Oaklawn Park: The $750,000,000 GII Rebel (Division 2) at 1 1/16 (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: (37.5-15-7.5-4)
#1 Market King (30-1): Lukas speedster figures to take these as far as he can on the engine, as he stretches out off a close third in a local 6F optional-claimer, and a race removed from pressing and holding to break his maiden here going long. Son of Into Mischief has come to hand this year for a trainer that knows how to pull off a shocking upset, but it’s hard to envision this one adding to the list; pop and stop seems likely.
#2 Laughing Fox (10-1): Sharp local AOC winner is one of four in here for Asmussen, and judging by the way he stormed home last time, he’s definitely one to fear today on the class rise. Of course, they flew early last time and he steps way up here, but there does appear to be enough pace for this stretch-running son of Union Rags to pass some late. On the face of it, this is a tough ask, though these 3-year-olds can get good in a hurry, and if he improves on his last, there’s no reason he can’t get a piece of this late; exotics contender.
#3 Parsimony (30-1): The first of four Santa Anita invaders is also the most unlikely winner, as he’s still a maiden after seven starts and way out of his element here. O’Neill runner has been second in his last two, including a 1 1/8-mile turf tilt last time, and this son of Dominus adds blinkers to an already speedy package, but that figures to only add fuel to the early fire in here; needs much softer.
#4 Jersey Agenda (15-1): The second of the Asmussen brigade will need a major form reversal, as he enters off a distant eighth in the local GIII Southwest, after dueling early and tiring badly late, some three weeks removed from a solid AOC two-turn win here. Homebred son of Jersey Town is another who wants to mix it up early, but that doesn’t seem to be the right running style today, especially since he blinked so badly last time; tough to endorse.
#5 Game Winner (4-5): Reigning 2-year-old champion will put his undefeated 4-for-4 record on the line when he makes his much anticipated 3yo debut as Baffert really flexes his muscles today in Hot Springs, as he also starts the odds-on favorite and undefeated Improbable in the other division. Son of Candy Ride was a workmanlike champion last year and finished his campaign with a win in the BC Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November, though that race hasn’t been a ringing endorsement of a who’s who on the Derby trail this winter. There’s little doubt that he’s clearly the horse to beat, and he has worked well for this, too, but the gut says he’s not quite as imposing as that ML would suggest, and that the time is right if you’re looking for the upset; trying to beat at false odds.
#6 Omaha Beach (7-2): Dangerous newcomer finally broke through at SA when he cut back to one-turn and ran off to a 9-length win, which delivered on a lot of promise (and burned money) in his previous four starts. Pace-pressing son of War Front will stretch back out today for Mandella and will try to break an 0-for-4 record at two turns, though three of those came on the grass, and you’re allowed to think that that win last time has him brimming with confidence and was a potential light-bulb kind of moment, too. The hurdles here are not insignificant, nor will be beating an undefeated champion, but this is the time to do it, and the thinking here is that that win last time was just the scratching the surface of what this colt can do; call to post the mild surprise.
#7 Our Braintrust (6-1): Aqueduct shipper was a private purchase by Barber off a big second in their Jerome in January, and he predictably improved in his first start for Casse when finishing a close and troubled third in the GIII Withers, at a demanding 1 1/8 miles. Versatile son of Freud adds blinkers today, and he was already very tactical to begin with, so expect to see him on or just off what figures an honest, although not overly ambitious, early pace. If he runs back to his last, he can win this, as that was as fast as what anyone else has done, but this is also a big step up in class, and you wonder, off such a big and potentially taxing run, if regression is a more likely scenario today; tread lightly if landing here.
#8 Gunmetal Gray (10-1): Stretch-running son of Exchange Rate gives Hollendorfer and the boys from West Point a legitimate Derby type of horse, as you know he wants every bit of 1 1/4 miles and will be running on at the end, much like he’s done in his two starts this year, which include a win in SA’s GIII Sham two back. Of course, we’re doing nothing remotely close to going 1 1/4 today, and he got completely outfooted when a distant second in a sloppy renewal of the GIII Lewis last month at SA, when behind another Baffert heavyweight in Mucho Gusto, so how much ground he can make up late today is a bit of a guess. What we do know is he’ll be passing horses, and the pace seems honest enough, so while a win is out of reach, he’ll make a dent in the lane, which will set him up for down the road, when they start playing his game; along late for a share.
#9 Kaziranga (50-1): The third of the Asmussen quartet is by far the longest shot of the group, as he was a well-beaten fifth behind ‘mate ‘Fox in the 2/18 AOC, in what was his seasonal debut. Son of Candy Ride will add blinkers today, but up to this point, nothing he’s done suggests that he belongs here, let alone can make a dent; easy toss.
#10 Captain Von Trapp (15-1): Asmussen’s fourth won a local AOC in slow time just two weeks ago and now wheels back on short rest while taking a huge rise in class that seems far too tough. If you’re in his corner, you’ll mention that the win last time was his first start at two turns, and, as a son of Trappe Shot, he’s bred to like this middle distance, but he needs to move up about 10 lengths to even get a minor award against a group like this; midpack finish seems his ceiling.
#6 Omaha Beach
#5 Game Winner
#8 Gunmetal Gray
#7 Our Braintrust