The Jury: Bets and fades for April 1

March 31st, 2023

The Florida and Arkansas Derby Day programs offer a plethora of wagering opportunities on Saturday, and that's what James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson have focused on for this week's TwinSpires Jury.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #2 Grand Love (8-1) in the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn Park. The speedy filly set the pace in all three starts last year, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but she didn't break sharply when opening 2023 in the Feb. 25 Honeybee (G3), stalking up close in third. She never quit despite a rough trip in the stretch, winding up third, and the Gun Runner filly shows a pair of bullet five-furlong works in the interim. Grand Love figures to show speed from her inside post with new jockey Tyler Gaffalione, and I like her chances on the front end.

Vance Hanson: #5 Amazing Grace (5-2) is the class of the Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream Park and should prove as much, provided she handles the quick ground on her U.S. debut. A new addition to the Christophe Clement barn, which has a record seven wins in the Orchid, Amazing Grace landed a Group 2 at Baden-Baden last September and followed up with a third against males in the Preis von Europa (G1), in which she was beaten only three lengths by subsequent Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) hero Rebel's Romance. That bit of form is good enough for me.

Ashley Anderson: In the $100,000 Sanibel Island S. at Gulfstream, #3 Riding Pretty (5-1) has a chance to rebound following her troubled trip in her first graded stakes try when fifth by just a length and a half in the one-mile Herecomesthebride (G3) on March 4. Two back, the three-year-old filly got up by a neck in a 7 1/2-furlong allowance optional claimer while posting an 85 Brisnet Speed figure and beat today's race rival #10 Metaphysical (8-1), who finished second. Riding Pretty should benefit from a drop in class as well as a cutback to 7 1/2 furlongs, and trainer Eddie Owens Jr. is a 43% winner with horses going from long to short. Regular rider Paco Lopez, a 21% winner with presser types, will stick with the War Front granddaughter, who can upset morning line favorite #2 Love Appeals (3-1) in her second career race.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: A convincing sprint winner in his first two starts, #2 Eyeing Clover (5-2) will stretch to a two-turn mile as the morning-line choice in the Hot Springs S. at Oaklawn following a fourth as the favorite in the Gotham (G3) at a one-turn mile, weakening after dueling on the front end. There's some serious competition in the seven-horse field, and Eyeing Clover probably won't get an easy lead. I'll try to beat him at a two-turn trip.

VH: I'd be mildly surprised if #2 My Prankster (5-2) goes off favored in the Sir Shackleton S. at Gulfstream, but I guess he'll still be backed some and thus is still eligible as a worthy fade. Although he ran well against talented peers last season like Jack Christopher and Gunite, the colt hasn't run since late July and hasn't yet faced older horses. Two of the latter, Weyburn and Collaborate, ran one-two in this race last year and both figure tough nuts for My Prankster to crack off such a long spell.

AA: #5 First Captain (9-5) returned from a 50-day layoff to place second by a nose to Dynamic One in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban (G2) at Belmont last July, then jumped back up to Grade 1 competition in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where he got up late to finish 3 3/4 lengths in third to Olympiad. In his last start, the Curlin five-year-old cut back to 1 1/8 miles and came home 19 lengths fifth in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland while recording an 82 Brisnet Speed rating. Shortening up to 1 1/16 miles in his first start in more than five months should be a challenge for the Shug McGaughey pupil, who appears best suited for longer distances. At his expected price, I'll look elsewhere and back #4 O'Connor (3-1), who flashed a 98 Brisnet figure in his last two at today's distance and can benefit from a rider switch to Irad Ortiz Jr., a 28% winner at Gulfstream who's an impressive 8-for-15 paired with trainer Saffie Joseph over the last two months.

What else is worth noting?

JS: The Kentucky Derby (G1) spotlight shines upon the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) Saturday, and I'll side with #10 Red Route One (3-1) on the stretch out to 1 1/8 miles in the Arkansas Derby. The Gun Runner colt has come on at age three for Steve Asmussen, and Red Route One is eligible to receive a favorable setup with Two Eagles River adding speed to the mix. In the Florida Derby, Forte will have to negotiate traffic from an outside post, but I won't pick against the heavy favorite.

VH: For those looking to take a stand against Wet Paint in the Fantasy, early second choice #1 She's Lookin Lucky (5-2) looks plenty fast enough based on her recent two-turn form. Graduating by a baker's dozen at Fair Grounds two back, She's Lookin Lucky was a clear second best to promising Punchbowl in a track-and-distance allowance here on March 5. A fast track and positional speed ought to help her in this initial matchup against the deep-closing Wet Paint, who's only won on off tracks so far.

AA: Mendelssohn filly #5 Miracle (5-2) was named the morning line favorite in Saturday's Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), a 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep that will award points to the top five finishers on a 100-40-30-20-10 basis. Last out, Miracle came home three-quarters of a length in second in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) as a 13-1 choice when making her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher.

She's poised to take another step forward in her second start for the trainer, but her stablemate #6 Atomically (7-2) may get the perfect setup to return to the winner's circle. By Girvin, the bay filly made her debut for Pletcher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), where she came home 6 3/4 lengths in seventh. She followed up her graded stakes attempt with a third in the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) as the 2-1 favorite after breaking a bit slow. With a better start, she can rebound in her third start off a layoff.

But Atomically is not the only threat to Miracle's chances. It'll also be interesting to see if #4 Affirmative Lady (10-1) can step forward with the move up in class in her sixth career start. Trainer Graham Motion raced the Arrogate filly against graded stakes company as a maiden, and Affirmative Lady was just a neck shy of victory in the Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct. She broke her maiden last out, in her fifth career race, in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at today's track. The closer has a chance to factor late with Luis Saez aboard, especially with Miracle and #8 Dorth Vader (4-1) potentially wearing each other out in an early speed duel.