Note the headline implies that the Aidan O’Brien horses on the undercard don’t represent value…
HUMANA DISTAFF (G1): Expect AMERICAN GAL (7-2) to move forward off a close fourth in the Madison (G1) comeback that she really needed – a race that the troubled fifth Salty jumped from to win the La Troienne (G1). But I’m also hopeful of fellow California shipper SKYE DIAMONDS (5-1) outperforming her odds. If she’s lost the winning attitude since last summer, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) fourth has been chasing Selcourt of late, and now gets a rider change to Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
DISTAFF TURF MILE (G2): There wasn’t much between PROCTOR’S LEDGE (12-1) and La Coronel when they were respectively second and third in the Hillsborough (G2) two back. If you draw a line through their Keeneland rematch, Proctor’s Ledge rates an upset special in an open-looking race with a new rider aboard, Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
CHURCHILL DOWNS (G2): IMPERIAL HINT (9-5) deserves to be a very short price, so WHITMORE (6-1) and OUTPLAY (10-1) may add more value to exotics than on top.
AMERICAN TURF (G2): In his only two turf losses, CAPTIVATING MOON (6-1) finished second to the best sophomore in this division, Analyze It, and to Royal Ascot candidate Gidu. As a longtime fan of UNTAMED DOMAIN (5-1) who picked him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), I know that second to Mendelssohn will likely depress his odds here back on the grass, so value will be in the eye of the beholder come post time. Conversely, Threeandfourpence will likely be an underlay because of the O’Brien/Moore angle. To be fair, the full brother to 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hit It a Bomb and European highweight two-year-old filly Brave Anna has the scope to train on better than they did at three, and his Dewhurst (G1) fourth was respectable stepping up off a maiden win. I’m not taking his second to Mendelssohn at Dundalk literally since that was just a tightener, and he’ll have to be better than an understudy to win this.
PAT DAY MILE (G3): As with the Churchill Downs S., my preference MASK (4-1) is sure to be a skimpier price than the morning line suggests. I’ve always liked GREYVITOS (6-1), who’s eligible to be fitter second up and cutting back, but post 14 is a little concerning. Not giving up on SPORTING CHANCE (8-1), who hasn’t run badly in Derby scoring races and may regain his old spark back around one turn. O’Brien’s Seahenge continues to break slowly, which will do him no favors in a race that will unfold awfully quickly in front of him. It’s hard to envision this as anything other than giving Moore a ride over the dirt surface before he pilots Mendelssohn in Derby 144.
OLD FORESTER TURF CLASSIC (G1): Another where value may turn up more underneath. Just denied late in his past Derby Day appearances on this course, BEACH PATROL (5-2) has found a new level since teaming up with Joel Rosario, and there’s no compelling reason to think he won’t be spot-on in his reappearance for Chad Brown. YOSHIDA (15-1) will get bet down from that overly generous morning line, but you’re still likely to get a solid price on a serious up-and-comer for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Considering that progeny of sire Heart’s Cry improve with maturity, it’s testimony to Yoshida’s raw talent that he was among the leading turf sophomores last season. We’ll be hearing a lot more from him this term. SYNCHRONY (5-1) is very highly regarded by Mike Stidham, so could well be ready to handle the class hike after bossing them in the turf features at Fair Grounds. O’Brien’s Deauville obviously fits on form as an American Grade 1 winner who’s finished third in the past two runnings of the Arlington Million (G1). But he’s gotten in the habit of losing these battles, and with Shining Copper likely to go forward and lead them a long way, Deauville could get covered up from his rail draw and not get a lot of room. While not brave enough to leave him out of the calculations altogether, he’s a short price in a hot race that doesn’t set up in a straightforward manner for him.
By the way, there is an O’Brien horse I like a lot earlier on Saturday, only he’s running in the 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket – SAXON WARRIOR. Tune in to TwinSpires at 10:35 a.m. (EDT) to watch.
Best of luck with your handicapping for Derby Day!
Proctor’s Ledge photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese Photography