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.
Tampa Bay Downs: The $350,000 GII Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 50-20-10-5)
#1 Tale of Silence (15-1): Longshot had a “someone had to be second” feel to him when he was blasted by Pletcher’s talented Malagacy last time at Gulfstream Park in an optional-claimer and will need to do a lot better than the meek sixth in Aqueduct’s GII Remsen, his only other stakes start, if he wants to have a say here. It’s a positive that Tagg sends this son of Tale of the Cat here off the GP run, as he’s not one to run them where they can’t have a say, but this seems like an ambitious placing at this point; midpack finish seems likely.
#2 The Money Monster (15-1): The most inexperienced member of the crew has just two lifetime starts and now makes his first for Mott, after being privately purchased after winning the local prep, the Pasco, for owner-trainer Crichton, so if nothing else, you know his new connections liked what they saw. Son of Majestic Warrior figures to be on or just off the early lead, as he stretches out from seven furlongs and makes his two-turn debut, but there’s plenty of pace to his outside, which means he’s really going to have to earn it; needs softer to threaten.
#3 Basha (12-1): Pace-presser hasn’t been disgraced while hitting the board in two GP stakes starts but steps up in his graded debut today, albeit for a Zerpa barn that hit at a robust 29% in 2016, so you might want to give more than a cursory glance, especially since this is a son of Uncle Mo making his two-turn debut today. But, with that being said, he hasn’t exactly made a late dent in either stakes run, and he meets a lot tougher today, so a win seems a bit out of reach; minor award appears his ceiling.
#4 No Dozing (6-1): Extremely tricky read was fancied in last month’s local prep, the GIII Sam F. Davis, but did no running at all in what was his 3-year-old debut after really impressing when second in the Remsen to close out his 2-year-old campaign, so you’re allowed to wonder if he’s bridged the gap from a talented freshman to a bigger and stronger sophomore. The good news is that Delacour forges on, and this son of Union Rags did draw a lot better today, too, and the undefeated McCraken, who mowed everyone down last time, isn’t here, either, so there are some positives. And the price will be better as well, but at the end of the day, he still has to turn the tables on a few others, who are seemingly going in the right direction, while’s he’s anyone’s guess; tread lightly if landing here.
#5 Tapwrit (3-1): Deserving favorite really answered the bell in the Davis when he gave the experienced McCraken a scare before ultimately settling for second in what was his graded stakes debut after rolling in a sloppy off-the-turf stakes at GP two back. Regally bred son of Tapit has the ability to lay close to the pace and get first run on the closers, which gives him a big edge, and you already know he likes the track too, which is a big deal, as this can be an extremely tricky surface for some to handle (see No Dozing). And with Pletcher and Jose Ortiz in your corner, you’ve got a few aces in a field predominantly filled with some middle pairs; figures a real handful.
#6 Beasley (9-2): Speedster wisely scratched out of last Saturday’s GII Fountain of Youth at GP to await this much easier spot, and, while there is a lot of other pace entered, it won’t be as hot as that one was, so this does seem like the right spot for this son of Shackleford to make his stakes debut. Lightly raced runner made some headlines with a close second to Pletcher’s hotshot Battalion Runner in an optional-claimer at GP last month and appears to have a lot of promise for Hennig, who is looking to find out just what’s under the hood today. On the face of it, he’s looking up at a few of these, but the price will be right and there’s a lot of talent here, too, so you could do a lot worse than looking his way; expecting he makes his presence felt.
#7 Sonic Mule (6-1): The second from Pletcher isn’t as highly thought of as his stablemate but has done some good things and is a stakes winner, though it came at one turn in a modest renewal of GP’s Mucho Macho Man two back, so this is a definite class rise today. Distorted Humor colt is bred to be a nice one, and you could argue that he’s the speed of the speed in here, but with pace to his inside and outside, putting them all away and holding off his stablemate in the lane, among others, seems like a mighty big ask; siding against.
#8 State of Honor (4-1): Vastly improved runner from Casse has found a home on dirt this year after doing the Tapeta thing at Woodbine last fall, as he was beaten just a neck by ‘Mule at GP and was a fine third in the Davis after carving out the fractions for six furlongs. Homebred son of To Honor and Serve likely won’t be on the engine today and showed in the Mucho Macho Man he doesn’t need the lead to have success, but his trainer is on one of the most unfathomable runs of recent memory, as he’s now 0-for-34 with 3yos in graded stakes races on dirt since Dynamic Impact won the GIII Illinois Derby at Hawthorne in April 2014, and that streak has claimed a lot better than that this colt, so until it gets broke, it’s best to get on the bandwagon; underneath only.
#9 Wild Shot (5-1): Very intriguing runner was an underrated fourth in the Davis from a wide draw in what was his 3yo debut after doing some good things at 2, so he’s eligible to be a lot tighter today, and anyone who saw his sharp middle move flatten out last time can surmise that he was a bit of a short horse that day, too. Son of Trappe Shot figures to improve off that run for Arnold, and though he drew poorly again, his stalking gear will come in handy and allow him to save a bit of ground into the first turn as well. On the face of it, he may not have the firepower to deal with the pick, but he’s got as much upside as anyone, and that second to McCraken in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs to close out his juvenile campaign says that there’s a ton of potential in this corner; looms the main danger.
#10 Zion Valley (50-1): Ginormous longshot might test the tote system as he figures to be in triple digits by the time they spring the latch, and as a maiden testing legitimate Derby hopefuls, this son of Congaree is way, way out of his element for a Rice barn that does do good work at Presque Isle Downs over the summer; get home safely.
#9 Wild Shot
#4 No Dozing