Handicapping Kentucky Derby Prep Races: Gotham, San Felipe and Tampa Bay Derby

Mar 09, 2018 by James Scully/Brisnet.com

A trio of Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifiers will be offered Saturday and the $300,000 Gotham (G3), $400,000 San Felipe (G2) and $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) are each worth a combined 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5).

Here’s my preview of the Kentucky Derby prep races:


With an honest pace expected in the one-mile at Aqueduct, #5 FIRENZE FIRE should receive the right set-up. Easy to appreciate his game runner-up performance in the 1 1/8-mile Withers (G3) last time but the son of Grade 1-winning sprinter Poseidon’s Warrior has favored one-turn distances, opening 2018 with a rallying victory in the Jerome at Aqueduct and defeating eventual juvenile champion Good Magic in the Champagne (G1) last fall. He registered a 104 BRIS Late Pace rating two starts back and Firenze Fire can prove best in the latter stages.

#6 Free Drop Billy remains a dangerous presence after finishing a clear second behind Audible in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park. #1 Dial Operator rates as an intriguing longshot in his first stakes appearance, opening his racing career with a pair of convincing wins at Monmouth Park and Laurel Park.

San Felipe

#1 Bolt d’Oro was the most accomplished juvenile performer last season, recording impressive wins in the FrontRunner (G1) and Del Mar Futurity (G1), but couldn’t overcome a bumbling start and lost championship honors when sustaining his first setback with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). He’s eligible to return with a top-class showing in the San Felipe at Santa Anita but the innermost post, with probable pacesetter #2 Lombo drawn to his immediate outside in the starting gate, complicates matters.

#4 MCKINZIE drew perfectly in post 4 and exits a superb victory in the January 6 Sham (G3), registering a 104 BRIS Speed rating for the 3 ½-length decision. The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense is in the right hands with four-time Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner Bob Baffert and with an expected fitness advantage over his main rival, McKinzie has a fine chance to derail Bolt d’Oro.

I will give a slight edge to McKinzie and hope it’s the start of an exciting rivalry.

Tampa Bay Derby

Eleven were entered but only nine are confirmed for the Tampa Bay Derby (Enticed and Free Drop Billy will scratch for the Gotham) and a case can be made for half the field.

#5 Flameaway and #3 Vino Rosso, first and third in the February 10 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, must be considered serious win contenders. #9 Untamed Domain will be trying to transfer his excellent turf form to the main track for Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion and #2 Tiz Mischief, a head second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) two back, enters as a rebound candidate for Dale Romans.

I respect the above quartet but am going with the speed of the speeds, #8 WORLD OF TROUBLE. He couldn’t have more impressive opening the year with powerhouse win in the 7-furlong Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs, registering a whopping 101 BRIS Speed rating for the 13-length romp, and trainer Jason Servis strikes at 28% with horses stretching out to a route.

We can expect World of Trouble to be primed for his best and he receives a positive rider switch to Irad Ortiz Jr., who showed his skills getting the most out of speed when guiding Promises Fulfilled to a wire-to-wire upset in last weekend’s Fountain of Youth (G2).

Watch and wager on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby prep races at TwinSpires.com

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