me that it is more important to him to win this 1 million dollar race instead of the cool 2 million he can earn with Benny The Bull winning the sprint. (I know for a fact that Dutrow has no problem flying around the place when big money is on the line). I am not concerned one bit about the outside post, because there is a lack of early speed in the race. Rider Desormeaux can shoot to the lead or stalk without losing much ground around the first turn. He has worked brilliantly for this race. I love Dutrow in big game situations. I may be wrong, but if I am, chalk one up for the majority.

Big Brown shot to the lead and never looked back, winning by five lengths. Big Brown's final time of 1:48.16 was just 0.37 of a second off Brass Hat's 1 1/8-mile track record, and nearly a full second faster than 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's final clocking for his Florida Derby victory earlier that spring. It was also the fastest Florida Derby since Unbridled's Song's victory in 1996.

Since the Florida Derby, Big Brown has not missed a beat. Not only do I think Big Brown is the best horse in the Kentucky Derby, but I also have a special rooting interest in him. Having grown up in New York City and spending many years going to Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga, I have become friendly with many trainers, especially when I became a professional handicapper in the mid eighties. I first met Richard Dutrow in the mid nineties and we have been friendly since. I have closely watched his progression from strictly a claiming trainer to one who has built one of the strongest operations in the world. In 2005 Dutrow won two Breeders’ Cup races on the same day capped off with a victory by Saint Liam in the $4 million dollar Breeders’ Cup Classic. He has won such prestigious Grade 1 races as the Metropolitan Mile, The Carter, Coaching Club American Oaks, De Francis Dash and The Frank Kilroe Mile. Last year Dutrow won the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Kip Deville who also was plagued by quarter cracks. This year he won two races on Dubai World Cup day with Diamond Stripes and the super sprinter Benny The Bull.

My main concern for Big Brown is not the distance, nor the fact that he has had only three career starts. It all comes down to how he is ridden. There are only two scenarios for him to be crowned the winner of The Kentucky Derby. He either clears to the lead early, setting a comfortable pace, or he takes back to stalk the front runners. I expect the latter, given his far outside draw. He might be caught somewhat wide while trying to gain position behind the front-runners, but that's better than being stuck down inside while in traffic all the way. The outermost post may also be a good thing in that he will load last, and not have to stand in the gate for nearly as long as many of the other horses. Big Brown will be very difficult to run down if he can open up daylight turning for home. As in most Derbys, the pace is expected to be quick. Jockey Kent Desormeaux must make a perfectly-timed move to challenge for the lead on the far turn. The longer he can wait, the better. If Big Brown duels or cannot open up turning for home, he will be in deep water. This could set it up for the closers, in particular Colonel John, who I feel is his most dangerous rival.

Second Selection: (10) COLONEL JOHN (Harty Eoin/Nakatani C S)

If you are looking for a horse to beat the Derby favorite Big Brown, your search may be over. Bred in Kentucky by high profile Win Star Farm, Colonel John was cut out to be a good horse from birth. His sire, Tiznow, a California-bred runner, was a dominant force in the Handicap ranks out west from 2000 to 2001. However, his greatest accomplishments came outside of the Golden State, as he emerged victorious in the Breeder’s Cup Classic in 2000 at Churchill Downs. He successfully defended his title the following year in New York, annexing the 2001 Classic at Belmont Park in dramatic fashion. Although his dam was not as accomplished a runner on the racetrack, she was nevertheless versatile, finding her best stride after a winless juvenile season. In all, she won five races throughout her career, handling dirt, grass and eventually winning over a wet track as well.

While Big Brown grabs your attention with his brilliance, and rightfully so, Colonel John has been nothing short of remarkable with his consistency during his brief career. Trained by Eoin Harty, who tutored under trainer Bob Baffert, he has never been worse than second in six career starts, winning on four occasions, and placing on two others. Perhaps a good example of his grit and determination was his recent victory in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5. In that contest, Colonel John lost both position and ground around the far turn, which never bodes well for a winner. However, once jockey Corey Nakatani maneuvered him outside of runners for a stretch bid, he finally began to pick up the pace. With three lengths to make up passing the furlong grounds, Colonel John kicked into overdrive under Nakatani, eventually overhauling a game Bob Black Jack in deep stretch to triumph in dramatic fashion. His final burst of acceleration that day caught my eye, and it clearly enabled Colonel John to effectively snatch “victory from the jaws of defeat”. While he certainly could never be considered a flashy runner, his workmanlike performances on the racetrack have served him well. Except for his debut effort last summer at Del Mar, Colonel John has not failed to gain ground and/or pass horses in the stretch in his five subsequent starts. That should serve him well as he faces his sternest test to date.

Like several other runners competing in the Run for the Roses, Colonel John is untested over a traditional dirt surface. When he first shipped into Churchill Downs, it took him a while to become acclimated to his new surroundings. He appeared to be a bit unsure of himself, tentative if you will, and noticeably struggled to become familiar with this new surface. However, since that time, he has noticeably turned the corner as evidenced by his “eye-popping” work on Sunday in 57.61, eventually completing the six furlongs of his gallop-out in a sprightly 1:10.99. After the work, Eoin Harty pronounced him back to his old self, and ready for the challenge that lies ahead of him. If that bullet workout is a true indication of his current level of sharpness, Colonel John could be on the brink of taking his game to another level at a most opportune time.

Earlier, I went into great detail about Colonel John’s pedigree. And, I did so for a reason. Although I am of the opinion that while he might be the most talented horse in the race, he has been an absolute gem of consistency, and is one of only a few runners that are ideally suited to 1-1/4 miles. While the majority of the competition may be gasping for breath as the Derby field turns into the stretch, Colonel John should be finding his best stride at this time. If this Win Star farm homebred is within striking distance of the leaders, and is afforded clear sailing for a late rally, a victory could be in the cards.

Third Selection: (14) MONBA (Pletcher Todd A/Dominguez R A)

Monba is one of two Todd Pletcher entrants in the Derby. There are several reasons to consider him a major player. Monba has won three of five starts. His twelfth place finish in the Fountain Of Youth can easily be ignored. He was squeezed back into the first turn. Obviously something went amiss at that point when he fell back steadily under no urging by rider Edgar Prado. In his final prep for the Derby, Monba returned with a vengeance, to score a gritty win in the Blue Grass. That victory gave him a perfect two for two record over the Keeneland polytrack. It’s back to a conventional dirt track at Churchill for the Derby. Can he be as effective with the switch in surfaces? I see no reason that he can’t. Monba broke his maiden first time out at Keeneland as a two year old, and then came right back to win at a mile at Churchill Downs. Monba is a versatile performer who can adapt to any pace scenario. He has shown the ability to race up close to the lead, or close from behind. A very important factor, which will go unnoticed, is that in all five starts, Monba has raced in full fields of twelve. This can only help him in the Derby where he will not be intimidated by nineteen other horses jockeying for position. It is significant that Edgar Prado who rode him to victory in the Blue Grass, has opted to ride Adriano instead.

Fourth Selection: (19) GAYEGO (Lobo Paulo H/Smith M E)

Gayego is a sharp and improving colt that has never been worse than second in five starts. He has shown that his tactical speed is just as effective going a distance of ground as it is sprinting. Unlike his west coast rival, Colonel John, Gayego has proven he can win outside California on a conventional dirt surface. He won the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park three weeks ago where he forced the pace from the start, holding off a stiff challenge from Z Fortune in the final eighth of a mile. There are two major factors which make him competitive in the Derby. Gayego has shown he has the courage to look a horse in the eye and battle tooth and nail down to the wire. His tactical speed enables his Hall Of Fame rider Mike Smith to place him in perfect striking position from the outset. Gayego also has trainer Paulo Lobo in his corner. Lobo is a master at having a quality performer dead fit for a peak performance in a major stakes event. Lobo shipped in Farda Amiga to Churchill Downs to upset the odds on favorite Take Charge Lady in the 2002 Kentucky Oaks.

Fifth Selection: (9) PYRO (Asmussen Steven M/Bridgmohan S X)

It is impossible for me to give Pyro a pass after a horrendous performance in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. In his first start over polytrack, he showed me nothing at any point during the race. From start to finish, Pyro lost ground at every call, finishing 10th in a field of 12. This is not the type of race I want to see three weeks before the Derby. Pyro’s lofty reputation was built on two strong second place finishes as a two year old against juvenile champion War Pass as well as two stakes wins at the Fair Grounds this winter. All four races were run on dirt. Does this mean that a return to his preferred surface Saturday is enough to reverse his April 12 debacle into a potential victory? Not in my opinion, but I do believe that he could be finishing strongly enough to pass most of the field and garner a minor award. Even if Pyro won the Blue Grass, I would have felt he was a strong “bet against” for the win spot in the Kentucky Derby. Both of his graded stakes wins were at 1-1/16 miles. Even though he rated beautifully in both races, and had a strong stretch kick, for some reason, Pyro never gave me the impression that his closing rally would be as effective at the Derby distance. Trainer Steve Asmussen indicated following the Blue Grass that he was concerned Pyro got nothing out of that race. That does concern me, but I also look at Pyro's record of running very well on five different dirt surfaces, ranging from 'fast' to 'good' to 'sloppy', and he must be given a chance to rebound with one of his typical strong performances here over a track where he won his only prior try.

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The Remainder of the Field (In order of preference)
(4) COURT VISION (Mott William I/Gomez G K)

At the conclusion of Court Vision’s two year old campaign, I had him penciled in as a serious Kentucky Derby victor. He had reeled off three straight victories, capped off by a game win in the Remson Stakes at Aqueduct. Several winners of this important two year old stake have subsequently gone on to win or run well in past Kentucky Derby’s. As a three year old, Court Vision has not improved enough to consider himself as a Derby winner. He has run third in both starts this year. In the Fountain Of Youth, Court Vision sustained a wide rally. It appeared that the game plan of his Hall Of Fame trainer Billy Mott and jockey Garret Gomez was to “give him one”. I thought it was a perfect sharpener for the Wood Memorial. I expected a much better performance than what I got in the Wood. Court Vision was taken far off the pace, closing ground through the stretch to miss by 1 ¾ lengths. His performance was more an optical illusion than the solid effort I was looking for. The final time of the Wood was very slow, especially the last eighth of a mile. Court Vision had every chance to win but he could not get the job done. In a field of twenty, which he will encounter in the Derby, He cannot afford a straw in his path when his rider sets him down in the stretch. In the Derby Court Vision will be equipped with blinkers for the first time, but It’s is too late in the game to be a plus.

(15) ADRIANO (Motion H Graham/Prado E S)

Adriano enters the Derby after a strong win five weeks ago in the Lanes End Stakes over polytrack at Turfway Park. Both his prior victories had come on grass. The question remains, will Adriano run a career best effort over conventional dirt at Churchill Downs? He will need to do so to be considered a major player. I feel he can. Adriano was well beaten in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park prior to the Lanes End. I am willing to excuse that effort. He was severely compromised breaking from an outside post in a field of twelve. Once Adriano took up on the first turn, for all intensive purposes, he was done. In the Lanes End, Adriano’s performance was visually impressive. He showed improved early speed under new rider Edgar Prado. When Prado pushed the button, Adriano responded effortlessly to take the lead turning for home, winning as much the best. He galloped out strong past the wire, suggesting there should be no problem whatsoever about his ability to relish 1 ¼ miles in the Derby. His pedigree suggests that the longer he goes, the stronger he will be. Superb horseman Graham Motion is a master at developing horses who are bred to go a distance of ground. It is interesting to note that Prado has elected to stay aboard Adriano in the Derby, rather than ride Monba or Tale Of Etaki. He had ridden both horses to victories in their final Derby prep races. Last Sunday, Adriano worked over the Churchill Downs main track for the first time. He seemed not to handle it very well. For this reason, I downgraded his chances.

(6) Z FORTUNE (Asmussen Steven M/Albarado R J)

If Z Fortune were to win the Kentucky Derby, he would join Funny Cide as one of the only two horses bred in New York State to have won The Run for the Roses. Unfortunately for this colt, it will not be his good fortune. Z Fortune comes into the Derby following three straight defeats. He was easily swallowed up by Pyro when second in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. In the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, Z Fortune came up empty. He rebounded with a solid second to Gayego in the Arkansas Derby, but had the length of the stretch to run down that rival. Z Fortune possesses excellent tactical speed and agility, but everything I have seen indicates that the 1-1/4 mile Derby distance does not play in his favor.

(8) VISIONAIRE (Matz Michael R/Lezcano Jose)

Visionaire has only run worse than third once in six starts and that was a fifth place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland three weeks ago. Visionaire was making his first start on polytrack that afternoon. On closer inspection, he ran better than it “looks on paper”. Visionaire had a difficult task overcoming a tough outside post in a field of twelve. He rallied through the stretch racing extremely wide. In the Derby, he will have to step up his game “big time” to be competitive. At this point in his career, Visionaire has proven to be a cut below his major opposition. Two of his three wins have been at a mile, the lone exception being a victory on wet track at 1 1/16 miles which suggests that the Derby distance is too far for him.

(16) DENIS OF CORK (Carroll David/Borel C H)

Denis Of Cork inspires very little confidence after running poorly as the heavy favorite in the Illinois Derby four weeks ago. His effort was a head scratcher because he had run well in his prior three starts, winning each time at three different racetracks, including a maiden win first time out of the box at Churchill Downs. Denis Of Cork likes to lay back and make one well timed rally. The faster the pace, the better it flatters his running style. Even if I give him a “pass”, when he ran fifth in The Illinois Derby, he has proven to be a cut below several of his rivals in the Derby. Denis Of Cork also has the looks of a runner with distance limitations. 1-1/4 miles is simply too far for him.

(5) EIGHT BELLES (Jones J Larry/Saez Gabriel)

Eight Belles will attempt to be the fourth filly to win the Kentucky Derby in 133 years. Only Winning Colors in 1988, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Regret in 1915, have won The Run For The Roses. Even though Eight Belles is a quality performer, she is clearly not in the same league as the others. Eight Belles enters the Derby off four straight victories, three in stakes races. In her last two, she raced against fields of three and five. In the Derby, Eight Belles will be facing nineteen males. In her last start in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park, I expected her to win more impressively than she did as the overwhelming favorite. Eight Belles is a very versatile filly. She can stalk or rally from off the pace. She has shown a tendency to break awkwardly from the gate. If this were to occur in the Derby, it would become a monumental task to recover in such big field. I feel that Eight Belles does have the talent to be competitive against this crop of three year olds. I am concerned about her ability to perform her best at the Derby distance.

(2) TALE OF EKATI (Tagg Barclay/Coa E M)

Tale of Etakai won two races, both sprinting, as a two year old. In his first start as a three year old, he was well beaten by Pyro in the Louisiana Derby. This was Tale of Etaki’s first start around two turns on a dry surface. Off that effort, I found it difficult to select him to win the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in his next start. He surprised me when he went on to defeat last year’s juvenile champion War Pass. Tale of Etaki sat a perfect rail trip through the stretch to run down a tired War Pass. The last three furlongs, as well as the final time, were slow. His weak gallop out past the wire indicated to me that I don’t want him on my short list of major contenders. History has shown that any horse that runs well in the Wood must be considered a danger in the Kentucky Derby. Most years I would agree with this assessment, but this year I am not convinced. Recent Hall Of Fame inductee Edgar Prado opted to ride Adriano over Tale of Etaki, which is also a factor that must be considered in assessing his chances relative to those of others in this field.

(13) BOB BLACK JACK (Kasparoff James M/Migliore R)

Bob Black Jack will be making his first start on a conventional dirt surface after seven starts on polytrack and syntyhetic surfaces in Southern California. All three of his victories have come in sprints. In his last two starts, Bob Black Jack stretched out to two turns and ran better than I expected. His second place finish in the Santa Anita Derby four weeks ago was excellent. He battled tooth and nail, only to be run down in the very late stages by Colonel John. I did not like the fact that he drifted out late after such a grueling effort. Bob Black Jack knows only one way to win and that is the front end. He will be hounded from the start by other front runners and Big Brown waiting to pounce. I can't see him holding on through the final furlong for anything more than a very minor award.

(1) COOL COAL MAN (Zito Nicholas P/Leparoux Julien R)

Cool Coal Man’s claim to fame as a three year old was a victory in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He sat a perfect trip from the advantageous rail post. In his final prep race before the Kentucky Derby, Cool Coal Man flattened out badly, after chasing a slow pace over polytrack in the Blue Grass Stakes three weeks ago. He returns to dirt Saturday, which he clearly prefers. All four career wins have been over a dirt surface, one at Churchill. Cool Coal Man possesses excellent tactical speed, but it is likely that 1-1/4 miles is too long a distance for him.

(17) COWBOY CAL (Pletcher Todd A/Velazquez J R)

Trainer Todd Pletcher has won every award that a horseman can attain in this game, except the most important jewel of them all, The Kentucky Derby. Pletcher has a record of 0-19. On Saturday, he will start two horses, Monba and Cowboy Cal. It is very difficult to separate these two in terms of how I think both will perform in the Derby. As a matter of fact, they squared off three weeks ago on polytrack in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Monba defeated Cowboy Cal by a short neck. Cowboy Cal has plenty of upside. He has made a lofty reputation for himself on grass with four excellent races. Three were won effortlessly. His lone start on dirt was a seventh place finish in his debut at Saratoga. Although the verdict is still out on how Cowboy Cal will handle Churchill Down’s conventional dirt surface, his biggest obstacle will be Big Brown. Cowboy Cal likes to be on or near the lead from the start. When he gets hooked by Big Brown, he could very likely “call it a day”.

(11) Z HUMOR (Mott William I/Douglas R R)

Z Humor’s gut wrenching dead heat victory in his final start as a two year old appeared to have taken its toll. Since that effort, his three races this year have shown nothing to suggest that he will be competitive in the Derby. In each of those starts, he has lost ground in the stretch, whether he stalked slow paces, or tried to close on quick fractions. Z Humor clearly has distance limitations. Offspring of his sire Distorted Humor have proven that they are most effective up to 1 1/16 miles. This will be the point in the race when Z Humor begins to pack it in.

(7) BIG TRUCK (Tagg Barclay/Castellano J J)

Big Truck has never given me the impression of being a long distance runner. Even though he won the Tampa Bay Derby two starts back at 1 1/16 miles, Big Truck had a perfect trip against a very weak field. In the Blue Grass Stakes, he was a badly beaten eleventh in his first start over polytrack. All three of his wins have come on dirt which he will return to at Churchill Downs. This is a quality New York Bred who would be better served finding a softer spot at distances no further than a mile.

(3) ANAK NAKAL (Zito Nicholas P/Bejarano R)

Anak Nakal has run on dirt in all six career outings. In his last start as a two year old, he won a Stake at Churchill Downs. Since returning at three, he ran poorly in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream and the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. Anak Nakal showed more life, running fifth with blinkers on, in a slowly run Wood Memorial at Aqueduct four weeks ago. He rallied from far off the pace, picking up tired horses late. Anak Nakal has not shown me enough to consider him a threat in the Derby, especially at the 1-1/4 mile distance.

(12) SMOOTH AIR (Stutts Bennie F Jr/Cruz M R)

Smooth Air was a no threat second place finisher to Big Brown in the Florida Derby five weeks ago. Off that alone, he should be competitive in the Derby. The only problem is a major one, which greatly diminishes his chances on Saturday. Last week Smooth Air got sick and lost two days of training with a fever. He went back to the track on Monday, and according to his 70 year old trainer Bernie Stutts, “its full steam ahead”. When you are asking a three year old to run 1-1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby after even the slightest illness and missing training time, it is folly to suggest that runner can win, let alone be at his best. If I were the connections of Smooth Air, I would fold my cards now and wait for a better hand.

(18) RECAPTURETHEGLORY (Roussel Louis J Iii/Baird E T)

Recapturetheglory’s claim to fame entering the Kentucky Derby was his decisive front running victory in the Illinois Derby four weeks ago. He was loose on the lead setting slow fractions. Recapturetheglory also benefitted by a track surface which strongly favored inside speed. He is certain not to get his own way in the Derby. Big Brown will see to that.

Wagering Strategy
The most important aspect in winning money at the races is the wagering strategies. Many times you can pick the winner, and either lose money on the race, or not optimize your profit. Every race requires a different strategy. The Kentucky Derby is one of the most difficult races to pick the winner, given the field of 20 horses. Once you determine who your “key” horse is, a win bet is the first play you want to make. The next wager is deciding if you want to concentrate on exactas, trifectas or superfectas. The super is the hardest wager to make because it requires you to pick the first 4 horses in order. The ten cent super has become popular because it allows the player, especially a small bettor, to make multiple combinations for a small investment. Unfortunately, in this year’s Derby, the cost of a superfecta play is $1.00. I will suggest a win wager on Big Brown and a smaller “saver” win bet on Colonel John. These are going to be the top two wagering choices. The reason I am making this play is that I like Big Brown. I am making a saver win bet on Colonel John because he will go off at longer odds than what he deserves to be, and he is my second choice. You want to bet enough on Big Brown to show a nice profit, and wager just enough money on Colonel John to break even or make a little money if he wins.
The next play is a small equal exacta box with Big Brown and Colonial John. Even though these are the two betting choices, if the exacta comes in, it will be a decent payoff because of the large field. I don’t want to get too involved in the exactas, because I will be concentrating most on the trifectas, where there is the potential for a big score. There will be no superfecta wagers. On our trifectas we will 'key' either Big Brown or Colonel John on top on each ticket. Three of our trifecta tickets require both of them to finish in the top 3, while two of our trifecta tickets only require that one of those two colts wins the race, regardless of what the other does.

* A win bet on (20)BIG BROWN
* A smaller saver win bet on (10)COLONEL JOHN
* Exacta box 10-20
* Trifecta Wagers (all tickets are in denominations of $1.00):
TICKET 1: 10-20 with 10-20 with ALL = $36
TICKET 2: 20 with 9-10-14-19 with 2-4-5-6-8-9-10-13-14-15-16-19 = $44
TICKET 3: 10 with 9-14-19-20 with 2-4-5-6-8-9-13-14-15-16-19-20 = $44
TICKET 4: 20 with 2-4-5-6-8-9-13-14-15-16-19 with 10 = $11
TICKET 5: 10 with 2-4-5-6-8-9-13-14-15-16-19 with 20 = $11
TOTAL Trifecta wagers above = $146

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Re: Kentucky Derby Service Plays

Since Jan. 2, this column has taken a weekly look at the Kentucky Derby. Here is my final Top 10 list:

1. Smooth Air
2. Z Fortune
3. Colonel John
4. Pyro
5. Big Brown
6. Adriano
7. Eight Belles
8. Visionaire
9. Cool Coal Man
10. Tale of Ekati

Here was my initial Top 10 list on Jan. 2:

1. Court Vision
2. War Pass
3. Pyro
4. Into Mischief
5. Cowboy Cal
6. Colonel John
7. Maimonides
8. Anak Nakal
9. Majestic Warrior
10. Monba

Just a week later, I wrote this about Big Brown:

“I find the son of Boundary an intriguing Kentucky Derby dark horse. It looks like there is an awful lot of talent there. Big Brown romped to an 11 1/4-length debut win at Saratoga on the turf last Sept. 3. Maybe he’s strictly a turf horse. Or maybe he also might do well on the dirt, a la Barbaro, who started off in turf races before making the successful transition to the dirt. Big Brown has recorded some good workouts at Palm Meadows.”

Here now is a horse-by-horse analysis of those on my final Kentucky Derby Top 10 list, with a look at their positives and negatives:



Smooth Air has what it takes to win the Kentucky Derby in terms of class, stamina, running style and precedence. Big Brown is expected to be the Derby favorite. No one has finished closer to Big Brown than Smooth Air. If Big Brown loses based on his lack of experience or some other reason, the door then is open for someone else to win, perhaps someone like the more experienced Smooth Air.

In the Florida Derby, Smooth Air made a good move on the far turn. This type of move often is what you will see the winner make in the Kentucky Derby.

In 2005, I picked Closing Argument to win the Derby. He started at 71-1. One of the main reasons is I envisioned him being first or second with a furlong to go. It turned out that Closing Argument had the lead with a furlong to run. He led throughout the final furlong until Giacomo overtook him in the closing yards. Closing Argument finished second, paying $70 to place. It’s the biggest place payoff in the history of the Derby.

Similarly, I can see Smooth Air being first or second with a furlong to go in the Derby. If that does happen, it will put him in a prime position to possibly win because 43 of the last 45 Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run, the two exceptions being Grindstone and Giacomo.

Colonel John is expected to be the second favorite in the Derby. If you compare Smooth Air’s four best Beyer Speed Figures to the four best Beyers for Colonel John, Smooth Air’s figures are better. Despite that, Smooth Air probably will be at least 30-1.


The obvious negative is he missed two days of training (April 25 and April 26) after spiking a temperature. But he returned to training April 27 (Sunday), and word is he appeared frisky and full of energy Monday and Tuesday. Still, a temperature and missing a couple of days of training isn’t what you like to see before any race, let alone the Kentucky Derby.

I don’t consider Smooth Air’s pedigree ideal for a 1 1/4-mile race. But I felt the same way about Closing Argument.



Z Fortune has finished worse than second only once. He ran fifth as a 7-10 favorite in the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15. After that disappointing performance, Z Fortune rebounded to finish a second in the Grade II (a race that really should be Grade I) Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 12. His effort that day was particularly good considering how wide he was on both turns.

I will not be surprised if Z Fortune follows in the footsteps of Lil E. Tee and Grindstone and wins the roses after finishing second in the Arkansas Derby.

Years ago, I was convinced trainer D. Wayne Lukas would win the Kentucky Derby. He eventually did it for the first time in 1988 with Winning Colors. I have the same feeling about trainers Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen. Perhaps Asmussen will get his first Kentucky Derby victory with Z Fortune or Pyro.

As a son of Siphon, Z Fortune should like 1 1/4 miles. Siphon won such 1 1/4-mile races as the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup and Grade I Santa Anita Handicap.


Z Fortune earned a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure in the Arkansas Derby. There is a concern that he might regress off such a strong effort, especially with just three weeks between races.

Maybe Z Fortune really doesn’t want to go 1 1/4 miles. He had the lead with a furlong to go in the Risen Star only to be overtaken by Pyro. Z Fortune could not get by Gayego in the final furlong of the Arkansas Derby.



Colonel John just looks like a rock solid contender. I certainly can’t argue with anybody who thinks he’s going to win. He has the 2-year-old foundation and a pair of 1 1/8-mile victories under his belt at 3. He’s finished first or second in each of his six lifetime starts.

In the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on March 1, Colonel John attended the pace and won. In the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 5, he generated a strong stretch kick to turn a three-length deficit at the eighth pole into a half-length victory.

Colonel John’s never raced on the dirt, but we’ve seen a number of horses (Gayego, Tiago, Zenyatta, Monterey Jazz) win stakes races recently coming off synthetic surfaces. It’s also quite encouraging that Colonel John worked five furlongs in a sizzling :57 4/5 on the dirt at Churchill Downs last Sunday.

It looks like Colonel John will relish 1 1/4 miles. He’s certainly bred for such a trip. Colonel John is by Tiznow out of a Turkoman mare. Tiznow is the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a 1 1/4-mile race. Point Given was out of a Turkoman mare. Turkoman won a pair of Grade I races at 1 1/4 miles. Point Given won the Grade I Travers Stakes at 1 1/4 miles and the Grade I Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles by 12 1/4 lengths.


Colonel John has never earned a Beyer Speed Figure higher than 95. So he just might not be fast enough to win the Derby.

There also is the concern that Colonel John’s only had two races this year. Of the last 55 horses to try and win the Derby with just two preps, 53 have failed, with the exceptions being Sunny’s Halo and Street Sense.



Pyro’s been consistent on the dirt while never worse than third in six starts. He had one of the most impressive performances in the prep races this year, closing with a rush after traffic woes to win the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 9. The Beyer Speed Figure of 90 and final time of 1:44.68 were not impressive, but the Beyer and final time were negatively impacted by a snail-like pace.

At his NTRA blog, Randy Moss wrote this after the Risen Star:

“Media reports estimated Pyro’s final quarter-mile in Saturday’s Risen Star Stake at 22.6 seconds. The natural pessimist in me found it difficult to believe a 3-year-old could finish that strongly -- even during a last-to-first rally -- so I used a digital timer to get the real story of his stretch clocking.

“Here it is:

“Pyro actually ran his final quarter in about 22.3 seconds.”

In the Grade II Louisiana Derby, Pyro had to await room turning into the stretch and early in the stretch run. When a hole materialized with a little less than a furlong to go, he charged to the front and quickly pulled away to prevail by three lengths.

Based on his 3-year-old dirt form and 2-year-old races, it looks like Pyro will like 1 1/4 miles. His breeding also suggests that. He’s a son of Pulpit out of a Wild Again mare.

In the 1997 Kentucky Derby, Pulpit had the lead with a half-mile to go. But he weakened in the stretch to finish fourth, then emerged from the race with a small displaced chip in his left knee. Trainer Frank Brothers said he felt “the chip significantly hampered Pulpit’s performance in the Derby.”

Pyro’s had more than two preps this year, unlike the Florida Derby winner (Big Brown), the Santa Anita Derby winner (Colonel John), the Wood Memorial winner (Tale of Ekati), the Blue Grass Stakes winner (Monba) and the Illinois Derby winner (Recapturetheglory).


Obviously, Pyro’s biggest negative is his Blue Grass debacle. He finished 10th on the Blue Grass. Perhaps a line can be drawn through that race because it was on Polytrack. Still, such a poor performance in Pyro’s final race before the Derby is cause for concern. The last Derby winner to finish worse than fourth in his or her final prep was Iron Liege in 1957. And Iron Liege was lucky to win the roses. That’s the Derby in which Bill Shoemaker misjudged the finish aboard Gallant Man, who lost by a nose.

Another concern for Pyro is his 2008 Beyer Speed Figures vis-à-vis his 2007 figures. As a 2-year-old, he posted Beyers of 105 and 100. His figures as a sophomore have been 95, 90 and 73. Is he a 2-year-old who hasn’t improved enough at 3 to win the Derby?



Going into the Derby, Big Brown appears to be the most talented horse. He’s undefeated in three starts, winning by margins of 11 1/4, 12 3/4 and five lengths.

Big Brown won the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29 despite breaking from post 12. Since the Gulfstream Park main track had been enlarged to a 1 1/8-mile oval four years ago, no horse had won a 1 1/8-mile race from that post or post 11. Barbaro won the 2006 Florida Derby from post 10, but by the smallest margin (a half-length) in any of his career victories. At this year’s Gulfstream Park meet, going into the Florida Derby, no horse had won a 1 1/8-mile race from post 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12.


Big Brown obviously is an extremely talented colt. But I wrote those exact same words about Curlin prior to last year’s Kentucky Derby. Curlin, like Big Brown, went into the Kentucky Derby undefeated and untested in three lifetime starts. Curlin, with his lack of experience, finished third in the Run for the Roses.

Last year, Curlin’s task was made more difficult by having to run against the likes of Street Sense and Hard Spun. It is possible that this year’s Derby isn’t as strong as last year’s. If that’s the case, it enhances Big Brown’s chances.

At least Big Brown did have a race at 2. Curlin was trying to become the first Derby winner to have not raced at 2 since Apollo in 1882. Big Brown not only raced at 2, it wasn’t a sprint. He won a 1 1/16-mile grass race at Saratoga last year by a big margin.

But having only three lifetime starts is a high hurdle. The last time a horse won the Derby with only three career starts was the great filly Regret in 1915 while Woodrow Wilson was in the White House.

There also is some concern about Big Brown being able to win a 1 1/4-mile race as a son of Boundary, who was a sprinter. However, this concern might be mitigated by the fact that Big Brown is out of a Nureyev mare.



Adriano looked good when winning the Grade II Lane’s End Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths at Turfway Park on March 23. The long-striding colt looks like 1 1/4 miles will really suit him. He has a beautiful pedigree. He’s by A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare. A.P. Indy has sired the last two Belmont Stakes winners, Rags to Riches and Jazil.


In his only start on the dirt, Adriano ran by far his worst race, finishing ninth in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 24. Was that clunker because of running on the dirt? Was it because he became fractious before the race? And will he be able to keep from becoming unruly before the huge Churchill Downs crowd?



Eight Belles is a big filly. D. Wayne Lukas is one of only three trainers to win the Derby with a filly, saddling Winning Colors to get the roses in 1988. Lukas has said that generally it’s best to have a big filly physically -- like Winning Colors -- when going against colts.

Based on her 2008 Beyer Speed Figures (100, 99, 96, 91), Eight Belles not only belongs in the Derby, she is a bona fide contender. In all four of her races this year, she’s looked as if she will do just fine going 1 1/4 miles. Her paternal grandsire, Unbridled, did just fine going 1 1/4 miles when he won the Derby in 1990.

As mentioned earlier for Smooth Air, if Big Brown loses due to his lack or experience or some other reason, the door then is open for someone else to win. The Beyer Speed Figures indicate that someone could be Eight Belles.


Since the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, only three fillies -- Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988) -- have won it. A total of 35 have tried and failed.

This will be Eight Belles’ first start against colts. No filly has ever won the Derby without having previously raced against colts.

This also will be Eight Belles’ first start going farther than 1 1/16 miles. No horse has won the Derby without having previously gone 1 1/8 miles since Middleground in 1950.

There also is the concern of Eight Belles lugging in during the stretch run of the Grade II Fantasy Sakes at Oaklawn Park. She lugged in again while coming home in her five-furlong workout in :58 1/5 at Churchill Downs last Sunday.



Visionaire finished fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes, but it actually was a much better effort than it appears on the surface. He was coming on late after racing extremely wide. Unlike Pyro, at least we saw “something” from Visionaire in the Blue Grass.

We didn’t “see” much of Visionaire in the Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 8, but that was because of the fog. What we did see from him that day was impressive. He surged late to win by a nose.

Another positive for Visionaire is his trainer, Michael Matz, who sent out Barbaro to win the Derby in 2006.


Based on Visionaire’s breeding (a son of Grand Slam out of a French Deputy mare), I’m not sold that he can win a 1 1/4-mile race. This concern is accentuated by the fact that Visionaire has not finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race. Since 1955, only four horses have won the Derby without doing that (Kauai King, Sea Hero, Charismatic and Giacomo).



Cool Coal Man seems more likely to get 1 1/4 miles than many of his fellow Derby entrants because he’s already won a pair of 1 1/8-mile races this year (like Colonel John). He won a 1 1/8-mile allowance contest at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26, then took the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/8 miles there on Feb. 24.

Nick Zito conditions Cool Coal Man. That means Cool Coal Man, like Visionaire, has a trainer who knows how to win the Derby. Nick Zito has won the roses with Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994).

Cool Coal Man is by Mineshaft, a son of A.P. Indy. Because he is a son of Mineshaft, it will not be surprising to see Coal Coal Man do well at 1 1/4 miles. It also will not be surprising to see him get better as he gets older.


Cool Coal Man finished ninth in the Blue Grass Stakes. As mentioned for Pyro, the last Derby winner to finish worse than fourth in his or her final prep was Iron Liege in 1957.

The last horse to even finish in the top three in the Derby after running fifth or worse in his or her final prep was 1987 runner-up Bet Twice.

The worst final-prep finish by a Derby winner since 1906 was Stone Street’s 12th-place finish before winning the roses in 1908.



Tale of Ekati won the Grade II Futurity at Belmont Park. He’s also a graded stakes winner at 3, taking the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5 while defeating 2007 Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male champion War Pass.

Barclay Tagg trains Tale of Ekati. Tagg won the 2003 Derby with Funny Cide.

In terms of winning a 1 1/4-mile race, it could bode well for Tale of Ekati that his dam is a daughter of Sunday Silence. In 1989, Sunday Silence won such 1 1/4-mile events as the Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Tale of Ekati probably is going to have to improve big-time in the Beyer Speed Figure department if he’s going to win the roses. His best Beyer this year is his 93 in the Wood. His career-best figure is 95 when second in last year’s Grade II Sanford Stakes.

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Re: Kentucky Derby Service Plays


In 1999, I came up with various key factors to determine how a Kentucky Derby candidate looks from a historical standpoint in terms of class, stamina, style and precedence. When a horse doesn’t qualify in one of the 10 categories, he or she gets a strike.

Here are how many strikes each Kentucky Derby winner has had since 1999:

1999 Charismatic (1 strike)
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike)
2001 Monarchos (0 strikes)
2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)
2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes)
2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)
2005 Giacomo (2 strikes)
2006 Barbaro (1 strike)
2007 Smart Sense (1 strike)

Based on what has happened in the last nine years, I’d say there is roughly a 78 percent chance the 2008 Kentucky Derby winner will have zero strikes or one strike. The following 2008 Kentucky Derby entrants are in that boat:


Smooth Air
Z Fortune


Big Truck
Colonel John
Cool Coal Man
Cowboy Cal
Eight Belles
Tale of Ekati
Z Humor

Based on the last nine years, I’d say there is about a 22 percent chance the 2008 Kentucky Derby winner will have two strikes. These 2008 Kentucky Derby candidates are on that list:


Big Brown

I toss out any 2008 Kentucky Derby candidate with three or more strikes. They are:


Anak Nakal
Bob Black Jack
Court Vision
Denis of Cork

Here are my 10 key Kentucky Derby factors:

1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition early in the year at 3 and not just at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk and Sunny’s Halo have won the Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.)

Recapturetheglory gets a strike.

2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba did finish first in the Blue Grass only to be disqualified and placed third.)

Bob Black Jack gets a strike.

3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 43 of the last 45 Derby winners have been first or second at the eighth pole. Giacomo was sixth at the eighth pole in 2005; Grindstone was fourth at the eighth pole in 1996; Decidedly was third at the eighth pole in 1962. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam, Carry Back, Cannonade, Gato Del Sol, Unbridled and Sea Hero, with Canonero II unknown.)

Anak Nakal, Court Vision, Denis of Cork, and Z Humor each get a strike.

4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse did not get passed in the final furlong in either of his or her last two races.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way, Cannonade, Foolish Pleasure, Ferdinand and Silver Charm, with Canonero II unknown.)

Bob Black Jack, Cool Coal Man, Cowboy Cal, Gayego and Recapturetheglory each get a strike.

5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race before the Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King, Sea Hero, Charismatic and Giacomo.)

Big Truck, Eight Belles, Pyro and Visionaire each get a strike. For all four, it is their only strike. Anak Nakal and Denis of Cork also each get a strike.

6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Barbaro in 2006 have been the only exceptions. They each had made five starts before the Derby.)

Big Brown, Denis of Cork, Monba and Gayego each get a strike.

7. THE NO ADDING BLINKERS AS A 3-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers in any of his or her races at 3 before the Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Exceptions: Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers at 3 before winning the Derby. Strike the Gold did have blinkers removed in his second start at 3. Sea Hero had blinkers removed for the Derby after racing with blinkers in the Blue Grass.)

Anak Nakal, Bob Black Jack and Court Vision each get a strike. (Bob Black Jack and Court Vision are expected to add blinkers for the Derby. Not adding blinkers for the Derby would bring either Bob Black Jack or Court Vision down to two strikes.)

8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exception: Apollo in 1882 is the only Derby winner who didn’t race as a 2-year-old.)

All 20 entrants qualify.

9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exception: Funny Cide is the only gelding to win the Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)

All 20 entrants qualify.

10. THE SUFFICIENT EXPERIENCE AS A 3-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse has made at least three starts at 3 before the Derby.) (Exceptions: Of the last 55 horses to run in the Derby with fewer than three preps, 53 have failed. The only exceptions since Jet Pilot in 1947 were Sunny’s Halo in 1983 and Street Sense in 2007.)

Big Brown, Colonel John, Court Vision, Monba, Recapturetheglory and Tale of Ekati each get a strike.

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Re: Kentucky Derby Service Plays

Kentucky Derby breakdown and selections STAFF

If you don’t know much about the Kentucky Derby, you’ve come to the right place.

Oddsmaker Keith Glantz breaks down every horse for this weekend’s race and gives you his selections. Glantz has been one of the sharpest sports betting minds in Las Vegas for over 25 years and he knows his ponies.

1. Cool Coal Man (20-1) – Toss out his last, the Blue Grass, as it came over the synthetic surface at Keeneland. However even in his best efforts, winning the Fountain of Youth and the two Allowance races, it’s questionable whether he’s quick enough to capture the $1,240,000.

2. Tale of Ekati (15-1) – One of six horses with only two starts this year - Court Vision, Colonel John, Monba, Recapturetheglory and Big Brown are the others. Ekati’s Wood Memorial victory certainly gives him a shot although he received a perfect trip in that one. He flattened out in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year finishing 13 lengths back of Pyro.

3. Anak Nakal (30-1) – This one’s effort in the Wood actually was better than his 5th place finish but his Louisiana Derby and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races left much to be desired. Anak will need a reversal of form here and his 46 and change work last week was a step in the right direction.

4. Court Vision (20-1) – Closed well for 3rd in the Fountain of Youth and then again in the Wood so the added distance here can only help. That closing kick can’t be ignored and I would expect it’ll show up on the tote board. Can’t ignore.

5. Eight Belles (20-1) – The only filly in the race and she’s never run against the boys. Belles has won four straight and her grandpappy is Unbridled but I doubt that’s enough to hit the board.

6. Z Fortune (15-1) – Achieved a 102 Beyer in his last, 2nd behind Gayego in the Arkansas Derby, and split Pyro and Visionaire after taking the lead at the top of the stretch in the Risen Star at the Fairgrounds earlier in the year. Bears consideration.

7. Big Truck (50-1) – Another that didn’t take well to the synthetic surface at Keeneland but other than that Tampa Derby win, not much can be said about this one.

8. Visionaire (20-1) – Ran 3rd to Pyro and Z Fortune in his first attempt at a Stakes race (Grade 3. He then won the Gotham in the fog at New York before going 10 wide to close six lengths back in the Grade 1 Blue Grass. Watch the tote board on Visionaire. He’s a tough one to figure with works that have been rather uneventful.

9. Pyro (6-1) – The early favorite before that Blue Grass disaster, but again, another that couldn’t handle the synthetic surface. Couldn’t seem to get by War Pass last year but doesn’t have to worry about that one here. He certainly can’t be overlooked especially since he was clearly the best in his two wins this year; the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. Pyro is the top money earner in this race.

10. Colonel John (4-1) – Morning line 2nd choice with four wins and two seconds in his six lifetime races. The Colonels backers boast that he’s the best from the West after his Santa Anita Derby win and pointing out that Gayego won the Arkansas Derby after all his previous races were in the West on the synthetic surfaces. Others will say that he’s never been tested on the dirt (all six races on the West Coast version of the synthetic surface). Has served notice especially after that five furlong bullet drill Sunday (57&4).

11. Z Humor (30-1) – This “Z” finished 19-plus lengths back in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and hasn’t been very impressive in his efforts this year. His 3rd in the Illinois Derby was his best. Would need to improve dramatically to capture a part.

12. Smooth Air (20-1) – Was no match for Big Brown finishing 2nd, five lengths back in the Florida Derby and only has two races over a mile in his seven starts. However, don’t think that the added distance here will be a major problem but may be asking much to top his last effort.

13. Bob Black Jack (20-1) – One more West Coast horse that hasn’t ventured a trip on the dirt but showed good in the Santa Anita Derby, 2nd by a half-length behind Colonel John. Another horse with only two races over a mile but handled those two well. Should be close up, if not on top, in the early going.

14. Monba (15-1) – Big effort in winning the Blue Grass after a disastrous last place finish in the Fountain of Youth. While Monba broke his maiden (plus Blue Grass win) at Keeneland and won an allowance contest at Churchill, still can’t forgive that 39-plus length loss at Gulfstream.

15. Adriano (30-1) - Hasn’t raced since his Grade 2 victory in the Lanes End on March 22. Plus in his only race on the dirt (two on synthetic and four on the turf) this one finished 9th, 17 lengths back in the Fountain of Youth. Good luck.

16. Denis of Cork (20-1) – Won his first three races but didn’t fire in the Illinois Derby after going off as the even money favorite. You might want to consider that he’s off the Grade 2 Southwest Stakes victory at Oaklawn but the step up to the Grade 2 Illinois Derby was a disappointment.

17. Cowboy Cal (20-1) – Consistent sort after 3 wins and 2 seconds following his first maiden effort (7th by 11 ¼) but those 5 consisted of 4 turf races and 1 synthetic surface race. Yes, that garbage maiden race was on the dirt.

18. Recapturetheglory (20-1) – Clearly the best in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby with a 102 Beyer and 100 speed rating in his initial Stakes race. Likes to run on or near the front but doesn’t really have that much speed. Still, he certainly prefers the dirt to either the turf or the synthetic stuff.

19. Gayego (15-1) – Proved that a horse can make the transition from the synthetic surface to the dirt with his Arkansas Derby victory after two wins and two 2nds on the synthetic out West. Owns a 102 Beyer at Santa Anita and a 103 Beyer on the dirt (Oaklawn). Must be respected.

20. Big Brown (3-1) – The morning line favorite even with only three lifetime races. Of course all three were monster efforts, won by 11-plus breaking his maiden then by 12-plus in his only Allowance try and finally by his five-length drawing away win in the Florida Derby. But are three lifetime races enough? Remember Curlin last year? A front runner from the 20 post? Still, the one to beat according to Churchill’s Battaglia.

1. Colonel John
2. Court Vision
3. Pyro
4. Big Brown

Good Luck and remember, everyone has an excuse for losing a horse race but the truth is that most lose because their horse runs too long in the same spot.

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Re: Kentucky Derby Service Plays


Proficiency: Samples=7664 W%=35.4 Net=1.82 Net4+=2.52

PN Horse Name Odds Pace Speed BLs
20 BIG BROWN 3-2 82 94 0.00
10 COLONEL JOHN 5-1 75 84 3.25
17 COWBOY CAL 11-1 83 96 4.94
19 GAYEGO 11-1 81 86 4.99
14 MONBA 17-1 75 80 5.56
9 PYRO 17-1 77 72 5.70
12 SMOOTH AIR 23-1 81 82 6.04
2 TALE OF EKATI 34-1 80 71 6.61
13 BOB BLACK JACK 48-1 83 88 7.12
6 Z FORTUNE 64-1 74 78 7.46
4 COURT VISION 88-1 76 86 7.88
5 EIGHT BELLES 111-1 74 77 8.15
8 VISIONAIRE 162-1 72 51 8.55
18 RECAPTURETHEGLORY 181-1 77 73 8.73
1 COOL COAL MAN 233-1 81 83 9.02
11 Z HUMOR 551-1 76 80 9.91
16 DENIS OF CORK 580-1 75 79 9.99
7 BIG TRUCK 779-1 78 84 10.29
3 ANAK NAKAL 999-1 81 82 11.01
15 ADRIANO 999-1 75 89 11.16


BIG BROWN Modest speed advantage. Modest back speed advantage. Three consecutive good finishes. Two consecutive improvements in speed rating. COLONEL JOHN The recent 5F workout looks great. Three consecutive good finishes. Huge class raise will be hard. COWBOY CAL Workouts that are five furlongs or longer bode well and this horse has it. Taxing stretch drive in last, a good sign. Three consecutive good finishes. Huge class raise will be hard. GAYEGO Taxing stretch drive in last, a good sign. Three consecutive good finishes. Two consecutive decreases in speed rating. MONBA Long workout is almost as good as an extra race. Taxing stretch drive in last, a good sign. Showed surprise early speed in last. Huge class raise will be hard.

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Re: Kentucky Derby Service Plays

Noel Michaels

Here are his picks (Order of preference):

#14 Monba to win and place
#10 Col. John
#20 Big Brown
#19 Gayego

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Re: Kentucky Derby Service Plays

DOC'S Sports Picks For Horse Racing

1st place #10 Colonel John

2nd place #4 Court Vision

3rd Place # 9 Pyro

Here is our $100 bankroll example

$20 Win Bet #10 Colonel John

$20 Place Bet #4 Court Vision

$20 Show Bet #6 Z Fortune (we know this is different that what we listed above as the 3rd place horse)

$1 - 5 Horse Exacta Box - #4, #6, #9,#10,#20 = $20

$1 - Trifecta Wheel Key #10 with #4, #6, #9, #19, #20 = $20

Total Bet = $100

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