Down to the Wire: Kentucky Derby Roundtable

The official Kentucky Derby prep races are in the books and Mr. Speaker waited patiently before seizing control to take the Coolmore Lexington S. in impressive fashion at Keeneland. This week on Down to the Wire, we're joined by some of the best and brightest from Twitter: Emily White, Paul Mazur, Scott Shapiro, & Peter May Jr to talk Kentucky Derby runners and handicapping strategies. Also, of course this weekend marks the start of the spring meet at Churchill Downs, so I'll be back to giving daily analysis of those race cards. Now, onto this week's races....

Friday, April 29, 2014:

Keeneland Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (8f, Turf): #8 Fashion Fund (M/L 3/1)
Daughter of top European sire Oasis Dream, Fashion Fund makes her US debut after a winless juvenile campaign. She most recently finished third (by 1.5 and 2.25 lengths respectively) behind the then in-form Godolphin filly Wedding Ring, who went on to win the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial at Meydan. Fashion Fund stayed on going seven furlongs last time out, so the added furlong shouldn't be an issue. I'd expect her to take well to firm ground and she will, of course, be first time Lasix.

Keeneland Race 9: G2 Dixiana Elkhorn S. (12f, Turf): #11 Amen Kitten (M/L 8/1)
Most of the horses in this field enter her off top form, but Amen Kitten finished a nice second to Twilight Eclipse first time off the bench in the G2 Mac Diarmida S. at Gulfstream. It looks to be a wide open race, but the price seems right for the Ramsey/Ward son of Kitten's Joy.

Saturday, April 30, 2014:

**You can see my picks for the full Churchill Downs card by clicking HERE.

Ripon (GB) Race 3: Visit Handicap (6f, Turf): Hillbilly Boy
I've been a fan of this guy for a while now, but he has just blossomed under the watchful eye of Martin Smith, having followed up a second place finish with two wins in the short time he's been trained by him. He showed great heart to win last time out over soft ground at Doncaster and given his running style, the slight cutback in distance should be beneficial. This is a bit of a step up in class for him, but he looks to have some room left to improve.

Santa Anita Race 1: Allowance Optional Claiming $80,000 (8f, Turf): #1 Vanlose Stairway (ML 4/1)
Daughter of Leroidesanimaux broke her maiden in her first attempt in impressive fashion. After running a bit erratically early on down the hill, she flew down the stretch "like a rocket," according to announcer Trevor Denman. The move off the hill is likely a positive one given she didn't appear to take to it well in her debut.

Santa Anita Race 5: Tiznow S. (8f): #2 Soi Phet (ML 5/2)
One of the great stories in racing last year was the fantastic training job Leonard Powell has done with Soi Phet, who steadily rose through the rankings last summer and fall. He makes his 2014 debut here after a long campaign last year. Some of his best results have come in routes at Santa Anita, including his third place finish behind Mucho Macho Man & Paynter in the G1 Awesome Again.

Santa Anita Race 10: Snow Chief S. (9f, Turf): #6 Tamarando (ML 2/1)
I'm not going to get cute here. Tamarando is the fastest horse in the field and a multiple graded stakes winner. Yes, he didn't fire last time out in the Spiral, but he surely wouldn't have been accustomed to the heavy kickback he would've had to deal with there, so I'm more than willing to excuse him for that performance.

Lone Star Park Race 8: Texas Mile S. (8f): #4 Forest Mouse (ML 5/1)
I got the chance to see this guy in the flesh on the Sunland Derby undercard and instantly became a fan. Since switching back to dirt, this guy has been on fire down in New Mexico, having won each of his last three starts by over two lengths, the most recent of which was is in the easiest of manners.

Sunday, April 27, 2014:

Sha Tin (Hong Kong): Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Post Time 4:35 am EST): Epiphaneia
Winner of the Kikuna Sho and runner-up in the Japanese Derby and Japanese 2,000 Guineas, Epiphaneia is certainly a rising star. He finished third in the G2 Sankei Osaka Hai, his first start of 2014, but there's no shame in finishing under two lengths behind 2013 Japanese Racing Association Best Three-Year-Old-Colt Kizuna first time off the bench. By all accounts, he's looked in good order as of late.
**Recommended Play: Quinella -- Epiphaneia / Vercingetorix, Military Attack, & Dominant

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