Brian Nadeau is back this year to offer insight and analysis on this year’s road to the Kentucky Derby. A handicapper at Horseplayer Now and Capital OTB, he’ll analyze every official Derby points race and the three Triple Crown races, back at Brooklyn Backstretch for the sixth year.
Fair Grounds: The Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 50-20-10-5)
#1 Girvin (6-1): Lightly raced but talented son of Tale of Ekati dueled on the lead sprinting here in his debut and prevailed, then went the turf stakes route last time and just missed when second. He figures here as the inside speed in a race without a lot of pace. It seems like we see this type here every winter from Sharp, and while they deserve respect, they also usually blink when the real running begins, so while this colt will offer value and doesn’t meet the toughest group you’ll see on the Derby Trail this winter, let’s make him prove it before backing; siding against.
#2 Untrapped (10-1): The first of two from Asmussen was a solid second in the mud in last month’s local prep, the GIII Lecomte, after stalking a hot early pace and rallying nicely to fall 1 1/4 lengths behind fellow rival Guest Suite, so not only does he have that guy to turn the tables on, but he also meets some solid new shooters as well. Improving son of Trappe Shot was trying winners for the first time and running off a two-month break, too, so you can surmise that he not only needed the run, but was facing some hurdles too, which means he will be tighter for this, at a nice price, too; won’t fault anyone looking this way.
#3 Local Hero (4-1): The less accomplished of the two Asmussens has the biggest upside of the pair, as he just toyed with his MSW field here last month and drew off by 7 1/4 lengths in what was his two-turn debut turn. And sure, he steps up and meets a solid field of GII runners, but it’s also not like there are any monsters in here, at least not yet, and no one is throwing down figures he can’t handle either, so this seems well within his scope. Plus, he’s tactical enough to be placed anywhere and should be on or more likely just off what looks like a modest pace, over a track and distance he showed last time that he relishes; looks good from close range.
#4 Arklow (15-1): Fringe player is the lone maiden in the field, though he wasn’t beaten much when fourth in the Lecomte and goes for a Cox barn that is one big horse away from entering the upper echelon in terms of top young trainers, so you shouldn’t overlook this well-bred son of Arch, though he’s obviously looking up at more than one in here. He’s also a bit at the mercy of the pace, which looks soft, and that’s not going to help his late run through the lane; minor award appears his ceiling.
#5 Shareholder Value (15-1): One of the more experienced members of the field was fifth in the Lecomte and is another who has a lack of speed in a race that doesn’t appear to have a lot of hitting up front. If there are some positives, it’s that he’s a son of white-hot sire Uncle Mo and goes for Amoss, who wins races in bunches in these parts, plus he does own a local two-turn win against optional claimers, but if he got some pace last time and was only fifth, it’s tough to think he can better that run with much more tepid splits expected today; can’t see it.
#6 Guest Suite (6-1): The Lecomte winner has gotten all the best of it in his last two, as he got a ton of pace to set up his stalking run in both his optional-claiming win at Churchill Downs in November and in his comeback last time, which marked his graded stakes debut, too. It’s always good to see veteran Howard, one of racing’s nicest guys, have a legitimate 3-year-old, and he sure knows what to do with a good horse, which is exactly what this son of Quality Road is at this stage of the game. But don’t get too carried away here, either, as he’s got no edge on paper and really hasn’t progressed all that much in any of his races, in terms of figures, so while he’s rock-solid and a repeat is within reach, the gut says his working-class hero persona will succumb to a few who have a bit more brilliance to them; playing against the double-up.
#7 U S Officer (20-1): Decided longshot was third to fellow rival Cool Arrow in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park in December when last seen and really has his work cut out for him today, as not only does he make his 3yo debut, but he’s making his graded stakes debut, too. It’s not often you see Pish put them where they don’t belong, and the three wins of this son of U S Ranger tie him for the most in the field, but adding to that ledger would be a shocker today; easy toss
#8 Cool Arrow (15-1): The second from Sharp wired the Springboard after setting dawdling splits early, but he’s also shown sub :46 zip, too, so expect him to be on or just off the early lead, though with his stablemate owning the same style and drawing the rail, you have to think this son of Into Mischief lays off things a bit early. Regardless, he’s another who picked a tough spot off the layoff to make his graded stakes debut, though fans will note the price will be right, and he sure looked good romping in his two-turn debut last time; mixed signals in this corner.
#9 Mo Town (7-2): Major player kicks off his 3yo campaign a long way from home, as he was last seen airing in Aqueduct’s GII Remsen in December in New York before heading south and tossing out bullet after bullet at Payson Park in Florida for Dutrow. Versatile son of Uncle Mo has had a big following ever since his Saratoga debut in August, and don’t overlook the fact that it’s not easy to beat maidens going one-turn in September at Belmont Park and then drill GII types going 9 furlongs and two turns a few months later, which is likely one of the reasons Coolmore bought in (though standing his sire doesn’t hurt either). Of course, the Remsen field has in turn become very suspect, as heavy favorite Takaful seems like a fraud, and runner-up No Dozing looked awful in his comeback in the GIII Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs earlier this month, though there’s no denying that the path to the winner’s circle goes through this guy; figures a real handful.
#10 Takeoff (10-1): The last of the five from the Lecomte was a solid third and gets a few extra bonus points in that he was the only horse who was up close early to stick around late, which is something not to be ignored, since the other four all rallied from midpack or farther. The worry is that Casse is an unfathomable 0-for-44 in 3yo graded stakes races on the dirt since Dynamic Impact won the Illinois Derby in April 2014, and we’ve already seen a few of his big guns, most notably 2-year-old champion Classic Empire, completely bomb in their 3yo debuts, so while this son of Arch does have the form to be a factor, taking 10-1 or so on a barn with a proven track record of coming up empty in this type of spot just doesn’t entice; comfortable making him prove it. UPDATE: according to Fair Grounds notes, Takeoff is expected to scratch.
#11 Sorry Erik (30-1): Big longshot is the first of two coming in from California, and while that has been a recipe for success around the country the past few years, it could be a bit different this time around, as the terrible weather in Southern California has really altered the training schedule of many this winter. And that’s before we even get to the form of this son of Wilburn, which is meek at best, though, if nothing else, he did improve off the Desormeaux claim last time when he won an optional-claimer at Santa Anita 23 days ago, though that won’t scare anyone in here; tough to tout.
#12 Horse Fly (30-1): Recent Oaklawn Park MSW winner steps way up for Lukas after an all-out win last time in what was his sixth lifetime start, so he’s looking up at the majority of them in here. Son of Mineshaft has definitely found his calling stretching out to two turns, which is hardly a surprise, but at this juncture of his development, this is way too much too soon; get home safely.
#13 It’s Your Nickel (30-1): Son of hot young sire Dialed In was DQ’d into first after being beaten a neck in a local optional-claimer last month for McPeek and will look to bridge the gap in what is his graded stakes debut today. While there’s no doubt that he’s a deserved big price, that local run was his first start since August and against winners, and we all know these 3yos can grow up overnight, so if you’re looking for a giant longshot to add some spice to your exotics, this could be the one; thinking he outruns his odds. UPDATE: according to Fair Grounds notes, It’s Your Nickel is expected to scratch.
#14 So Conflated (10-1): The second California invader has had a lot thrown at him in just three lifetime starts, as he made his debut going six furlongs at Del Mar in December, got the win (via DQ) at SA 23 days later, then went north to win the California Derby over the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields in January, so why not head a few thousand miles away from home to New Orleans for start number four? Obviously O’Neill thinks he can handle the journey, and this son of Eskendereya has done everything they’ve asked of him so far, but he’d be in tough if he drew perfectly, which is anything but close to what he drew today; quite a tall order. UPDATE: according to Fair Grounds notes, So Conflated is expected to scratch.
#3 Local Hero
#9 Mo Town
#6 Guest Suite