Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Jeff Ruby Steaks and Bourbonette Oaks Preview

This week, Picks and Ponderings goes back to Turfway — albeit only virtually, this time.  Turfway’s card on Saturday features a pair of three-year-old points races, the $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) (previously the Spiral Stakes) for open company and the $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) for fillies.  Both races offer 20-8-4-2 points to its top four finishers, good for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks respectively.  As recently as last year, the races had been 50-point preps, though their points were lowered in light of the fact that the Polytrack has not in recent years tended to attract horses who made a major splash come the first weekend in May.  Still, that didn’t hurt field size one bit: both races drew large, competitive fields.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s pair of three-year-old preps at Turfway, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Rebel Stakes Preview

Oaklawn’s spur of the Derby trail continues this Saturday with the Rebel Stakes.  The race offers a purse of $900,000, in addition to Road to the Kentucky Derby points (50-20-10-5) for its top four finishers.

Inaugurated in 1961, the Rebel Stakes currently serves as the third of four steps on Oaklawn’s road to the Kentucky Derby.  The race has constantly featured top-class horses.  American Pharoah (2015) began his sophomore campaign in the race — a year that continued with a Triple Crown win, a Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) win, and both Champion Three Year Old Male and Horse of the Year honours.  Though he is the only Triple Crown winner to have won the Rebel Stakes, a host of other three-year-old champions have won this race, including Temperence Hill (1980), Smarty Jones (2004), Curlin (2007), Lookin at Lucky (2010), and Will Take Charge (2013).

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Rebel Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

for McKinzie, poetic justice

Sometimes, the only justice you find is poetic justice.

And, so it is with McKinzie.  He came into the San Felipe Stakes with an undefeated record, clouded by a great big asterisk.  After all, he didn’t cross the wire first in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) last year.  He ran on well enough inside in the stretch that day, but could not , but got bumped up after Solomini was taken down for interfering with third-place Instilled Regard.  Solomini wasn’t losing that race no matter what, and would Instilled Regard have been second and not third after Solomini bumped past?  Though he was no match for the first horse across the wire, McKinzie was going well enough that I’m not convinced he would have.  Caught in the middle of a dubious disqualification, McKinzie got lucky.

Three months and a day later, McKinzie got unlucky.

He turned for home inside Bolt d’Oro.  They bumped once.  Perhaps McKinzie went out a touch, but Bolt d’Oro perceptibly came in.  Their withers met, but it looked a product of racing in tight quarters, more than anything.  It diminished the fight of neither.  Bolt d’Oro forced his head in front; McKinzie came back.  As the field neared the wire, McKinzie did come out, pushing Bolt d’Oro out with him.  But — did it cost him a better placing?  Inconclusive, and judging from how McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro were each going late, unlikely.

A photo showed McKinzie’s nose across the wire first in the San Felipe, but the inquiry light blinked.  4-1 blinked.  And blinked, and blinked, and blinked.  Then, it became 1-4.  The blinking ceased.  McKinzie, so lucky three months back, ran out of luck this time around.

We can call Bolt d’Oro the big winner here, and Solomini the big loser.  But, as it shakes out, McKinzie is exactly where he should be: three-for-four lifetime.  Poetic justice.

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Gotham/San Felipe/Tampa Bay Derby

This is week six of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing: where I clash heads with six awesome handicappers (Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo) to see who can stay the hottest through Derby prep season.

This week is a huge one, with three stateside Kentucky Derby preps: the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita, and the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs.  Come see what we all think…and let’s see if I can add to my win, exacta, and trifecta tallies!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Tampa Bay Derby Preview and Stakes Selections

I didn’t make it down to Tampa for the Sam F. Davis (G3) like I had the last two years, since the harness meet at Hawthorne was still going on.  But, that just means I’m off to Tampa a different weekend — specifically, this one, for the Tampa Bay Derby (G2)!

Over at Picks and Ponderings, I preview the day’s feature race, and share my selections and longshots for every stakes race on the card.  For the record, my most bullish play of the day is Rafting in the Challenger Stakes.  He has come back so well this winter, he’s proven himself a horse for the Tampa course, and he should be able to stay in close range of a pace that shouldn’t be especially fast.  Rafting should also be a bit of a price, as class-dropping War Story stands to take plenty of action.

I’m happy to chat about my selections, or anything else about the card, in the comments or on Twitter.  And, make sure to follow along on Twitter (@rogueclown) all weekend, since I’ll be posting pictures and Periscopes from the track starting on Friday!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Gotham Stakes Preview

This year, the Gotham Stakes will be run for the 67th time, offering a $300,000 purse as well as Kentucky Derby points (50-20-10-5) to its top four finishers.  The race, which takes its name from an old nickname for New York City, was inaugurated at Jamaica Racetrack in 1953 before being moved to New York City in 1960.  Long a one-turn mile on the Aqueduct main, it was moved to a mile and a sixteenth on the inner starting in 2006, and moved back to its historic one-turn mile trip for this year.

In its history, one Triple Crown winner counts the Gotham among his triumphs; the immortal Secretariat won it in 1973.

Read more at Picks and Ponderings, and sound off with your thoughts on the Gotham in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 San Felipe Stakes Preview

The San Felipe Stakes (G2) will be run for the 81st time this year.  It is a Road to the Kentucky Derby race, with not only a $400,000 purse up for grabs but also 50, 20, 10, and 5 Kentucky Derby points available to the top four finishers.  Originally inaugurated in 1935 for colts and geldings aged three and up, the race was restricted to three-year-olds starting in 1941, and opened up to fillies as well starting in 1952.  Run at distances as short at six furlongs during its history, it has held steady at its current 1 1/16 mile distance since 1952.  Over the history of the San Felipe Stakes, five winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby later that year: Determine (1954), Affirmed (1978), Sunday Silence (1989), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and California Chrome (2014).  Bob Baffert has been the most successful trainer of all time in the San Felipe.  He has won the race six times, most recently with Mastery (2017).

Keep reading at Picks and Ponderings, and let me know your thoughts on the San Felipe (G2) in the comments!