Keeneland: The GI, $750,000 Blue Grass at 1 1/8 miles
#1 Dynamic Sky: The first of two for Casse and Oxley drew a nice ground-saving post in this deep and oversubscribed field of 15 (only 14 will go) and gets back to the scene of his second place run in the GI Breeders’ Futurity last October. Son of Sky Mesa wasn’t disgraced when he was fourth to the undefeated and subsequent GI Wood winner Verrazano in the GII Tampa Bay Derby in his last start in March and should like returning to a track he’s had success over; one of many with a winning chance.
#2 My Name Is Michael: Mott trainee disappointed as the favorite in Turfway Park’s GIII Spiral three weeks ago after running a fine third in Tampa’s GIII Sam Davis in his 3yo debut and will try to rebound today. Son of Macho Uno did some good things on the Woodbine Polytrack last year and wasn’t beaten much at Turfway, and as we saw last weekend when Emollient blitzed the GI Ashland, Mott knows what he’s doing when he wheels his horses back off poor runs. Figures to be stalking the early pace and will look to move on the far turn, and the price will be right if you still believe; not impossible.
#3 Undrafted: Patriot fans probably won’t be leaning this way, but this Wes Welker-owned stretchout sprinter is an intriguing item in this wide open race because his sprint speed might have him on a loose lead in this relatively paceless affair. Ward-trained son of turf ace Purim won his only start going two turns in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer in December, and you would think it’s a pure send mission from a cozy inside draw in this bulky field, which would put him in an enviable position early. Early speed has played well going long on the Poly (again, see Emollient in the Ashland), and if this guy gets loose early, he might be ready to deliver an All-Pro performance; come and catch the pick.
#4 Java’s War: Late-running son of War Pass was a sharp third in the Breeders’ Futurity last year and kicked off his 3yo campaign with a bold rally to finish second to Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby, so expect him to get a lot of attention today. His decided lack of speed is a major worry, however, as it’s already been mentioned that the pace here doesn’t seem to be overly fast, so you have to worry if he can get there in time. On paper he’s one of the ones, but at false odds with the race flow seemingly going against him, he’s worth playing against; limiting his use to the bottom of the exotics.
#5 Palace Malice: Dogwood colorbearer wheels back on two weeks rest after a brutal trip in the GII Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, where he had a ton of run entering the stretch, yet never got a chance to stretch his legs while checking in seventh. As talented as this son of Curlin is (he finished third at FG in the GII Risen Star in February), you get the impression this is a Dogwood move, as opposed to a Pletcher one, as he seldom, if ever runs his horses back this quick. The water gets cloudier when you factor in that he’s never been over a synthetic surface, either, so if you add it all up, it’s asking a lot at underlaid odds; keying underneath, if at all.
#6 Channel Isle: Well-traveled Lukas colt was a non-threatening seventh in the Spiral and rates as one of the longer shots on the board today. Son of turf champion English Channel did run third in his lone start over the local surface in October and is no doubt a better horse today than he was then, but a win here would go as one of the Coach’s biggest surprises in a career filled with shockers; needs softer to threaten.
#7 Uncaptured: The second from Casse and Oxley is an accomplished multiple graded stakes winner who was second as the favorite in the Spiral in his seasonal debut, so you have to believe he’s going to move forward today. Son of Lion Heart made waves late last year with a pair of graded stakes wins at Churchill, but also went 4-for-5 over the Woodbine Polytrack, so you know he likes the surface. Tactical runner drew perfectly and should be right off the pace and looking to make a winning move off the far turn, which seems like a pretty good recipe for success; won’t fault anyone thinking he’s the one to deny, though he’s hardly overwhelming.
#8 Charming Kitten: The longer shot of the uncoupled Pletcher duo was a close ninth in the Breeders’ Futurity, which is the lone blemish on a sharp resume that includes a stakes win in the Kitten’s Joy at GP in January. Enters this off a second-place finish to fellow rival Rydilluc there in the GIII Palm Beach, and while he no doubt has talent, you wonder if he’s in here to give local legend Ramsey a runner in the big race; not using today.
#9 Tesseron: Price player will be dismissed easily by most, but if you dig a little, you’ll see he owns a two-turn Polytrack win at Woodbine and was a close second in a GIII stakes there as a 2yo as well, so there’s some serious talent in this corner. Son of Tapit didn’t run poorly to Black Onyx in an optional claimer on the turf at GP in January in his lone start at three, and all that colt did was come back and win the Spiral decisively, so the plot thickens even more. Lightly raced runner is in the expert hands of Carroll, who knows what to do with a classy 3yo for Donver Stable (think Careless Jewel), so you better believe this colt belongs; look out.
#10 Footbridge: Godolphin homebred sure picked a salty spot to test winners and try a synthetic surface as he crosses the country off a MSW win at Santa Anita in March. Son of Street Cry is bred to love the local surface and has plenty of speed, so you have to think he’ll be sent a bit from this wide draw, but as much respect as you have to have for these connections, this is biting off an awful lot; tabbing for down the road.
#11 Balance The Books: Late substitution for Brown was simply awful as one of the favorites in the Spiral when he checked in 11th, beaten 19 ¼ lengths in his seasonal bow. The effort was so bad that it’s almost a confidence booster that such a patient trainer wheels him back in an even tougher Polytrack race off such a poor run, but geesh, talk about a bad first impression. There are no worries about this wide draw since he’s taking back and hoping to make a late run, like he did when winning a few graded turf stakes as a 2yo, but the lack of pace is another obstacle; see you back on the grass.
#12 West Hills Giant: Speedy son of Frost Giant was pace-setting second in Aqueduct’s GIII Gotham in March for Terranova after succumbing to Vyjack’s devastating late run in what was a breakthrough effort. The wide draw likely forces his hand, so expecting him to be sent away from the gate in the hopes of getting some position entering the first turn. On paper he fits, but the Gotham had a “someone had to be second” feel to it, so with that in mind, he’s still got something to prove all, while making his synthetic debut; siding against.
#13 Rydilluc: Streaking turf monster tries the Polytrack in an effort to get some Derby points for Contessa, who rarely ventures to these parts, though he did win the Ashland back in 1991. How the horse handles the local surface is anyone’s guess, but if you saw his GP wins this winter, including his tour de force over Charming Kitten in the Palm Beach, you know his talent is undeniable. Son of Medaglia D’Oro is tactical and has some push-button speed at his disposal, so if he is able to negotiate a ground-saving trip, which could be tough for this draw, the rest could all be in for a long day; scary, scary, scary.
#14 Fear the Kitten: Price player for Maker does own a local win, albeit in a MCL’er, but will have to step up off his fifth in the Spiral. Son of Kitten’s Joy has become a useful horse this year and did run second, though beaten 11 1/4 lengths, in Oaklawn Park’s sloppy GIII Southwest in February, but looks like one of the longer shots in this deep field; not seeing it.
#15 Divine Ambition (AE): Speedy runner is drawn on the also-eligible list here but in the body of the field in the Arkansas Derby and is expected to scratch so he can run there.