Well it's finally here! We horse fans start watching 2 year olds like mystics reading tea leaves or chicken bones and graduation day always comes the first weekend in May.
The Turk has done a fair share of handicapping and gambling over the years. At the end of the day, I'm a horse racing fan and having days like this with multiple graded stakes and graded stakes caliber horses puts the fire back in my soul.
I got grumpy the past few weeks. I hated the way Uncle Mo was handled as a three year old and everywhere I looked I saw horses that looked like fine Grade II 9 furlong horses but so few classic distance runners. I let go some of my bitterness when I printed the Oaks day past performances and felt that feeling again.
The unexpected benefit of handicapping the Oaks-Derby Double is that I have no choice but get down to seriously looking at the Derby closely: It's one thing to vote on potential like I did with the Wireplayers.com Derby Dozen Poll, but its quite a different thing to take into account track conditions, current form, post position etc.
Let's get it on!
A nice thirteen horse card greets us with a a gaping hole missing since R Heat Lightning dropped out of contention. Coupled with the faltering of Uncle Mo, we have an opportunity to have a good will pay on this double bet and that my friends is why we play this game, the opportunities that present themselves.
After some internal debate I settled on five possible victors who'd I'd love to cover, but my very light chalk is Kathmanblu: 8 of 9 lifetime in the money, 5 wins, a Grade 2 and 3 win, and a solid CD 1 1/16 win on fast dirt. The McPeek runner with Leparoux up, expect an of the pace win in the deep stretch.
Daisy Devine might not win a class battle but she's a tough girl working well and coming in off a Grade 2 dirt win at 1 1/16 miles. The McKeever/ Graham combo wins 27% of the time together and placing her here for me represents some value, as we are afterall, gambling!
Joyful Victory looms large and I would expect her to be the bettors chalk: Her last two wins, a grade 3 and grade 2 she's won by almost 16 lengths combined for the Turk's favorite dirt trainer, Larry Jones. She'll be flying off the pace late as well.
Zazu is interesting to me: Losing my a neck to Turbulent Descent in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks after beating Turbulent Descent two back. Nice speed figs from SA this winter and this fillie is ultra consistent.
And finally Summer Soiree is a recently transferred from Larry Jones to Graham Motion, with Saez up, and enters off a grade 3 win by 10 lengths. This War Front girl looks pretty serious and will look to strike the front and not give it up.
I guess we need to discuss the track condition I am assuming is fast. Make sure you check in on scratches and changes, the weather and track conditions before you finalize your choices.
For the Derby I considered dropping Uncle Mo completely off, as fear of a Life at Ten sequel is something i don't think Team Mo want any part of. I don't plan on covering him in the Double Bet and that represents the type of risk a bettor has to take. Playing it safe and covering everybody is the best way to take alot of money and turn it into a smaller pot of money.
For two weeks now I planned on making Archarcharch my chalk but post one is quite a hurdle. You have to go back to Winning Colors in '88 and Ferdinand in '86 to see success there. That said, I like his chances quite a bit and love the work and gallop outs he's been doing all week. My chalk is Nehro who I have regarded lightly but I am more compelled after spending some time in analysis: great late kick, a late surge and strong run in the Arkansas Derby, an he seems to be reaching the top of his fitness cycle at just the right time.
I'm expecting Archarcharch will be close and Midnight Interlude seems to be sharpening up well: This lightly raced, inexperienced colt won the Santa Anita Derby just after breaking his maiden. Trainer Baffert seems to be pushing the right buttons in his conditioning and I think he looms as a possible.
Dialed In is a feast or famine late runner who will be heavily bet. He could win but its far from assured and I'm betting against it for the bet sake. I like Shackleford's current form quite a bit as well and Mucho Macho Man will round out my potential covers.
So there we have it. The Turk will be back tomorrow with more racing from Oaks Day and again on Staurday with the Derby Day Late Pick 3.
Have fun, Turk Out!