San Felipe Stakes

Three major Kentucky Derby preps this weekend — Gotham Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby, and the San Felipe. Tough choice, but I’ll stay out west (where I play regularly) and see the return (of the favorite) in Bolt D’Oro. Means nothing of course, but I’ve always thought the name of this horse was bad-ass.

Bolt D’Oro draws the rail and seeks to regain the form he showed in the Frontrunner last fall over this track. He finished a disappointing third as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has been unseen (at least in the afternoon) since. He’s been working out regularly and strongly and now begins the final quest to the Derby — which, if things go right, will likely include the Santa Anita Derby in the middle. He’s a gamble — you never know how these horses come back, especially when it’s already March. Let’s see what else if out there to possibly beat him.

McKinzie won the GIII Sham and was placed first in the Los Al Futurity. He’s also very fast and did beat Instilled Regard that day — who won at the Fair Grounds on the trail. He’s certainly fast enough to run with Bolt D’Oro, (1) if he improves just a bit; (2) can handle the class test; and (3) Bolt D’Oro does not fire like he did in the Frontrunner.

Kanthaka burst on the scene by winning the San Vincente in early February. That win was at 7 furlongs, and he does have a sprint pedigree. He’ll stretchout today, but I expect that it likely won’t go as planned. There’s always the possibility, and it’s not 10 furlongs, only 8.5. Plus Jerry Hollendorfer is skilled at stretching them out. His big question is the distance.

Lombo has shown improvement with two straight wins at Santa Anita– breaking his maiden and then winning the Robert B. Lewis decisively. He’ll need to grow and increase his speed to be competitive with this group, but that’s not out of the question. This grey horse is a dark horse candidate for finding the top stop today.

AyacaraAquila, Calexman, and Peace are longshots. Of these, Peace has back speed which might make him competitive today. Aquila is a last-out maiden winner, who ran fast, but not super-fast enough to be a winner today, absent improvement. Ayacara may be a factor if the pace is super hot and falls apart.

Analysis: Tough race to make a lot of money, but I have good feelings for the return of Bolt D’Oro. Lombo stands an upset chance, maybe in second place of an exacta with Bolt D’Oro. McKinzie has a strong chance, perhaps use him on top of Lombo as well.

Risen Star

My first impression when looking at the entires was that Instilled Regard towered over the field. But, on closer look, I found a contender that I like. I’ll talk about Instilled Regard and then visit some contenders who could knock him off if he has an off day.

The case was Instilled Regard is strong. He’s been the fastest horse in the field. He is a G3 winner — in the Lecomte, over this track. He should like the extra distance and was bought as a 2YO for over a million dollars. He seems to be realizing that potential on the track. Barring injury, he’s the only horse in the field that I can say I’m confident he will be in the Kentucky Derby. Perhaps Bravazo — my under-the-radar contender in this race — will find his way there, too.

With that said, let’s look at look at some other contenders. Noble Indy is a WinStar and Repole. Don’t know if I’ve seen that partnership before. He’d really need to improve — not out of the question for a 3YO. Physical and mental growth can happen quickly in horses. Snapper Sinclair maybe gets the lead and holds on the whole way. The same thing could be said for Noble Indy.

Bravazo is a D.Wayne Lucas horse — he runs his 2YO into shape and into class placement. He ran 2nd in a G1. He ran some competitive high-class races as a 2YO and debuted this year blistering fast in comparison. This is a Calumet Farm homebred. I think he’s probably the biggest competitor to Instilled Regard.

Principe Guilherme was the favorite in the LeComte but was soundly beaten by Instilled Regard. He’ll need to recapture that allowance form — he won by 11 lengths in a 1st level allowance in December.

Analysis:  I expect Instilled Regard to win, but Bravazo is a strong challenger. With a morning line of 8-1, there’s potential for payoffs in the win pool and exotics — both vertical and horizontal — and a portion of your budget should go in that direction. But, Instilled Regard would likely have to regress, which can happen.