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Post Time: Live from the Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Good afternoon from Churchill Downs and Happy Derby Day! We have a beautiful day here in Kentucky and an overflow crowd is expected to enjoy the weather and the ponies for Kentucky Derby 140. Temperatures are approaching the low 70s and it couldn’t be a better day for the 19 contenders to run for the roses. Post time for the Derby is 6:32 p.m.

Through the first five races the main track was listed as fast and the turf course firm and it is expected to remain that way for the remainder of the afternoon. There also have been a large number of mint juleps that have been served. 

We had a runaway victory in yesterday’s Kentucky Oaks, as Untapable patiently stayed off the pace and left her rivals behind after reaching the quarter pole for jockey Rosie Napravnik and trainer Steve Asmussen. A crowd of 113,071 were on hand on Friday to see the talented filly hand both Napravnik and Asmussen their second career Oaks victories. The crowd was the third largest in Oaks history. Untapable earned a healthy 107 Beyer Speed figure in the win. 

Asmussen reported this morning that she came out of the race in fine shape and will get a few days off to recover from her impressive victory. "We'll just let her rest up from her efforts yesterday," said Asmussen. 

The Oaks link above also includes the Oaks-Derby $2 Double will-pays. Yours truly is live on two $3 tickets to my top two picks in today's paper, Intense Holiday ($87.60) and Danza ($66.90).  I also played a $0.50 Oaks/Woodford/Derby Pick-3 singling Wise Dan in the Woodford to 4, 8, 14, 16, 18 and 20 in the Derby. Please feel free to root any of those six horses home! You can also check out my Kentucky Derby spreadsheet for all of the numbers, speed figures and pedigree information.

Yesterday at Buffalo Raceway, I was on live from Louisville on the AM 1270 Rich Gaenzler Show, check the podcast here if you'd like to hear the interview and my thoughts on Derby 140. You can also wager today at the Raceway in Hamburg and receive on-track odds. 

The most successful jockeys in the race are Gary Stevens (19-3-2-1, Candy Boy) and Calvin Borel (11-3-0-1, Ride on Curlin), the only two with more than one victory riding this afternoon. 

The Buffalo Bills posted an interesting article on late owner Ralph Wilson's connection to horse racing that can be found here. Wilson bred Arazi, who finished eighth in the 1992 Derby and Jim French, the 1971 Santa Anita winner who finished second in that year's Derby. 

We'll carry you along the five graded stakes races leading up to the Derby starting with Race 6, so stick around, check back and I'll keep you updated on what's going on at Churchill Downs. 

1:00 p.m.: The first stakes race on the card is the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for older Fillies and Mares going a mile on the turf course. I'm going to play a trifecta wheel using 9-Centre Court (9-5) on top of 1-Tapicat, 2-Coffee Clique, 3-Miz Ida and 8-Effie Trinket. The cost of that bet is $6 for fifty cents. I'll back wheel an exacta to protect against her getting nipped at the wire for a $1 with those four on top of the 9 (cost $4).  Centre Court is coming in third off the layoff, a key handicapping angle.

1:36 p.m.: Well, I had it half right. 2-Coffee Clique ($13.80) held off long shot 4-Dame Marie ($31.60 to place) to win the Distaff Turf Mile. Centre Court gave up too much ground early and didn't have enough grass left when she made her run finishing a disappointing fifth.

One of the bonuses of having a press pass is being able to go into the winner's circle, where I just bumped into Miss Kentucky for a photo opportunity.

1:38 p.m.: Race 7 is the Grade 1 Humana Distaff Stakes a 7-furlong sprint for the ladies. I was going to go with 2-Heart Stealer (5-1) across the board, but unfortunately she scratched this morning. I figure 3-Judy the Beauty will take a lot of dough at the windows and although 8-Midnight Lucky may be the class of this field, she is coming off a lengthy layoff, so I'll wait one out on her. That leaves me with the Smith/Hollendorfer combo and 5-Scherzinger (say that five times fast) who is 7-2 on the morning line. We'll throw $2 bucks across the board on her for fun.

2:22 p.m.: 8-Midnight Lucky ($5.20) kept up Rosie Napravnik's winning ways over the weekend with a solid win over the mid-priced 1-Street Girl ($13.80 to place) completing a nice $108 exacta for two bucks. My choice 5-Scherzinger ($3.80 for show) hit the board and completed the trifecta that paid $117 for fifty cents.

Next up is the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at 8 1/2-furlongs over the turf course restricted to 3-year-olds. If you're looking for a bomber today, you may find it in this race. If the pace melts down, the closer 1-Cleburne (30-1) is one to consider. I'll start a Pick-3 here into the Wise Dan race, to hunt for some value. We'll start it off with him, 2-Chief Barker (5-1), 5-Global View (9-2), 8-Storming Inti (my top pick) and 10-Picozza (5-1). This seems like a wide open race so we'll go five deep in the American Turf.

2:25 p.m.: One of the newest features at Churchill Downs is the new Big Board, the world's largest 4K video board that sits off the backside of the track and can be seen by folks in the infield, as well as those in the grandstands. The mammoth displace screen measures 171-feet wide by 90-feet tall sits 80 feet above the ground with an active display area of 15,224 square feet. That's one big board all right. Here's a view of the board from the backside that I took on Thursday morning during training hours.

Some fun facts about the board include that it weighs 1.24 million pounds, the equivalent of 9,850 jockeys at a maximum weight of 126 pounds. The active screen display is larger than three basketball courts of 2,200 46-inch flat panel TVs. It's brightness is approximately 30 times brighter than a standard HDTV and finally, the wind speed it is designed to withstand is 90 miles an hour (enough to withstand a Category 1 hurricane!

2:50 p.m.: Latest Kentucky Derby odds have California Chrome still as the favorite at 2-1. Second choice is 20-Wicked Strong at 7-1 and third choice is 4-Danza at 9-1. My top pick 16-Intense Holiday is currently at 13-1.

3:10 p.m.: What a finish in the American Turf! Hall of Famer Gary Stevens' horse 5-Global View ($14) at 6-1 put in a late kick to overtake my top choice 8-Storming Inti ($5.40 to place) by a neck. We're live to three horses in the final leg of a Pick-3 (1,2,and 10) and we've got another one started off into those three horses into Wise Dan and Boisterous in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

The next race is one that I've struggled with over the years, and of course, this is my best bet of the day. I'm going to unload on 2-Clearly Now (9-2), who performed a monster workout on Apr. 19, at Keeneland where he went 58 and 2 for 5-furlongs. With top jock, Javier Castellano aboard, he's today's top Post Time selection. In the Pick-3, we went with 2-Clearly Now, 1-Capo Bastone (10-1) and 10-Delaunay (9-2) into Wise Dan.

3:15 p.m.: I was in the paddock area before the Humana Distaff and there are some interesting looking characters having a good time watching the horses' parade to the track. When is the last time you saw a walking Mint Julep or the world's biggest Tony Danza fans including the Flying Nun? The best hat so far was this fellow who obviously took a wrong turn somewhere around Cleveland. There is definitely a buzz building outside the paddock and the crowd continues to build for the lead-up to the most exciting two minutes in sports.

I'm heading down to the trackside winner's circle to watch this sprint race, the Churchill Downs Stakes which should be a good one and will be key to whether I have a good betting day today.

4:05 p.m.: The sprint race continues to be my nemesis on big race days. Be prepared for the ALL button in Baltimore. 9-Central Banker ($23.60) caught 11-Shakin it Up to complete a nice $125 exacta for a $2 wager. Oh well, we'll live to see another day and we have our Oaks/Woodford/Derby bet alive with 1-Wise Dan singled in the next.

Two-time Horse of the Year, 1-Wise Dan (4-5), undefeated in three races at Churchill should continue his winning ways in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, a race he won last year. The only horse that scares me in this group is 7-Boisterous (8-1), with top turf jockey Castellano in the irons for Pletcher. Last year's Queen's Plate runner 5-Kaigun (8-1) will also compete in this race for trainer Mark Casse.

4:25 p.m.: It's always fun to understand how some of the horses obtained their names, here is a few of the better ones courtesy of the Louisville C-J: 

Dance With Fate: Sire is Two Step Salsa and his mare is Flirting With Fate. 

Wicked Strong: We noted in this morning's News article it was named for the Marathon bombing victims, went with Wicked Strong since Boston Strong was already taken. 

Danza:  Named after "Who's the Boss?" star Tony Danza. Danza's sire is Street Boss. 

Wildcat Red: The name happens to be a nice, neutral combination of the sports teams of Kentucky's two biggest universities, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals (Red). 

General a Rod: Named after his former owner, Armando Rodriguez of Venezuela, not the Yankees star. Rodriguez sold the horse Monday to Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing. 

Medal Count: Owner B. Wayne Hughes, a USC graduate and big supporter of Olympic athletes, so he named the horse as a tribute to all of the medals won by USC Olympians. 

Uncle Sigh: Named for Uncle Si Robertson, left, on A&E's popular "Duck Dynasty" show. The owner used a different spelling of the name to avoid the procedures required with the Jockey Club when using someone's name.

4:56 p.m.: Wow! What a terrific stretch duel between the 1-2 favorite 1-Wise Dan ($3)and 10-Seek Again with the Horse of the Year edging out his rival by a head for the win in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. 7-Boisterous was third and rounded out the trifecta. Wise Dan endured some bumping early in the race with Skyring. 5-Kaigun, the Ontario-bred Casse horse finished fourth. The $1 trifecta paid $38.70 and the $2 exacta paid $13.80. The Horse of the Year looks like he's beatable and sooner or later they're going to catch him. His last two races were closer than normal, so it may be time to bet against in his next effort.

On a positive note we're live in the Oaks/Woodford/Derby Pick-3, with the rest of the world. We are live to 4-Danza, 8-General a Rod, 14-Medal Count, 16-Intense Holiday, 18-Candy Boy and 20-Wicked Strong.  The big one is up next.

5:10 p.m.: For the Derby, we'll stick with our selections from this morning's paper (16-4-14), but we'll also bet an exacta box with 8, 18, 19 and 20 to try and make a few bucks. In honor of Bob Summers, we'll play an exacta box using all of the Hall of Fame jockeys' colts (16-Velazquez; 18-Stevens and 19-Borel). 

I'm going to head to the backside and walk over on the track with the horses, one of the memorable experiences as a member of the press corps to see 165,000 plus strong cheering the Derby horses as they make their way to the paddock area for saddling. I'll be back after the Derby to post a few final thoughts on the Run for the Roses before signing off and getting work on tomorrow's column.

I hope you enjoyed following along today and may all your wagers be winning ones. Good Luck!

7:00 p.m.: So it's California Chrome ($7) who wins the Derby! We're off the Baltimore in two weeks for the second leg of the Triple Crown, we''ll be back here tomorrow for a post-Derby rehash and check tomorrow's print edition for my post-race commentary.

-- Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace)

Post Time: Untapable cruises to Oaks victory

By Gene Kershner

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Untapable put her stamp on a Kentucky Oaks victory with a 4 1/2-length victory in the 140th running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks before 113,071 at Churchill Downs on Friday afternoon under the Twin Spires. She handled the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:48.68.

The daughter of Tapit out of a Fun House mare returned $4 to bettors for the win, $3.20 to place and $2.60 to show. She was in a battle with second place finisher My Miss Sophia as they rounded the top of the stretch, but she took over in mid-stretch and pulled away to give both jockey Rosie Napravnik and trainer Steve Asmussen their second Oaks victories. Untapable is owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds.

Napravnik won the 2012 Oaks with Believe You Can to become the first female jock to win the venerable race. Asmussen won the 2005 edition of the race with Summerly. It was the third straight victory for Untapable who had posted convincing wins in prep races at the Fair Grounds.

Asmussen was beaming about his filly post-race. "I was so happy to see her show who she is on this stage. The filly has developed tremendously after the first two races this year and I think she lived up to the billing today," said Asmussen.

He credited Napravnik with a great ride on the filly. "Rosie and Untapable are a very good combination and I think they both have the ultimate confidence and it shows in the afternoon," he said.

Napravnik gave her horse credit for taking over at the right time. "I think the filly has so much confidence in herself.  We were able to get into just a perfect position. She had a perfect break. Once she gets into a good rhythm, her rhythm is so smooth and so relaxed, it's like let me know when you want to go," said Napravnik.

Javier Castellano, rider of second-place finisher My Miss Sophia thought his filly gave her all, but the Tapit filly was just too much to overcome. "It was a beautiful trip. I liked the way it set up. Unfortunately, the (winning) filly she was amazing, I'm not taking away anything from her. I give her all the credit in the world, she ran good. I'm not disappointed at all, I'm very satisfied with her race," said Castellano. My Miss Sophia paid $4.20 to place and $4.40 to show.

Third-place finisher Unbridled Forever was a game third, but couldn't duplicate the efforts of her mother, Lemons Forever, who won the 2006 Oaks at 47-1. Trainer Dallas Stewart was pleased with his filly's effort. "What can I say, she ran terrific," said Stewart. "She was digging in and trying hard. That was two of the best fillies in the country and we were third and I was very proud of her," he said. Unbridled Forever paid $6 for the show.

Our Post Time preview gave out the trifecta, which paid $44.55 for $0.50 ($178.20 for $2). Check back tomorrow at 1 p.m. for a live blog from Churchill here at the Sports, Ink blog.

The $2 will pays for the Oaks-Derby double were posted after the race and not surprisingly, California Chrome ($11.40) looks to maintain the favorite's role in tomorrow's Derby and was at 3-1 after today's advance wagering. Here are the $2 will-pays with 13-Untapable:

Saddle   Number Horse   $2 Will Pays 
1 Vicar's in Trouble   $142.40
2 Harry's Holiday  $399.80
3 Uncle Sigh  $243.80
4 Danza  $44.60
5 California Chrome  $11.40
6 Samraat  $84.40
7 We Miss Artie  $295.60
8 General a Rod  $128.60
9 Vinceremos  $305.40
10 Wildcat Red  $129.70
11 Hoppertunity  SCR 
12 Dance With Fate  $82.80
13 Chitu  $120.80
14 Medal Count  $86.80
15 Tapiture  $86.20
16 Intense Holiday  $58.40
17 Commanding Curve  $164.40
18 Candy Boy  $101.40
19 Ride On Curlin  $116.60
20 Wicked Strong  $39.60
21 Pablo Del Monte  SCR 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Untapable looms large in Kentucky Oaks

By Gene Kershner 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The 140th Run for the Lilies, also known as the $1 million Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks, is the feature race on Friday’s card under the iconic Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. An overflow crowd of over 110,000 is expected for one of the biggest races of the year for 3-year-old fillies. The race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network during a two-hour telecast starting at 4 p.m. post time for the Oaks is 5:49 p.m.

Untapable (4-5), the overwhelming favorite for embattled trainer Steve Asmussen, will face 12 other fillies and will have to overcome the far outside post to win this year's edition of the Oaks. Jockey Rosie Napravnik will attempt to win her second Oaks in the past three years. She won the 2012 Oaks aboard Believe You Can, making her the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks.

Asmussen, who won the 2005 Oaks with Summerly, isn't too concerned with the outside post for his star filly. Being caught wide on the first turn has done in a number of horses in the 1 1/8-mile race.  "You don't know if a draw's good until after the race runs," said Asmussen. "If she's away cleanly, finds a nice spot going into the first turn, you can see how it's ideal. If somebody blows the turn and takes her into the parking lot, then it's not the spot to be!"

She's won her last two races at the Fair Grounds by combined 17 1/4-lengths, so she looms large for some of her competitors to try to outrun her.  One competitor who has been training lights out and will challenge the Tapit filly will be Rosalind (8-1) who comes off a dead-heat victory in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland.

Trained by Ken McPeek and ridden by talented jockey Joel Rosario, last year's Derby winning rider, the daughter of Broken Vow has the pedigree to stay the distance and finished a strong third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies behind She's A Tiger and Ria Antonia, two very talented horses. She has a good race at Churchill under her belt where she made up a lot of late ground finishing third behind Untapable in the Grade 2 Pocahontas as a 2-year-old.

She should save some ground with from her inside post and should sit right off the front runners' mid-pack before making her late move. Based on the way she's trained over the Churchill dirt and coming in third off the layoff she should be peaking just at the right time.

I'm likely to play those two on top with My Miss Sophia (8-1) and Sugar Shock (12-1) in the second spots and include Unbridled Forever (12-1) with those four in the show spot.

My Miss Sophia comes off two straight wins, is lightly raced and has looked strong in her workouts at Churchill. She'll have Javier Castellano in the irons and will look to provide trainer Todd Pletcher his second straight and fourth career Oaks victory.  Pletcher also has Got Lucky (20-1) in the field, a filly who finished 7 1/4-lengths behind My Miss Sophia in the Grade 2 Gazelle.

The top trainer wasn't exactly thrilled with My Miss Sophia's outside post.  "Not an ideal draw for us," Pletcher said. "But we can adjust to it. My Miss Sophia has enough speed that she'll be able to find a good position. And Got Lucky is going to drop back and make a run, so post isn't that important. They'll both be fine.

Sugar Shock (12-1) has the King of Churchill in the saddle with Calvin Borel, who from the 3-hole will be able to get to the rail fairly quickly with this daughter of Candy Ride. She is riding a four-race winning streak into the Oaks for trainer Doug Anderson who is seeking his first Oaks victory.

Unbridled Forever (12-1) is the daughter of 2006 Oaks winner Lemons Forever who upset that field at 47-1. She's my long shot play and although she was defeated handily by Untapable in the Fair Grounds Oaks, she has the bloodlines that has produced an Oaks champion.

Breaking out of post No. 9, Robby Albarado will have several options for Unbridled Forever according to trainer Dallas Stewart. "She's real easy to ride, looks to be a rateable, kind filly," he said. "She can go either way - press the pace or lay back. It doesn't matter."

Post Time Outlook: $0.50 Trifecta:  4,13/3,4,11,13/3,4,9,11,13  Cost: $13.50

Here is your field for the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks: 

PP

Horse

Jockey

Odds

1

Please Explain

Lezcano

50-1

2

Ria Antonia

Smith

10-1

3

Sugar Shock

Borel

12-1

4

Rosalind

Rosario

8-1

5

Thank You Marylou

Leparoux

30-1

6

Kiss Moon

Espinoza

30-1

7

Fashion Plate

Stevens

6-1

8

Aurelia's Belle

Hill

50-1

9

Unbridled Forever

Albarado

12-1

10

Empress of Midway

Nakatani

50-1

11

My Miss Sophia

Castellano

8-1

12

Got Lucky

Velazquez

12-1

13

Untapable

Napravnik

4-5

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Baffert scratches Hopportunity from Kentucky Derby

By Gene Kershner

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Trainer Bob Baffert announced this morning that his promising 3-year-old colt Hoppertunity would scratch from the Kentucky Derby. He was installed by Mike Battaglia as the second choice on the morning line in yesterday's draw.  Baffert told the media this morning there was an issue with his left front foot and that he "didn't feel comfortable" running him in the race.

The son of Any Given Saturday was high on my list of contenders for this year's Derby and his departure will make way for the also-eligible, Pablo Del Monte to earn a gate in the Derby, so it's back to the drawing board.

The News caught up with a dejected Mike Smith on the backside this morning. "We'll live to fight again, we're a little disappointed, but I think he's going to be fine, we'll see what happens down the road," said Smith, a Hall of Fame jockey. "In sports in general, you can be on the highest of high and then the next thing you know it's an emotional rollercoaster. There's only one Derby, but it's a long year and there's a lot of great races coming up and hopefully we'll make those," he said.

Hoppertunity was a horse that competed strongly against race favorite, California Chrome in his last two previous outings and Smith was looking forward to the rematch. "I am certainly rooting for California to bring it home and Chitu, as well, it's always nice when a hometown horse wins the race."

Smith kept coming back to his disappointment over a horse that was getting over the Churchill strip in the mornings. "He was training extremely well, he seemed to really flourish over this race track, seemed to really like it. He dropped down from fifth choice all the way to second just because of the way he was training here. It looked like he was going to run a big one, but now we'll just have to root for the home town guys," said Smith.

As for Pablo Del Monte, he will wear No. 21, the colors are lavender with navy numerals, if his owners and trainer Wesley Ward will decide to run him in the race. He'll move into gate 20 and Wicked Strong moves down one spot closer into the 19th gate.

Last year, Black Onyx scratched on the Friday morning before the Derby due to injury, but after the 9 a.m. deadline for also-eligibles to garner a gate in the Derby. This year, the only also-eligible will have a chance to run.

An updated list of the horses and revised morning line odds can be found here.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Derby draw complete, Chrome draws No. 5 post

By Gene Kershner

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The draw for the 140th Run for the Roses was completed this afternoon in the Secretariat Lounge on the second floor at historic Churchill Downs and morning line favorite California Chrome (5-2) drew the No. 5 post for 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman.

The Buffalo News' Derby coverage starts tonight and will continue through Oaks-Derby weekend, with online coverage here at the Sports, Ink blog and print coverage on Saturday and Sunday. We'll start a live blog when the stakes action kicks off on Derby day right here at the Sports, Ink.

The biggest story coming out of the draw was the position for the overwhelming favorite California Chrome who will start from the same position as the 2002 Derby winner War Emblem, the last horse to take them wire-to-wire. Sherman was fond of his horse's draws. "I like it fine. Victor (jockey Victor Espinoza) says he likes it. I'm happy and I feel no pressure," said Sherman.

Wicked Strong was going to be handicapper Mike Battaglia's second choice, but wound up in the outside post No. 20 and was dropped down to the third choice at 8-1. The only horse to win from post 20 was Big Brown in 2008. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens had mixed feelings about the outside post. "It might be that speed is quick and they get to rolling in a clump and he can draft in behind them and it'll work out. The one positive is that he's not in the gate very long. I'm trying to convince myself tht it's not a bad post, but i don't know if I can.

He swapped places in the morning line with the Bob Baffert-trained Hoppertunity (6-1) who has been training beautifully under the Twin Spires. "The only disadvantage is that he is going to have to wait in the gate for a long time, but I'd rather wait in the 11-hole than in the one-hole. I think he's the second choice because he's gotten the closest to California Chrome this year," said the three-time Derby winning trainer.

Vicar's in Trouble (30-1) drew the dreaded rail position, but was likely to go to the front regardless of his post position.  Now he'll have no choice. He'll have jockey Rosie Napravnik in the irons trying to become the first female jockey to win the Derby.

There were 21 horses entered in the Derby, with one also-eligible, Pablo Del Monte. He will have to wait to see if there is a scratch of any of the 20 horses by 9 a.m. on Friday when advance wagering on the Derby opens up.

To see statistical analysis on each of the 20 horses and information on the post positions over the pas 44 years, I've completed my annual Derby spreadsheet and my preliminary thoughts were in Friday's Degrees of Separation post. Check back here tomorrow for analysis on Friday's Kentucky Oaks.

There is a lot of speed inside California Chrome, so it will be interesting over the next few days trying to unravel the pace scenario puzzle that is a the key to selecting the Derby winner.

Here's a look at the field and morning line odds for Kentucky Derby 140....

Post   Position Horse  Morning Line Trainer  Jockey
1 Vicar's in Trouble  30-1 Maker Napravnik
2 Harry's   Holiday 50-1 Maker Lanerie
3 Uncle Sigh 30-1 Contessa I   Ortiz, Jr.
4 Danza 10-1 Pletcher Bravo
5 California Chrome 5-2 Sherman Espinoza
6 Samraat 15-1 Violette,   Jr. J   Ortiz
7 We Miss   Artie 50-1 Pletcher Castellano
8 General a Rod 15-1 Maker Rosario
9 Vinceremos 30-1 Pletcher Rocco   Jr.
10 Wildcat Red 15-1 Garrofalo L   Saez
11 Hoppertunity 6-1 Baffert ME   Smith
12 Dance With Fate 20-1 Eurton Nakatani
13 Chitu 20-1 Baffert Garcia
14 Medal Count 20-1 Romans Albarado
15 Tapiture 15-1 Asmussen Santana,   Jr.
16 Intense   Holiday 12-1 Pletcher JR   Velazquez
17 Commanding Curve 50-1 Stewart Bridgmohan
18 Candy Boy 20-1 Sadler Stevens
19 Ride On   Curlin 15-1 Gowan Borel
20 Wicked   Strong 8-1 Stewart Maragh
21 AE Pablo del   Monte 50-1 Ward Sanchez

 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Degrees of Separation - Derby 140

By Gene Kershner 

We're eight days from the Run for the Roses and it's time for the annual Degrees of Separation post where we separate the contenders from the pretenders within some fun divisions. I've been putting this together for the past six years and this year is no different.

It's a light look at the current qualifiers based on the current leaderboard, a week out and before the post position draw to help segregate the horses I'm high on versus the throw-outs come Derby day. Before we jump into Derby 140, let's take a moment to review some of my better (and really bad) quotes from past Degrees of Separation posts.

2009

Mine That Bird: "Slowest of the slow" (Not my best work)

2010

Super Saver: "Really warming up to this one. Pletcher's best chance to wear the roses. Sports Monarchos' sire, his dam sire is A.P. Indy, so he has the pedigree AND the King of Churchill in the irons. Dangerous." (Don't say so myself)

Ice Box:  "If there's a pace meltdown, he will be around to claim a prize." (Make that an ice cold exacta, son)

2011

Animal Kingdom: "Really loved his move in the Vinery Spiral Stakes, but he looks more like a dynamite turf horse than a Derby champ." (Oops)

Shackleford: "Really would have loved to see him in the Preakness versus the Derby, hope the race doesn't wreck him, looks like a monster." (Bingo)

2012

I'll Have Another: "I dig this horse. His daddy, Flower Alley, had a troubled trip in the 2005 Derby and is a Travers winner and BC Classic runner-up. Could be my top pick - we'll see how he draws on Wednesday." (Drew 19, dropped him into my second tier…whoops)

2013

Orb: Likely favorite after his two big wins at Gulfstream with matching Beyer Speed Figures. He'll be on top of my tickets. (Boom)

Palace Malice: Late charger who seems to be a Belmont horse to me. I like him very much, and will keep an eye on his draw, his daddy Curlin won the Preakness and was nosed out of the Belmont. (Wow)

So let's get down to business and reveal our 2014 Degrees of Separation for Kentucky Derby 140:

The AMC Gremlin Division: My father bought my mother an American Motors Corporation (AMC) Gremlin back in the 70s and it was a thing of beauty. Bright red, sleek gold stripes, the works. Problem was...it just wasn't fast. These are the horses that represent this division, and qualify as my throw-outs:

Candy Boy: I just can't get behind this Candy Ride colt, even with Stevens in the irons. The only thing going for him is he's gone against some pretty stiff competition and is tested.

Uncle Sigh:  *Audible sigh* His connections likely are just happy to be in the race. Couldn't knock off Samraat in three tries, you know what they say about three strikes….

Ring Weekend: He couldn't win the Calder Derby, hear what I'm sayin'?

Vinceremos: Will take some money based on his trainer, but can't see him making much noise on Derby day.

The Pamela Anderson Divison: This is the spot where horses have made it to the Derby starting gate by winning on the faux dirt and will most likely not make due on the real stuff under the Twin Spires.

We Miss Artie: His daddy was a turf specialist and this guy won on the fake stuff at Turfway Park in the Spiral. Wouldn't be too smarty to bet on Artie.

Harry's Holiday:  Another turf horse who was right behind Artie in the Spiral. Thanks for coming.

Dance with Fate: Blue Grass winner was impressive winner at Keeneland, but don't tempt fate as he could be the Paddy O' Prado/Dullahan horse that rounds out the trifecta.

Medal Count: Second-place finisher in the Blue Grass behind Dance with Fate. He has stamina in his pedigree and if he's going to make the medal stand, bronze is the only color I'm counting on.

The Indy 500 Division: Currently empty as whoever draws the rail (pole) will be a toss and will be the automatic qualifier for this spot.

The George Costanza Human Fund Division: These will be the horses that taking in a lot of money and have a little (or lot of) hype, but will be unmasked in the Derby and will not be a factor.

Vicar's in Trouble: If Rosie rides she'll attempt to be the first female jock to wear the roses. That will take some dough-ray-me at the windows. This one is growing on me for a potential exotics position underneath.

Danza:  Big win in Arkansas. Check. Triple Digit Speed Figure. Check. Named after a famous celebrity. Check. Money sapped at windows. Check.

The Afleet Alex Divison: Horses that won't win the Derby, but will have to be respected and could hit the board. Horses qualifying here have the potential to become a Classic winner down the road in either the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes. We nailed this one last year as Palace Malice and Oxbow were the two horses in this division.

Ride on Curlin: His sire won the Preakness and finished second in the Belmont, he's still maturing, will prefer the shorter distance he'll get at Pimlico.

Vicar's in Trouble: Doing double-duty with this horse (see Human Fund division) as I think he could be a sleeper in the Belmont if things don't go his way in the Derby. 

The Brett Favre Division: The horses that are bound for this division are those I just can't make up my mind out as we sit one week out from the Run for the Roses. Include them, exclude them....indecision has set in.

Samraat: Is he Alpha 2.0? Is he the kind of horse that wins the Travers later in the year when all of the other 3-year-olds are done for the year? I'm not sure, but I don't think he's going to suck any of money out of my wallet.

Wildcat Red: So far he has brought his A-game and survived despite what his pedigree is telling me. Can he continue to carry through his respectable showing in the Florida preps?

Tapiture: Was really into this horse's progression until he threw a clunker in the Arkansas Derby. Is that enough to keep him off my tickets?  Probably.

Intense Holiday: How good was the Louisiana Derby? It hasn't been a key race for the Derby for several years. I'm on the fence with this one, but leaning on including him in the...

Charlie Sheen Division: The horses I think have the best chance at...wait for it...winning!

California Chrome: I'm not picking him to win, but no other colt has been as impressive during the prep season as this son of Lucky Pulpit. But can a son of Lucky Pulpit win the Derby?

Wicked Strong: Really love this horse. Easily could have placed him in the Human Fund Division for the #BostonStrong element. Derby winner Charismatic is his dam sire. Worried about traffic issues with his late running style, but has the goods to get it done. In addition, I picked the Wood Memorial winner to win the Derby back in December.

Hoppertunity: He'llprobably win the Preakness on me and will be testing the Curse of Apollo, but Mike Smith is a big race rider and Baffert will have him ready to fire on Derby day.

That's a wrap on this year's 2014 degrees of separation. It always helps me to flesh out the field this way, as you can't bet 'em all, so this gives me a fun and light way to segregate the field prior to the big day.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner 

With just over two weeks to go before Kentucky Derby 140 the field is changing almost daily due to defections, injuries and connections deciding to skip the Run for the Roses on the First Saturday in May. 

Some news, notes and thoughts before next weekend's Degrees of Separation post… 

-- The last race with a chance to earn qualifying points for the Derby will be tomorrow afternoon at Keeneland where the Grade 3 $200,000 Lexington Stakes will be run. The last chance race will offer 10 points to the winner, 4 to the runner-up and the third and fourth place finishers will earn 2 and 1 point, respectively. 

-- Only one horse, Ami's Holiday (10 points) in the Lexington has a chance to qualify for a Derby gate. A win would vault him in the field at No. 20 in the current standings; a second-place finish would place him at 27th with an outside chance to get in through defections.  The Lexington will be the first start of his 3-year-old campaign for the son of Harlan's Holiday trained by Woodbine-based trainer Josie Carroll. We may well see this Ontario-bred colt later on down the road in the Queen's Plate. 

-- The horse currently in the final spot is Uncle Sigh, trained by Gary Contessa, who looks to be a lock to get in the race, as there are 2-3 horses that are likely going to drop out of the top 20 before Derby week. This would be Contessa's first horse to qualify for the Derby. 

-- To see the current standings and a first peek at my annual Derby spreadsheet loaded with analytics and statistics on each horse currently in the top 20, go here. The spreadsheet provides information on post positions, pedigree, speed figures and dosage for the current qualifiers.  I'll be updating it as more information (jockey confirmations, last race speed figures, etc.) become available. 

-- The biggest defection so far was from the Todd Pletcher barn who announced on Wednesday that Win Star Farm's Constitution, the Florida Derby winner, suffered an injury and would not enter the Derby. It does not appear to be season-ending and we'll likely see him later in the season. 

-- Ironically the horse sitting at No. 21 is Vinceremos, the Tampa Derby winner, who is also trained by Pletcher and could be his fourth entry in this year's race and is also owned by Win Star Farm. 

-- Midnight Hawk, the son of Midnight Lute, sits currently at No. 14 (52 points) is entered in this weekend's Illinois Derby, a prep race for the Preakness.  It would be highly unlikely for trainer Bob Baffert to wheel him back in two weeks in Louisville, so that appears to be a potential open gate for the next qualifier. Midnight Hawk is owned in part by former football coach Mike Tice and current Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. 

-- In his first work since winning the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong breezed a solid half-mile in 49.62 seconds on Thursday morning over the Belmont Park training track in preparation for the Derby. Named after the bomb victims of last year's Boston Marathon, the son of 2007 Derby runner-up Hard Spun will be among the favorites for this year's race. "He did most of his work on the turns, which is what I wanted; I thought it would keep him from working too fast," said trainer Jim Jerkens, 55, who has never saddled a Derby starter. "He eased up a little bit in the stretch and then picked it before the wire. It was just what I was looking for."

--  Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack (FLGR) will kick off the 2014 live thoroughbred racing season this afternoon. The historic Western New York track’s 52nd season will begin with the nine-race Opening Day card. Post time for the first race is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. Chris Englehart will also be presented an award for his achievements in 2013. He was the top FLGR conditioner for the eleventh consecutive year. Englehart saddled 143 winning horses to register his thirteenth career trainer title. He surpassed the 3,500 mark in lifetime wins during the FLGR break.

-- The grandson of former thoroughbred owner and late Buffalo real estate entrepreneur Roxie Gian passed along a letter his grandfather received from late Bills owner Ralph Wilson recently.  The letter from Wilson on his Oxford Stable letterhead to Woodbine Hall of Fame trainer Frank Merrill was to purchase five horses back in February 1969 for $20,000. 

-- Expect the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to be in full force during Derby week after posting a damning video about trainer Steve Asmussen's barn. The group placed an undercover volunteer in the barn last year at Churchill and Saratoga in attempts to document certain practices in Asmussen's barn. He currently has the likely favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (Untapable) and a top contender for the Derby (Tapiture) and will be facing media scrutiny most of the week. 

Let the analysis begin… 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Talent-laden Arkansas Derby on tap Saturday

By Gene Kershner

If the latest Wireplayers.com Derby Dozen is any indication of the talent in this weekend's $1 million Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, we're in for a whale of a race. Of the dozen horses on the listing, five of the eight horses are scheduled to run on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The race will be seen live on the NBC Sports Network between 6-7 p.m. ET.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland will be part of a 90-minute telecast on Fox Sports 1 from 4:30 - 6 p.m. Saturday afternoon preceding the Arkansas Derby. The Blue Grass drew a full field of 14 horses with one on the also-eligible list.

Trainer Bob Baffert ships in the lightly raced Bayern (2-1), who will attempt to qualify for the Derby with a top-two finish in the Arkansas Derby. Embattled trainer Steve Asmussen has his best Derby hope and morning line favorite, Tapiture (9-5), looking to increase his point total (42) to ensure a gate on the First Saturday in May.

Let's take a look at each of the horses in the Arkansas Derby (trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):

1 - Danza (Pletcher, Bravo, 15-1). This Street Boss colt won the G2 Saratoga Special last summer and has only one race in 2014 under his belt at Gulfstream. He stretches out for the first time and will need a top two finish to even sniff the Derby. Looking elsewhere.

2 - Knock Em Flat (Von Hemel, Quinonez, SCR). Trainer Von Hemel announced on Thursday that the son of Flatter will skip the Arkansas Derby and run in Saturday's $100K Nothern Spur instead.

3 - Tapiture (Asmussen, Rosario, 9-5). He ranked on top of my Wireplayers ballot, but so did Cairo Prince before the Florida Derby two weeks ago, so I could be giving him the kiss of death. Lost the Rebel to Hoppertunity last month, who came back to post a solid second behind likely Derby favorite California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend. He's a versatile colt that can go to the lead or set off it to make his run. The one to beat.

4 - Ride On Curlin (Gowan, Court, 12-1). The son of the 2007 Arkansas Derby winner will try to match his daddy's efforts on the Oaklawn strip. He finished a half-length behind the favorite in the Rebel for a respectable third. Trainer worked him 7-furlongs earlier last weekend trying to sharpen his fitness for the big one. He sits in 22nd place on the Leaderboard with 15 points, so a top three finish will be important to his Derby chances. Contender.

5 - Thundergram (Casse, Arroyo Jr., 30-1). Casse puts the blinkers on and wins at a 17 percent clip second off the layoff. Fashions a bullet workout last Saturday over the track and could be an exotics play underneath.

6 - Commissioner (Pletcher, Smith, 8-1). Any time you have these connections north of 5-1 it pays to stay attentive to the odds board. The son of A.P. Indy definitely has the stamina and was taken back on the speed-favoring surface at Sunland in his last effort. He's won two of three at the 1 1/8-mile distance and guessing Mike Smith will have him closer to the pace on Saturday. He could be sitting on a big one and he's hard to dismiss at that price. The pick.

7 - Conquest Titan (Casse, Borel, 10-1). A lot of racing pundits have been high on this colt, who just hasn't delivered on the Derby trail to date.  In 35th place on the Leaderboard with 9 points, he desperately needs to succeed to make the Derby. He'll be trying his seventh different track in his last seven races. Not buying the hype.

8 - Bayern (Baffert, Stevens, 2-1). Son of Offlee Wild comes off an impressive allowance win in early February by over 15 lengths. Baffert swooped in to win this race and a Derby berth with Bodemeister two years ago, who ended up with the highest finish ever (second) in the Derby for a colt who never ran as a 2-year-old. Baffert and Bayern will hope to better that mark with a big effort on Saturday. Coming off an injury right into the fray is asking a lot of a lightly raced colt, so we're going to try and beat him at that price.

9 - Strong Mandate (Lukas, Saez, 9-2). Talented colt sits in 26the place on the Leaderboard with 11 points and will have to step up his game to qualify for a spot in Louisville. His sire is a two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner so he won't have any issues with the distance; questions persist about his consistency however.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Commissioner; 2 - Tapiture; 3- Ride on Curlin; 4 - Strong Mandate

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Derby trail heads west

By Gene Kershner

The Derby trail turns to the Great Race Place on Saturday afternoon with the 76th running of the $1 million Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.  A talented field of eight horses will square off in the nationally televised race (NBC Sports Network, 5:30 p.m. ET) with 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points at stake. The winner will take away 100 points, the second place finisher will earn 40 and the third (20) and fourth (10) place finishers will generate lesser amounts.

Three colts have been at the forefront of the California 3-year-old racing scene and they will tee off against each other for the first time. California Chrome (6-5) is the morning line favorite and the San Felipe winner is the one to beat. He currently sits in 12th place in the Derby standings with 50 points.

Hoppertunity (3-1, 55 points), the Rebel winner at Oaklawn Park, comes back to California to get in his last prep before the Derby.  Mike Smith who was in the irons for the big win at Oaklawn gets the nod at Santa Anita from trainer Bob Baffert.

The horse that has the most at stake is Candy Boy (9-5, 10 points), who needs to finish first or second to secure a Derby berth. The Robert B. Lewis winner has been idle since early February and faces the pressure to perform on Saturday afternoon.

Here's a look at the field and our thoughts….ML odds, trainer and jockey in parenthesis.

1-Rprettyboyfloyd (20-1, Breuer, Bejarano). The son of Bluegrass Cat has yet to break his maiden in five career races and steps up to face the big boys. He's finished second in four of the five races and a beaten third in the Grade 2 San Vicente.  Adds blinkers and a top jockey, but not sure it's enough against these monsters.

2-Friendswith K Mill (20-1, O'Neill, Baze).  Flashy Bull colt also steps up into graded stakes company after winning a maiden claimer two back. Enough said. Pass.

3-Hoppertunity (3-1, Smith, Baffert). This well-traveled colt is about to run his third Derby trail race at a third different track.  His impressive win in the Rebel catapulted him into the Derby, so this race is just a tightener. Connections are lethal together, but not sure this is the target. Contender.

4-Big Tire (20-1, Glatt, Maldanado).  Hi name makes me think of 2008 Tampa Bay Derby winner, the late Big Truck, but this is a son of Candy Ride who broke his maiden last out for trainer Mark Glatt. Another horse making a big step up, but actually has the pedigree to go long as Giant's Causeway is his damsire. Worth a shot underneath in the exotics.

5-California Chrome (6-5, Sherman, Espinoza). A definitive win here could vault this son of Lucky Pulpit into the favorite's role at Churchill Downs. Ran a huge one winning by over 7 lengths in the San Felipe. He's been working sharply for trainer Art Sherman and is the one to beat tomorrow afternoon.

6-Candy Boy (9-5, Sadler, Stevens). The Lewis winner is desperate for points and this is likely his last chance to earn valuable points. He drew outside of California Chrome, so he'll be able to sit a stalking trip. Has the Hall of Famer in the saddle sports some solid workouts since his last race. Looks fit to pull the mild upset.

7-Schoolofhardrocks (10-1, Holmans, Talamo). Has some positives on his past performances in the workout area and running second off the layoff, second-time Lasix, but the lightly raced son of Rock Hard Ten appears to be overmatched in here. Would consider only in the superfecta slot.

8-Dublin Up (30-1, Miller, Desormeaux). Longest price in the field is in over his head in this race. Still a maiden who has yet to crack an exacta in four career races. Looking elsewhere.

Post Time Outlook: 1 -Candy Boy; 2-California Chrome and 3-Hoppertunity

Long shot: Big Tire

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Mr. Sandman, cash me a ticket

By Gene Kershner 

Breakfast in Dubai is on tap tomorrow morning at Meydan Race Course as Dubai World Cup Day kicks off a spectacular weekend of thoroughbred racing that includes the Florida Derby (NBC Sports Network, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. EDT) from Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds on Saturday evening.  The Meydan Race Course is home to some of the richest races of the year.  Free past performances for the Dubai races can be found here.  The Dubai World Cup will be part of a Fox Sports 1 telecast between 1 - 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Here's the lineup and a bit of commentary, a synopsis of the U.S. horses running, so fill up your bowl with some Lucky Charms and start handicapping…

Race 4: (10:25 a.m. EDT) Group 2 UAE Derby. Run over 1 3/16-mile on the Tapeta, for $2 million large. This race is also part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, offering the winner 100 points and a gate in the Derby. Last year's winner Lines of Battle finished 11th in Kentucky Derby 139. The race has drawn 12 three-year-olds, including several from the States. 

The best known horse in the race is 5-Giovanni Boldini (USA) (5-2) a horse I loved in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. He has two wins on all-weather surfaces. The son of War Front will stretch out to his longest distance in this one and should be part of the mix for trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore. 9-Asmar (IRE) (6-1) has a win at the distance and on the Tapeta at Meydan.  4-Long John (AUS) (3-1) is a son of Street Cry and should be able to handle the distance and also has an impressive win over the surface.

Race 5: (11:03 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint. A 5-furlong turf sprint with a purse of a cool $1 million dollars has attracted 12 runners, including U.S. horse 7-Berlino de Tiger (30-1), who looks to be overmatched in this group. 8-Amber Sky (AUS) (8-1) looks like a solid turf sprinter coming off an impressive Group 1 win at Sha Tin in Hong Kong. 6-Hamza (IRE) (15-1) ships in and is a classy horse that should be in the mix. 12-Shea Shea (SAF) is no stranger to the Meydan turf course and is a win threat at even money odds. 

Race 6: (11:41 a.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen Classic. A 6-furlong sprint on the Tapeta surface, with a purse of two big bills, encompasses a field of 13 horses. Don’t confuse this race with the Shabeen, an old Buffalo bar and grill on Delaware Avenue, very popular on and around March 17 back in the day. Old war horse and returning defending champ 5-Reynaldothewizard (USA) (5-2) will attempt back to back victories in the Shaheen. 12-Rich Tapestry (IRE) (4-1), a 6-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor defeated the 'wizard last out in a Group 3 race at Meydan. A horse going from Turf to AW is 4-Sterling City (AUS) (20-1) who has had some recent success at Sha Tin and against tough competition is a long shot worth considering. 

Race 7: (12:39 p.m. EDT) Grade 1 Dubai Duty Free. A nice field of 13 horses will be going 1 1/8-miles on the Meydan turf course for $5 million. 10-Dank (GB) (7-2), the winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf takes on the boys in the Duty Free and should be the one to beat. It'll be her first effort off the layoff, but the 5-year-old by Dansili is a classy mare. She'll be challenged by the 4-year-old colt 11-Vercingetroix (SAF) (5-1) who is undefeated in six career races. This is shaping to be a huge race as 4-The Fugue (GB) (3-1), second place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Turf will also try her fortunes cutting back in distance for trainer John Gosden and top jockey William Buick. 

Race 8: (1:17 p.m. EDT) Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. A large field of 15 runners will run 1 1/2-miles on the turf for $5 million large.  West Point Thoroughbreds and U.S. hopeful 11-Twilight Eclipse (USA) (20-1) comes off back-to-back graded stakes for trainer Tom Albertrani. He finished sixth in the BC Turf, by just over two lengths to 4-Magician (IRE) (3-1), who will be making his 2014 debut in the Sheema as the favorite.  Ryan Moore is aboard the Deep Impact mare 12-Gentildonna (JPN) (4-1) who finished second in last year's edition. Another Japanese entry, 3-Denim and Ruby (JPN) (8-1) finished a nose behind Gentildonna in the Japan Cup and should be a nice price horse in here. Godolphin will send out 1-Excellent Result (IRE) (15-1) winner of his last two for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Frankie Dettori will be in the irons on 10-Dubday (GB) (20-1) who ships in after winning three straight Group 1 races in Great Britain. 

Race 9: (2:05 p.m. EDT) Dubai World Cup. Run at the classic 1 1/4-mile distance on the Tapeta for $10 million. Yes, you read that correctly, $10 million. 16-Ron The Greek (USA) (5-1) sold after last year's 6-year-old season  to Saudi Arabian interests along with 10-Surfer (USA) (30-1), a Distorted Humor gelding are the two US-bred horses vying for the biggest purse of the race year. It will be Ron the Greek's first race on the Meydan Tapeta, a surface that not many US dirt horses have had much luck on since Curlin's win in the 2008 World Cup. He drew the far outside post and will have some work to do if he is to cash a big check. 

Three horses I favor are 1-Prince Bishop (IRE) (10-1), 11-Hokko Tarumae (JPN) (12-1) and 4-Akeed Mofeed (GB) (10-1), all who have won multiple times at the Classic distance . Another horse that you can't discount due to the connections and breeding is 12-Ruler of the World (IRE) (9-2) by Galileo out of a Kingmambo mare, the slight morning line favorite. This race looks wide open and a great betting opportunity. 

You can also check out the Dubai Race Night website for full World Cup day analysis on each race.

Saturday is a terrific day of racing, be sure to check out tomorrow's print edition for previews of the huge Derby prep races from Florida and Louisiana. 

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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