How to bet the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes at Kempton Park
by DICK POWELL
Kentucky Derby (G1) fever will hit Kempton Park in England for Thursday's $94,500 Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes. Eight three-year-olds will run a one-turn mile on the Polytrack except it will be a right-handed turn. Post time is 2:30 p.m. (EST) since they run under the lights at Kempton.
There will be Kentucky Derby eligibility points available with 20 to the winner, eight to the second-place finisher, four to the third-place finisher and two to the fourth-place finisher as part of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
The betting pools are a bit different to what you might be used to. "Place" betting is similar to show betting and it pays down three places. If you bet a horse to place and it runs third, you cash. The "Swinger" is a combination bet and is similar to having three quinella bets in one. If a race finishes 1-3-9, the Swinger pays for 1-3, 1-9 and 3-9. They don't pay a lot but at least you can cash if you run first and third.
A couple of interesting points need to be noted. The seven males in the race carry a hefty 131 pounds and the filly MORNING HAS BROKEN will carry 126 pounds. There is a long run from the top of the stretch to the finish line and program numbers are not post position numbers. Five of the runners have won on synthetic tracks and seven have raced over it.
GRONKOWSKI will get a lot of attention from American bettors because of the name and Phoenix Thoroughbred Limited has been paying big money for young horses and winning all over the world. This colt by Lonhro cost over $400,000 as a two-year-old and comes in here off two straight wins on synthetic tracks going this distance. The first-time starter that he beat by six lengths last out, Loyal Promise, came back to break his maiden next time out.
GRONKOWSKI's unraced dam by Lookin at Lucky was a half-sister to Grade 1 dirt winner Flashy Bull going nine furlongs so there is plenty of pedigree. Jamie Spencer rides back for Jeremy Noseda, who wins 28 percent with a huge flat-bet profit in the past five years at Kempton.
The horse to beat looks to be FORTUNE'S PEARL who is the only starter in the field that has not tried synthetic tracks. He finished up last year with an even effort in a Group 3 stakes race on soft turf at Newmarket and now returns for a Polytrack try.
What makes FORTUNE'S PEARL interesting is that in the past 14 days, trainer Andrew Balding is five-for-11 with starters at Kempton and jockey Oisin Murphy is 11-for-32. Even though he is listed as the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, he has not been bet very strongly in his last two starts and this is a tough group. But, he has stellar connections.
THREE WEEKS is going to be my top pick. He has won his last two starts going a mile on synthetic tracks and jockey Adam Kirby has more wins at Kempton Park the past five years than anybody by 37 wins. Trainer William Haggas has won 20 percent here over the past five years and he draws well in post four.
THREE WEEKS is by Tapit, whose offspring seem to be able to race over any surface at the highest levels, and his dam is a half-sister to three group stakes winners.
My betting strategy is to bet THREE WEEKS to place and play him in a swinger with GRONKOWSKI.