Speeding their way to the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby
Horses hit the track with dreams of wearing a blanket of pink, stargazer lilies or red roses. They are the immediate reward for winning the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. While the championship races are over in a little more than a minute, the path to a Churchill Downs starting gate in the first weekend of May is a long, long road.
There are two stops on the Kentucky Oaks trail and one for the Kentucky Derby this Saturday. The ladies will run for a chance to add 10 points to their Oaks qualifying totals in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Racetrack. Meanwhile, Derby hopefuls will share the Tampa track in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.
Suncoast Stakes Betting Picks
Nine three-year-old fillies will race 1-mile and 40 yards on Tampa’s main track for the Suncoast Stakes. The track favors horses that get out of the gates in a hurry. Of the 49 races run at the distance during the current Tampa Bay Downs meet, 34 winners were labeled early speed with 11 leading from the gun to the wire.
Three horses have a history of trying to lead the field all the way around the track:
LUCREZIA – Post Position (PP) 1 – Morning Line Odds (ML) 5-1
TWO SIXTY – PP: 3 ML 6-1
COMICAL – PP: 5 ML 3-1
Our Pick: TWO SIXTY – the Mark Casse trainee appears to be rounding into top form. She ran her fastest half and three-quarter mile times, ever, in her last start. Many times, this sort of improvement is a strong indicator for next race success.
Las Virgenes Stakes Betting Picks
Much like the Suncoast Stakes, the Las Virgenes in Southern California favors, no make that, nearly guarantees a speed horse will visit the winners’ circle for a photo session. A whopping 17 of the 22 winners at 1-mile on dirt raced on/near the lead from start to finish. Even more amazingly, nine took the top prize in wire-to-wire fashion.
Unfortunately, at least for horseplayers, the 2/5 morning line favorite VENETIAN HARBOR (PP: 4) appears to be the fastest on paper. She never trailed in her last start and beat a field of eight by 10 lengths.
In our opinion, the value play here is GINGHAM (PP: 2 ML 6-1). Top jockey Drayden Van Dyke most likely had a choice between GINGHAM and STELLAR SOUND (PP: 5 ML 5-1). He chose GINGHAM, which tells us which horse Van Dyke thinks has a better chance to win.
Our Pick: Exacta Box using VENETIAN HARBOR and GINGHAM.
INDEPENDENCE HALL is currently the second choice to win the 2020 Kentucky Derby at 10-1 future odds and leads a field of eight in the Grade III, Sam F. Davis Stakes. The boys will race 1 1/16-miles on Tampa’s dirt track. Again, speed is like cash money, King. Twenty-two of the 27 to hit the tape first at the distance and surface are speed horses.
A trio of speed horse try to pilot this group around two left turns to the checkered flag.
INDEPENDENCE HALL (PP: 4 ML 6/5)
PREMIER STAR (PP: 6 ML 3-1)
CHAPALU (PP: 8 ML 6-1)
Our Pick: If he’s one of the favorites to win the 2020 Kentucky Derby, INDEPENDENCE HALL should be able to handle this field. He’s undefeated in three starts and none of them have been close, winning by at least 4 lengths.