Friday, May 3, 2013

Kentucky Derby Undercard Analysis

by Brian DiDonato

Click for the TDN Derby Cheat Sheet, presented by Keeneland Select, featuring in-depth Derby analysis from Brian and Steve Sherack.

Race 4 - Msw, 7f - Strike One looks a bit sneaky in here off the bench returning to this strip. He got

completely left at the start of his 6 1/2-furlong unveiling here last June, but put in a head-turning, sweeping move before fading late while displaying some greenness and settling for fourth. The chestnut didn’t factor in a subsequent turf route at Arlington a month later, and was a distant third against four foes going a mile over the Arlington Poly when last seen in September. You wouldn’t think a full-brother to router Summer Doldrums (Street Cry {Ire}) would necessarily want to sprint, but maybe Strike One does. He has a couple of quick works at Palm Meadows in April, and expected progression from the 59 Beyer he earned here last year puts the Brendan Walsh trainee right there at the wire.

Race 5 - Alw, 1 1/16m - It’s entirely possible that he just proves too good for these, but I think horses like Derby defection Code West are always underlays in spots like this. Tiz Adonis is a little intriguing. He broke well to set the pace in a five-horse route at Oaklawn Feb. 3, and while the fractions were average, it was a strangely run event. Another horse made an early move sort of caused the field to get all bunched up, with Tiz Adonis subsequently fading to a fairly close fourth. Third-place finisher Royal Art came back to break his maiden in the same spot Tiz Adonis ran back in, and fifth-place finisher Bashaar, who Tiz Adonis dueled with (if you can call it that), aired by 13 lengths with an 88 Beyer (11-point jump) in the slop next out. Tiz Adonis got a strange stop-go-stop ride next out, but earned his diploma last time despite a wide journey under first-time pilot John Court, who’s back aboard here. The Ron Moquett pupil seems to have figured it all out, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him step forward again. The only question is whether he’s good enough, but the price will be right to find out.

Race 6 - GIII Twin Spires Turf Sprint S. - Not sure I’ve ever seen so little pace in a five-furlong turf sprint. Southern Dude appears to be the speed of the race at first glance, but I don’t think that’s actually the case, especially with Julien Leparoux riding him. I’ll use Southern Dude, but I think the real pace play is Berlino Di Tiger. A Group 1 winner at this trip in his native Brazil, the chestnut chased a :21.21 opening quarter while three deep in his Stateside debut in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Feb. 2 before tiring to eight. He dueled through splits of :21.75 and :44.89 last time in Keeneland’s GIII Shakertown S., and again packed it in, as did the other speeds. Maybe he’s just not very good, but Berlino di Tiger deserves one more chance to show what he can do without having to run too hard early. He might not have to run much at all early here, and they’ll be trying to gun him down in the stretch. Don’t be surprised if he forgets to stop.

Race 7 - GI Humana Distaff - Same Cross couldn’t have been much more impressive in her first three starts on dirt, and seemed destined for success in stakes company. Trainer Larry Jones and owner/breeder Brereton Jones opted to put her on turf for the Happy Ticket S. at the Fair Grounds last time, and she finished a no-excuses fifth at 3-2. Back on the main track here, the 4-year-old could make a big impact while getting a bit more ground to work with. Considering that she was brought along fairly patiently in her first three starts, it has to be a positive sign that she’s being put in a Grade I (maybe not a true Grade I) this time. I’m not banking on the 8-1 morning line being accurate, but I’ll be leaning on Same Cross in the exotics.

Race 8 - GII Distaff Turf Mile - The favorites in here seem pretty formidable, especially defending champ Hungry Island, who probably fits best at the distance and with a fair bit of speed to set her up. I’m intrigued by Karlovy Vary, though, who was second to Hungry Island in a Keeneland allowance last time. Karlovy Vary did all the dirty work pressing a quick pace that day from the two path, while Hungry Island drafted in a perfect ground-saving position. The former clearly ran the better race of the two that day, and while she’s never seemed quite this good despite winning a Grade I, perhaps she’s improved markedly at four. According to DRF Formulator, conditioner Rusty Arnold has struck at a 27% rate with a $3.08 ROI second off the bench in graded stakes over the past five seasons, with Karlovy Vary’s 15-1 upset of the Ashland 13 months ago contributing to that stat.

Race 9 - GII Churchill Downs S. - I’ve thought for a while now that Delaunay looks like a potential Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, and I did well with Trinniberg in last year’s BC, but it seems likely that they’ll compromise each other mightily on the front end here, setting up for some off-the-pace types and an upset. Hierro, Unbridled’s Note and Pass the Dice are a combined six-for-six over the track and I think they’re the three alternatives with the best chance. I’ll box them in the exacta and use all three in the pick four. I’ll also probably use Delaunay defensively in the pick four, because I’m more confident in him running his race than Trinniberg off relatively short rest since flopping in Dubai.

Race 10 - GI Turf Classic - Hard to imagine on of the two favorites doesn’t take this--at least it allows for spreading elsewhere.

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