The Kentucky Derby prep season kicks into gear on December 26! Fair Grounds racetrack adds Derby spice to your holidays with the ungraded Gun Runner Stakes, contested at 8.5 furlongs.
The tepid morning-line Favorite, Jace’s Road, looks legitimate to us. With an inside post and the best demonstrated early speed, this $500,000 yearling trained by Brad Cox owns advantages in key categories. He tops the field in terms of pedigree, connections (Florent Geroux rides) and speed.
His initial two-turn try, in only his second start, resulted in a game third-place finish in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs. Many bettors will see his uncharacteristic noneffort last time out as a reason to bet against him. We see it as an opportunity to grab good odds on a solid favorite. Erase that race and you’d be looking at an even-money play (as Jace’s Road was last time out).
Our reasoning for ignoring that bad race: Something went wrong that day, as evidenced by the horse throwing Geroux pre-race. And if the horse wasn’t 100% now, Cox would wait for a “nonwinners of one other” allowance race to test the waters. There are plenty of those to be found this time of year, but Cox puts Jace’s Road right back on the Kentucky Derby prep path (specifically, the one he used for Epicenter last year).
We’ll take the pedigree, pace advantage and bonus money.
As a possible upsetter, #7 Andthewinneris (7-2) switches from turf to dirt. By our measures he owns the best closing kick. His efforts against topnotch US turfers indicate a high degree of talent. If a pace duel erupts, Andthewinneris might live up to his name at the end of the long Fair Grounds stretch.
A Noncontender That’ll Take Action
The wise-guy choice seems to be #4 Determinedly (7-2), who comes off a runaway maiden score at 7 furlongs. Several factors suggest his strength is sprinting and that this 2-turn stakes race will prove too tough for him:
- He hung in the stretch in all his 2-turn turf tries.
- When switched to dirt he was plenty fit, but Casse elected to run him in sprints.
- His dam sire shows 6.6. furlongs for average winning distance of his offspring.
So the presence of Luis Saez in the saddle strikes us as a factor that’ll attract money but not produce a win. We wouldn’t be shocked to see Determinedly go off as the favorite, or at least well below his 7-2 morning line.