Starr: Wise Investments For Final Two Derby Dollars Contest Preps?

by | 04.14.2017 | 9:27am

The goal of the Derby Dollars Contest, sponsored by Stats Race Lens, 123bet.com and the Paulick Report, is to score points as if we were wagering to win, place and show. We are down to the wire in the contest, with the Arkansas Derby and Stonestreet Lexington Stakes this weekend and the Kentucky Derby in three weeks. The current leader has a score of $381 and the third place contestant has $340. With this weekend's scores based on $4 to win, place and show and the Derby score based on $6 to win place and show, some simple calculations should help you determine what horses at what odds you need to play to have a chance to earn a prize in the contest.

Arkansas Derby contenders:
Although still a maiden after nine races, Sonneteer has proven to be a very talented colt on occasion. Last fall in his third career start and first around two turns, Sonneteer missed winning by a nose. Two races later he closed fast for second to Royal Mo, who is Derby bound. His 3-year-old debut in January was irrelevant as he tried all-weather for the first time and ran poorly. However, three races later Sonneteer tried the Derby trail in the Rebel Stakes, rallying from last of eight and up the rail to squeeze through a tiny opening with about a sixteenth of a mile to go and gain second by a nose on the wire at odds of 112 to 1, earning a career best 103 Equibase Figure with that effort.

In the Arkansas Derby his late running style is likely to be benefitted because Rockin Rudy is a horse stretching out to two turns off three sprints in which he has led at the start and for the first quarter mile on very fast fractions to set up Sonneteer's late kick nicely. Additionally, Kent Desormeaux gets on for his brother Keith, and according to Stats Race Lens, when these two team up in dirt route races over the past year, they win nearly one-third of the time. With likely favorite Malagacy drawing a potentially disadvantageous extreme outside post, I think Sonneteer is the logical candidate to improve enough to win the Arkansas Derby and opening at 15 to 1 certainly would be a good play in the Derby Dollars Contest.

Malagacy earned a 106 Equibase figure second only to the 107 figure Rockin Rudy earned (but on turf) in his most recent race and is now a perfect three-for-three in his career, having run very strongly to win his first two career starts, both sprints, by an average of 11 lengths. In winning his last two races, Malagacy has been second from the start until about one-quarter mile to go, so it will be up to Castellano to use some of the horse's early energy to get good position in the race so as not to go very wide into the first turn, but not too much energy that it causes Malagacy to tire late.

Grandpa's Dream has run just four times, with his best effort by far coming in his most recent race, at Oaklawn Park last month. Running one mile and a sixteenth, Grandpa's Dream controlled the tempo from start to finish on the lead and won after battling head-and-head for the entire last eighth of a mile. In the Arkansas Derby, with the much speedier Rockin Rudy likely to have the lead from the start, Grandpa's Dream may find himself in a tracking trip and with lots of improving to do off his 96 Equibase Figure effort last time out, he may have a say in the outcome of the Arkansas Derby. Opening at 30 to 1 odds, Grandpa's Dream offers a lot of value for Derby Dollars Contest wagers.

Notes about some others: I am just not ready to commit to endorsing Classic Empire. Although he may have been short of 100% fit in his 2017 debut following three months off in the Holy Bull Stakes, the fact he has remained away from the races for more than two months since then raises questions that cannot be answered until we see him in a race. Untrapped and Petrov were a nose and two noses, respectively, behind runner-up Sonneteer in the Rebel and both have failed to gain ground in the last eighth of a mile in their last two races. Both can be considered for second and third positions on exacta or trifecta tickets played in the Arkansas Derby but they are not win contenders in my opinion.


Stonestreet Lexington Stakes contenders:
Time to Travel is entered in this stakes off just a maiden win but showed a lot of talent and maturity when winning that race easily just two weeks ago in Florida. He scored a 102 Equibase figure, the best last-race figure in the field. Not only that, but he is very likely to improve in his third career start while stretching out to two turns as he is a full brother to multiple stakes winner Hard Not to Like. With jockey Edgar Prado riding back, Time to Travel should get a great trip behind likely early leader West Coast and perhaps also the newly blinkered Convict Pike, or it is possible Prado will take advantage of being drawn inside the other potential “early” pace horses and can get the lead from the start and never look back.

Resiliency is the other main win contender. He won in his career debut last fall at seven furlongs as the prohibitive favorite then ran poorly 20 days later. Allowed two months off to mature, Resiliency returned in a two-turn race without a sprint prep first yet was only beaten two lengths at the finish. That turned out to be a “key race” from which he, the winner, and runner-up all came back to win their next races. With a last race 101 figure to improve upon in his third start off a layoff, Resiliency has a nice shot to be successful in the Lexington Stakes, too.

About some others: Senior Investment could only manage a sixth place finish in the Louisiana Derby two weeks ago but won two allowance level races and a maiden race prior to that, although he was disqualified out of the win in the first of the two allowance races. However, the best figure he earned in those wins was 90 so even improving a bit off the effort isn't good enough to beat either Time to Travel or Resiliency if they repeat or improve off their most recent efforts.

West Coast just broke his maiden like Time to Travel and with a similarly strong figure (101). However, he adds blinkers even though he ran second from start to finish at a mile in his debut and then showed early speed when a head off the lead for the first half mile before leading the rest of the way last time out. With an outside post not conducive to his running style, he is likely to go wide trying to get position, or will go too fast early for his own good, so he is susceptible to being passed late, although he could still hang on for a share.

My Derby Dollars Contest play in the Arkansas Derby will be Sonneteer.

My Derby Dollars Contest play in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes will be Time to Travel.

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