Betting Strategies: Maximizing Value In Three Kentucky Derby Preps

Written By Andrew Champagne on March 4, 2022 - Last Updated on March 20, 2022
Stakes races at Aqueduct Park

The Fountain of Youth, Gotham and San Felipe all award 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winners of those races. That reward all but assures those horses spots in the Churchill Downs starting gate on the first Saturday in May.

As usual, Playfecta has betting strategies for all three preps. To save space this week, we’re putting them in one article. Let’s take a closer look.

Going against the chalk in the Fountain of Youth

The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park drew an overflow field of 12, with one also-eligible. That AE, No. 13 Galt, will run, as No. 12 Mo Donegal will be scratched due to a fever. The big field should ensure square prices, especially if you don’t fancy the favorite.

I fall into that category, as I’m not a fan of No. 8 Emmanuel. He’s 2-for-2, but he’s gotten there with two picture-perfect trips against overmatched groups. The Todd Pletcher trainee clearly has talent, and the work tab is full of flashy drills, but these are the favorites you’re supposed to try to beat.

I’m a big fan of the race No. 4 In Due Time exits. He crushed that field by nearly six lengths, and that day’s fourth-place finisher came right back to win. That effort earned him a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, and his pedigree hints that two turns won’t be a problem. I think we’ll get the 6-1 morning line price, and that hits me as an overlay.

I’ll bet In Due Time to win and key him in exactas above and below No. 2 Simplification, No. 7 A. P.’s Secret and No. 10 Giant Game. If Emmanuel is truly a freak, I lose, but I think there’s money to be made in going against him.

  • $15 win: 4
  • $2 exactas: 4 with 2, 7, 10
  • $1 exactas: 2, 7, 10 with 4

Extracting value in the Gotham

The Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct is a bit of an anomaly. One-turn Derby preps are sort of strange to see this close to the big race, but 10 3-year-olds will go one mile here.

No. 9 Morello is the likely favorite, and I think he makes a lot of sense. There’s plenty of early speed in here, and many of these runners seem to need the lead in order to run well. This Steve Asmussen trainee doesn’t. He’s 2-for-2, and while he has tactical speed, he’s shown he can sit off the pace and run professionally. That maturity should be an asset here, as I think he will once again sit a perfect trip and get the money.

In addition to a straight win bet, I’ll also play an exacta using No. 7 Noneedtoworry in the second spot. I think there’s a chance this race will completely fall apart. In that instance, Noneedtoworry (who may be the longest shot on the board) could clunk up for second. Such a scenario would make for a juicy exacta payoff, one I’d kick myself for not having.

  • $20 win: 9
  • $5 exacta: 9 with 7

A befuddling renewal of the San Felipe

Of the three Derby preps, the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita is the one I’m least excited about. Consider this: Only one horse in this field has a win over winners going two turns. That horse, No. 7 Cabo Spirit, did win the Eddie Logan … but that was on turf.

No. 6 Forbidden Kingdom tries two turns for the first time, and he hasn’t done a lot wrong yet. He cruised to a win in the Grade 2 San Vicente, and that day’s runner-up came back to win a rich race in Saudi Arabia last weekend. There are some stamina questions here, as broodmare sire Five Star Day was a sprinter. However, sire American Pharoah was, of course, a Triple Crown winner, and this doesn’t seem like the toughest spot for this one to make his two-turn debut.

I’m going to assume Forbidden Kingdom won’t mind the added distance. In hopes of minimizing my investment and maximizing value, I’ll play two exactas. I liked No. 1 Happy Jack a bit in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis, and it’s clear he just didn’t fire that day. Perhaps he’ll bounce back and benefit from a race that seems heavy on early speed. I’ll also include Cabo Spirit, who was a distant second in the Lewis but has at least shown some two-turn consistency.

  • $5 exactas: 6 with 1, 7
Andrew Champagne Avatar
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Andrew Champagne

Andrew Champagne is a Content Manager at Catena Media, as well as an award-winning horse racing writer and handicapper. Originally from upstate New York, he now resides in Concord, California. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne.

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