Horse Racing Odds, Previews: Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Bluegrass Stakes
Mark Zerof, USA Today Sports.
We will really begin to sort out the live Kentucky contenders from the pretenders this weekend. And let me tell you, there are a LOT of pretenders this year.
I can’t say I haven’t been overly impressed with the winners of some of the recent Derby prep races, so if we’re going to find our Derby favorite, it might just come from one of these races on Saturday.
2019 Wood Memorial Odds and Analysis
- No. 1 Tax, 9-2
- No. 2 Tacitus, 5-2
- No. 3 Hoffa’s Union, 6-1
- No. 4 Haikal, 7-2
- No. 5 Final Jeopardy, 8-1
- No. 6 Overdeliver, 20-1
- No. 7 Not That Brady, 20-1
- No. 8 Grumps Little Tots, 30-1
- No. 9 Math Wizard, 30-1
- No. 10 Outshine, 6-1
- No. 11 Joevia, 30-1
This is definitely a wide-open affair, but unlike the big favorites going into the Louisiana and Florida Derbies, there a few good choices in this deep field. Let’s start with No. 2 Tacitus (5-2), the favorite, who looked very impressive in his Tampa Bay Derby win. Tacitus comes from an elite barn that has had a superb start to 2019 and it will be fitting if they have a major player in the Triple Crown races.
If you’re going to try and beat the favorite here, take a hard look at No. 1 Tax (9-2). He stumbled at the start, but recovered well and won in his last race, which was a prep race for the Wood Memorial. Also keep an eye on No. 4 Haikal (7-2). He came out from the clouds back in March at Aqueduct to win. I don’t think he’ll have as much pace to run at here and even though common sense suggests the longer distance should help, it usually doesn’t work out that way. He’ll need a very different trip here to take this one.
And finally, No. 10 Outshine (6-1) was a game second to Tacitus in Tampa and was wearing blinkers for the second time. That race was a big step up for him so if you’re looking for the “improving” horse, he may be it. Having Todd Pletcher as his trainer doesn’t hurt this time of year either.
- Pick to win : No. 2 Tacitus
- Value play: No. 10 Outshine
2019 Bluegrass Stakes Odds and Analysis
- No 1. Somelikeithotbrown, 10-1
- No 2. Vekoma, 9-5
- No 3. Signalman, 5-1
- No 4. Market King, 20-1
- No 5. Chess Chief, 30-1
- No 6. Dream Maker, 12-1
- No 7. Admire, 15-1
- No 8. Win Win Win, 7-2
- No 9. Sir Winston, 15-1
- No 10. Lucky Lee, 20-1
- No 11. So Alive, 11-1
- No 12. Parsimony, 20-1
- No 13. Moonster, 30-1
- No 14. Aquadini, 30-1
OK, for all the spouting I just did for the Wood Memorial and discussing live Derby players vs. wannabes, I have to say this is one seriously sad-looking field on paper.
Maybe someone will emerge from this group of mediocrity and burst on to the scene but I’m just not seeing it. For every good race any of these horses has run, they’ve run twice as many clunkers.
That being said, value players should be excited about this race.
For me, I’m focusing on the horse that’s had the fewest bad races in this field, and that’s the appropriately named No. 8 Win Win Win (7-2).
He was the undeserved favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby and only lost to Tacitus (the likely favorite in the Wood Memorial) by 2.5 lengths. He broke very poorly and made up ground throughout the race, coming up just short. If he breaks better and makes his move sooner, he could have a big say in this one here.
Other value plays in this race include No. 10 Lucky Lee (20-1), who could be a factor here at a big price. He broke very poorly in his last start in New York after running two big races in Pennsylvania.
He likes to go to the front and in his last race he lost that chance thanks to a poor start. He’s the only distinct speed in this race and if his rider keeps an honest pace on the front end, he could steal it at a huge price.
Another live longshot is No. 14 Aquadini (30-1). The post won’t help him, but since he’s been stretched out to two turns he hasn’t run poorly. Given how poorly most of this field has run, he deserves some consideration as he has the pedigree and the connections to make a mark in this race.
The favorite will likely be No. 2 Vekoma (9-5), but that is solely based on being the best of a bad field. He had every chance to make an impact in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park when adding lasix and barely had was able to run third. I don’t see much more success here but he could get a piece.
- Pick to win: No. 8 Win Win Win
- Value Play: No. 10 Lucky Lee
2019 Santa Anita Derby
- No 1. Roadster, 5-2
- No 2. More Ice, 30-1
- No 3. Nolo Contesto, 6-1
- No 4. Synthesis, 30-1
- No 5. Instagrand, 3-1
- No 6. Game Winner, 4-5
Of the three big races today, this certainly has the most potential to deliver a possible Triple Crown winner. Both Justify and American Pharaoh came out of the Santa Anita, so keep an eye on this field.
No. 6 Game Winner (4-5) is as legitimate as they come. He easily won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile back in November as the even-money favorite. He was a surprising second last month at the Rebel Stakes last month, but he lost by a nose at the wire against an improving horse, Omaha Beach. That was also his first start in fourth months, which is a fair excuse.
Game Winner is back on his home track and it looks like everything is lining up for an easy win in this one. Unfortunately, he’ll likely be 3-5 so it won’t give you much value if you bet him.
If we are searching for a little value, take a gander at No. 5 Instagrand (3-1). He certainly won’t be 10-1, but in a short field like this, you need to find the best value possible.
What makes this guy appealing is he’s the only legit speed horse in this small field. If he can clear the field by the first turn he could be dangerous if his rider, Flavian Prat, can reign in his speed and set reasonable fractions. That didn’t happen in his last start and he was forced very wide in a one-turn mile. This is a two-turn race which should allow this guy to relax on the front end a bit.
If he can set realistic fractions like 23+ and 47+ watch out for a wire-to-wire victory. But a win against the likely KY Derby favorite will be a tall order here but it could be done if the strategy is managed properly.
- Pick to win: No. 6 Game Winner
- Value Play: No. 5 Instagrand