Saturday, May 5, 2012

Looking for a 'Gem' on Kentucky Derby day

Happy Derby Day!

(Scroll on down to the bottom of this post for Derby day selections by TDH and guest handicapper, The Familiar Stranger!)

I've been in Louisville since early Thursday morning and enjoying the hectic pace of Derby week.

In addition to the stories and videos already posted on the Woodbine News page, I'll have a follow-up post here with more photos and video on Monday.

On Friday, I stood at the rail and cheered on Ontario-bred filly Hard Not to Like in the Kentucky Oaks.

A muddy Hard Not to Like after the Oaks
Hard Not to Like, bred in Ontario by Garland Williamson's Hillsbrook Farms and trained by Gail Cox, bobbled at the start but came on through the stretch to finish sixth, as Rosie Napravnik and Believe You Can earned all the accolades.

"I thought it was too bad we got buried on the rail," said Cox, who retained rider Rafael Bejerano after Robby Albarado was arrested earlier in the day.

Hard Not to Like, who won the Cup and Saucer Stakes at Woodbine, was trying dirt for the first time in the Kentucky Oaks.

"He (Bejerano) said she ran really well," offered Cox. "It was impressive how she ran into the dirt because she's covered (in mud). She's very game."

Brereton Jones homebred Believe You Can (the same gentleman whose fillies Biofuel and Tu Endie Wei have wowed Woodbine) put in a determined stretch run to overtake Broadway's Alibi and win the 128th running of the $1-million Kentucky Oaks by three-quarters of a length, at Churchill Downs.

Believe You Can wins the Oaks
Believe You Can was ridden by Rosie Napravnik who became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks.

"It's unbelievable," said Napravnik. "There are a lot of people that are a big part of me getting to this and winning this race and I just can't thank everybody enough."


You can't walk ten feet on the Churchill Downs grounds without someone asking you who you like in the Derby.

On the drive down to Louisville, I was feeling pretty good about Take Charge Indy who defeated Union Rags in the Florida Derby.  Jockey Calvin Borel (pronounced Bo-rail), a three-time Derby winner, is going to get to his preferred position against the pine in a hurry from post three.

Hansen training on Thursday at Churchill Downs

If Borel can use the rail and stay close to the early pace of the sprinter Trinniberg, he'll have every chance to get first jump when Trinniberg, as most handicappers believe will happen, fades.

However, after watching a number of contenders go through their training sessions on Thursday morning, I became enamoured with Gemologist who looked outstanding on the track and seemed focused on the task at hand unlike possible race-time favourite Hansen who had one eye on the track and another on the assembled crowd.

Gemologist, undefeated in five lifetime starts including a victory in the Wood Memorial last out, has the benefit of top rider Javier Castellano.

Only in a race like the Derby can you get 6-1 on the morning line for an undefeated, multiple-stakes winning son of Tiznow, trained by Todd Pletcher, two-for-two over the Churchill Downs track...I'll take Gemologist in the top spot.

Others to consider:

Bodemeister, unraced as a two-year-old, has two wins in four starts including a nine and a half length romp in the G1 Arkansas Derby last out.  Mike Smith, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic here at Churchill in November with Drosselmeyer, gets the call.

All eyes on Union Rags
Went The Day Well boasts the same connections of last year's Derby winner Animal Kingdom.  The Proud Citizen colt is owned by Team Valor, trained by Graham Motion and will be ridden by John Velazquez.  Went The Day Well arrives at the Derby off a win in the Vinery Spiral at Turfway Park - - the same path to the Derby taken by Animal Kingdom.
Union Rags could benefit from the expected swift early pace to be provided by Trinniberg.  Union Rags, trained by Michael Matz, was second to Hansen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November and second in the Florida Derby last out - - both races run at a distance of a mile and an eighth. Will the extra eighth of a mile in the Kentucky Derby help him catch the front runners?

1. Gemologist
2. Union Rags
3. Went The Day Well
4. Bodemeister
5. Prospective - - trainer Mark Casse is thrilled with how Prospective is training and belives his colt's calm demeanour could move him up in this fractious event.

For those of you playing Pick 3's Pick 4's and more on what could be a lucrative day, consider the following selections provided by my friend, The Familiar Stranger.  The anonymous handicapper was once a staple on the late Mike Magee's radio show.

The Familiar Stranger is building his Derby wagering around Bodemeister (#6), Union Rags (#4) and Gemologist (#15).  For the full entries on the card, -- and to match names with post positions listed below click here.

Kentucky Derby:

$1 Triactors ($52 + $26)

6 w 4,10,13,15 w 3,4,5,7,8,10,11,13,14,15,16,17,18,19

4,15 w 4,15 w 3,5,7,8,10,11,13,14,15,16,17,18,19

Rolling Pick 3's

R4 - 2,4,5,8,12 ($20)
R5 - 3,6 ($12)
R6 - 4,10 ($6)
R7 - 1,4,6 ($15)
R8 - 3 ($25)
R9 - 3,6,7,8,9 ($75)
R10 - 2,6,7,8,10 ($75)
R11 - 4,6,10,13,15 ($50)
R12 - 1,2,3,4,11
R13 - 1,5

Good luck everyone with your Kentucky Derby wagering!

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