The Jury: Bets and Fades for April 22

April 21st, 2023

Older horses are in the spotlight across the country on Saturday with graded tests scheduled at Keeneland, Oaklawn Park, and Santa Anita. Handicappers Vance Hanson and Keeler Johnson have checked out those races and others for this week's Jury selections.

What is your best bet?

Vance Hanson: The $200,000 Bath House Row S. at Oaklawn Park looks like a good rebound spot for #6 Victory Formation (3-1), who was saddled with a wide draw and didn't come close to making the lead when favored in the Risen Star (G2). He retreated badly in that race in what proved to be a sub-par effort against Kentucky Derby (G1)-bound Angel of Empire, whom he had previously outrun in the Jan. 1 Smarty Jones S. I think Victory Formation can out-hustle the quick-returning Two Eagles River to the lead here and will take some catching. 

Keeler Johnson: #1 Defunded (4-5) won’t be much of a price in the Californian (G2) at Santa Anita, but if you’re looking for a horse to single in multi-race wagers, the five-year-old gelding is a viable candidate. Last time out, he finished third by less than one length after carving out the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita H. (G1). That marked Defunded’s second game but losing performance over 1 1/4 miles, following a runner-up finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita last year.

Cutting back to 1 1/8 miles should be a perfect fit for Defunded, considering his last three starts over this trip have yielded wins in the Awesome Again (G1) and Native Diver (G3) plus a runner-up finish in the Pegasus World Cup (G1). Defunded is the most accomplished horse in the Californian field and should be tough to catch while facing five rivals over his preferred distance.

Who is the horse to fade?

VH: Although he might appreciate an off track if there is one left over from the forecasted early morning rain, #4 Skippylongstocking (7-5) seems too short a price to absolutely love in the Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland. Granted, his two modest runs of late came against G1 company in the Pennsylvania Derby and Pegasus World Cup, but frankly would have expected a better try in either or both. A horse with that kind of in-and-out cycle is hard to bite on at less than 2-1.

KJ: #4 Red Route One is the 2-1 morning line favorite to win the 1 1/8-mile Bath House Row S. at Oaklawn Park, but he’s not necessarily a lock to win. Top-three finishes in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), Southwest (G3), and Rebel (G2) have demonstrated Red Route One’s talent, but he’s exiting a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1), and it’s worth noting this deep-closing colt has never won on dirt.

What else is worth noting?

VH: Good things seem to happen when jockey Gerardo Corrales climbs aboard #6 Nobals (8-1), thus he seems a horse worth keeping an eye on in the 10th and final race at Keeneland, a 5 1/2-furlong conditioned allowance for older horses on the turf. Nobals' last three wins have come with Corrales aboard, and the gelding should benefit greatly from his recent comeback second at Turfway, his first in seven months. Speed has been holding well on this course this month, which might help negate the effects of any pace pressure Nobals might encounter. 

KJ: Charge It is taking on a deep field in the Oaklawn H. (G2), and his performance may be pivotal to his future. The beautifully bred son of Tapit has shown flashes of serious talent—remember his 23-length demolition of the 2022 Dwyer (G3)?—but he also has a tendency to race greenly. If Charge It can put everything together with a big run at Oaklawn, we could be looking at a future Grade 1 winner in the making. But he can’t afford to race greenly against elite competition; it arguably cost him victory in the Florida Derby (G1) last year.