Big-Race Showdown: Kentucky Derby Championship Series Visits Fair Grounds, Turfway
One of the most exciting pit stops on the Road to the Triple Crown involves laying down some cash on a futures pick for the 2018 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Through April, America’s Best Racing will bring you up to date with the changing odds and notable entries at the pre-eminent Kentucky Derby future wager bookmaker on the Las Vegas strip – Wynn Las Vegas.
We’ll revisit these odds when new sheets are released (usually after a major prep race is completed). With each passing prep race, the number of viable Derby contenders will shrink, but as of now there are still dozens of horses out there that carry the dreams of owners and gamblers alike to find the Churchill Downs winner’s circle somewhere around 7 p.m. ET on May 5.
Last weekend saw Flameaway score the upset in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, a Kentucky Derby points race, while outsider Kanthaka won the San Vicente Stakes, a seven-furlong race that often sends horses on to compete in Santa Anita Park’s main Derby preps. This upcoming Saturday features two Kentucky Derby points races: the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. The Risen Star offers qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers, while the El Camino Real Derby doles out points on a 10-4-2-1 scale. On Monday, President’s Day, Oaklawn Park presents the Southwest Stakes, which has the same points distribution as the El Camino Real Derby.
Feb. 12 Wynn Las Vegas Odds Leaders:
1) Bolt d’Oro (7-1)
2) McKinzie (8-1)
3) Good Magic (12-1)
4) Audible (15-1)
5) Mask (18-1)
5) Solomini (18-1)
Flameaway: This talented, versatile racehorse held off highly-regarded Catholic Boy and Vino Rosso to win the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes, and his odds were cut more than half at Wynn, from 125-1 on Feb. 4 to 60-1. He will be nominated to the Triple Crown and has top-class connections in owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse, plus an intriguing pedigree. Learn more about him in Mike Curry’s latest Making the Grade blog. (Catholic Boy’s odds slipped slightly from 30-1 to 25-1 in Wynn’s latest sheet, while Vino Rosso’s dropped even more, from 30-1 to 20-1 as some observers were impressed by his re-rally in the Sam Davis midstretch and his gallop-out as well).
Kanthaka: This Jerry Hollendorfer trainee capitalized on a hot early pace to win the San Vicente Stakes going away on Feb. 10. He is by young sire Jimmy Creed, who was a pure sprinter as a racehorse, and out of a dam (mother) who also has a pedigree tilted toward speed, so the jury’s still out on his value as a Kentucky Derby prospect. His odds plummeted from 150-1 to 35-1 at Wynn regardless.
Exclamation Point: This Brad Cox-trained colt debuted on Wynn’s sheet last week at 250-1 odds, and took a 50 percent slice in the updated list, where he now sits at 125-1. This was no doubt due to his fine showing in his career debut on Feb. 3 at Oaklawn Park, where he scored easily by 2 ½ lengths in a six-furlong maiden and earned a 99 Equibase Speed Figure. The Derby gods have plenty of thunderbolts to throw at him, not the least of which is the hallowed “Curse of Apollo” (no horse has won the Derby after making his first start at three since Apollo in 1882), so patience and discretion are advised. His sire, Concord Point, was lightly raced but won the West Virginia Derby at 1 1/8 miles, and his dam (mother), Sambuca Classica, also is the dam of last year’s winter-book Derby favorite and eventual Preakness runner-up Classic Empire.
Navistar: Profiled in an earlier edition of this blog, he returned in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4, which was his first two-turn race after two prior starts at Belmont Park and Gulfstream last year the latter a win going a one-turn mile. This son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags blew the far turn after moving up to the throatlatch of eventual winner Storm Runner (offered at 100-1 odds), and was eased. According to owner Robert LaPenta’s racing manager, he checked out fine after the race, and his odds have dropped from 200-1 to 75-1 at Wynn.
Runaway Ghost: Another horse profiled earlier in the prep season, he rebounded from a desultory showing in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity in December, when he was last of five starters, to win the one-mile Riley Allison Stakes at Sunland Park by a dominant 7 ¾ lengths on Jan. 28. His odds have been halved from 150-1 to 75-1 in Wynn’s latest update, and one would think this son of the great Ghostzapper might target the March 25 Sunland Derby as his major attempt at Kentucky Derby points, with the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland on Feb. 25 as a prep. Warning: he only earned an 87 Equibase Speed Figure in the Riley Allison.
Five to Watch:
Bravazo: Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas has this one set up for Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes after he won his first start as a 3-year-old on Jan. 13, and he’s listed at 125-1 odds by Wynn. The Calumet Farm homebred ran quite well as a juvenile, winning his second start at Churchill Downs going a one-turn mile back in September and then running second to Free Drop Billy in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and third behind recent Swale Stakes runner-up Gotta Go in the Street Sense Stakes. He finished 10th in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes to close out 2017, but returned to edge a game pacesetter (Ezmosh, 250-1 at Wynn) by neck in a one-mile maiden race at Oaklawn Park. Gary Stevens was aboard for that win and has the mount in the Risen Star. As Christina Moore points out in America’s Best Racing’s Risen Star Stakes Cheat Sheet, he has the same pedigree cross (Awesome Again out of a Cee’s Tizzy mare) as the Lukas-trained, Calumet-owned 2013 Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow.
Dark Templar: This son of leading sire Tapit is bringing 85-1 odds at Wynn, and is slated to make the second start of his 3-year-old season in a 1 mile and 70-yard allowance/optional claiming race on President’s Day at Fair Grounds. After winning his career debut at Churchill Downs in November, he finished third in a 1 mile and 70-yard December allowance at Fair Grounds (won by Principe Guilherme) and then second to Retirement Fund in a Jan. 20 race at the same track and distance. Perhaps the third time’s the charm for this Brendan Walsh trainee – and he’s bred for longer races, as his female family includes Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Miner’s Mark and Our Emblem, the sire of 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem.
Ike: What would a Derby Futures blog post be without a Bob Baffert-trained horse? This colt is listed at 50-1 odds at Wynn after taking his career debut in a 6 ½-furlong Santa Anita maiden special weight by a half-length on Feb. 11. The Westrock Stables homebred earned a spiffy 96 Equibase Speed Figure for that effort, in which he traveled four wide through the far turn and then held off a late challenge quite well for a first-time starter. He has a pedigree that should give him the foundation to thrive in longer-distance races, as he’s by the popular 2012 Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter and out of a Bernardini mare who’s from the family of a French St. Leger winner. Of course, lack of experience is the major drawback at this point, and he’ll need to test tougher competition soon to gain a foothold on the Derby trail.
Tenfold: The third horse on this list to possibly test the “Curse of Apollo” on the first Saturday in May has 100-1 odds as a new entry on Wynn’s sheet following a dominant first-start win last week. He romped in a 1 1/16-mile maiden by 5 ¾ lengths at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 9 and earned a 96 Equibase Speed Figure for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen, both of Gun Runner fame. In the race, he set a modest but pressured pace, kicked clear at the eighth pole, and then swerved while failing to switch leads for a few strides before doing so and surging on to an easy win. Pedigree-wise, all systems are go for longer races, as he’s by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and out of a Tapit mare who’s from the family of champion turf female Possibly Perfect. One to keep tabs on for the Rebel Stakes and/or Arkansas Derby in the coming weeks.
Title Ready: Another Asmussen trainee, this colt has more experience and turned a lot of heads with an impressive 3-year-old debut at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 1. He won that 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race by 3 ½ lengths and earned a 98 Equibase Speed Figure. As a juvenile in 2017, he won his third start at Keeneland and finished second, third, and fourth in his other tries. He had trained very well in early 2018 prior to his sharp win on Feb. 1, and races for his breeder Charles Fipke, who is no stranger to the big time as the owner of 2017 champion older dirt female Forever Unbridled and several other good ones from years past. This son of More Than Ready is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire) to graded stakes winner Seeking the Title, the dam of last fall’s Clark Handicap winner Seeking the Soul. He’s from a great extended female family highlighted by second dam (maternal grandmother) Personal Ensign, a Hall of Famer, and that is something to take heed of when assessing his 100-1 odds at Wynn.
Upcoming Derby Preps: Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford, a 1 1/16-mile test that serves as a prep for the March 24 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, drew 10 entrants and is scheduled for 6:03 p.m. ET. The 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby, run over Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic main track, drew nine horses and is set for 6:45 p.m. ET. Here are Wynn’s future odds for the fields in both races, with starters listed in post-position order. The field for Monday’s Southwest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles will be announced on Thursday or Friday.
Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford
1) High North (125-1)
2) Noble Indy (45-1)
3) Givemeaminit (125-1)
4) Snapper Sinclair (150-1)
5) Instilled Regard (20-1)
6) Supreme Aura (75-1)
7) Bravazo (125-1)
8) Kentucky Club (not offered)
9) Principe Guilherme (25-1)
10) Ebben (not offered)
El Camino Real Derby
1) Paved (not offered)
2) Blended Citizen (not offered)
3) Could Be the One (not offered)
4) Choo Choo (200-1)
5) City Plan (not offered)
6) Calexman (not offered)
7) Epical (250-1)
8) Unlawful Act (not offered)
9) Mugaritz (not offered)