04/03/2015 3:53PM

The Wizard: A look at Saturday's Derby preps


There are 21 3-year-olds that will run in Saturday’s three Kentucky Derby prep races. Only three – Frosted in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Classy Class in the Blue Grass at Keeneland, and Cross the Line in the Santa Anita Derby – have raced at 1 1/8 miles. All three were defeated. In these Derby preps, the Wizard is searching for clues about a horse’s ability to handle 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May. Distance limitation is a common denominator among many of this year’s 3-year-olds.

Wood Memorial

DAREDEVIL will be the favorite with EL KABEIR the second choice. Daredevil’s second-place finish in the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream at seven furlongs off a four-month layoff was a good sharpener for the Wood. Daredevil has yet to win around two turns. Both his victories have been on wet tracks. With rain expected in New York on Friday evening and ending Saturday morning, it is unlikely the track will be wet by post time for the Wood, which could make Daredevil a bit vulnerable.

El Kabeir showed a new dimension winning the Gotham closing from further back than in his prior seven starts. The fact that he can be placed anywhere during the running and has more wins (four) than any of his opposition certainly makes him formidable. My concern with El Kabeir is his ability to be as effective stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time. I am not certain how good he really is following three races this winter on the inner track at Aqeuduct, facing less than stellar fields.

FROSTED looked odds-on to win the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 21 turning for home, but flattened out in the final eighth-mile after setting the pace for a good part of his journey. The fractions were faster than they initially appeared to be. Frosted has better form on the Aqueduct main track than any of his opposition. The fact that he was narrowly defeated in last year’s Remson over this course and distance suggests that he has every right to improve Saturday, especially returning to rating tactics.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL was eliminated at the start in the Gotham. He appears to be the most interesting of the longshots in the field.

The Wizard finds it difficult to latch on to any one horse to “key” on in the Wood. Instead, I will use this race as part of the $500,000-guaranteed all-graded stakes pick four (Races 8-11). This wager can be found on my Aqueduct Betting Window and the Simulcast Best Bets Sheet.

Santa Anita Derby

It’s very difficult to knock the credentials of the heavy favorite DORTMUND, who is undefeated in five career starts and is 3 for 3 over the Santa Anita dirt surface. Dortmund is making his first start at 1 1/8 miles, but based on his physical attributes and the manner in which he rates so comfortably, he should not have any issues handling the distance and farther. He is more a one-paced runner, who distributes his speed evenly, than a horse who is agile and has a quick turn of foot. In small fields his tactical speed helps him avoid trouble. In fields like the Kentucky Derby with 20 horses, traffic troubles could compromise his chances. Facing five rivals in the Santa Anita Derby gives Dortmund the upper hand.

PROSPECT PARK and BOLO, who finished second and third behind Dortmund in the San Felipe, obviously pose the biggest dangers. From a wagering standpoint, the Santa Anita Derby is pass race but it does offer a potential key horse in the late pick four.

Blue Grass

CARPE DIEM will go off the shortest price of the morning-line favorites in the three Kentucky Derby preps. There is quite a drop off between him and the quality of his opposition. Carpe Diem’s five-length victory in the Tampa Bay Derby in his first start as a 3-year-old, which came off four-month layoff, was very impressive. That sets him up well for a victory in the Blue Grass. His lone defeat was a second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Carpe Diem won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall in his only start at Keeneland. His tactical speed will allow jockey John Velazquez to place him wherever he wants early on.

Of the three Kentucky Derby preps, the Blue Grass is the only race that offers a decent wagering opportunity, even though Carpe Diem will be odds-on. I am attracted to both the exactas and trifectas in the Blue Grass. The odds on the other seven runners will be well spread out. I feel that OCHO OCHO OCHO will improve on his eighth-place finish in the San Felipe with a more alert start, and CLASSY CLASS will benefit from being back on a dry surface and being more forwardly placed early in the race.

My suggested wagers are:

Exactas (5) CARPE DIEM over (1) OCHO OCHO OCHO and  (7) CLASSY CLASS, reverse both for one-fourth as much
Trifecta 5 over 1-7 over ALL = $24 for a $2 wager
Trifecta 5 over ALL over 1-7 = $12 for a $1 wager

Saturday’s Full Card Selections & Betting Window will be available Friday for Aqueduct-Keeneland-Santa Anita as well as Oaklawn. Wagering strategies for all races are in the Betting Window as well as pick four plays, which can also be found on my Simulcast Best Bets Sheet.