Derby Preps: Beating Favorites in Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby

Michael DempseyFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2013

Hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert sends out a trio of runners in the Santa Anita Derby
Hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert sends out a trio of runners in the Santa Anita DerbyMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

 There are two major Derby preps on tap on Saturday, and both the Grade 1 $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Grade 1 $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park will have imposing short priced favorites.

At Aqueduct, the Todd Pletcher trained Verrazano is the 4-5 morning line favorite in a ten-horse field in the Wood. The undefeated colt won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in his stakes debut on March 9. The colt has already taken plenty of betting action, closing at 7-1 in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

At Santa Anita, a field of eight will go to the post in the Santa Anita Derby. The second choice, Hear the Ghost, was scratched on Thursday due to coming up lame in a workout and was scratched early from the race.

That leaves the Bob Baffert trained Flashback as the 6-5 morning line favorite. The colt was the beaten favorite in his last start in a runner-up finish to Hear the Ghost in the Grade 2 San Felipe.

Baffert, who has won the Santa Anita Derby six times, will also saddle Grade 1 Frontrunner winner, Power Broker (4-1), and Grade 3 Southwest winner, Super Ninety Nine (9-2).

It is tough to play chalk in these Derby preps, so I am looking to beat both. In addition, I have a filly in the Grade 1 $500,000 Ashland at Keeneland that figures to be in the mix at a price.

The Ashland serves as a major prep for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 3 at Churchill Downs.

Here are three price plays for Saturday’s stakes action:


Aqueduct Race 11, The Wood Memorial (G1) Post time 6:28 (NBC Sports Network)

The two "V's" (Verrazano and Vyjack) are going to garner most of the betting action so let's try to beat not one, but both for the top spot with longshot Elnaawi (12-1). The $580,000 Keeneland purchase made his stakes debut in a third place finish in the Gotham (G3) last out, beaten by 2 3/4 lengths by Vyjack for the top spot.

The colt was bumped coming out of the gate as he leaned in on a foe. He got caught in tight and had to steady, raced four wide much of the trip going into the far turn and finished up well late. The racing strip was playing slightly more favorably to inside speed that day. This guy caught sloppy tracks in his first two starts and still looks as if he has a ton of upside potential.

The colt is by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense, and out of the stakes winner, Pilfer ($126,360), who has dropped one other winner, multiple Grade 1 stakes winner, To Honor and Serve ($1.79 million). The colt put in a bullet drill on March 30 and has plenty of pedigree to handle nine furlongs.


Santa Anita Race 9, The Santa Anita Derby (G1) Post time 4:00 PT (NBC Sports Network)

Super Ninety Nine (9-2) drew a tough post, was under a ride early and weakened in the stretch in a fifth place finish in the Rebel (G2) where this guy just did not fire his best. Baffert has been deadly at Oaklawn Park in recent years and the colt ran huge winning the Southwest (G3) two back in the slop, winning by 11 1/4 lengths.

The colt has worked quickly since his last outing, and I'm looking for him to bounce back with a better effort here. Baffert has won this race six times so he knows how to get them ready and the 9-2 morning line after the scratch of Hear the Ghost still looks more than fair.


Keeneland Race 9, The Central Bank Ashland (G1) Post time 5:23 ET

Spring in the Air (8-1) disappointed as my top pick in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), bet down from a 15-1 morning line to 6-1 and checking in a non-threatening fifth. That outing came on dirt and she has shown she is best on the fake stuff, landing in the exacta in all four trips over synthetic surfaces.

The filly was a game second to her stablemate, Spring Venture, last out at Ocala and figures to move forward off that effort. She made a good late run to win the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland last fall. She offers decent value in a wide open race if she goes off near her 8-1 morning line.


Morning line odds provided by Equibase.


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