We’ve reached an exciting day on the calendar, one that we’ve been pointing to for months. Today, the Points Increase. 85 points total in each race, with 50 points to the winner. That should be more than enough to qualify for the Derby, essentially turning these races into qualifiers, a.k.a “Win and You’re In.” Hitting the board helps the qualifying quest along, with 20 points to second and 10 points to third. Especially with a runner-up finish, a few points in the bank already (or in the future) and you’ve made it — or at least qualified for Churchill Downs. And, to win the Derby, you’ve got to get there first.
On paper — and based on known speed — Upstart has a huge advantage over his competition. His Holy Bull — below and also available on the Replay page — was lights out. I’m not concerned with a bounce — at least how it is commonly defined. Improvement off a layoff is quite possible for 3YO’s and a known exception (which may just swallow the rule) — but I do wonder whether he might still might regress off the layoff. That was a big, big effort and unless he’s a superstar (and even if he is), he might feel the effects only 4 weeks removed from that race.
I’m not ready to move past Upstart, but only acknowledge that’s there is more risk than appears on paper. 8/5 Morning Line, could be 4/5 at Post Time. I think he’s the favorite, but more around 2/1. I’d take that 2/1, if for some silly reason it happens.
I’ve never been sold on Frosted and today definitely isn’t the day I come over to his camp. He’s beginning to get a knack for finishing 2nd. Might just be noise, but there’s always excuses flowing around this horse. Plus, his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, typically struggles 2nd time off the layoff — I don’t anticipate an improved effort today and I don’t think a low 90’s Beyer will win this race. Gorgeous Bird has great connections for this, but the speed figures don’t tell me this horse is ready. Yes, the progression has been steady, but when that Beyer figure of 84 came out, I wasn’t on board and it’s only been 4 weeks (Yes, improvement is possible in such a short time frame.) Certainly could improve to the next level today, but absent an absurd price of 10-1, I don’t like it. And he’ll probably be 7/2.
Itsaknockout certainly has Derby connections with Todd Pletcher and Starlight Racing. Looked sharp last time out 7 weeks ago, plenty of time for improvement. Will be going 8.5 furlongs — as are many of these — for the first time. Lemon Drop Kid on top makes it interesting. His Dam, Stromy B, has been quite productive, with 3 winners from 3 starters with a 1.80 ROI ($1 base); there are reasons he cost $350K as a yearling at Saratoga. Starlight works with Frank Brothers, who trained Preakness and Belmont winner Hansel as well as Pulpit and adds great experience to selecting horses for the Derby trail. That said, he needs to improve to find the winner’s circle and won’t take anything higher than 5-1 banking on that. Could get it possibly, so keep an eye on the board.
Good luck today at Gulfstream and check back later for previews of the Risen Star and the redrawn Southwest, now scheduled for Sunday.