Bandini almost ‘Great’

Apr 19, 2005 9:11 AM

Well, the Kentucky Derby is closing in on us and all the major prep races are in the books. The only big race left will be the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland this Saturday where Rockport Harbor will try to get back into the Derby picture.

Let’s take a look at what happened this past weekend in the Arkansas Derby and in the Blue Grass Stakes.

The Blue Grass Stakes was won by Bandini (predicted in this column), who last week stormed to the front in midstretch and ran away. High Limit took his first loss and had to settle for second. Now its on to the Kentucky Derby for the horse some are already calling "The Great Bandini."

Bandini, whose papa Fusaichi Pegasus won the Kentucky Derby, gave Todd Pletcher his first Blue Grass win and will try to break the trainer’s 0-9 record in the KD. Even though the time of 1:50 for the 11/8 seemed slow, the Keeneland strip has been producing sub par times. So don’t put too much into the time of this race. Bandini has improved with every start and looks set to be a major player come May 7.

Also heading to Louisville out of this race are High Limit, Closing Argument (third) Sun King (fourth) and Consolidator (fifth). Trainer Nick Zito said Sun King just had a bad day. The Blue Grass Stakes has produced 22 Kentucky Derby winners.

Let’s take a look at the Arkansas Derby that was won by Afleet Alex in a smashing performance. Alex dominated this field as looks like he will be one of the top three favorites in the KD. Alex has run only one bad race, which was due to a throat problem. Other than that he has six wins and two seconds.

I’m not sure he can get the Derby distance and I will have to bet against him at the price. Alex will try to duplicate last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, who won the Arkansas Derby, and then first two races of the Triple Crown to earn a $5 million bonus.

Afleet Alex’s winning margin in the Arkansas Derby was the widest in the race’s 69-year history. Finishing second was Flower Alley who looks to be on the improve. His trainer Todd Pletcher, who also has Bandini, say’s this guy will love the 1¼ distance of the Derby.

J. Rose who rode Alex to victory may not get the mount in the Derby, and that will be a shame. Also from this race heading to Louisville are Andromeda’s Hero (third), Rush Bay (seventh) and Wild Desert (eighth).

It still looks to be a wide open Derby, even with the huge effort by Bellamy Road in the Wood Memorial, when his 120 Beyer rating was a 22-point improvement from his last outing. It looks to be another full 20 horse field this year, especially with so many trainers committed to their owners big egos.

This could be good for the bettor as Lou D’Amico down at the Plaza has put up some juicy Derby props. One that I went for was you could bet "over" or "under" 18 starters. I went for the "over" which was -200. I really think there will be 20,.

Lou also put up a nice little prop "over" and "under" $19.60 payoff for the Kentucky Derby winner. The "over" price is -140, the "under" at +110. Bet this one "over" with the favorite near 6-1.

Look for full Derby coverage in our May 3 issue.