Looks like we’ll ease into this Kentucky Derby weekend with 3 races to play.
As I state in The Punter’s Tale, finding false favorites in stakes races is tricky. Most entrants seem to have good form and lots of accomplishments, so the favorites appear solid when you apply the usual measures.
That reality limited the plays available at Churchill Downs. But we do see Kentucky Oaks favorite Nest as highly vulnerable.
The tracks this weekend are Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park. (We’ll catch up on our recordkeeping next week, after the Derby.)
CHURCHILL DOWNS (Friday, May 6, 2022)
RACE 11. Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. 1 mile and 1/8th. Dirt.
False Favorite: #4 Nest (5-2).
Reason: Nest owns no pace or final-time advantage over this talented and highly accomplished field. Her last 2 victories saw her power away from rivals to win by open lengths. But the only runner from those races that was good enough to enter the Oaks is the 20-1 NY-bred filly Venti Valentine, who has yet to win a graded stakes race.
This race appears wide open, and pressing the All button for your exotic wagers might be a good idea. We’ll try to narrow the possibilities to three.
#6 Yuugiri (30-1). Florent Geroux, the regular rider for Turnerloose and her trainer Brad Cox, keeps the mount on this runner from another stable. My pace figures show that her allowance win at Oaklawn was equal to Cyberknife’s Arkansas Derby win on the same day.
#7 Echo Zulu (4-1). Her most recent race off a long layoff looks like a great conditioner for this event.
#10 Kathleen O (7-2). Her win in the Florida Oaks earned a BRIS speed figure one point higher than that of Florida Derby winner White Abarrio. My pace figures agree with BRIS. You don’t see that often.
GULFSTREAM PARK (Friday, May 6, 2022)
RACE 3. Claiming $20,000 N2L. 6 furlongs. Dirt.
False Favorite: #5 Tuwaim (7-5).
Reason: He fits the Falling Knife definition from The Punter’s Tale. He takes almost a 50% drop in claiming price first time off the claim. That drop comes on the heels of a complete meltdown while racing as the even-money favorite. Lots to dislike here.
#1 Frolic Man (3-1). The one-mile attempt proved too long for him, but the trainer wasn’t disappointed enough to drop him in class. The cut back to 6 furlongs makes sense, the class level shows confidence and the jockey switch to new king of the hill Vasquez indicates they’re serious.
#2 High Press (9-2). He blasted through 6 furlongs in a race 1 mile and 70 yards long. His fractions in the route were nearly as fast as those of the sprinters here. He should handle everything the early runners can throw at him.
RACE 9. Maiden Claimer $40,000. 5 furlongs. All Weather.
False Favorite: #5 Adios Gary (5-2).
Reason: In all 4 lifetime starts he has managed to lose ground in the stretch while never racing beyond 5.5 furlongs. His raw times are not the fastest in the field, which might explain why he failed to win as the 1-2 favorite when dropped to this level last time out.
#6 Major King (7-2). His debut effort saw him duel through insanely fast opening quarters before tiring and holding on to second place. Just a smidgen more patience should get him the win.
#7 Awesome Crusader (3-1). He finished ahead of the heavily favored Adios Gary last time out. He probably will do the same today.