We’re now less than two months away from the Kentucky Derby, and Saturday serves as a big day in deciding the field as three more horses will likely earn their way into the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
The winners of the Grade III Gotham Stakes at New York’s Aqueduct, the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, and the Grade II San Felipe Stakes will all earn 50 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, enough to essentially ensure their eligibility for the May 2 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
The three races may also affect odds on the latest round of Kentucky Derby futures betting. Churchill Downs is offering the latest round this weekend, with Tiz the Law the current favorite. I’ll have more on the current round after Saturday’s races wrap up.
Sole Volante Faces Chance It in Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay Derby will go first, with a post time of 5:32 pm ET. The mile-and-a-sixteenth race features a field of 12, but the focus will likely be on a pair of horses as only three have morning-line odds of less than 10-1.
Sole Volante, who won the Sam F. Davis Stakes a month ago at Tampa, is the 2-1 favorite. Trained by Patrick Biancone, he’s finished in the money in all four career starts, with three wins.
In the Sam F. Davis, he rallied down the stretch to overtake favorite Independence Hall and win going away.
Ridden by Florent Geroux, Sole Volante will break from the seventh gate.
His main opposition appears to be Chance It. Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., the horse was a late scratch from last week’s Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The trainer admitted pulling his horse after he drew the outside gate in what was initially a 12-horse race.
Chance It breaks from the fourth gate Saturday.
He has tactical speed, which makes him easy to ride because you can put him in the right spot, and he has stamina,” Joseph said. “To have his class, stamina and speed, it’s a package that’s hard to find. He’s special, and hopefully he can show it.”
Ridden by Paco Lopez, Chance It, who has four wins and two second place finishes in six starts, has 5-2 odds in his graded stakes debut.
The full field and odds can be found here.
Mischevious Alex Leads Field in Aqueduct’s Gotham
Up at Aqueduct, the Gotham Stakes will have 11 horses going a mile.
Mischevious Alex dominated the Grade III Swale Stakes last month at Gulfstream, winning the seven-furlong race by seven lengths in his graded stakes debut. Trainer John Servis will ask his colt to go an extra furlong Saturday.
Mischevious Alex has run a mile or longer before but has not won at that distance.
A couple of other horses from the Swale also make their way to New York Saturday, including Untitled. The Mark Casse-trained colt was the betting favorite in the Swale, but he got bumped at the start and found himself stuck in traffic as he managed to finish fourth.
Mischevious Alex will break sixth Saturday and is the morning-line favorite at 3-1. Untitled breaks from the 10th gate and is a 4-1 choice
Another horse to keep an eye on is Attachment Rate. Trainer Dale Romans suffered some disappointment last week in the Fountain of Youth after race-time favorite Dennis’ Moment finished last, but the Virginia-bred he has entered in the Gotham could get him a spot in the Derby on his hometown track.
In a Feb. 15 maiden race at Gulfstream, Attachment Rate won going away by 6-1/4 lengths on a sloppy, sealed track.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Attachment Rate will start from the fourth gate and had odds of 9-2.
The full field for the Gotham, which has a post time of 5:42 pm ET, and odds can be found here.
Baffert’s Pair Favorites at Santa Anita
Out at Santa Anita, a pair of Bob Baffert-trained colts will lead a field of seven in the mile-and-a-sixteenth San Felipe.
Authentic will look to go 3-for-3 in his young career. His most recent race came two months ago at the southern California track when he won by almost eight lengths in the Grade III Sham, a one-mile race.
Baffert’s other entry, Thousand Words, is also perfect in his career. He got his third win last month in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes and already has two graded stakes wins to his name.
In the Robert B. Lewis, which was also a mile-and-a-sixteenth, Thousand Words came from behind to finally take the lead late and win by three-quarters of a length.
Both my horses are coming into the race really well,” said Baffert, who has won the stakes race a record six times. “There are no excuses.”
Authentic, with Drayden Van Dyke getting the mount, will break from the fourth gate and has 6-5 morning-line odds. Thousand Words will break next to him in fifth. Flavien Prat will take the reins on the horse with 9-5 morning-line odds.
While the San Felipe features the smallest field, it might have the deepest of the three for actual Kentucky Derby contenders.
Besides the Baffert entries, the field includes Honor A. P. The John Shirreffs-trained ridgling hasn’t raced since October, when he broke his maiden in a mile race by 5-1/4 lengths. Still, his trainer has kept him busy over the past few months.
“He’s been training very well,” Shirreffs said. “I think he’s ready to run and I’m optimistic.”
Rounding out the contenders is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Storm the Court. Despite the Grade I win at Santa Anita last November, he’s won just twice in five starts. In his last race, Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente last month, he finished just outside the money in fourth.
Honor A.P., with Mike Smith aboard, will break second with morning-line odds of 4-1. Joel Rosario will ride Storm the Court, who will race from the sixth gate at odds of 5-1.
Post time is 6:01 pm ET. The full field and odds can be found here.