San Felipe Odds and more Road to the KY Derby races

Four Road to the Kentucky Derby races spread around the country

The spotlight shines on the Triple Crown on Saturday, with four races spread around the country offering qualifying points in the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ series.

The main event is the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in Florida, in which leading Derby contenders Simplification, Emmanuel and Rattle N Roll bid for the 50-point top prize.

Fifty points are also available to the winners of the Grade 2 San Felipe in California and the Grade 3 Gotham in New York, while the ungraded John Battaglia Memorial in Kentucky offers ten points to the winner and features the reappearance of Grade 1-placed Tiz The Bomb.

Fountain of Youth Stakes

The scratch of original morning–line favourite Mo Donegal – he’s running a temperature – has diminished the Fountain of Youth, the highlight of a stakes-heavy card at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, but there are nevertheless several big names in contention and 50 points to be won on the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’.

Mo Donegal’s trainer Todd Pletcher is still represented with Emmanuel, who is unbeaten in two and makes his stakes debut today. He won his maiden here at a mile and then went to Tampa Bay Downs for an allowance optional claimer, in which he led throughout and drew off to score by four and a half lengths. That was an impressive performance and, while he hasn’t achieved as much as several of his rivals, he has always been regarded as a star in the making.

Emmanuel probably won’t get to the front early, for if Simplification breaks with the field from favourable post two he will be on the lead, as he went gate-to-wire in a stakes here over a mile before blowing the Grade 3 Holy Bull over course and distance at the gate with a ragged start. His performance to recover, and keep on strongly for second behind easy winner White Abarrio, was in the circumstances very creditable and he is evidently moving well forward with every race.

Behind him in the Holy Bull were Galt, who was a length and a quarter back in fourth on his stakes debut after taking over the front-running role from Simplification, and the disappointing Giant Game in eighth place, although the colt was found to be suffering from breathing difficulties and has been operated on. Giant Game had earlier run third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and although that race is not all it’s cracked up to be, a return to that sort of form would put Giant Game in the mix if the surgery has fixed his issues.

Galt’s barnmate High Oak is one of three very interesting contenders returning from a lengthy layoff. High Oak won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in August but was never a threat when fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful at the Spa three weeks later, his final run of the campaign. He’s been away a month longer than Rattle N Roll, whose victory in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on his last start – recent Sam F Davis winner Classic Causeway was third – stamped him as a hugely promising prospect.

Both colts will probably need this to regain an edge, also the case for Giant Game’s barnmate Howling Time, off since a lacklustre fifth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November. That was a very strong contest, with Smile Happy, Classic Causeway and White Abarrio filling the trifecta, and if Howling Time truly belongs with those horses he is one to watch today and going forward.

The dominant performance of In Due Time in an allowance optional claimer here over a mile, when he cleared away to score by five and a quarter lengths from odds-on shot American Icon, entitles him to plenty of respect in this field and he owns a similar profile to AP’s Secret, who is also two-for-three and landed an allowance optional claimer here on his most recent start, although not with the same panache or promise.

Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner Markhamian needs to step up a long way as he stretches out beyond a mile for the first time, while Grade 3 Swale runner-up Dean Delivers is another trying a longer trip and, with the guarantee of pace from either Simplification or Emmanuel, there’ll be no hiding place for a horse lacking in stamina.

Betting Prediction for the Fountain of Youth:

The pace angle is crucial. Likely front-runner SIMPLIFICATION ran a fine race last time despite botching the start and his obvious class and natural speed make him the choice.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
MarkhamianMarcos Meneses+2000
SimplificationJose L. Ortiz+350
Howling TimeJoseph Talamo+1500
In Due TimePaco Lopez+600
Dean DeliversMiguel Angel Vasquez+1500
Rattle N RollBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.+1200
A. P.’s SecretTyler Gaffalione+2000
EmmanuelLuis Saez+450
High OakJunior Alvarado+800
Giant GameCorey J. Lanerie+1500
O CaptainJavier Castellano+3000
GaltJoel Rosario+1200

San Felipe Stakes

The west-coast challenge for the Kentucky Derby has been totally compromised by Bob Baffert’s suspension from Churchill Downs, with the add-on that his horses are ineligible for RTKD points. Baffert has two chances in Saturday’s San Felipe, one of a glittering array of stakes on a marquee day at Santa Anita and a race he has won a record eight times, but neither appear to be among the leading names in his barn.

His first-string is Los Alamitos maiden winner Doppelganger, who then went on to the Grade 2 San Vicente here over seven furlongs, when he never figured in a field of five, running in fourth throughout and finishing around three lengths behind the winner Forbidden Kingdom. The form of the San Vicente has been franked by the runner-up Pinehurst, a gritty winner of the Saudi Derby last weekend, and the key to today’s race is how well these two horses cope with stretching out to a mile-sixteenth.

Forbidden Kingdom was an authoritative winner, setting the fractions from the gate and keeping on strongly. He has raced on the pace in all his four starts, so figures to be out there on the front end again, but the obvious question is whether he can carry that pace another 330 yards. That goes for Doppelganger too, although it may be an advantage that he doesn’t have to be on the lead.

Baffert second-string Armagnac, on the other hand, is proven at a mile-sixteenth after winning his maiden over course and distance in January, when he led all the way for a comfortable success. His issue is the rise in class, but if he can keep tabs on Forbidden Kingdom he could be in pole position if that rival runs out of gas in the stretch.

It took five attempts for Cabo Spirit to lose his maiden tag, which he achieved on turf, but he has done well since then, winning a stakes here over a mile on turf before doing best of the rest behind 15-length winner Messier in the Grade 3 Robert B Lewis over this course and distance on the main track, when Happy Jack was a soundly beaten last of five.

With eight races under his belt, the versatile Cabo Spirit doesn’t have the scope for improvement of Doppelganger and Armagnac, but his experience will stand in his favour. Happy Jack may be even happier without the blinkers he wore in the Robert B Lewis, although he won with them here on debut.

Beautiful Art won a maiden claimer here over six furlongs three weeks ago and this leap in class could be beyond him, while the weirdly named Worse Read Sanchez comes back to the main track after three runs on the weeds and was beaten in an allowance optional claimer last time.

Top Pick for the San Felipe:

The two main contenders have plenty of speed and are unproven at this distance, so perhaps ARMAGNAC can make his guaranteed stamina pay off despite a rise in class.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Happy JackAbel Cedillo+800
Worse Read SanchezMario Gutierrez+2000
ArmagnacJohn R. Velazquez+500
Beautiful ArtMike E. Smith+1200
DoppelgangerFlavien Prat+180
Forbidden KingdomJuan J. Hernandez+160
Cabo SpiritVictor Espinoza+500

Gotham Stakes

Bob Baffert also has a leading contender in the Gotham, the highlight of Saturday’s meeting at Aqueduct and another 50pt prep for the Kentucky Derby, although as stated Baffert’s horses can’t run for the points.

This is not the first trip east for Rockefeller, who won the Grade 3 Nashua over a mile at Belmont Park in November – a race that has not worked out particularly well – before heading home for the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita, in which he played second fiddle to barnmate Newgrange, chasing him all the way around the track before going under by two and three-quarter lengths.

Rockefeller has a touch of class and is comfortable at a mile, which isn’t the case for Dean’s List, who is unbeaten in two – both at Gulfstream Park – but has yet to go beyond six furlongs or run at stakes level. He was impressive when beating Dean Delivers and In Due Time (both run in the Fountain of Youth today) last time and merits a move up, but stretching out his speed may be an issue.

Dean’s List’s barnmate Golden Code broke his maiden here over seven furlongs, romping by almost 11 lengths in a state-bred contest, and although this is much tougher he commands respect purely by virtue of the visual impression of that success.

Dual course winner Morello is unbeaten in two and won a stakes over seven furlongs last time out, impressively drawing clear of Life Is Great on his way to a five-length victory. The extra furlong shouldn’t be a problem on that evidence, while Bold Journey was runner-up in a state-bred stakes over course and distance and, if taking the rise in class in his stride, could be in the mix.

Noneedtoworry was beaten a long way when fifth behind Early Voting and last week’s Rebel winner Un Ojo in the Grade 3 Withers over nine furlongs here and might need a drop in class, but Glider turned in a strong effort when runner-up to the very highly rated Emmanuel (also runs in the Fountain of Youth today) in an allowance optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs, and meets nothing of that calibre here.

Top pick for the Gotham Stakes:

ROCKEFELLER is a Graded winner at a mile and, in a race in which his rivals have yet to prove either their class or their stamina, rates as the safest option for the selection.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
RunninsonofagunJalon L. Samuel+3000
GliderAntonio A. Gallardo+800
Golden CodeKendrick Carmouche+1200
FromanothamuthaDylan Davis+600
Dean’s ListManuel Franco+350
Life Is GreatEric Cancel+1500
NoneedtoworrySilvestre Gonzalez+3000
Bold JourneyJorge A. Vargas, Jr+600
MorelloJose Lezcano+300
RockefellerTrevor McCarthy+400

John Battaglia Memorial Stakes

There are only ten RTKD points on offer in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park on Saturday, but the race has drawn a potential A-lister in the shape of Tiz The Bomb, who is bidding to pick himself up and get back on the Derby trail.

There’s no doubting Tiz The Bomb’s ability, which he demonstrated when runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and when winning the Grade 2 Bourbon at Keeneland over a mile-sixteenth. Both those races were on turf, though, a surface on which he appears notably talented, and last time out when switched back to the main track he ran a very poor race in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.

This may be the last throw of the dice to see whether Tiz The Bomb has a future off the turf, and although he has a clear class edge over today’s rivals the synthetic surface may not suit him either.

It’s a similar story for Stolen Base, runner-up in the Bourbon, seventh in the BC Juvenile Turf, and third in a stakes at Sam Houston last time out, all on turf. He won his maiden at Saratoga on the main track but is an unknown quantity on synthetics.

A length and a quarter ahead of Stolen Base at Sam Houston was Bloodline, who won an allowance optional claimer on the main track at Fair Grounds on his previous start. He is joined in the gate by barnmate Erase, an all-the-way stakes winner here on the all-weather over a mile when he had the beating of the third Rich Strike and fourth O P Firecracker.

Grade 3 Grey third On Thin Ice was ninth behind Tiz The Bomb in the Bourbon and hasn’t won in four races since breaking his maiden, which is exactly the same profile as Legendary Lore, who makes his stakes debut today alongside barnmate Goldeneye, who went gate-to-wire at longshot odds to win a maiden over course and distance on the all-weather last month.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
GoldeneyeAlbin Jimenez+2000
Rich StrikeSonny Leon+2000
La Belleza NegraEdgar Morales+1500
Stolen BaseGerardo Corrales+350
On Thin IceChris Landeros+1500
Legendary LoreRafael Bejarano+1500
Droppin G’sMalcolm Franklin+3000
EraseRy Eikleberry+500
O P FirecrackerEmmanuel Esquivel+1200
Tiz the BombAlex Achard+250
BloodlineMarcelino Pedroza, Jr.+350
GraelAdam Beschizza+2000
AmicableThiago Canuto+3000
Winter SonGabriel Lagunes+3000

Betting Prediction the John Battaglia:

Tiz The Bomb is by some way the best horse in the race, but makes no appeal at his odds on an unfamiliar surface. ERASE has won a stakes here and is the choice to do the same again.

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