Saturday is Kentucky Derby Day, and the eyes of the horse racing world will be fixed on Churchill Downs. The Derby is just one of 14 (yes, 14) races on the program, one that starts bright and early (10:30 a.m. Eastern, 7:30 a.m. Pacific).
In addition to my Kentucky Derby plays, I’ll have plenty of action throughout the card. There are lots of opportunities to make money, and one only needs to be right once or twice to have a big day. Let’s take a look.
Coming out firing in the opener
I may not be out of bed before the first race on Saturday, but I’ll be awake. There’s one I like in this maiden event that’s drawn a full field, and I think he’ll be a square price.
No. 6 Vinco is 8-1 on the morning line, and he’s my top pick. He was second with an eventful trip in his debut before not doing much running at all going two turns. Trainer Dallas Stewart cut him back to a sprint, and he responded by running second to the highly touted Marsalis.
This isn’t an easy spot. However, Vinco has an experience edge over many of his opponents, and I think he may be figuring things out. This is a colt who commanded $1.5 million at auction last year. Further improvement could put him on track to recoup some investment here.
I’ll bet Vinco to win, and I’ll key him in exactas above and below No. 2 Malibu S S, No. 4 Sargent Lee, and No. 11 King Ottoman. I’m against possible favorites No. 7 Warrior Johny (1-for-30 trainer) and No. 9 Congressman (that debut race didn’t age well). Beating those two with Vinco in the top two will likely mean a nice start to the day.
- $10 win: 6
- $4 exactas: 6 with 2, 4, 11
- $2 exactas: 2, 4, 11 with 6
A 3-year-old race, but not the Kentucky Derby
The seventh race is the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile. It features plenty of familiar faces from the road to the Derby. However, the likely favorite is a runner we haven’t seen in quite a while.
No. 5 Jack Christopher went 2-for-2 a season ago and stamped himself as a top prospect by winning the Grade 1 Champagne. After that effort, he went to the sidelines, but he seems to be training well for top conditioner Chad Brown. If he’s right, he will probably win.
However, I’ve been waiting for No. 3 Pappacap to cut back to one turn, and he also deserves consideration. He won his first two starts sprinting before a bit of a bounce in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. Since then, all of his starts have been routes, and he’s yet to return to the winner’s circle. This one-turn mile should hit him right between the eyes, and the presence of Flavien Prat is a big plus.
I’ll use those two on top of exactas that include No. 6 Tejano Twist and No. 10 Doppelganger underneath. I’ll also box my top two for a few bucks, and I’ll have a small win wager on Pappacap.
- $2 exactas: 3, 5 with 3, 5, 6, 10
- $2 exacta box: 3, 5
- $4 win: 3
Switching to the turf … we hope
The Grade 2 American Turf is the ninth race of the day. As noted in my Friday preview, it’s supposed to pour the day before the Kentucky Derby. I’m anticipating that this race (and the other stakes races on turf) will stay on the grass, but stay tuned to Churchill Downs for updates.
Assuming this stays on the intended surface, I really like No. 2 Main Event. He didn’t show much in two dirt starts but began strutting his stuff on the lawn earlier this year. He’s won two of three turf starts, including the Cutler Bay Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
When he gets to the front, he’s tough to catch. This could prove doubly true if there’s some give in the ground, which often slows races down to a crawl. Main Event is 5-1 on the morning line, and I really hope we get that price come post time.
- $20 win: 2