03/22/2013 12:28PM

Steve Klein: Shakin It Up offers future value for Kentucky Derby consideration

Shigeki Kikkawa
If you like Shakin It Up's chances in the Sunland Derby, your Pool 3 Kentucky Derby futures odds cannot be bet down after the race if he is successful.

The winner of Sunday’s 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby will be awarded 50 points in the Kentucky Derby qualifying system, which should be more than enough to ensure a place for him in the Derby starting gate.

[SUNLAND DERBY: Get PPs, watch Sunday's full card live]

The Sunland Derby will be run after Pool 3 of the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Future Wager closes on Sunday. Shakin It Up, the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Sunland Derby, is the only runner in that race who is also an individual betting interest in Pool 3, so if you like his chances of winning, your Pool 3 Kentucky Derby futures odds cannot be bet down after the race if he is successful.


I was impressed with Shakin It Up’s troubled fast-closing third-place finish in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue in November, so I was looking forward to receiving triple-digit odds on him similar to those offered in Las Vegas just before Pool 1 of Churchill’s Kentucky Derby futures wager. Unfortunately, he wasn’t an individual betting interest in that pool, so his supporters had to wait until after his win in the Grade 2 San Vicente before they could bet on him at 48-1 as an individual in Pool 2. He needed the San Vicente after a break of nearly three months, and after missing a few days of training, so improvement is a distinct possibility at Sunland in the second race of his form cycle, and as he stretches out to a route distance. He’s worth a bet at his 30-1 morning line if you aren’t already on board at 48-1.

Normandy Invasion rallied from last of 12 to finish fifth, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner of the Grade 2 Risen Star in his return from a three-month rest. He fell too far behind during the early stages to have a legitimate chance to win, but it was encouraging to see that he did his best running during the last half-furlong of that 1 1/16-mile race. He ran a strong race when he missed by only a nose in the Remsen in his previous start, so I like his chances of moving forward in his next race, which is expected to be the Wood Memorial on April 6. The 1 1/8-mile distance of that race will help him.

I recommended him in the first two pools, and his 20-1 morning line is higher than his 15-1, and 17-1 closing odds in those pools. He’s worth a bet if you don’t already have him.

There are two new horses I like in this pool.

War Academy was no match for Shakin It Up when he finished fourth behind that rival in the San Vicente, but he ran a faster race when he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and beat $80,000 N1X optional claimers decisively. He will have to prove that he can be effective against classier fields, but continued progress is possible in his fourth start. His tactical speed is a plus. His 30-1 morning line offers betting value.

Java’s War, a 32-1 longshot, was never a threat to beat Verrazano when he finished second, three lengths behind him, in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. But it was still a good performance as he was 4 1/4-lengths clear of the third horse while making his first start in 3 1/2 months.

There are also reasons for hesitation while pondering a bet on Java’s War. His good comeback race is the only race he has run from six starts that is fast enough to give him a chance to contend in the Kentucky Derby. And even if he runs another good race, he’ll still have to find a way to turn the tables on Verrazano, who was not asked for his best performance in the Tampa Bay Derby. I’ll make a win bet on Java’s War because he is likely to offer a square price, but it will also be wise to remember to play the winning Verrazano-over-Java’s War exacta combination from the Tampa Bay Derby right back in the Kentucky Derby.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

My recommendations: I’ll make win bets on War Academy and Java’s War, and I’ll bet Verrazano on top in the exacta, along with the field, over War Academy, and Java’s War for second. Extreme optimists can also play a minimum-size exacta box of War Academy and Java’s War to protect against the remote possibility that they complete a huge longshot exacta.

I’ll pass on Uncaptured, who is the only individual betting interest running in the Spiral at Turfway on Saturday.