02/16/2017 1:06PM

King: More Power to Him offers value in El Camino Real Derby

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Imperial Hint could be difficult to catch in the Grade 3 General George at Laurel.

Sheer Flattery and Ann Arbor Eddie will take the bulk of the mutuel action in Saturday’s Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, and the reasons are clear. Sheer Flattery is a graded stakes dropper whose last two Beyer Speed Figures exceed the career tops of his rivals, and Ann Arbor Eddie is a winner of three of four starts and a two-time stakes winner routing, albeit facing California-bred company.

Given these facts, in most cases, I wouldn’t take shots against them. But with the favorites being untested on the synthetic Tapeta surface at Golden Gate, regression is a possibility, creating the potential for a fat-priced winner.

My choice is More Power to Him, a 6-1 shot who has two wins, a second, and a third in four routes at Golden Gate. He appears to be the best of the locals.

Although More Power to Him is not without faults – he can be reluctant to switch leads and has never defeated a field of this quality – his strengths and his betting value offset those deficiencies. He nearly won the California Derby with a sweeping four-wide rally, only to get outkicked by So Conflated in the lane.

With So Conflated skipping this race and reportedly going to the Risen Star at Fair Grounds next week, this opens the door for my choice. More Power to Him should work out a nice stalking trip, sitting behind Ann Arbor Eddie, Tribal Storm, and Kona Dreams, and be ready to pounce late.

As for Sheer Flattery, I prefer progeny of his sire, Flatter, when racing on dirt, and his work over a synthetic track in Ocala, Fla., last year, in which he went a furlong in 10.20 seconds, came under pressure and was several ticks slower than the fastest works.

Ann Arbor Eddie strikes me as a grinder – the kind of style that is typically better suited to dirt. Horses who can quicken are usually more effective on turf and synthetic.

Imperial Hint has speed edge

Turning to Laurel on Saturday, Imperial Hint appears to hold an early-speed advantage in the Grade 3 General George, catching a field relatively short of speed for a graded stakes sprint, even one at seven- eighths.

In examining his rivals, it appears that only Afleet Willy might be sent to contest the pace, having won an allowance Jan. 16 on the lead and having drawn toward the inside in post 2. But his Moss Pace Figures suggest he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with Imperial Hint. Afleet Willy regularly runs first-call Moss Pace Figures in the mid-80s when sprinting, well off the recent figures of Imperial Hint in the mid- to upper 90s.

Beyond speed, Imperial Hint is also at the top of his game again, having won two in a row, including a stakes over the Laurel strip last out. And though those wins came at six furlongs, he began his career with two seven-furlong victories at Tampa Bay Downs as a spring 3-year-old in 2016.

The classy Stallwalkin’ Dude and Heaven’s Runway figure to be rolling in the stretch, but I will take my chances with 3-1 shot Imperial Hint, who figures to hit the top of the lane in front, hopefully with plenty left to repel challengers.

Southern Ring can fire fresh

I will close with the Minaret Stakes at Tampa, where I like the consistent Southern Ring. Although she is unraced on dirt, Southern Ring is a high-quality filly, and her pedigree and natural speed point to success on dirt.

Southern Ring is also fresh, not having raced since mid-December, which, based on her history, should leave her ready for a top performance. She is 2 for 2 following layoffs, a record that includes a victory over synthetic specialists Cactus Kris and River Maid in the Grade 3 Ontario Fashion at Woodbine in October.

Toss in a few sharp works on the Tampa main track, including a bullet half-mile in 48 seconds Feb. 10, and Southern Ring looks ready. At 4-1 on the morning line, Southern Ring figures to go off as the third betting choice behind You Bought Her and No Fault of Mine, late runners who likely will have her to catch in the stretch.