04/14/2017 3:54PM

TimeformUS Kentucky Derby Prep Analysis: Time to Travel looks poised to wire field in Lexington

Email

Keeneland | Race 9 | Post Time 5:34 p.m. (ET) | Go To The TimeformUS PPs

Not a TimeformUS member? Sign up now

 

While technically there are two Kentucky Derby preps this weekend, it is highly unlikely that any of the runners from Keeneland's Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington will have an impact in the featured event on the first Saturday in May. This race offers just 10 qualifying points to the winner, and none of the entrants has accumulated the necessary points prior to this to ascend into a qualifying position even with a win in this race.

Derby implications aside, this is still an intriguing handicapping puzzle featuring a few up-and-coming runners who could have an impact in this division during the second half of the season.

One of the noteworthy aspects of this race is its lack of pace. While the TimeformUS Pace Projector is not explicitly predicting a situation that favors the front-runners, it is worth pointing out that only two of the predicted speeds, Time to Travel (#5) and West Coast (#10), have shown much early initiative in their prior starts. A potentially moderate pace could work against deep closers like Souper Tapit and Senior Investment.

Let's go through the entire field:

#1, RESILIENCY (6-1): This son of Malibu Moon has progressed nicely this year. He did well to finish a close fourth – later elevated to third – in his seasonal debut behind today's rival Senior Investment and then topped that effort last time. Breaking from the rail on March 5, he was squeezed back slightly after the start and relegated to last early. He made a steady advance heading into the far turn and eventually shook free from his pursuers late. This horse figures to continue improving with added distance since his dam is a half-sister to Breeders' Cup Turf winner Chief Bearhart. Steve Asmussen gets just a 58 Trainer Rating when moving runners from allowance to stakes company.

#2, SOUPER TAPIT (10-1): His debut was a sight to behold. After getting left at the gate and spotting the field two to three lengths, he lagged back in last place for the first half of the race. However, as the field rounded the far turn, Florent Geroux asked him to pick up the pace, and he quickly inhaled the front-runners, sweeping to the lead at the quarter pole. He then was able to hold sway late after making such a premature move. Stepped up in class to face winners and some older rivals last time, he was not able to replicate that explosiveness from his debut. Now he faces another step up in class, and I'm concerned that this plodding son of Tapit is not going to get the type of pace scenario that he needs.

#3, SENIOR INVESTMENT (5-1): This Ken McPeek trainee was in great form heading into the Louisiana Derby, having won three consecutive starts – despite one getting stolen via disqualification – and he hardly disgraced himself in that top Derby prep race. He attempted to make his usual late run but just found the likes of Girvin and others to be too much for him to handle. Now he drops in class to face a more appropriate group. His speed figures have been heading in the right direction, and he has an experience edge on some of his key rivals. However, like some others in this field, he is a late runner who could be compromised by a lack of pace.

#4, NO DOZING (4-1): The Remsen runner-up – like so many exiting that race – has disappointed as a 3-year-old. He was no match for McCraken or Tapwrit in either the Sam F. Davis or Tampa Bay Derby, and now he has ostensibly been rerouted off the Kentucky Derby trail. Instead, he'll try to get back on track against a softer group in this spot.

No Dozing just has the look of your classic precocious 2-year-old who just never developed and took that necessary step forward as a 3-year-old. Others have matured and surpassed him in ability. However, that's not to say that he isn't without a chance against this field. Even in defeat, he was still running speed figures at Tampa that make him one of the top contenders in this race. Furthermore, he showed improved tactical speed last time, which could work in his favor in a race that is not loaded with early-pace players. I also do not mind the rider switch to Joel Rosario. He's not my top pick, but he is nevertheless a major contender.

#5, TIME TO TRAVEL (4-1): Michael Matz's other entrant appears most likely to lead this field in the early going as he stretches out off a pair a sprint efforts at Gulfstream Park. In his debut, he faced one of the saltiest maiden fields that was assembled all winter in Florida, losing to the highly regarded Timeline after stalking the pace. Next time out, he showed improved speed from the rail and led the field from start to finish while recording a respectable 101 TimeformUS Speed Figure. It was encouraging to see the way he leveled off in the stretch and extended his lead through the final eighth of a mile.

Now, Time to Travel must stretch out to two turns, but I would not be that concerned about his stamina. His sire, Hard Spun, was certainly capable of carrying his speed a route of ground, and his dam was a two-time stakes winner going 1 1/4 miles. Time to Travel is a full brother to Grade 1 winner Hard Not to Like, who has won multiple stakes going route distances on turf. He's been transferred to Matz's barn since his last race, and he has allowed Edgar Prado, who knows this colt best, to keep the mount. It's well known that those two have had success in the past, and they still team up to register a solid 88 TimeformUS Rating for the pairing. If this lightly raced colt is left alone on the lead, he could prove difficult to catch.

#6, CONVICT PIKE (8-1): While you have to respect his overall body of work and pair of stakes-placings on synthetic surfaces, neither of his dirt races is particularly compelling. I can't blame Rusty Arnold for taking one more shot on dirt to see what kind of horse he has, but it's far more likely that he'll find greater success sticking to turf and artificial surfaces in the future.

#7, CAPT. GRIDER (50-1): He's never run fast enough to be competitive in a normal Keeneland allowance race, let alone this graded stakes. Pass.

#8, HE’S MUNNIE (20-1): He's not quite as hopeless as the runner drawn to his inside, but his dirt races are still significantly slower than the majority of his competitors. He's another one who can be tossed from consideration.

#9, LOOKIN AT BLESSING (15-1): You have to wonder what happened to this colt's early speed. He used aggressive tactics to great effect as a 2-year-old, finishing a good third behind the eventual Hopeful second- and third-place finishers in a maiden race at Saratoga and wiring a decent maiden field at Belmont. However, ever since then, he's been ridden as a closer, and it appears that he's just lost interest in competing. He's hard to endorse off his Gulfstream form.

#10, WEST COAST (3-1): Based on the TimeformUS Speed Figures from his two career starts, he is the horse to beat in this race. The numbers he earned in those two maiden races are better than those of any horse in here except No Dozing, and there's some question as to whether No Dozing can still turn in the performances he put forth as a 2-year-old. Yet, while West Coast has run some fast races, I think there are a few reasons to be careful here, especially at a short price.

First, he only defeated two rivals to win his maiden last time at odds of 1-20. Considering how badly overmatched his competitors were, he actually had to work a bit harder than you would have liked to see to put away the runner-up. There was talk about Bob Baffert running him in the Santa Anita Derby off that effort, but he apparently did not train his way into that race, as Baffert instead started three other runners – none of whom hit the board in a painfully slow race. While it's no surprise that a colt as lightly raced as this one is bypassing the Derby trail, this is still a pretty significant step up in class, and he's far less battle-hardened than some other runners in this field. He's clearly a contender, but I think he's a dubious proposition as the favorite.

THE PLAY

The three main contenders are No Dozing (#4), Time to Travel (#5), and West Coast (#10) – who also happen to be the three runners who are predicted to lead the field in the early going. Given the reservations I have about the off-form No Dozing and the untested West Coast, I'm landing on Time to Travel. It's true that this recent maiden winner also has something to prove in just his third career start, but I think he has the talent to overcome those hurdles, and the price should be fair enough.

Win: 5 (at odds of 4-1 or greater)

Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,2,3,4,10

Trifecta: 5 with 4,10 with 1,2,3,4,10

Trifecta: 5 with 1,2,3 with 4,10