As you grow as a handicapper, you should begin to realize what kinds of races you find the most success. For some it's the $5,000 claimer at Penn National for others allowance races on the turf - my liking and highest success rate comes from betting graded stakes races. This doesn't make me better than bettors hammering the windows on maiden claimers, my comfort level and handicapping style just happens to lead me to the highest levels of competition. All this being said, if you're good with a class or particular track, you really should learn to pass on races and places that aren't your strengths. But hey, it's your betting dollars....
Race 8 - Grade II Davona Dale, 1 mile, 3 YO Fillies
Interesting race with two main directions to take - potential, loose-on-the-lead or a couple of deep closers. Why not cover yourself and play both ways in case your pace analysis for the race is dead wrong, one way or the other.
Mending Hearts makes a big class leap for trainer Martin Wolfson, going from maiden special weights to stakes company. Mending Hearts' Beyer Speed figure progression has continued upward in each of her three lifetime starts, breaking from the rail under aggressive jockey Jose Lezcano, who will likely shoot her to the lead; she may never look back. The biggest price in the sequence. If Mending Hearts isn't good enough, Pomeroys Pistol is. This three-year-old daughter of Pomeroy is the most likely leader. I'm guessing she still won't get the respect she deserves and will break as third betting choice. Dancinginherdreams is the likely favorite and great things are expected of her. She was getting to Pomroys Pistol near the finish line in their last start together and this race is a furlong farther. Oh Carole and R Heat Lightning are tough to leave off the ticket, but you can't play them all.
Race 9 - Grade II, Hutcheson, 7 furlongs, 3 YO
This races features a few still on the Derby trail and a few that have fallen off the wagon, falling back to shorter, sprint distances. Here, you'll have to decide, despite where the colt lies on the road to roses, which will be your winner.
Crossbow is one still on the trail and winner at this tricky seven furlong distance in his last start about a month ago. Ramon Dominguez reunites with this son of Bernardini and they'll likely have to go for the lead breaking from the one hole. When you put up a 106 Beyer speed figure in your first race, it draws attention. Travelin Man did just that in a January 6 maiden special weight win going six furlongs on the Gulfstream strip. Too dangerous to leave off the the ticket, but regression is just as likely as a step up. Just about every other horse in here wants the lead, the problem being there is just one leader or worse a likely speed battle up front, opening the door for a late-moving closer. Since I've included what I feel are the two best up front speed candidates, I'll include just one possible closer, Leave of Absence. This once touted Triple Crown threat, will likely stick to the sprinters path with a win here. If the first two quarter-mile splits fall around 22.5, 45.5, he should have the best chance at getting to some tiring speed. The hardest horse to leave off is the intriguing Manciero, shipping in from Calder off four consecutive wins. I hate not including horses on such winning streaks, but feel the move up in class will take its toll.
Race 10 - Grade II Fountain of Youth, 1 1/8 miles, 3YO
Another top-notch Kentucky Derby prep race. For my full analysis of the race please click to my ThoroFan Handicapping post. The Reader's Digest version - three proven stake horses go up against five knocking on the door. On paper, To Honor and Serve, is the best of the lot and a deserving favorite. A two-time graded stakes win under the care of Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve, is my early Derby favorite. That being said, all horses coming off extended layoffs - To Honor and Serve last raced in November - are liable to come up short their first time back. While I've gained respect for Gourmet Dinner and think Casper's Touch is the best of the improving horses, Soldat is my top choice here. Second off the layoff after winning for fun in a January 21 allowance race in slop, Soldat, gives ultra-sharp trainer Kiaran McLaughlin a great chance to cash his first Derby ticket.
Allow me to give you three options for a $1 Pick Three:
El cheapo: 1-8-9/1-3-7/1 for $9
Moderate: 1-8-9/1-3-7-9/1-7 for $24
Bankrolling: 1-4-8-9/1-2-3-7-9/1-2-4-7 for $80
Good luck with all your wagers!