Racing Roundtable: Pool 5 of the KDFW, Louisiana Derby preview, and more

March 20th, 2024

The Racing Roundtable explores the results of Pool 5 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) and notable performances from a lighter weekend in racing, then they look ahead to the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on Saturday.

What were your takeaways from the results of Pool 5 of the KDFW and/or Oaks future wager?

James Scully: #28 Resilience was overlooked at 128-1 following a troubled fourth in Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds. A romping two-turn maiden winner two starts back, Resilience showed good tactical speed before missing by 3 1/2 lengths in the best Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race of the year (Risen Star).

“The distance was good,” John Velazquez said following Resilience’s fourth in the Risen Star. “I think he’s still just very green though. It was very hard for him to pass the horses. When the horse came out on him a little bit (Track Phantom in the stretch), he didn’t know what to do. But he’s a good one, that’s for sure.”

Resilience has worked five furlongs the last two Sundays in preparation for his final Kentucky Derby prep.

In the Kentucky Oaks (G1) future wager, I played #33 Tarifa at 11-1 and #14 Intricate at 12-1. Both are headed to Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and I expect them to be shorter prices on Kentucky Oaks Day.

Vance Hanson: They might not look like bargains unless they step up to the plate in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday, but Hall of Fame (37-1) and Honor Marie (35-1) closed at what I felt were fair prices in the KDFW. Both at times have proven to be as fast as nearly every major contender, and a good showing by one or both at Fair Grounds will ensure they would be far lower odds at Churchill. The same goes for Track Phantom (23-1), though there are underlying concerns whether the speedster can get a mile and a quarter under increased early pressure. Notable Pool 5 underlays in my opinion were Fierceness at 9-1 and Japanese contender Forever Young at 12-1.

I wouldn't be surprised if the winner of Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) becomes the pro-tem favorite for the Kentucky Oaks, thus Tarifa at 11-1 and Intricate at 12-1 were both early bargains for their respective fan bases. Just F Y I, who's had setbacks that have prevented her from even running yet this season, closed at 8-1. That's hard pass for me.

Ashley Anderson: It was no surprise to see Risen Star (G2) winner Sierra Leone close as the top individual betting choice at 7-1, but I did find it a bit shocking that Fierceness came in as the second individual betting choice at 9-1 — a price I would shy away from, as he's unlikely to go off anywhere close to those odds on Derby Day if he turns in another dud in his final prep. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner was the talk of the racing world when he debuted with an 11 1/4-length win with a 101 Brisnet Speed figure in a six-furlong maiden special weight, then came home 20 lengths behind Timberlake in the one-mile Champagne (G1) as the favorite in his next start. He rebounded at the Breeders' Cup with a flashy 112 BRIS figure, then finished a disappointing third against a somewhat weak field in the Holy Bull (G3). He's too inconsistent at this point to warrant much confidence on the first Saturday in May.

I also found it interesting the amount of money Japanese runner Forever Young took (closed at 12-1) considering a Japanese starter has yet to win the Kentucky Derby. Derma Sotogake entered last year's Derby with a ton of hype only to finish sixth, and of the six Japanese runners to make the Derby field, none have finished in the money thus far. In all, horses who had raced outside of North America prior to their Derby start are 53-2-1-0 and the 14 that raced exclusively outside North America before racing in the Derby did not hit the board the first Saturday in May. Therefore, the 12-1 price on Forever Young is far too low for me based on history.

Did anything catch your eye from the past weekend of racing action?

JS: A pair of four-year-olds, Arthur’s Ride and Rocket Can, came back with nice wins for Bill Mott on Saturday, and they appear to be good additions to the older horse ranks. Last seen easily defeating Dreamlike in a maiden race 13 months ago, Arthur’s Ride showed speed from the break and rolled to a 7 1/2-length allowance score over a one-turn mile at Gulfstream. Out of a mare by Point Given, the gray four-year-old son of Tapit is bred to relish longer distances. Rocket Can, winner of last year’s Holy Bull (G3), rallied from off the pace to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths in a two-turn mile allowance at Oaklawn. The gray son of Into Mischief made his first appearance since a ninth in the Kentucky Derby.

VH: Last year's Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner Taxed showed a new dimension at Oaklawn on Saturday, comfortably winning a six-furlong allowance in her first start since September. The filly came across as more of a long-distance specialist at her best last season, but this sign of versatility was a positive move for her and a tip-off that she might potentially improve off what was an uneven campaign at three.

Connections are looking at the Apple Blossom H. (G1) on April 13 for her next start, though it's hard to say now how tough that race will come up. It's fair to point out champions Idiomatic and Pretty Mischievous are back working, as is Xigera. All would be far more dangerous in the Apple Blossom, though some might instead opt for a race like the Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland or a Derby week stakes.

AA: Godolphin-bred Cornishman finally broke his maiden in his third career start at Fair Grounds on Saturday after finishing a length second in a six-furlong maiden special weight at the same track, and a length second when stretching out to 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track on the Risen Star undercard Feb. 17. Entered in another 8 1/2-furlong event, the late runner switched tactics this time around, as rider Florent Geroux had him stalking the early pace before Cornishman gained command with 5/16ths remaining. The three-year-old held off a late charge by fellow Triple Crown nominee Gun Party and earned an 88 BRIS figure for his half-length win. He may show up in one of the April 6 Kentucky Derby prep races in an effort to earn points toward the Derby field, and has the pedigree to excel at classic distances as a Curlin son out of Bernardini mare Penwith, who won the Royal Delta (G2). Cornishman is one to keep an eye on in the coming month as he potentially prepares for a Derby run for trainer Brad Cox, who's got four runners in the top 20 of the points leaderboard at the moment, including Rebel (G2) winner Timberlake.

With a number of Derby and Oaks prep races slated for Saturday, what are you most looking forward to watching?

JS: The Louisiana Derby (G2) & Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) appear to be good betting opportunities, and I will get more into storylines later this week.

Let’s focus on Touchuponastar, a classy Louisiana-bred gelding stepping up to face open rivals in the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) on the Louisiana Derby undercard. He’s been pegged as the 3-1 morning line favorite, but I think Brad Cox’s Best Actor, Steve Asmussen’s Red Route One, and Joe Sharp’s Money Supply are all eligible to take more win money given they are proven commodities at the graded level. 

Touchuponastar dropped his lone try at the graded level, finishing second in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) last spring, and I hope the public takes a pessimistic view despite his four-race win streak, capturing 10 of his last 11 starts.

VH: The Chad Brown-trained I'm Very Busy will have a chance to validate the strong showing he made against the now-retired, world-class filly Warm Heart in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) in Saturday's Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds. Despite having lost the Hill Prince (G2) in November to the promising Integration, I'm Very Busy reversed that form easily in the Pegasus while putting up a good fight against Warm Heart to miss by a half-length.

The comparisons between I'm Very Busy and Bricks and Mortar, who captured the Muniz Memorial for Brown en route to Horse of the Year honors in 2019, isn't there yet but the race on Saturday will at least tell us if he has potential to be championship material by season's end.

AA: Agate Road will make his third start on dirt for Todd Pletcher in either the Louisiana Derby or Jeff Ruby Steaks on Saturday. The Quality Road colt had been racing on turf during the majority of his two-year-old season and won the Pilgrim (G2) at Aqueduct back in October, but Pletcher made the switch back to dirt for the Sam F. Davis (G3), where Agate Road rallied to finish second to No More Time in the Tampa Bay Downs prep. Agate Road finished with a career-best 91 BRIS figure and could take another step forward in his third start off a layoff and with the added distance of either the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby or 1 1/8-mile Jeff Ruby Steaks.

Regardless of which race Agate Road ultimately competes in, his closing kick makes him a contender in either race. Stablemate Triple Espresso is also cross-entered in both prep races, while recent maiden winner Antiquarian is entered in the Louisiana Derby only, and Noted (another runner with turf experience) is entered in the Jeff Ruby.