Paving the Road to Kentucky


by @MizPostParade

The Derby points earned for winning a designated Derby prep race now jump from 10 to 50 and then on to 100 with the UAE Derby on March 28.  As the point totals rise, so does the talent.  On Saturday, the first of these coveted Derby points are up for grabs in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds and the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.  As we begin to get closer to May 2, the opinions, discussions and debates will amplify as to which 3-year-old will be draped in roses on that first Saturday in May, but let’s take it one race at a time for now.

Gulfstream Park

The Fountain of Youth is worth 50 points for the winner, so let’s take a look at the field.  Bluegrass Singer, Upstart and Frosted have met before, most recently in the Holy Bull.  Upstart is a talented young horse with a talented young jockey, but obviously the 10 points earned by winning the Holy Bull are not enough to get this horse to Kentucky, and he deserves to be there.  It’s a chess game from here on out for Upstart and his connections. A win in the Fountain of Youth will allow this horse a little breathing room until the 100 point races begin.  Upstart, Frosted and Bluegrass Singer finished 1, 2, 3 in the Holy Bull, but I feel that Upstart has a more impressive resume than the other two.  Upstart finished third behind Texas Red and Carpe Diem in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and finished second behind Daredevil at Belmont in the Grade 1 Champaign.  Too much Grade 1 company for the rest of this field.  Bluegrass Singer has the jockey change to Paco Lopez who rides well at Gulfstream.  I have learned many things in my relatively young handicapping career, and one of those things is never bet against Javier Castellano.  I’m a quick learner, and this is why I’m about to make a case for Juan and Bina in the Fountain of Youth.  Javier Castellano has been Bluegrass Singer’s pilot in the Holy Bull and the Mucho Macho Man stakes.  He jumps off this horse for a 20-1 Juan and Bina.  Interesting … or maybe the connections of Juan and Bina wanted THE money rider on their horse and were willing to open up their wallets very wide to give their horse a chance.  After all, it’s the two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey on a track where he is consistently the leading rider, and he’s on the rail in a race where the top three favorites battled each other just a few weeks ago.  Juan and Bina also has very good works at Gulfstream on February 14 and January 17.  Yep, if I can get the best rider in the country on a 20-1 in a field of favorites, I’ll put him on my ticket.  My play is an Exacta box with Upstart (7) / Juan and Bina (1) / Bluegrass Singer (2).

Fair Grounds

The Risen Star is much more challenging.  Similar to the Fountain of Youth, we have three horses exiting another Derby point race where they finished 1, 2, 3 – this time the LeComte: International Star, War Story and Tiznow R J.  International Star (10) holds a spot in my heart since I handicapped this horse to win the LeComte, and he did.  He is a favorite going into the Risen Star along with Imperia (5).  Both Imperia and International Star raced in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Cup on November 14.  International Star was not a factor in that race, but Imperia finished second behind El Kabeir.  Imperia also hasn’t raced since November 14, and is coming into the Risen Star with a rested set of legs.  I can make a case for and against Imperia in this race.  Imperia is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and owned by Godolphin Racing.  He has been resting and waiting for the higher point races.  He will be getting the West Coast money rider, Mike Smith.  However, as we know some horses just don’t ship well, and I am a believer that some jockeys don’t ship well either.  Mike Smith isn’t one of them.  This will be Imperia’s fourth jockey change in five starts. But, when Mike puts on the Godolphin royal blue silks, he tends to ride much better no matter where he is.  It’s War Story (6) that I’m leaning toward in this race.  In the LeComte, International Star was stuck behind horses and found a hole, but War Story was there regardless.  If International Star gets stuck again, this is War Story’s win.  Of course, I want to make a plea for a mid-level long shot:  Keen Ice (8). Similar to the synopsis above of Juan and Bina in the Fountain of Youth, Keen Ice has been running with a pretty competitive crowd at this same distance, and also has been through a number of jockeys.  Keen Ice enters the Risen Star after running in the Holy Bull with Upstart, Frosted and Bluegrass Singer.   He’s also run with Carpe Diem, Mr. Z and Bold Conquest.  Not bad company to have on a road trip to Kentucky.  Similar again to Juan and Bina, the connections on Keen Ice are willing to open up their wallets and pay to have Fair Grounds’ top rider, James Graham, aboard.  Donegal Racing and trainer Dale Romans must believe in the potential of this horse as they keep putting him in races with the Derby “it” horses, but Keen Ice hasn’t produced at the Grade 2 level … yet.  The 3-year-old speedster phenoms are not in the Risen Star, and the only other horses in this race competing with the top echelon of 3-years-olds like Carpe Diem, El Kabeir and Upstart are Imperia and International Star.  I will probably play 6, 5, 8 and 10 in this race … just not sure what kind of combination to play.

Read more from @MizPostParade on her blog One Lucky Mudder


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