Derby trail picks up speed

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The $9 million Pegasus World Cup is in the rear-view mirror. Winner City of Light and third-place finisher Accelerate (who was voted the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Horse last week) are now retired and both have already shipped to Kentucky to begin their stud careers.

What’s next? The focus switches quickly to the three-year-olds as they begin their respective roads hoping to get to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in May.

There are four Graded Stakes races for the three-year-olds this Saturday, so let’s take a look at contenders in each who could work their way on to the short lists of horseplayers’ Kentucky Derby contenders:

• Gulfstream Park – The Grade II $200,000 Holy Bull Stakes: This 1-1/16 mile race features the return of Gr. II Remsen Stakes winner Maximus Mischief and up-and-comer Mihos, who won his Stakes debut in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream on Jan 5. This will be the first two-turn race for Mihos, so in this early season Derby prep the more experienced Maximus Mischief may hold the edge.

• Gulfstream Park – The Grade III $150,000 Swale Stakes: This seven-furlong sprint is a stepping stone to races like the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby in March. Recent Maiden winners tend to have the most upside, so beware if Global Campaign opts for this spot after a very impressive debut on January 5.

• Aqueduct – The $250,000 Grade III Withers Stakes: Admire was scratched from the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on January 18 when he drew impossible post 14. He will ship in from Florida to run in this 1-1/8 mile race instead for trainer Dale Romans. Remsen Stakes third-place finisher Tax will be among those to catch, while jockey Manny Franco, who is winning races in bunches at Aqueduct, opts for Moretti over Tax.

• Santa Anita – $150,000 Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes: Proven Graded Stakes performers like Mucho Gusto (second in Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity), Gunmetal Gray (won the Grade III Sham at Santa Anita), and Sueno (second in the Sham Stakes) may draw the most attention, but keep a close eye on recent Maiden winner Nolo Contesto. He is reportedly the best three-year-old prospect in the John Sadler stable and improved a ton when tried at one mile last time. Saturday’s longer 1-1/16 mile trip should only help his cause.

In addition to those Graded Stakes races for three-year-olds, Kentucky Derby future book players should watch Thursday’s seventh race at Santa Anita closely. The one mile allowance event includes Grade I placed Extra Hope and Gray Magician, who drops out of the Grade III Sham Stakes won by Gunmetal Gray and adds blinkers. Recent Maiden winners to watch closely are Big Scott Daddy, who won sprinting opening day at Santa Anita, and Kingly, a full brother to Grade II winner Mohayman and a half-brother to Breeders Cup Juvenile winner New Years Day. 

Hidden Scroll impresses

On the subject of three-year-olds to watch, how good was the debut by Hidden Scroll on the Pegasus World Cup undercard at Gulfstream Park last Saturday? The home-bred for Juddmonte Farms (owner/breeders of Arrogate) broke from the rail, set blazing fractions, and kept on going to win by 14 lengths in 1:34.82 for the one-turn mile over the sloppy sealed track.

Trainer Bill Mott is not known for cranking his youngsters up for their debuts, so the son of Hard Spun out of a mare by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker should only get better with racing. There is still much to prove, like the ability to handle two turns and whether he can repeat the quality of his Maiden win over a dry fast track. But even with that in mind, the lofty 104 Beyer Speed Figure earned for his debut win makes Hidden Scroll a “must watch” in his next start.

It was only last year that Justify became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having started as a two-year-old. The Beyer Speed Figure earned by Justify in his Maiden win on February 18 2018? The same 104 posted by Hidden Scroll last Saturday. 

Mandatory Rainbow Pick Six payout

There has not been a single ticket winner in the Rainbow Six at Santa Anita since the meet opened the day after Christmas, which has led to a jackpot carryover of $1,469,847 going into Thursday’s card.

Santa Anita will guarantee a $2 million payout to any single ticket winner in the Rainbow Pick Six on Thursday (and Friday if not hit on Thursday). There will be a mandatory payout in the Rainbow Six this Saturday at Santa Anita, and if the jackpot remains unclaimed going into Saturday look for a Rainbow Pick Six handle in the $15-$20 million range.

Horseplayers are always looking for wagers with a positive return on investment expectation, and at a $.20 minimum you get a lot of coverage for your wagering buck. It makes good sense to get involved this Saturday in the Santa Anita Rainbow Six with the mandatory payout in effect.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Thursday Race 8 – Play Money (No. 10). Rain could be in play Thursday, but this first-time starter goes for a trainer (David Hofmans) who already has two debut winners at the meet. He has worked well on dirt and if the race stays on turf he is bred to love it. He appears to be well meant under any conditions.

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About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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