Down to the Wire: Wood Memorial & Santa Anita Derby + Weekend Quick Picks

Constitution stamped himself as a Kentucky Derby contender after edging out a very game Wildcat Red in last week's Florida Derby. That being said, he was quite rank early and all but got the trip of a lifetime, so I'm still a bit tentative on his chances on the first Saturday in May. Over in Louisiana, Vicar's In Trouble dominated the field and all but secured Ken Ramsey his second Derby runner. In that race, I was most impressed by our choice Commanding Curve, who closed strongly late, but it's a shame that the twenty points he received for third place will likely not be enough to get him in the Derby because he would've fit nicely in that field. 

4/5/2014: Aqueduct Race 10 -- G1 Wood Memorial (9f): 
Ever since the Gotham, I've hoped that Uncle Sigh would be drawn outside of Samraat here and that's exactly the setup for this third tussle between the two three-year-old stars of New York. Samraat has gotten the better of the son of Indian Charlie in their two meetings, but being drawn outside of his primary rival allowed him to get a tactical advantage and forced Uncle Sigh to "do the dirty work" of either setting or pressing the pace. You can't take anything away from Samraat, who is undefeated in five starts, but he'll be a shorter price than Uncle Sigh and although he outran his pedigree in the Gotham, distance is again a serious concern. Noble Moon returns for the first time after injury kept him off the track since winning the Jerome back in January. It's tough to know how he'll fire first time off the layoff, but being by Malibu Moon and out of a Kingmambo mare, at the very least, he should be able to stay the distance. Wicked Strong returns after finishing fourth in Constitution's optional claimer on the Fountain of Youth undercard. He appears to have bounced back from his no-show appearance in the Holy Bull and he'll be coming late. Kristo ships to New York after being thoroughly trounced by California Chrome last time out. Perhaps he can get up for a minor award, but I'm inclined to think he's not a true contender for the win. I feel similarly about Harpoon, who does his best running on the outside, so drawing the four post does him no favors here. Schivarelli is intriguing in this spot. This may be too quick of a turnaround, but he has impressed in his first two starts. While this is a step up in class, he could surprise underneath at a price. Fan favorite Social Inclusion drew the widest post, which will likely force him to the the lead early. I'll be watching him intently, but he's going to have to run well here to win me over after having everything go his way last time out at Gulfstream.

Pick: Uncle Sigh to win
Bankroll Play: Exacta -- Uncle Sigh / Samraat, Wicked Strong, Noble Moon, Social Inclusion, & 

4/5/2014: Santa Anita Race 8 -- G1 Santa Anita Derby (9f):
This marks the highly anticipated return of California Chrome and Hoppertunity who both impressed last time out, but neither of them really need the points to get into the Kentucky Derby, so I doubt either will be all out to win here. Candy Boy, on the other hand, has been away since winning the Robert B. Lewis back in February. He needs to run well here to get into the Derby and recent work reports on him have been positive. He's your logical choice here. Of the outsiders, Schoolofhardrocks is interesting coming off his fourth place finish in the San Felipe in what was his first start since last summer. Surely, he needed the run and if he manages to finish well here, he could be an intriguing prospect from a pace perspective in the Derby. That being said, having success as a closer at Santa Anita is often easier said than done. Rprettyboyfloyd is still a maiden, but he's run just behind some tough customers including Kobe's Back, Cherubim, Chelios, and Bayern. Perhaps he's not a contender for the win, but he's finished second in four of five starts and has never finished outside of the top three.

Pick: Candy Boy to win and exacta box: Candy Boy, Schoolofhardrocks, & Rprettyboyfloyd 

Weekend Quick Picks for Friday, April 4, 2014:

Keeneland Race 4 -- Allowance: Kingston Jamaica (if on turf)
Rain is in the forecast in Lexington, so if this race remains on the turf, expect this son of Galileo to run big on the distance cutback. This will be his third start on this side of the pond and his lone win overseas was on soft ground.

Keeneland Race 5 -- Maiden Special Weight: Watery Moon
$275,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland sales. Graham Motion trained son of Malibu Moon boasts several speedy works heading into his debut.

Keeneland Race 9 -- G3 Transylvania Stakes: Pleuven (if on turf)
He's twice ran on this side of the pond and he ran respectably in both of those runs. In the G3 Dania Beach, he finished third after a tough, wide trip and he was closing late last time out in the G3 Palm Beach. Potential for wet turf aids his case and he should be flying late. **Recommended play: Exacta Box: 8,9

Weekend Quick Picks for Saturday, April 5, 2014:

Aintree Race 5 -- Crabbie's Grand National Chase: The Rainbow Hunter & Pineau De Re
Last year, The Rainbow Hunter crossed the finish just two lengths behind the winner Aurora's Encore despite being riderless, and after nicely winning at Doncaster last time out, he appears primed and ready to finish on top this time around. Pineau De Re won by an impressive margin two back at Exeter and backed that up when just being edged for the win in the Pertemps handicap hurdle during the Cheltenham Festival.

Aqueduct Race 6 -- Allowance Optional Claiming: Catron
Often the workmate of Palace Malice, this son of Distorted Humor out of a graded stakes placed A.P. Indy mare won two straight before finishing fourth in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes, which was his stakes debut. He drops in class and steps up ever so slightly in trip for Todd Pletcher.

Keeneland Race 8 -- Allowance: Myositis Dan
Son of Istan broke his maiden over this track last year and he's ran second twice in a row to the likes of Can't Stop The Kid and the promising Anchor Down.

Keeneland Race 9 -- Ashland Stakes: Rosalind
Testa Rossi should go off favored here and for very good reason after backing up her runner up finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with a win in the G3 Florida Oaks first time off the layoff. Rosalind, who herself finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, has experience on this track, however, as she finished second in a G1 over course and distance as a juvenile. There also appears to be a fair amount of early speed signed on, which helps her case.

Santa Anita Race 4 -- Maiden Special Weight: Footstepsinbronze
After a failed attempt on the dirt, this Irish-bred son of Footstepsinthesand gets another crack going down the hill, on which he finished second behind Home Run Kitten in his debut.

Santa Anita Race 7 -- Providencia Stakes: Nashoba's Gold
The impressive daughter of Curlin, Diversy Harbor, has been very hyped since her big win in the China Doll and will likely be favored in this contest. I'm a big fan of the filly who finished just behind her last time out: Nashoba's Gold. She is a closer like Diversy Harbor and both of them had wide trips in their last outing, but the deciding factor for me here is that Nashoba's Gold has a win over course and distance, whilst Diversy Harbor has yet to run this far.

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