The road to the Derby can be filled with hope, promise, and disappointment. This week begins the short run into the starting gates in Louisville. I like to call these the “big three” as they have so much riding on them. Saturday afternoon brings about round one, and you can bet they are playing for real as this may be the one and only chance to earn those coveted Derby points.
Race #8 – The $75,000 Team Valor Rushaway – 1 1/16 – 4:42 p.m. ET
#9 – Crop Report = Joel Rosario in town to ride this colt for Graham Motion. Yep, the same man who trained Animal Kingdom and Went The Day Well to victories on this day. Graham Motion is an excellent judge of bringing his horses to post at the right time. Having Rosario as the pilot is a real plus as they get second time lasix today. After shipping over from Newmarket, this guy took his time. They ran a nice prep for O.C. $75,000 at GP, and came flying. First time blinkers for this lightly raced son of Medaglia d’ Oro, and Motion does well with his shippers. If you take a look at the ownership, they are the same as the sponsors of this race. I like his late kick, and you can bet Team Motion has him ready to roll.
Race #9 – The G-3 Fathead Bourbonette Oaks – one mile – 5:14 p.m. ET
#5 – Pure Fun = Garrett Gomez in the saddle for Kenny McPeek. This gal likes to come from out of the back, and needs a solid pace. Now, that being said. When you have a rider of this caliber in the irons they know when to move if the clock is slow, so don’t worry about the trip she will receive. It has been 105 days since she won the G-1 Hollywood Starlet, and this daughter of Pure Prize should relish the poly track. Gomez is this right man for the job, and the barn knows how to win at Turfway Park when they took little known Sarava away to win the Belmont in 2002.
Race #10 – The G-3 Horseshoe Casino Spiral Stakes – 1 1/8 – 5:50 p.m. ET
I came into this race with a one-sighted notion that there was an unbeatable runner. Now, that may be true but there is plenty of money on the table to be made in exotic action. There should be ample pace, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more than a few getting busy late in the lane.
#3 – Uncaptured = Miguel Mena has been tapped to ride for Mark Casse. They have been awfully quiet with the Ontario-bred runner. There are two factors to examine closely. Take a look at the last two races. They were both wins at Churchill Downs, and the last was the Kentucky Jockey Club to win by a head as the chalk. So, do you think it has been on their mind to get back to Louisville? You bet… Now, go back three races, and there are four wins from five starts on the Woodbine poly. The synthetic track gets them legged up, and they have been resting for 119 days since his last race. They have been training at Ocala, and Casse is a man of few words. But this year, he is liking his chances. He gets my win money…
#5 – My Name is Michael = Joel Rosario in the saddle for Bill Mott. This son of Macho Uno has been flying under the radar, and his last race in the Sam Davis was better than it appears. He came rolling like thunder, and has been working well at Payson Park. Go back and you will see some solid poly form at Woodbine. Quite a power tandem bringing him to post, and you can bet they will put on the best show they know how.
#1 – Balance the Books = Julien Leparoux has the call for Chad Brown. They are making the turf to poly move, and Brown has become a trainer to be reckoned with. This son of Lemon Drop Kid will be far back, but he will save ground along the rail. Leparoux cut his teeth over the Turfway oval long before he took his game to California. The way he closes is exciting, and Leparoux would love to strut his stuff in this race.
The weather in Northern Kentucky has been very cold, and that can translate into a tight track that favors speed. But, on Friday the temperatures jump into the middle 40’s, and Saturday will have a high of 48 degrees. Add all of this up, and the track should play more evenly as the day goes forth. Be sure to grab up your E-Z Win Forms as they do very well on the marquee days. The under-card offers value, and you may want to be on the lookout for riders picking up mounts to see how the track is playing.