By Anthony Kelly
Crunch time is here. The third and final round of future book wagering opens on Thursday and concludes Sunday.
As trainer Bob Baffert pointed out at the start of this years Triple Crown trail, The early races dont mean a thing. Its how the horses come on their final preps and the three weeks leading up to the Derby that really counts.
This past week, there was virtually little, if any, activity on the East Coast in the East Coast Derby Dozen. However, this appears to be the calm before the storm with four big prep races this Saturday the Flamingo at Hialeah, Lone Star Derby in Texas, Illinois Derby at Sportsmans Park and the Santa Anita Derby on the left coast followed on April 14 by the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Within the next three weeks, we will get a clearer picture of The Run For The Roses.
The Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah has drawn the following probables: OUTOFTHEBOX should be favored, turfer PROUD MAN, Ernie Paragallos GRIFFINITE, Frank Stronachs THUNDER BLITZ, the expensive yearling TALK IS MONEY, RADICAL RILEY, TOUR OF THE CAT and A.P. TOPPER.
The Lone Star Derby in Texas has drawn a mixed bag from both coasts including: the speedster DWILDCAT, Louisiana Derby winner FIFTY STARS and El Camino Real victor HOOVERGETTHEKEYS among the entrants.
Our choice in The Illinois Derby at Sportsmans Park will be DREAM RUN trained by Paul McGee with DISTILLED a very close second.
My current Derby picks are: MONARCHOS, A.P. VALENTINE, BALTO STAR, POINT GIVEN and STREET CRY with a sentimental leaning toward SONGANDAPRAYER.
Here is the East Coast Derby Dozen: [Horse/trainer/jockey/sire/next start/comment]
1-Monarchos: Ward/Chavez/Marias Mon/Wood/The Move heard round the world; did he peak too soon?
2-A P Valentine:Zito/Nakatani/A P Indy/BG/set track record @ HIA-1:40.35[11/16] on lightning fast strip 3-Balto Star: Pletcher/Guidry/Glitterman/Wood-BG-Ark/gelding; 1st-Spiral by 123/4 lengths/112 Beyer/3rd fastest in stakes hist.
4-Ommadon: Walsh/Gryder/Grindstone/Wood/ 1st-Allow @ AQU; late starter.
5-Heros Tribute:Ward/Bailey/Sea Hero/BG/adds hood & J.D. for Blue Grass after troubled trip at FG.
6-Songandaprayer: Dowd/Prado/Unbridleds Song/BG-Ark/speedy one needs to settle down early; contender if able to do so.
7-Outofthebox: Flint/Nakatani/Montbrook/Flam/2nd-FOY; 2nd-FLA Dby; should be favorite in Flamingo.
8-Dollar Bill:Stewart/Day/Peaks And Valleys/BG/Troubled 4th-LA Dby; next should tell story.
9-Invisible Ink:Pletcher/Velazquez/Thunder Gulch/BG/troubled 3rd in FL Derby but couldnt get win; late running style is a plus.
10-Richly Blended: Perkins/Wilson/Rizzi/Wood/1st-Gotham; undefeated; 3 for 3; yet to run around 2 turns/mile
11-Distilled: Pletcher/Smith/Hennesy/Illinois Derby/1st-Allow @ GP [100 Beyer].
12-Camden Park: Walden/Solis/A.P. Indy/Undecided/4th Spiral; late closer threat for Ky; One more chance per assistant trainer.