It’s finally here: Kentucky Derby Weekend!
You’ve watched replays, handicapped, looked over workouts, watched preview shows, listened to the experts, and now you’re ready to crush the Kentucky Derby.
There’s only one problem: You have to get through two days and 23 races at Churchill Downs until the gates open for the Kentucky Derby. That’s a lot of action and it’s easy to cut into – or even blow – your whole Derby bankroll before they even play “My Ol’ Kentucky Home” if you’re not careful.
To ensure we make it to the Kentucky Derby with enough bullets to fire for a big score, I’m going to be focusing on a few value plays that have the potential to build your bankroll for the Derby.
Let’s start our value selections on Friday in Race #3. It’s a six furlong sprint for maiden colts and geldings, ages three and up. Most of the money will most likely go to 5/2 morning line favorite, Bugle Notes (PP 8). Bugle Notes is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez. My value play for this race is Keros. Keros (PP 6) is a son of First Samurai, out of the Seeking the Gold mare, Liable. Liable is the dam of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Winner, Blame, making Keros a half-brother to the Classic champ.
In his debut, Keros broke last in a field of 11 at Turfway Park. He showed a lot of talent when he went head-to-head with the winner down the stretch before being beaten a length. This Claiborne home-bred is trained by Tommy Drury and ridden by jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. Drury hits at a 29% clip with second-time starters. All the signs point to this colt running a big race and he should be a must-use in all of your wagers.
My next value play on the Kentucky Oak’s card is in Race #6 the La Troienne (G1) for fillies and mares who are 3-years-old and up, going 8.5 furlongs. There’s a total lack of early speed in this race. Multiple graded stakes winner, Abel Tasman (PP 3), will be making her seasonal debut on the track she won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on a year ago. She’ll be less than even money, which gives her no value, and the fact that she’s making her seasonal debut in a race with no early speed makes her unplayable for me.
At first glance, I really wanted to pick Farrell (PP 2) in this spot. She’s going to be alone on the lead and I don’t foresee a lot of pace pressure for her, and she should go off at good odds. Unfortunately, I just don’t think she’s better than the mare who beat her in the Azeri (G2), Martini Glass (PP 8).
Martini Glass is a strong shot of talent. Ultra consistent, this daughter of Kitalpha is 17 for 23 in-the-money in her career and she’s never been in better form for trainer Keith Nations. I think she has enough early speed to sit a stalking trip. We’ll play Martini Glass for a refreshing score at odds of 5-1 or better.
My third and final value play on Kentucky Oaks Day comes in Race #8, The Alysheba (G2). Older males will be racing at the 8.5 furlong distance on the dirt. Another horse making his return a year later to the scene of his greatest score is Always Dreaming (PP 3), last year’s Derby winner. On paper it looks like the race will set up perfectly for the Todd Pletcher trained son of Bodemeister. There’s not much speed in this race, so he looks like he’ll have things his own way. He’s going to be heavily bet, so I will be looking to Backyard Heaven for the upset.
Backyard Heaven (PP 4) is a lightly raced colt by Tizway. He’s only had three career starts and this will be his first test in stakes company. The Chad Brown charge boasts eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures in his last two races, 97 and 108, respectively. He’s untested and unproven, so the extent of his talent could be limitless at this point. I anticipate that he’ll sit a stalking trip and get first run at Always Dreaming. We could see a superstar in the making here. He’ll have to deal with late closers Good Samaritan (PP 1) and Hoppertunity (PP 5), but I think this colt is up for the task. I’ll be using him at odds of 3/1 or better.
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Photo of Martini Glass courtesy of Coady Photography