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Updated on 09/17/2011 8:47PM
Insist upon getting a good price
NEW YORK - Instead of discussing three playable stakes races, the Weekend Warrior is targeting Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, with comments on the 23 individual betting interests. The wager, which also has a field bet for all other horses, closes Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern.
* Afleet Alex: He has not had a published workout since his tough-trip second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, although that is supposedly by design. He is scheduled to have only two prep races before the Derby, a method that has worked only once in the last 57 years (Sunny's Halo in 1983). He does not have a pedigree that suggests success at 1 1/4 miles, although, in fairness, neither did Smarty Jones. Probable odds in the mid-teens would be tough to take.
* Bandini: Runaway victories in both starts this year, a fashionable pedigree, and support from 2004 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher make him a serious up-and-comer. Of course, none of this will be lost on the betting public, and there's a good chance he will be an underlay. Then again, he is scheduled to make his stakes debut either just before or during Pool 2 next month, and if he's successful, his odds then will be considerably lower.
* Closing Argument: Capitalized on High Fly's wide trip to win the Holy Bull last Saturday. Even though he is consistent, he has still to crack the top echelon of Derby candidates. That fact, combined with his miler's pedigree, require higher odds than his 20-1 morning line.
* Consolidator: Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas certainly knows how to win the Derby. Now for the bad news: You may not get a chance to see Consolidator in Sunday's San Vicente before Pool 1 closes. He finished far behind Afleet Alex all three times they met last year. His big win in the Breeders' Futurity came over the maiden Patriot Act, who is a very promising, if injured, maiden - but a maiden nonetheless.
* Declan's Moon: Undefeated gelding was last year's champion 2-year-old and - all together now - the last 2-year-old champion to win the Kentucky Derby was Spectacular Bid in 1979. At least Declan's Moon didn't start in or win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, because as even my dog knows, no Juvenile winner has won the Derby. He's another making it tough on himself with only two preps scheduled before the Derby. Regardless, he will probably be the favorite among the individual betting interests, and taking single digit odds on a Derby horse at this point in time seems crazy.
* Galloping Grocer: Gave Rockport Harbor everything he could handle in the Remsen before bowing by a neck. But on the Derby Futures morning line, Rockport Harbor was 8-1, and Galloping Grocer was 30-1. If the betting goes anything like that - and it will depend greatly on Galloping Grocer's performance in Saturday's Whirlaway - then he deserves some action.
* Giacomo: The runner up to Declan's Moon in the Hollywood Futurity lost meaningful ground when a close third as the favorite in last Saturday's Sham, and has a grinding style that says distance shouldn't be an issue. Can I sign on at his morning line price of 50-1 right now?
* Going Wild: Deserves credit for stepping up from a hard- fought win in the six-furlong San Miguel to prevail in the nine-furlong Sham, and also has Lukas on his side. But so far, he has seemed a need-the-lead type, a style that rarely succeeds in the Derby. Attractive only if he should somehow fall through the cracks in the betting.
* Greater Good: Won stakes in his two starts around two turns last year, including the Kentucky Jockey Club over the Churchill Downs main track. Neither win was fast, but if you believe he can improve significantly from 2 to 3, then you should get your price. He is scheduled to make his 3-year-old bow in next Saturday's Southwest.
* Harlington: Has a profile similar to Bandini: a well-bred, Pletcher-trained colt who has the potential to be a big-time underlay. The difference here is that he is an unknown on a fast track: His 2-for-2 record was fashioned on sloppy tracks. You will get a chance to see how he measures up to stakes company in Saturday's Risen Star.
* High Fly: His loss at 3-5 in the Holy Bull had little to do with an inability to handle two turns but much to do with losing ground around both of those turns. Still, he didn't show the same acceleration he had displayed in his big Aventura score. If you haven't lost faith, his Holy Bull performance is what the doctor ordered because it will only help his price here.
* High Limit: Galloped at Delaware in his only two starts - just like Afleet Alex did in his first two starts - and has since moved into Bobby Frankel's barn. Even though he won't make his 3-year-old bow until next month, there is inordinate buzz on this colt, and it would be no surprise if that resulted in depressed odds in this pool.
* Lost in the Fog: Regardless of what you think of this undefeated colt, keep in mind that as of today he cannot run in the Kentucky Derby. He was not an early nominee for $600. He can be a late nominee by March 26 for $6,000, and by that point his only other additional start will have been in the Swale. How much will that seven-furlong race do to clarify his Derby status? He is clearly more of a risk than most.
* Proud Accolade: All four of his races around one turn - all wins, by the way - were really good. His two attempts around two turns were not good at all. Just last year, Smarty Jones made fools of us who thought he would never get the Derby distance, but even with that lesson fresh, this colt just doesn't look like a 1 1/4-mile horse. Add the fact that he will be bet merely because Pletcher trains him, and you have a horse to take a stand against.
* Rockport Harbor: Undefeated colt won the Remsen, a race that is as good as any predictor of 3-year-old form, but there was precious little between him and Galloping Grocer in that test. He is another whose schedule calls for only two Derby preps. Since he is backed by the same trainer-jockey combination as the immensely popular Smarty Jones, his odds in this pool are likely to fall below the level of acceptability. That isn't to say he cannot win the Derby, but why take 8-1 on him now, when you may get 5-1 on Derby Day?
* Roman Ruler: Was very good at times last year - in the Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity - and was less than that at other times, including in his uninspiring victory in the Norfolk and his fifth as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He has since undergone surgery to remove an undescended testicle and has a trainer in Bob Baffert who certainly knows something about success in the Derby. If he runs to his works, he will perform well in Sunday's San Vicente.
* Rush Bay: Improved significantly last year when sent two turns, with each performance being better than the one before, and he was a good second in the Kentucky Jockey Club right off his maiden victory. Nevertheless, he has been operating far enough below the radar that even should he run well in his 3-year-old bow in Saturday's Risen Star, his price Sunday afternoon may still be appealing enough to elicit a play.
* Spanish Chestnut: His form is attractive - he has yet to finish worse than second and is coming off a decision in the San Rafael - so much so that his odds, even if they are in the 20-1 range, promise to be lower than his relative chances of success at Churchill Downs. That is because he has been keeping company with second-tier 3-year-olds without really dominating them, and he has yet to run really fast.
* Storm Surge: This is a colt that you may be able to rule in or out with confidence after he competes in the Risen Star. The two times he competed in truly meaningful races, the Hopeful and Kentucky Jockey Club, he was badly beaten. And he struggled to win the Lecomte in his last start, although the form of that race got a bit of a boost when third-place finisher Kansas City Boy came back to be second in the Holy Bull. The Risen Star should be a much tougher test.
* Sun King: Flashed potential last fall when he ran a big third in the Champagne off his maiden win, and I picked him in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. While he didn't run as well in the Juvenile as I had hoped, he was beaten only a length finishing third. He still has lots of room for development, and there's more good news. Trainer Nick Zito, who has said this colt will have three preps before the Derby, knows his way around a good 3-year-old. Since Sun King won't be racing during the betting period, good races by others could cause his odds to drift into overlay territory.
* Sweet Catomine: She was a dominant 2-year-old filly champion last year, when she won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in faster time than the males went in the Juvenile. That, plus her big frame, suggested the possibility of her facing males in the Derby. Only three fillies have won the Derby from 38 starters, but of the eight most recent filly starters in the Derby, two of them - Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988 - won. She's no cinch to run in the Derby. If she runs big in next month's Santa Anita Oaks, then she may try males in the Santa Anita Derby in April. And even after that, a decision will have to be made to go after the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby. All of this means you need a big price to offset the risk.
* Texcess: Beat Closing Argument in the Delta Jackpot and had a wide trip when third in the San Rafael. He's taking the path of least resistance by going in Saturday's San Mateo Mile at Bay Meadows. If this is to avoid meeting the division's best, then does he merit a wager against the division's best?
* Wilko: Vastly more effective on dirt in this country than he was on turf in England. He proved his 28-1 upset of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was no fluke with a close third in the subsequent Hollywood Futurity. He does have that whole Juvenile-Derby thing to deal with, as well as a schedule that calls for only two prep races this year before heading to Louisville. If that makes him a ridiculous overlay in the betting, he could still be worth a flyer despite the negatives. Then again, that can be said for almost every other horse on this list.