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SHOWdown

By Derek Simon

Good news! For those who love to gloat about how they had the Kentucky Derby winner pegged just hours after its conception, i.e. the vast majority of horse players, TwinSpires.com and other pari-mutuel wagering outlets are offering the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (Pool 2) this weekend.

The pool, which is open from Feb. 6-8, consists of 24 wagering interests — 23 individual horses and the mutuel field, which is comprised of all the remaining eligible three-year-olds. Because it is a pari-mutuel bet, the Derby Future Wager odds tend to be much fairer than those offered by most sportsbooks and casinos, as the following chart attests to:

Road to the Kentucky Derby SHOWdown

And speaking of the Kentucky Derby, I have been drafted by Team TwinSpires.com (#teamTS on Twitter) for a friendly (as of now) competition with Team Churchill Downs (#teamCD) in the $1 million Road to the Kentucky Derby SHOWdown.

The idea of the SHOWdown is to pick a horse that finishes third or better in 19 designated Kentucky Derby prep races as well as the Derby itself. Prizes are given to the person who lasts the longest, as well as to the person with the most winning show selections.

While individuals can win big bucks — contestants who hit all 20 races can take home up to $1 million — Team TwinSpires.com and Team Churchill Downs will be playing solely for charity… and pride.

In addition to myself, #teamTS consists of Ed DeRosaVance HansonLucky KalangesKellie Reilly and James Scully — all of whom are loved and cherished by those lucky enough to come into contact with them (usually at charity functions or at intersections where they are busy escorting the elderly across the street).

#teamCD is comprised of Jill ByrneKevin KersteinJoe KristufekGary Palmisano, Darren Rogers and Travis Stone. They’re OK… when they’re sober.

Anyway, it should be a good time. The festivities kick off with the Grade III Withers at Aqueduct and the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Saturday.

Let the games begin.

Saturday Value Plays

Aqueduct (race 3)
Although it’s a very tough spot with the likes of Grade I winner DADS CAPS and Grade III winner SALUTOS AMIGOS in the field, I’m expecting a big run from DOUBLEDOWN AGAIN. Since Michelle Nevin took over his training on Oct. 29, the five-year-old son of Rockport Harbor has recorded a new lifetime-best Brisnet speed rating in each of his last three starts, culminating with a 105 figure on Dec. 10.

Bet(s): WIN on 2 at odds of 7-2 or greater. SHOW on 2.

Aqueduct (race 8)
EL KABIER is clearly the horse to beat, but I suspect his price will be on the skimpy side. Hence, value-conscious players might want to cast their lot with recent maiden graduate FAR FROM OVER. In his first and only start, the Todd Pletcher trainee dueled for a mile and 70 yards before prevailing by a nose and earning a 92 Brisnet speed figure and race-best -1 LSR. By contrast, El Kabier earned a 101 BSF and a -8 LSR for his 4 ¾-length score in the Jerome.

Bet(s): WIN on 2 at odds of 7-2 or greater.

Gulfstream Park (race 13)
LEA’s last race was a thing of beauty, as he stalked a slow pace and then got up late while recording a 0 LSR. Talented son of First Samurai looks poised to defend his Donn title.

Bet(s): WIN on 4.

Santa Anita Park (race 5)
I thought FIRING LINE ran his guts out in the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity, losing a tight photo despite chasing a :21-4/5 opening quarter and getting bumped down the lane, but if he has to go head-and-head again — this time with TIZCANO, who appears to be the quickest of the quick — I wonder how much gas he’ll have left in the tank at the 1/8-pole. Ditto for DORTMUND, who sat just off the pace in the Futurity, and also went very fast early. So, I’m rolling the dice with ROCK SHANDY, who I think will get a great trip from about 5-6 lengths back in the early going over a Santa Anita strip that has witnessed just three wire-to-wire winners in 18 races (16.7 percent) at this distance during the current meet.

Bet(s): WIN on 2 at odds of 9/2 or greater.

Santa Anita Park (race 8)
CALIFORNIA CHROME may be the defending Horse of the Year, but, to me, SHARED BELIEF is the one to beat in the San Antonio Invitational. Granted, the son of Candy Ride didn’t beat much in his “comeback” race — the Malibu Stakes earned just a 2.3 Key Race Rating — but I was impressed by his speed and pace figures (107 BSF and -5 LSR) in that affair. I think he has a conditioning edge over Chrome… and I think he’s simply a better horse.

Bet(s): WIN on 5 at odds of 8-5 or greater.

Below is a link to my Pace Profile Report and Simon Speed Ration Report for this weekend’s Toboggan Stakes (AQU3), Withers (AQU8), Donn Handicap (GP13), R. B. Lewis Stakes (SA5) and San Antonio Invitational (SA8).

Pace Profile Report (02/07/15)
Simon Speed Ration Report (02/07/15)