Kentucky Derby points will be on the line in three separate races on Saturday, in the Grade III Withers at Aqueduct, the Grade III Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita and the Grade II Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
The Holy Bull should provide the most compelling action of the three. The 3-1 morning line favorite is Enticed (post 1, 3-1). This son of Medaglia D’Oro won his last time out in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November, going around two turns for the first time. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, he showed tremendous heart in holding off a hard charging Tiz Mischief (post 7, 4-1) down the stretch. It would not be unimaginable for these two to finish head-to head again in this one. Joel Rosario has the mount on Enticed and Robby Albarado will be on Tiz Mischief.
One of the storylines that came out of the Breeders’ Cup this year was regarding the track bias. The inside of the track was not the place to be that day, and that is exactly where Free Drop Billy (post 2, 6-1) found himself in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. If you were high on him going into that race, you should be thrilled to get 6-1 on this Dale Romans charge come post time. Personally, I’ll be looking elsewhere.
The pace setup in this race is intriguing. Gustavo Delgado’s Aequor (post 10, 15-1) will certainly show early speed coming from the outside with Jose Lezcano aboard. Lezcano loves to be on the front end, and this son of Flatter doesn’t know any other way to run. That will force Mississippi (post 11, 5-1) to fire early as well to avoid getting shuffled back. Mississippi, a half-brother to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, will be ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Mark Casse, and he owns the two top Beyer Speed Figures in the field. If Leparoux can work out a trip, he should be around at the end.
Aequor will have company on the front end, however. Longshot Master Manipulator (post 3, 20-1) showed marked improvement his last time out in a maiden special weight event at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Eric Guillot, this guy either loved the sloppy track or benefited from a jockey change and change in tactics. Ortiz, who is possibly the best front-end jockey in the country, took Master Manipulator straight to the front last time, and it paid off. He’s sure to do the same thing tomorrow. It’s not impossible to imagine him stealing a victory on the front end, and he should certainly be included in any exotic wagers.
Enticed is the pick for me. He should work out a perfect trip from the rail and will likely benefit from a pace duel. Mississippi will be in the mix and Tiz Mischief is sure to be coming late. I’d recommend keying Enticed in each spot in your exotic wagers with Master Manipulator, Mississippi and Tiz Mischief, and if the odds are right (12-1 or better) sprinkle a little on Master Manipulator to win and place.
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