The Bomb-Sniffing Handicapper: Derby Day
The Bomb-Sniffing Handicapper whiffed on the Oaks itself, but it wasn't a bad day overall, considering the long layoff since the Breeders' Cup. In the four races handicapped yesterday, the BSH ended up with two seconds and a third. Welcome Dance, at 13-1, finished third in the Edgewood Stakes. That was followed by Fort Larned, a 10-1 morning line runner that got nipped before the wire in the Alysheba. Then, in the American Turf Stakes, the BSH special Travel Advisory came charging late to take second at 24-1.
So, no bomb winners on day one, but three-for-four in the money with morning line picks of 10-1 or higher. Not too shabby. Let's just say we were getting the equipment warmed up for Derby day. Now, for the main event:
Race 7: Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes – $400,000 for 4-year-olds and upward, 7 furlongs
While this race has limited bomb activity and several classy favorites, there are a couple in here that pique some interest.
Gantry (20-1): There are few things the Bomb-Sniffing Handicapper likes more than proven winners stepping up in class at long odds. Gantry, trained by Ron Faucheux, is climbing from non-graded stakes in Louisiana to a Grade 2, facing the likes of Shackleford and Amazombie. Does he have a chance to advance his four-race winning streak against this salty bunch? Maybe not, but Faucheux is currently 40% second off a layoff and a 24% shipper. Jockey Richard Eramia isn't a household name at Churchill, but he certainly is at Fair Grounds. While admittedly facing small, non-graded stakes fields, Gantry's last four winning speed figures in fast races are competitive in this field at a bomb price, and he has a career winning percentage of 55% in 11 starts.
Alma D'oro (10-1): On the flip side of Gantry, Alma D'oro is one for his last 10, but not only have those races all been routes, he's been running in some serious company. Last four start winners: Fort Larned, who just missed in a track record performance by Successful Dan on the Oaks card; Nates Mineshaft, Thiskyhasnolimit and Wise Dan. With the exception of a 12-length loss to the sizzling Wise Dan, Alma D'oro hit the board in those three other races. Now, the 6-year-old son of Medaglia D'oro cuts back to 7 furlongs for the hottest-in-the-country graded stakes tandem of Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano after popping a high speed figure in a race confirmed by Fort Larned's performance Friday.
Bomb Potential: MEDIUM
Bombs Away: Gantry, Alama D'oro
Race 8: Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile – $200,000 for fillies and mares 4 years old and upward, one mile on the turf
City To City (15-1): This daughter of very productive turf sire, City Zip, comes into the Distaff in excellent form from a long stretch in California for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. She's got a nice closing kick, and in her last four turf starts – all Grade 2's – she has one victory and three other races in which she's been within two lengths of the winner. The 5-year-old's speed figs have improved in each of her last three starts. Corey Nakatani stays aboard, with his 18% clip on the turf, so there is reason to think this one will factor in here at a nice price.
Bomb Potential: LOW
Bombs Away: City To City
Race 9: Grade 1 Humana Distaff Stakes – $300,000 for fillies and mares 4 years old and upward, 7 furlongs on the turf
Salty Strike (15-1): This 4-year-old gal has four lifetime wins from 12 starts. Guess how many have come at Churchill Downs? That's right, all four – from five starts on the main track. The daughter of Smart Strike obviously likes the surface, and two races back, she whipped Dancinginherdreams by four lengths on the Breeders' Cup undercard. Dancinginherdreams just won on the Oaks undercard Friday, albeit on the turf with new trainer Bill Mott. Still, you can't discount the Churchill form or the form of her rider, Julien Leparoux, at this meet so far (36%).
Hot Summer (20-1): Her trainer, David Fawkes, knows a thing or two about sprinters, having trained Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Big Drama. Hot Summer, a daughter of Malibu Moon, got dusted by this race's co-favorite Groupie Doll twice last year, but those races were at the bull ring of Charles Town and on the Polytrack at Keeneland. In her most recent start – the Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream in March – Hot Summer narrowly lost to Musical Romance (4-1 in here) and bested Groupie Doll. As a 4-year-old, she might hit her best stride with new jock Rafael Bejarano in this Grade 1.
Bomb Potential: MEDIUM
Bombs Away: Salty Strike, Hot Summer
Race 10: Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic – $500,000 for 4 year olds and upward, 1 1/8 miles on the turf
There's a lot of speed in this race and a few favorites that might be able to take advantage. But the event also seems to have serious bomb potential. Here are a couple of prospects:
Al Khali (15-1): This guy quite obviously relishes the grass under his feet. His connections gave him a dirt anomaly in the Donn Handicap two back at Gulfstream, and he was god-awful, losing by 43 1/2 lengths. Not one to ignore the obvious, trainer Bill Mott put the son of Medaglia D'oro back on his familiar turf at Keeneland in the last start, and Al Khali responded with a grass-loving, easy win at this distance in an allowance. The 6-year-old has won a quarter of his races – most of them coming earlier in his career – but the Bomb-Sniffing Handicapper won't count him out of this one with his wily-veteran-swift-turn-of-foot late.
Papaw Bodie (30-1): In his last race, a Grade 2, he narrowly missed capping off a five-race winning streak. That's nothing to sneeze at, considering his last five races have come at five different tracks. His speed figures are very competitive and so is his trainer, Michael Maker. He's got an outside post and a stalking style that might just suit this race at a big price.
Bomb Potential: HIGH
Bombs Away: Al Khali, Papaw Bodie
Race 11 – Grade 1 Kentucky Derby – $2 million for 3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles
Since it's the Derby, we have tweaked the BSH equipment to look for higher-odds frequencies than just 10-1. We're looking for super-bombs that might detonate the trifecta or superfecta.
Sabercat (30-1): Trainer Steve Asmussen knows how to get one ready for a big race, and Sabercat might just be sitting on his best. The Delta Downs Jackpot winner has been disappointing since that victory last year, but he's slowing rounding into form and might just pounce third off a layoff when it counts the most.
Done Talking (50-1): The final time of the Illinois Derby was slower than post-Derby traffic, but this guy scorched the track in the late-going to get up for the win. The BSH would not be surprised to see him passing tired horses late and making somebody richer than they were two minutes ago. Trainer Hamilton Smith had never even been to Churchill Downs before this week, let alone run in the world's most famous race, but that's the kind of story that permeates the Derby.
Prospective (30-1): The Bomb-Sniffing Handicapper senses people believe Prospective lost all appeal by failing to impress against Dullahan in the stretch run of the Blue Grass at Keeneland. After all, this son of Malibu Moon started off his career impressively over the turf and the Polytrack at Woodbine, and he finished last on the Churchill Downs dirt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year. But the BSH believes this Mark Casse-trainee is absolutely a dirt horse – one that could surprise the crowd ignoring him in the big one.
Bomb Potential: IT'S THE DERBY
Bombs Away: Sabercat, Done Talking, Prospective