Let’s add a little fever to the madness that’s gripped the Nevada race and sports books the past week – Derby Fever!
This weekend marks the stretch run for Kentucky Derby hopefuls to qualify point-wise for entry into the 20-horse gate that marks the “Run for the Roses.” The next three weeks seven major preps are slated that each offer: 100 pts. to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.
A first or second place finish locks up a spot in the gate. But don’t dismiss the third and fourth place finishers. There is also the Lexington Stakes on April 19, a last-chance-to-qualify race, that awards the top four finishers 10-4-2-1 points respectively.
Las Vegas oddsmaker John Avello has had a Kentucky Derby prop up for four months on the minimum number of points needed to start and run in the Derby. He lists 20½ points as his OVER/UNDER total with the UNDER now favored at -130. Last year a colt with just 10 points raced.
Three Grade I events go postward Saturday: the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Derby in Dubai. The major focus here is directed toward Florida. The UAE Derby, which offers a $2 million purse, annually attracts a talented field to contest 1 3/16 miles over its Tapeta surface. But the race has yet to produce its first Kentucky Derby winner despite numerous attempts. And nothing from Fair Grounds is creating much buzz this year.
Florida is different. The Derby Future Book favorite, Cairo Prince (as low as 8-1), will be the money line favorite to rake in the winner’s share of the $1 million dollar purse. Currently he has just 14 points and may need more to assure himself a spot in the gate. There are also several other runners signed up for this Grade I test worthy of a look in the future books throughout the state.
Wildcat Red, winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (50 points) in February, is still listed at boxcar odds despite having enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby. And here’s a head scratcher – Constitution. This Todd Pletcher trained colt has just two lifetime starts and is making his first stakes appearance. The future books have him underlayed at 30-1, making him lower than Wildcat Red.
And let’s not overlook the venerable trainer, Nick Zito. His colt, Spot, winner of the Swale, just fired a best of 74 work over a half mile in 47.70 and is listed in the futures at 100-1. Another veteran trainer, Mike Maker, has General a Rod. This colt has traded photo finishes with Wildcat Red in his last two races.
But the biggest buzz horse of all, Social Inclusion, isn’t racing Saturday. Sporting just two lifetime starts and also untested in stakes company, this colt has posted the fastest Beyer of any Derby prospect with a 111 (topping California Chrome’s 107). His track-record effort March 12 bested by 10 lengths the now-off-the-Derby Trail colt Honor Code.
Social Inclusion heads to New York for the April 5 Wood Memorial, but the real buzz is: if and how much will he be sold for prior to the Wood? North of $5 million is being bantered about with various conditions, including whether his 85-year-old trainer Manuel Azpurua remains as his conditioner.
How about second year sire Pioneer of the Nile? His foals include Cairo Prince, Social Inclusion, and Vinceremos (runner-up in the Tampa Derby). He won’t be standing for $20,000 very much longer.
Next week: Will this be the year the Apollo jinx ends?
Charlie Ludlow has over 30 years of experience in the casino industry, including management of the Kentucky Derby futures in sports books at Club Cal Neva, Imperial Palace and Las Vegas Hilton.
Contact Charlie at [email protected].