Churchill Downs: The Grade III, $175,000 Derby Trial at 1 mile
#1 Officer Alex: Versatile sprinter kicks off the final race that offers points for next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and looms an intriguing price player for Whiting, who won the Run for the Roses in 1992 with Lil E. Tee. If you toss his two-turn runs at Oaklawn Park, this son of Officer’s one-turn races are impeccable, well, except for that 32 1/2-length local drubbing, so we have some mixed signals coming in. Still, he won the Bachelor at OP in his last start and can pass horses late, so if you want to forgive his lone foray over the track, he’s got some intrigue to him; not the worst stab in the world.
#2 Ruler Of Love: Speedy Tampa invader ran quite well to be second in his first start on dirt in a minor seven-furlong stakes in his last start but drew poorly and will be under the gun the entire way in this tough GIII. Still, there’s a lot to be said for a colt who gets nosed out in his only dirt start, and Scott doesn’t win with a quarter of her starters by running them over their heads. If he clears and settles, he could make things interesting, but it’s unlikely he’s pulling that kind of trip with all the other speed signed on to his outside; tough to tout.
#3 Zee Bros: Potential favorite heads to the Midwest for Baffert after a romping seven-furlong MSW win at Santa Anita last month in very fast time and could simply be too fast for these if he doesn’t bounce. Son of Brother Derek should relish the additional ground, and don’t forget, we’re still going just one turn, so it’s not like this is a big stretch-out off that win last time. He’s been in front after a half-mile in both starts and is likely fast enough to make the point here, but with speed to his inside, you wonder if Smith will try and get him to settle just a smidge, though regardless, the path to the winner’s circle goes through this exciting talent; the sky’s the limit here.
#4 Forty Tales: Tough-to-read Pletcher colt looked good rallying to finish second in Gulfstream Park’s GII Hutcheson in February, then bounced badly in their GIII Swale last month, so it’s tough to gauge who shows up tonight. The pace sure looks right for his closing style, it’s nice to see Rosario climb aboard and the price will be a lot better than it was last time, so there are some positives if you still believe. If you key off his Hutcheson, he’ll be a handful, and with two local drills, it’s safe to say he’s grown accustomed to his surroundings as well; gets the call to run by them all in the lane.
#5 Ruble: Rapidly improving Whitham/Wilkes colt goes for the same owner/trainer combo that guided Fort Larned to a Breeders’ Cup Classic win last year and enters this off two straight wins at GP, including his last at today’s distance. Son of Exchange Rate figures to sit a nice pressing/stalking trip, which would get him first run off the far turn, and there’s little doubt he comes into this the right way, though you can say that about a few others as well. On paper he’s got to step up once again, and he just doesn’t seem as fast or talented as some of the others who are looking to bridge the gap to stakes company as well; using underneath, if at all.
#6 Capo Bastone: The second from Pletcher has been extremely fortunate to have earned over 300k and be multiple GI-stakes placed, as he ran in some of the slower GI’s in recent memory last fall, including the BC Juvenile at SA. Son of Street Boss has never run remotely fast enough to win a graded stakes and has no speed at all, so on the cutback to one turn, you have to think he’ll be even farther back than usual, which means he’ll be spotting faster and more talented horses several lengths off the far turn. Pletcher fans might finally get their guy at a price, but his stablemate seems by far the more viable option; strongly playing against.
#7 Tour Guide: The first of two from Lukas ran a clunker in Officer Alex’s Bachelor and will try to wake up in his second start for his new barn. Son of Broken Vow won a pair of minor stakes this winter when in Calhoun’s shedrow and aired in his lone start over the track, so there are some positives in this corner, but he’s yet another who wants to mix it up early, which means he might be gasping through the lane. The price will be much larger than normal for a colt that’s been odds-on in three of his seven starts, and that local 4/17 bullet confirmed his affinity for the track, but even at 15-1 he’s tough to like; not seeing it.
#8 G.T. Tabu: The most experienced member of the field is also the most hopeless, as he’s been drubbed soundly in his two starts against winners and is way up against it here. If you’re looking for a positive, it would be that he does own a one-turn win at the distance, but that’s about where it begins and ends; figures to bring up the rear.
#9 Titletown Five: The second from Lukas is hoping to use a win tonight as a springboard to the Derby next week but will need to get back on the beam after dueling and fading badly in the GII Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in March. Those looking for a form reversal will be forgiving of that two-turn run in Cajun Country and point to this son of Tiznow’s win over the track by nine lengths last fall, not to mention this nice attack post that gives Stevens a ton of options. Tactical colt has a world of talent and might be poised for a career-best run in his third start of his form cycle, which is exactly what he needs to get unsaddled; looms large.
#4 Forty Tales
#9 Titletown Five
#3 Zee Bros