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 analyzed every official Derby points race and will preview the three Triple Crown races, back at Brooklyn Backstretch for the sixth year.
Belmont Park: The Grade I, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles
#1 Twisted Tom (20-1): Streaking New York-bred has won three straight, including a pair of Laurel stakes, and goes for Preakness winning connections in Brown and Castellano, which means you know you’ll get a shorter price than you should. And that’s a big problem, as this son of Creative Cause is light years behind these on figures, which is saying something, because no one is confusing the main players in here of being very fast on paper. If there’s a plus, it’s that you get the best in the business, and a horse that is improving and is very tactical, but even in this subpar renewal, that’s not enough to make him enticing; can’t see it.
#2 Tapwrit (6-1): Dangerous stalker is one of two in here for Pletcher, who has done very well in this race, and this son of Tapit was a solid—and troubled—sixth in the Derby after getting whacked around at the start. Versatile sort figures to be just off the pace, which doesn’t look all that hot, and that will get him first run off the far turn, too, but he’s also a little dressed up, as his wins have come over sketchy competition while some of the big boys have been away, and he’s yet to beat a truly solid horse that would make a dent in here. Of course, there’s also not much in terms of legitimate GI quality in here, and you’ll get a fair price if you believe; won’t fault anyone looking his way.
#3 Gormley (8-1): Tricky read was in a good spot off the far turn in the Derby, then came unglued late and finished ninth, further fueling the belief that he’s another that has built his resume feasting on lesser. Though to be fair, that is a resume that has a pair of GI wins, including the Santa Anita Derby, but when the big boys have come calling, he’s never done any real running, and now he’ll have to reverse the trend away from Southern California, too. Son of Malibu Moon has been training well for Shirreffs, who wouldn’t ship across the country if he didn’t have something, but until this colt proves he can be consistently counted on, he’s best to be left alone; know him early, not sure about late.
#4 J Boys Echo (15-1): Derby also-ran didn’t do any running when 15th but returns to New York, where he won Aqueduct’s GIII Gotham over Preakness winner Cloud Computing, in what is his only decent effort of late. Son of Mineshaft has a pedigree to run all day, and Romans has indicated he’s been training great, but the aforementioned Gotham looks a lot more like the exception than the rule, as his other runs haven’t been much. If you believe, you’ll get a nice price on a horse that is bred to like the trip more than most, but he’s still tough to fall in love with; siding against.
#5 Hollywood Handsome (30-1): Recent CD allowance winner was all-out at even-money that day, so he’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to win a Triple Crown race, especially since he really hasn’t broken through in nine starts. Stewart has had some success on the trail with big bombers, though, and this one fits the bill, and that relatively close fourth in the GII Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds at least says he’s not totally outgunned. The worry is that he’s a son of Tapizar, who was a crack miler that never really made waves going long, which clouds this one’s chances at 1 1/2 miles; minor award appears his ceiling.
#6 Lookin At Lee (5-1): Derby runner-up rode the inside bias and got a dream trip up the fence when closing from the clouds, then predictably couldn’t back it up while finishing a modest fourth in the Preakness. Deep, deep closing son of Lookin At Lee will also be overbet, since Asmussen and Irad Ortiz teamed to win this last year with Creator, who also was a dead one-run closer, and taking an underlaid price with this running style isn’t all that ideal. If nothing else, he is consistent and you know he’ll pass a bunch and like the distance, though a win may be a bit much to ask; underneath only.
#7 Irish War Cry (7-2): Expected heavy hitter looked 6-5 off the far turn of the Derby, when he ranged up boldly while Maragh was confidently looking under his arm, then seemingly hit a wall and some quicksand and stopped on a dime to finish 10th. Well, the fact that Motion is back with this son of Curlin is a confident move, as he’s one of the more patient conditioners and wasn’t initially aiming here, but it’s also fair to ask if this trip is within his scope, especially after the way he caved in in Louisville. It’s also fair to wonder what kind of effort you’re getting today, as his GII wins in Gulfstream Park’s Holy Bull and Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial were awesome, but his duds in GP’s Fountain of Youth and the Derby weren’t pretty, though it’s also quite evident that he’s the most talented individual in this iffy field; expecting him to make his presence felt.
#8 Senior Investment (12-1): Stretch-runner quietly was a good third in the Preakness and was clear of ‘Lee that day, too, yet will likely be three times the price today, even though his upside is every bit as high and he’s seemingly improving by the day. And like that deep closer for Asmussen, his trainer McPeek has won this race, too, so you know he knows how to get a horse to handle this albatross of a race and a distance they’ll never run again (at least on the dirt). Son of Discreetly Mine has showed a bit of class in winning Keeneland’s GIII Lexington two-back and didn’t blink when he faced the big boys in Baltimore, so off that trial run, at a big price, and with a running style that will appreciate the distance, let’s see if he can pass two more late today; tepid call in a real scramble.
#9 Meantime (15-1): The definite speed will be winging early and almost pulled off the upset in the local prep, the GII Peter Pan, when second before drifting badly off the far turn and succumbing late to Timeline, who may well have been favored here for Brown if entered. Son of Shackleford impressed that day, too, as it was his first start against winners, though it’s worth noting both of his recent big runs were over off tracks, so proving it on dry land might be a different story. The pace is also a bit tricky, as it doesn’t look overly fast on paper but may be more contested than people think, so while he’s definitely going to be in front early, where he is late is anyone’s guess; willing to make him prove it.
#10 Multiplier (15-1): Lightly-raced runner was a decent sixth in the Preakness after winning the GIII Illinois Derby at Hawthorne and is a lot like ‘Investment, in that he showed he could run with the big boys and may be able to build off that. Of course, it wasn’t like he ever gave anyone a scare that day and he did get passed by both deep closers, so he’s got his work cut out for him here, and that’s possibly why Walsh adds blinkers for a bit more early focus. The real concern, however, is his pedigree, as dad The Factor was a much better one-turn horse than router, as was his damsire Trippi, so getting 1 1/2 miles is a real if; mixed signals here.
#11 Epicharis (4-1): Japanese invader is getting a lot of publicity for some good and bad reasons, first because he’s 4-for-5 lifetime and seems to have some legitimate quality to him, as evidenced by that game second to Thunder Snow in the GI UAE Derby at Meydan, but second because he was treated for lameness in his right front Wednesday evening and is still planning on running. That’s a big worry for a horse thousands of miles from home and trying American racing for the first time, though there’s little doubt this son of Gold Allure (JPN) figures to like the 1 1/2 miles more than most in here, and you know Hagiwara (presumably) wouldn’t run him if he wasn’t sound and 100%. But still, it’s a big ask to begin with, and if there’s a foot issue lingering, and one that might not really rear its head until late in a marathon of a race, that’s not exactly a recipe for success; minor award may be his ceiling.
#12 Patch (12-1): The second from Pletcher has gotten a lot of publicity as he has just one eye and has obviously battled a lot of adversity in his brief career, while showing plenty of talent, too, which includes a very solid second in the Louisiana Derby before a disappointing 14th in Louisville. Son of Union Rags, who won this race in 2012, was a laughable 14-1 in the Derby though, as a Good Morning America piece let his story be known to the outside world, and that will cause him to be another huge underlay here, even though he’s never run remotely fast enough to win this, let alone hit the board. On the face of it he’s easy to root for, and there is some upside here, too, but we’re in the gambling business, and the risk-reward just doesn’t add up; playing against.
#8 Senior Investment
#7 Irish War Cry
#6 Lookin At Lee