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Saturday Stakes: 3 Will make Kentucky Derby Plans, Our Picks to Run for the Roses
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2020
by: Rich Bieglmeier
The 2020 Kentucky Derby will welcome at least three more horses to field. The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bays Downs, and the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita are 50 pointers.
The horses that run their way into the winners' circle for the trio of Saturday's qualifying races get 50 Kentucky Derby points, place horses place 20 points in bucket, 10 for third and five for the superfecta clean up hitter. Ulysses S. Grant ($50 bill) points have been more than enough to be eligible for the Derby since the scoring system was instilled in 2013.
We'll start with Batman, the Gotham Stakes, 1 mile on Aqueduct's main track. Unlike the Caped Crusader, horses won't be able to glide, instead they'll have to fly early. Win the race to the 1/4 pole and there is almost a 25% chance of breaking the tape. Add in the silver and bronze after the opening quarter and the odds of winning move to 60%. That's a strong speed bias that cannot be overlooked.
Mischevious Alex winning the Grade III Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park
MISCHEVIOUS ALEX (PP: 6 ML 3-1) should be on/near the lead early and will look to fly his third consecutive W flag. He's made E-Z work of the field in his last two starts, scoring 7 and 9 3/4 length wins. He's our pick to make 2020 Kentucky Derby plans and earn Gotham's 50.
Chance It winning easily at Gulfstream Park
CHANCE IT (PP: 4 ML 5/2) scratched out of last weekend's Fountain of Youth Stakes opting run for the Tampa Bay Derby's 50 points instead. Maybe, owners Shooting Star Thoroughbreds thought they couldn't get the best of DENNIS' MOMENT despite having home court advantage. Although DENNIS' MOMENT's Derby hopes are likely finished, it's doubtful CHANCE IT would have gotten the better of ETE INDIEN.
Choosing the Tampa Bay Derby could be the right choice as CHANCE IT's running style is a better fit for Tampa Bay Downs' speed bias than the morning line favorite SOLE VOLANTE's (PP: 7 ML 2-1) closing approach. CHANCE IT is our choice to put Churchill Downs on his May calendar.
The San Felipe Stakes got scratched last year during Santa Anita's horse safety concerns shutdown. Going dark most likely screwed up the chances for many west coast horses' chartered courses to the 2019 Derby.
Santa Anita's management has righted the ship, as we knew they would. A field of seven will take to Santa Anita's dirt track, but we see it as a two-horse race between trainer Bob Baffert's AUTHENTIC (PP: 4 ML 6/5) and Bob Baffert's THOUSAND WORDS (PP: 5 ML 9/5).
Thousand Words winning the Los Alamitos Futurity
Both would likely see one another again in the Kentucky Derby if they run one, two. It's almost a for sure Baffert's duo will be in Louisville, Kentucky should AUTHENTIC take the gold and THOUSAND WORDS the silver. THOUSAND WORDS already has 20 points, second would double the total to 40, which has been enough to qualify since the 2013 points-based system was implemented. A second for AUTHENTIC would be borderline as his total to would increase from 10 to 30.
We lean ever so slightly towards THOUSAND WORDS because he's making his second start after a two-month rest. His limited history says he'll take a step forward in round two. Whereas, AUTHENTIC is running for the first time in two-months.
For more on the three Derby Trail races, check out our guest spot on Absolute Degeneracy's Horse Racing Play's for March 7th podcast. And, pick up our GOTHAM STAKES WAGER GUIDE for thorough analysis of the Gotham Stakes, Stymie Stakes, Grade III Tom Fool Handicap and Busher Invitational Stakes.
Good luck at the races!
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