Kentucky Derby Free Picks, Predictions and Preview (5/7/22)

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Race 5 – Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Gr 2)

1 - She Can’t Sing: In good form, having won two listed races, both at Fair Grounds, on her last two appearances, but this is a tougher test upped in grade.

2 - Flower Point: Won three times in 2021, the last of them coming in a non-graded event at Aqueduct. Creditable effort when third in a similar race on the same track on her reappearance in April.

3 - Mona Stella: Won two of her first three races but was then off for ten months. Respectable efforts on her last two starts this year, including when third in a non-graded event at Tampa Bay last time. Has a much stiffer task here.

4 - Abscond: A Grade 1 winner as a two-year-old in Canada, but hasn’t won since, though she’s made the frame on numerous occasions, including when fourth in this contest last year. However, she’s been some way below her best in her three starts this year, despite finishing third behind She Can’t Sing at Fair Grounds and then beaten only a head in an allowance race at Keeneland on her last two appearances.

5 - Wakanaka: Last year’s Italian 1000 Guineas winner, put up her best effort when just over a length second behind In Italian in the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream last time, finishing strongly after being outpaced before the home turn. Would have gone closer in a more strongly-run race.

6 - Lady Speightspeare: Successful at Woodbine on all her first four outings, including a Grade 2, but has run just respectably when in the frame in the same number of races since. Beaten almost eight lengths by Regal Glory in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland last time, and needs to re-find her best form.

7 - In Italian: The winner of the last three of her four starts, including the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream in March, when she made virtually all to win from the strong-finishing Wakanaka. None of her races are backed up by a decent time figure, though there’s a chance she could be allowed a loose lead again here.

8 - Speak of The Devil: Stable companion of In Italian, was successful in three listed races for Frederic Rossi in France last year. Sold for €1,950,000 in December, she’s also been Group 1 placed and clearly has the best form of these as she makes her US debut after more than five months off, though it has to be noted that all her wins have been gained on soft or heavy going.

Speak of the Devil clearly has the best form and is taken to make a successful US debut. In Italian could be allowed a loose lead, and Wakanaka can be expected to build on her effort last time.

Race 7 – Pat Day Mile (Gr 2)

1 - Major General: Was successful on his first two starts, including the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes here last September. A stumble at the start put paid to his reappearance effort but he bounced back to run a good second to Tawny Port in first-time blinkers in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland last time.

2 - Trademark: Won twice in minor company here last year, but has put up his best efforts on his most recent starts, when fifth in both the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

3 - Pappacap: Boasts the best form of all these, when second to Corniche in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Hasn’t been able to match that effort, though his fourth to White Abarrio in the Florida Derby last time showed that he’s getting there.

4 - Ben Diesel: Won here on his debut last year and ran well when third to Newgrange in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn in January, but hasn’t been able to match that in two races since, including when sixth in the Arkansas Derby last time.

5 - Jack Christopher: Unbeaten in two races, including the Champagne Stakes at Belmont last October from Commandperformance. The runner-up hasn’t done much for the form since and others in this race will have a fitness advantage, but Jack Christopher is an exciting prospect from a top stable and is open to further improvement.

6 - Tejano Twist: Made the frame in all his first ten races, with wins in minor company at Keeneland and here, before beating only one home in a non-graded race at Keeneland last time. Yet to contest a graded race, and has plenty to find back over this longer trip.

7 - Howling Time: Was successful here on his first two starts last year, the latter a listed race, but has since struggled in graded races and was a long way behind Major General in the Lexington Stakes last time.

8 - Kavod: Is the most experienced in this field with thirteen races behind him, three of them successful (all at 5f/6f), but he has been found wanting in graded company around this trip, including on his last three outings. Likely front runner.

9 - Trafalgar: Won here on his second start last year, then followed up in an optional claimer at Fair Grounds. Has shown better form in Grade 3 events there on his last 2 starts, but needs to find a lot more this time.

10 - Doppelganger: Has shown useful form since his maiden win last year, including when fourth to Cyberknife in the Arkansas Derby last time, his first outing since leaving Bob Baffert and without blinkers.

11 - My Prankster: Winner of three of his six starts, the latest the Grade 3 Swale Stakes (7f) at Gulfstream in February. Below that smart form when fourth in a non-graded race at Keeneland last time. Goes back up in trip here, but was well held behind Jack Christopher in the Champagne Stakes last year on his only previous attempt.

12 - O Captain: Has had all four races at Gulfstream, winning a maiden on his debut last August. Ran his best race when fifth to White Abarrio in the Florida Derby last time.

Jack Christopher is taken to extend his unbeaten record to three. Pappacap is coming back to his best and should be second best, while Major General looks the pick of the rest.

Race 8 – Derby City Distaff Stakes (Gr 1)

1 - Lady Rocket: Took off like a rocket when the 9 lengths winner of the Go For Wand at Aqueduct in December. Set quick fractions when fading into fourth behind some of today’s rivals on return in the Madison at Keeneland on a muddy track last month. A C&D winner who was well on the up before then but no easy task to reverse form.

2 - Just One Time: Rattled off the 4-timer this year with success in the Inside Information at Gulfstream Park and Madison at Keeneland. Those proved she doesn’t need to be on the lead, particularly with her speedy stable companion, Lady Rocket, in the lineup. She’s just about the pick to confirm the form from last time.

3 - Center Aisle: Only had the three starts last year, winning all of them towards the back end of the season. A line can be put through her last run in the Madison at Keeneland as she was slowly away and unable to take up her customary front-running role. This will require a career-best effort.

4 - Kimari: Has a sublime record on dirt having been beaten just the once from six starts, incidentally against five of these when third in the Madison at Keeneland last time. She was far from disgraced having been up with the strong pace that day. There’s a chance that could be the same scenario today.

5 - Obligatory: A three-time winner last season, including twice here with success in the course and distance Eight Belles and the Chilukki. Returned to the track in the same manner with a smooth win in the Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park in March. Her patient style of racing should be well suited to the setup of this race.

6 - Bell's the One: Has had more racing than these but still knows how to win. Landed this prize during the truncated 2020 season. Picked up a further pair of Grade 2’s last season. Finished just ¾ lengths behind Just One Time on return in the Madison at Keeneland. Should be in the mix.

7 - Edgeway: Has a good strike-rate for all she’s only had one previous try at the highest level when chasing home Ce Ce in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar. Has returned at the top of her game winning a stakes event and the Las Flores both at Santa Anita this year. She’s finished runner-up both tries at this trip and may have to settle for that again.

8 - Four Graces: Hasn’t won since rounding off a hat-trick back in 2020, when she won the Dogwood over this course and distance. Returned this year with three placed efforts, including twice in graded events. Far more is required to trouble the principals.

Just One Time represents Brad Cox/Flavien Prat's combination and looks like the one to side with to repeat her Madison victory. The speedy Edgeway should give it a good go at the head of affairs and Bell’s The One is very consistent and she can round out the 1-2-3.

Race 9 – American Turf Stakes (Gr 2)

1 - Smokin’ T: Won at Aqueduct in December and Gulfstream (made all in an optional claimer on dirt) in February, then ran his best race when a staying-on third to Main Event and Red Danger in a non-graded back on turf on the latter track last time.

2 - Main Event; Made virtually all in a decent time to beat Red Danger and Smokin’ T by more than three lengths in a non-graded event at Gulfstream last time. Hard to see either of those two reversing that form here.

3 - Red Run: Ran his best race when winning a non-graded event at Sam Houston in January (Stolen Base third), but was never a danger when well held behind Tiz The Bomb in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes on the tapeta at Turfway last time. Back on the turf here, but still plenty to find.

4 - Red Danger: Won a listed race at Gulfstream in December, but his form has levelled off in his three races on the same course since, including when second to Main Event last time.

5 - Balnikhov: Gradually progressed in France last year, winning three times, and ran a good race on his US debut, just missing out on the nod against front-running Sumter in a non-graded event at Santa Anita last month after a slowish start.

6 - Portfolio Company: Ran good races to be second in graded events at Saratoga (to Coinage) and Belmont (beaten only a head by Annapolis in the Pilgrim Stakes) before a below-par eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last year. Made the running last twice. The Belmont form makes him the leading contender here.

7 - Sy Dog: The least experienced in the field, but has shown progressive form to win all three of his outings, the latest the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland in April, when he had Coinage back in third, coming from last place in a race that wasn’t truly run. Needs to find only a small amount of improvement to keep his unbeaten record.

8 - Royal Spirit: Had an easy task when winning a maiden at Gulfstream in January and ran well when as a neck second to Grand Sonata in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy Stakes there next time (Coinage back in third). Bit below that form when fifth to Tiz The Bomb on the tapeta at Turfway last time, and returns to the turf here.

9 - Stolen Base: Beaten only four lengths when seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last year, which represents his best form, though he was runner-up in Grade 2 at Keeneland the time before and in a non-graded event at Turfway (beaten just a neck by Tiz The Bomb) in March. Was beaten much further by that same rival in first-time blinkers on the last-named course last time, and is back on turf here. Races off the pace.

10 - Coinage: Has been placed in all bar one of his nine races, winning three times, including a Grade 3 at Saratoga last year and a listed race at Gulfstream in March, beating Main Event by a neck in the last-named. Had the run of the race when third to Sy Dog in the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland last time. Races up with the pace.

11 - Dowagiac Chief: Showed improved form to win a non-graded race at Fair Grounds in March by five lengths, then was just a fair fourth behind Tiz The Bomb in Grade 3 at Turfway last time, but with Royal Spirit, Stolen Base, and Red Run behind him. Usually makes the running.

Portfolio Company is taken to make a successful reappearance as Sy Dog seeks to keep his unbeaten record. Dowagiac Chief is likely to make a bold bid from the front.

Race 10 – Churchill Downs Stakes (Gr 1)

1 - Aloha West: Only started racing at the beginning of his four-year-old season last year but soon made up for lost time, winning five of his nine starts, culminating in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar on his final outing. Has won at this track and the only question is whether he’s ready to go, recent work suggests so.

2 - Long Range Toddy: Ran a blinder on the speed figures when second on reappearance in the Commonwealth at Keeneland on a sloppy track. This is a deeper contest than he usually runs in.

3 - Jackie's Warrior: One of the stars of last season with four wins, including the Pat Day Mile here on this card. A determined front-runner, had enough in hand to win Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park when giving away weight to his rivals on return. Sets the standard.

4 - Sir Alfred James: Generally runs his race in lesser contests but comes into this on the back of a pair of poor efforts in stakes company. Back on dirt and easy to oppose.

5 - Reinvestment Risk: Has made the track only three times in the last twelve months, winning an allowance at Gulfstream Park in February and another step forward when runner-up in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct last time. Is with a trainer bang in form at present but needs to raise his game again.

6 - Prevalence: Won his first two starts before finishing way down the field in the Pat Day Mile and wasn’t seen again in 2021. Has done nothing but build on his return effort by winning an allowance at Gulfstream Park in March and the Commonwealth at Keeneland in April after a switch to more prominent tactics. Not out of things from a place perspective.

7 - Mind Control: A two-time winner last season, including the Grade 2 John A. Nerud at Belmont. Will need to step up on his third in the Carter Handicap in April. Probably up against it on balance against some less-exposed rivals.

8 - Cezanne: Proved his ability fully remains in his last two runs. Won the Grade 2 San Carlos at Santa Anita in March before he was denied by a neck in the Oaklawn Mile by the Alysheba-bound Fulsome on final start for Bob Baffert. Has fewer miles on the clock for most of his age and is now in the care of Todd Pletcher.

Jackie's Warrior is the one they all have to beat. Steve Asmussen’s charge is a thoroughly likable type and was probably valued extra than the bare margins imply on his reappearance. Aloha West can give the selection most to think about if as ready as his work suggests, whilst Cezanne isn’t one to take lightly.

Race 11 - Turf Classic (Gr 1)

1 - Ivar: Won the Grade 1 Turf Mile at Keeneland in 2020, but ran only three times last year, including when sixth in this race, after which he missed 5 months due to a minor setback, but he returned in the autumn and was third to Space Blues in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

2 - Bizzee Channel: Successful in Grade 3 at Arlington in 2021, but has a bit to find on that form, though showed his well-being with an allowance win against some useful performers at Keeneland last month. Races prominently.

3 - Public Sector: Won three graded races on the bounce in the second half of last year, but was a bit below his best when fourth in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on his final start (Santin second).

4 - Tribhuvan: Won twice in 2021, including in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth, but finished in the rear in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Effective at 9f to 1½ m. Usually makes the running.

5 - Mira Mission: Much improved this year, winning the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream in March before putting up his best effort when fifth to Shirl’s Speight in the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland last time. Will need to progress further with the winner in this field again.

6 - Shirl’s Speight: Has progressed well this year and completed a hat-trick in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile, doing well as he was the only runner to get involved from off a steady pace, getting up on the line. Looks a worthy favorite, especially over this slightly longer trip.

7 - Cavalry Charge: Has progressed up the ladder this year, winning a Grade 3 at Fair Grounds (hung on by a head from Adhamo) before putting up his best effort when third behind Two Emmys in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic on the same course last time. Cavalry Charge is now 4lbs better off with Santin, who was second that day, but more is required here.

8 - Adhamo: A smart performer for Freddie Head in France last year (winner of the Prix La Force), acquitted himself well on his US debut when just failing to catch front-running Cavalry Charge in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes in February, making up plenty of ground in the straight.

9 - Kentucky Ghost: Put up his best effort when fifth in the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes here last June, but could manage only second in lesser races in three of his four starts after, including when beaten a neck by Cavalry Charge in an allowance race at Keeneland.

10 - Santin: Lightly raced, but finished runner-up in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on just his third start (Public Sector 1½ lengths back in fourth) and occupied the same place behind Two Emmys in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic at Fair Grounds last time (Cavalry Charge third). Meets Cavalry Charge on 4lbs worse terms here.

Shirl’s Speight looks like a worthy favorite and can win at the chief expense of Tribhuvan and Ivar.

Race 12 – Kentucky Derby (Gr 1)

1 - Mo Donegal: A winner of three of his five starts. Both Grade 2 successes came over 9f at Aqueduct, including when getting up late in the Wood Memorial last time. His form entitles him to be involved but the draw doesn’t make things easy.

2 - Happy Jack: Raced only at Santa Anita. Won a maiden special weight on debut in January. Comfortably beaten upped in grade all three starts since. Easy to overlook.

3 - Epicenter: Landed a maiden special weight here as a juvenile. His next four starts were at Fair Grounds, winning three and unlucky not to have won the other. Cantered through the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, gearing down towards the finish both times. Represents top connections and proved last time he doesn’t need to be on the pace. Major player.

4 - Summer Is Tomorrow: Raider from the UAE. Won twice from seven starts. Chased home Crown Pride in the UAE Derby in March. Hard to make a case for.

5 - Smile Happy: Made a great start when landing both juvenile outings, including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club here from a reopposing pair. Runner-up both starts this year behind the two market leaders, leaving him with a bit to do to reverse that form.

6 - Messier: Never out of the first two, successful three times. Yet to win beyond Grade 3 level, 15 lengths winner of Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in February. Left Bob Baffert before latest outing when run down late on in the Santa Anita Derby by Taiba. Has form in the book to be on the premises.

7 - Crown Pride (JPN): Won two of the first three starts in native Japan. Shipped to Dubai for the UAE Derby in which he beat Summer Is Tomorrow by 2 ¾ lengths. Hard to ignore Japanese horses sweeping up races around the world of late but a chunk of improvement will be needed to get involved in this.

8 - Charge It: Only began his career this season. Massive rise in class off the back of winning a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park when running White Abarrio to just over a length in the Florida Derby at the beginning of last month. Has been working well since and is unexposed for a major barn.

9 - Tiz the Bomb: Has won graded contests on the turf and a synthetic surface, including the Jeff Ruby Steaks last time. Also second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Bolted up in a maiden special weight that was moved off the turf last year but his hammering in the Holy Bull tempers enthusiasm back on dirt.

10 - Zandon: Improving on the speed figures with each start. Added the Grade 1 Blue Grass to his record last time. Needs to maintain an upward curve to reverse form with Epicenter and Mo Donegal from previous meetings, though has a good draw and is likely to be ridden cold. Big player.

11 - Pioneer of Medina: A two-time winner from six starts. Made frame in pair of Grade 2 events last twice. Blinkers are off this time but plenty more needed.

12 - Taiba: Could hardly have made a better impression, winning a 6f maiden special weight by 7½ lengths at Santa Anita on debut in March for Bob Baffert, then stretching out in distance to land the Santa Anita Derby for a new barn. This is a different test to a 6-runner Grade 1, whilst he also ships across the country for the first time, but the speed figures back up both efforts. Represents last year’s winning owner.

13 - Simplification: Sent off favourite for the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park after a cosy success in the Fountain of Youth there. Helped set some solid fractions before fading late into third. Beaten twice by White Abarrio in the last three starts (breaking awkwardly the first time).

14 - Barber Road: Is proving consistent rather than improving. Won here last year. Ran yet another fine race when second in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park last time. Could be finishing well from off the pace at the business end and outrun his odds.

15 - White Abarrio: A winner of four of his five starts, all at Gulfstream Park. Sole defeat when third in the Kentucky Jockey Club here as a juvenile. Stretched clear when landing Holy Bull and followed up in Florida Derby. Needs to take a step forward on the speed figures but his form is stacking up well.

16 - Cyberknife: Stepped up on allowance success at Fair Grounds in February by following up in Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in April. May find a couple too good in this.

17 - Classic Causeway: Won his first two starts this season with bold front-running performances in the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby. Bombed out after setting strong fractions in the Florida Derby latest, reportedly having a soft palate issue.

18 - Tawny Port: A winner of three starts, including the Lexington at Keeneland last time. More is required to play a part in this.

19 - Zozos: Another who was unraced as a juvenile. Won first two starts, successful in an allowance at Oaklawn Park in February by 10¼ lengths. No match for Epicenter when second in the Louisiana Derby last time. Another minor role looks on the cards.

20 - Ethereal Road: Has one success on his record. Ran a close second in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park in February but put in his place both starts since.

AE 21 - Rich Strike: Sole success came in a maiden claimer here last year. Has plenty on his plate.

AE 22 - Rattle N Roll: Won twice last season, including the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland under a patient ride. Has yet to build on that this year.

Quite an open-looking renewal and a case can be made for many. However, it’s hard to ignore the visual impression Epicenter has made recently, and he gets the verdict. White Abarrio can take another step forward and chase the selection home. Taiba is taken to confirm the promising start to his career and round out the places.