Don’t Forget The Undercard — All Three Kentucky Derby Prep Races Are Preceded By Six-Figure Lead-Ins

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 31, 2022 - Last Updated on April 21, 2022

Here’s a twist on a phrase: Show YOU the money.

Nationwide bettors are embracing an avalanche of signature Derby prep races that will impact the May 7 Kentucky Derby over the next two weekends. It’s a wagering carnival for the industry — all accessible via TVG — which uses a string of prep races to qualify contenders for the Run for the Roses.

We’ll examine them, along with mandatory payouts marking the end of the Gulfstream Park meet and a memorable collection of Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shot performers who vastly enriched some of our horse-racing clientele.

This weekend’s races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby

Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida; Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas; and Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, command the center of the horse-racing universe on Saturday.

Each offers a high-profile event with major supporting races to produce their best cards of the season.

Here’s what’s in store for nationwide bettors via TVG: a collection of top races bridging the afternoon and evening. The $1.25 million Arkansas Derby runs at 7:35 p.m. EDT at Oaklawn, the $1 million Florida Derby is at Gulfstream Park and the $600,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks unfolds at Turfway.

It’s always beneficial to watch races you may not even have an interest in to determine how the track is playing. Conditions will give you insight on speed horses, closers, inside or outside track bias, etc. Then, you can apply that knowledge to the races you do love.

Undercard races to watch

Oaklawn sports the largest purse, $1.25 million for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, headlined by exhilarating filly Secret Oath, who will try to beat the boys in a must-watch race at 7:35 pm. EDT.

Supporting races include:

  • Fantasy for $600,000
  • Oaklawn Mile for $400,000
  • Carousel for $200,000

Not only does Gulfstream Park host the $1 million Florida Derby at 6:38 p.m., but it also offers other highlights:

  • Gulfstream Oak for $250,000
  • Pan Am Stakes for $200,000
  • Orchid for $150,000
  • Six other races with a $100,000 purse
  • More than $2 million in purse money in one afternoon
  • A special first post of 11:30 a.m. EDT

The Gulfstream meet winds down this weekend, meaning mandatory payouts in the Late Pick 5 and Late Pick 4 pools with a minimum of $750,000. On Sunday, Gulfstream has a mandatory payout of its Rainbow Pick 6, with a carryover pool projected to be anywhere from $3-5 million, depending on how much is generated from Saturday’s big races.

Turfway hosts the $600,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks, a Kentucky Derby prep, at 6:23 p.m. EDT. On the excellent undercard:

  • $250,000 Twin Spires Classic
  • $200,000 Rushaway Stakes
  • $200,000 Animal Kingdom Stakes

This is a top-notch presentation for a track of this size.

Analysis of the Arkansas and Florida Derbys

Arkansas Derby

Secret Oath may get a ton of betting love. No filly has ever won a Kentucky Derby prep since the points system was introduced in 2013. Her trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, is the only trainer in the last half-century to win a Kentucky Derby prep with a filly, according to

Lukas did so with Althea in the 1984 Arkansas Derby, Winning Colors in the 1988 Santa Anita Derby and Serena’s Song in the 1995 Jim Beam (now known as the Jeff Ruby).

Will Secret Oath rekindle memories of great recent fillies like Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra? We’ll see. She faces another excellent up-and-coming horse in We the People, along with Doppelganger, who ships in from Santa Anita, and Un Ojo, the 75-1 Rebel Stakes winner. Un Ojo is the only horse in the race to cover the full 1 1/8 miles.

Florida Derby

It’s a rematch between Simplification and White Abarrio, who beat him in the Holy Bull. White Abarrio skipped the Fountain of Youth, which Simplification won. Classic Causeway, who won two stakes races at Tampa Bay, may be able to get the lead and the others will stalk.

Earlier races will tell bettors whether a forecast calling for an 80% chance of rain has a big impact. If the track is listed as “sloppy,” it could benefit whichever horse gets to the lead. If it is listed as “good,” it may be tiring and benefit stalkers and closers.

This will be an ongoing situation. You can monitor it by watching the races immediately preceding the big one.

Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots

Strike up the band. Light the fireworks. We’ve got an honor roll edition of Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots: three races with payouts in telephone number lengths from within the past couple of weeks.

One happened last weekend at the $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks at Sunland Park in New Mexico.
It was a nine-horse field, a qualifier race for the Kentucky Oaks, the filly equivalent of the Kentucky Derby.

Bettors knew craziness abounded when the 9-5 second choice, Queen of Thorns, threw her jockey Victor Espinoza right out of the gate. Espinoza was OK, but his horse was gone from the race.

Into the vacuum rode Manorelli, a 7-1 speed horse who set taxing fractions of 21.35 seconds for the quarter-mile and 46.28 for the half.

The race set up for 7-5 shot Optionality coming for home. He didn’t fire. Manorelli started fading and then came up with a late rally that looked like it began in Texas. Cleopatra’s Charge came in to nip him just before the wire at 79-1. In second was Ali Alley at 35-1. The $2 exacta paid a whopping $3,208.

Manorelli, 7-1, held third and completed a $1 trifecta of $7,258. Tyler’s Dream, at 15-1, completed a $2 superfecta of $25,209. That would be $1,264 for the 10-center.

Why it paid: Sunland is considered a lower-level track than Santa Anita in California and Oaklawn Park. Queen of Thorns had come out of a race at Santa Anita. When she tossed Espinoza, that was that.
Optionality came out of the Honeybee at Oaklawn. This was considered a step down, but it wasn’t.

Miss Hard Knocks, the 10 horse here, had beaten several others in this race. She took money as the third favorite but ran off the board. Miss Hard Knocks had finished one length ahead of Ali Alley and four ahead of the eventual winner, Cleopatra’s Charge, in the last race.

Some bettors may have concluded that Cleopatra’s Charge was going to improve because the last race had followed a layoff. Looking back, it wasn’t too far-fetched to believe that Cleopatra’s Charge would run well. The odds of 79-1 were unreal. So was the payout.

In retrospect, it would have been nearly impossible to dismiss the favorites. There’s no way to say “it was staring you in the face.”

We found out how at least one bettor had it.

The listed payout was “2-7-9 ALL.” The 2-7-9 represented the order of the first three horses and the ALL meant the rest of the field. This bettor accounted for the favorites by tucking everyone in the fourth spot and then the favorites ran out.

Charlie’s Town again

Two racing jackpots surfaced from a little further back — March 17. They occurred right behind each other at the place some long shot bettors have lovingly dubbed “Charlie’s Town.”

That’s Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia.

There were two superfecta payouts exceeding $70,000 combined just two races apart on St. Patrick’s Day. Was it the luck of the Irish? Or the lure of the long shots?

Race seven featured an eight-horse field won by Ghostly Squall at 35-1. Slewing was second at 11-1. Cherokee Castle was third at 13-1. Goodness Gracious, 5-2, was fourth.

The $2 exacta paid $680. The $1 trifecta returned $3,687, and the $2 superfecta paid $45,252. That’s $22,626 for the $1 super and $2,262 for the 10-center.

What happened? The favorite, Whale of a Time, was bet down from 9-5 to 3-5. He was nosed out for fourth, and it caused a whale of a collection.

That upstaged what happened two races earlier.

Settlement Date (10-1), Cats Diamond Boy (35-1), Secret Swirl (5-2) and Neednoexplanation (50-1) completed a cha-ching fest.

The $2 exacta returned $528. The $1 trifecta paid $968, and the $2 super was $24,287. That meant the $1 super was $12,393 and the 10-center was $1,239.

Why it paid: No clear favorite, the 35-1 shot second and the 50-1 shot fourth.

What to look for: It may be impossible to locate a 50-1 shot and consider the horse “live.” The breeding grounds for these monster payouts are big fields and low-level racing.

After you do that, bet some bombs with impunity and within your budget.

Somebody has to win. It may be a terrific long shot.

Good luck finding yours.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

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