Belmont Stakes Picks, 2017

By Bob Bauer

Bob Bauer, HorseRacingFLA Handicapper

Bob Bauer is HorseRacingFLA  Tampa Bay correspondent  and handicapper.  He is a former thoroughbred  racing reporter for the  St. Petersburg  Times and  a former publicity director for Tampa Bay Downs.

Wide-open may be the best description of this year’s renewal of the Belmont Stakes.

The third jewel of the Triple Crown is known as the test of champions because of the grueling twelve-furlong distance that these sophomores will attempt, most for the only time in their career.

Add in the fact that there is but one Grade I winner running and he may not be at his best right now. That horse is Gormley, who won the Santa Anita Derby, and later finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby.

Then, we have 5 others in this dozen-horse field who have taken lesser Graded Stakes and have displayed varying degrees of talent and distance ability. They are Irish War Cry, Tapwrit, Senior Investment, J Boys Echo and Multiplier.

Listed below in order of preference are a quartet of three-year-olds who appear to have the goods to get it done this Saturday.

Numbers in front of names are post positions. Morning line-odds are in parentheses.

2 – TAPWRIT (6-1) First, give this grey son of Tapit a pass for his last pair of starts. In the Kentucky Derby he was one of several runners who endured a rough trip over the Churchill Downs quagmire. Prior to that, he was unprepared for the break but improved in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes. Three races back, his sharp four-length score in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby shows what this one is capable of, and a repeat of that effort could land him in the Belmont winner’s circle. He showed a liking for the Tampa Bay track (1 win, 1 place) that is known to be a deep and demanding surface, perhaps similar to the big sandy. He is a closer, but more importantly he can get position mid-pack and stalk what should be a contested early pace. World-class conditioner Todd Pletcher has put him through a trio of good drills at Belmont and regular rider Jose Ortiz has the return call and can work a Tampa-like trip. A lot to like here.

7- IRISH WAR CRY (7-2) The morning line favorite boasts a lifetime 4 for 6 record and is another who should be forgiven for (a tenth place finish) the Kentucky Derby. Some ask the question, which Irish War Cry will show up this time? The good Irish War Cry captured Gulfstream’s Holy Bull and Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial (Grade II events) by more than 3 lengths each. When less than good, he lost by double digit margins. This year his form shows a nice win followed by an ugly loss and then the same pattern repeats itself. Able trainer Graham Motion has worked him twice at Fair Hill and he may bounce back from his Derby defeat here. The son of Curlin is bred for the distance and could be leading down the backstretch after the early leaders sort themselves out.

4 – J BOYS ECHO (15-1)  His last couple of races are also throw-outs. He was a victim of bad starts in the Kentucky Derby and Blue Grass Stakes. Three races ago, he earned one of the top speed figures here winning the Grade III Gotham Stakes over Aqueduct’s Inner Dirt track and may be this good. The Aqueduct efforts also show potent late pace ability, always important at this distance. Veteran jockey Robby Alberado, who has guided this offspring of Mineshaft to both lifetime wins, is back in the irons after recovering from injuries. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him coming late at a big price.

10 – MULTIPLIER (15-1) Earned an outstanding speed figure taking the Grade III Illinois Derby in his first stakes try after a Maiden victory. Next, he had some trouble and was steadied in the Preakness, his only time finishing off the board. Gets blinkers on for trainer Brendan Walsh who is handy with marathon runners. Recommend using in exacta and trifecta boxes.






June 7, 2017

Irish War Cry is Morning Line Belmont Favorite; Classic Empire Sidelined with Hoof Injury

HorseRacingFLA  Staff  Report

The field and post positions were set on Wednesday afternoon for the Belmont Stakes (Grade 1), which will be run Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont., N.Y.

The race will not include Classic Empire, who likely would have been the favorite based in part on his second-place finish in the Preakness (Grade 1) on May 20.

On Wednesday morning, Classic Empire’s trainer Mark Casse said the colt will not run on Saturday because of a hoof abscess.

With Classic Empire out, Belmont linemakers made Irish War Cry the morning line favorite at 7-2. Those are the odds they expect the actual odds will be for the race.

Irish War Cry’s 2017 record includes wins in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (Grade 2) at Gulfstream Park and in the

1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial (Grade 2) at Aqueduct. He finished tenth in the  1 1¼  mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1)  on May  6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville and did not run in the  1 3/16 mile Preakness at Pimlico.

Always Dreaming, winner of the Kentucky Derby, and Cloud Computing, winner of the Preakness, are not running in the Belmont.

The Belmont will be the 11h race on Belmont Park’s Saturday card.  Scheduled post is 6:37 p.m.

The Belmont Stakes field is listed below with post positions, names, trainers, jockeys and morning line odds.

  1. Twisted Tom–Chad Brown, Javier Castellano, 20-1
  2. Tapwrit–Todd Pletcher, Jose Ortiz, 6-1
  3. Gormley–John Shirreffs, Victor Espinoza, 8-1
  4. J Boys Echo–Dale Romans, Robby Albarado, 15-1
  5. Hollywood Handsome–Dallas Stewart, Florent Geroux, 30-1
  6. Lookin at Lee–Steve Asmussen, Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-1
  7. Irish War Cry–H. Graham Motion, Rajiv Maragh, 7-2
  8. Senior Investment–Ken McPeek, Channing Hill, 12-1
  9. Meantime–Bryan Lynch, Mike Smith, 15-1
  10. Multiplier–Brendan Walsh, Joel Rosario, 15-1
  11. Epicharis– K. Hagawara, Christophe Lemaire, 4-1
  12. Patch–Todd Pletcher

May 22

We were among the  many handicappers and other  bettors  who did not include Cloud Computing in our Preakness bets on Saturday.

Cloud Computing won the race, at 13-1 odds.

That result followed the three previous runnings of the Preakness—when we hit the exacta in each race  and  also made  a profit  on our  suggested  bets in each  race.

On Saturday, we  suggested $56 in Preakness bets, but did not have ant  winning tickets.

However, we still have an 11 percent profit  for our  combined Preakness bets in 2013, 2014,  2015 and 2016.

We have recommended $212 in Preakness bets, and have had a total payoff of $234.95.



Saturday  May 20

Suggested Bets – 2017 Preakness

Here are our suggested bets for the 2017 Preakness Stakes (Grade 1), with scheduled post of 6:45 p.m.

Our two key horses are Always Dreaming (4) and Classic Empire (5).   We try not to go with the two favorites. But in this case we feel it is unavoidable.

Horses we are using are:
1 —  Multiplier

2 – Cloud Computing

3  Hence

4  Always Dreaming
5 Classic Empire

6 Gunnevera

9  Lookin at Lee

10  Conquest Mo Money

$5 Win and Show  4          $10
$2 Win and Show   9         $4

$2 Win and  Show 1 4       $4

$1 exacta box      4  5  6   9    $12

*$1 exacta part wheel             $10
first    4  5

Second     1  3  4  5  9  10

*50 cent tri box          $3

4   5   9

*50 cent tri  part wheel     $9

First        4

Second    1   5  9

Third   1  2  3  5  6  9  10

*50 cent tri                 $4

First    4  5

Second   4  5

Third   1   3   6  9   

TOTAL   $56



Saturday May 20

Preakness: Bauer Picks; Coverage Moving to Blog

NOTE: Below are the picks for today’s Preakness by Bob Bauer, our handicapper and Tampa Bay correspondent.

Subsequent to this article, HorseRacingFLA’s coverage will be mostly on our blog for the Preakness, today’s other races at Pimlico and today’s races at Gulfstream Park. 

Our blog may be accessed on the menu bar located at the top of the  home page of this Web site.

At approximately 3:00 p.m., on our Web site and  blog we will publish our recommended bets for the Preakness—including exactas  and trifectas,

Scheduled post for the Preakness is 6:45 p.m. 

Gulfstream has first post at 1:00 p.m.

Bauer’s Picks

Saturday’s renewal of the Triple Crown’s second jewel appears to go through the Kentucky Derby winner  Always Dreaming.

He has won four in a row for the Pletcher/Velasquez combo and is reported to be acting well in Baltimore this week. Having said that, Classic Empire is getting my vote to spring a mild upset in the Preakness.

Here are the top contenders and some reasons that they may be worth a bet.

First – Classic Empire (5): Winner of the Breeders’ Cup F Juvenile is overdue to duplicate his two-year-old form this season, not that there haven’t been some legit excuses along the way. His seasonal debut in the Grade II Holy Bull was marred by a foot abbess, resulting in an 8 ¾ length loss.

Trainer Mark Casse freshened him for 6 weeks and changed to a glue-on shoe for the Grade I Arkansas Derby and he gave hints of his old form, winning by ½ length under a patient ride, after being steadied early. He was roughed-up at the break in the Kentucky Derby and ran a credible race to get fourth place.

He has the ability to bounce back here and deserves the chance to show that he belongs with the best of this generation.


Second—Always Dreaming (4): Without a doubt, the one to beat. The Derby victor will be the odds-on choice in the Preakness, after taking four races in a row by a combined margin of almost 23 lengths.

The son of Bodemeister is a versatile runner with tactical speed that gives pilot Johnny Velasquez a number of options depending on the pace set-up. Always Dreaming can go to the lead right out of the gate if no other sophomore wants it or he can press or stalk an early leader and pounce when the time is right.

Some handicappers have already chosen him as the Preakness winner and believe that The Belmont may be his most challenging test. That is why we have to run the race, if the top choices duel too fast up front a closer might get it done.


Third—Hence (2): Was the “now” horse in the Kentucky Derby after his impressive win in the Grade III Sunland Derby, turning a big number and making up 11 lengths while picking off horses one by one.

He did little running in Louisville, being in tight at the start and steadied at the 5/16 pole. This Steve Asmussen charge is eligible to move forward again and might surprise if there is a pace melt down.


Fourth—Multiplier (1) – Earned a huge speed figure winning the Grade III Illinois Derby, his next attempt after a Maiden win. He will be severely tested for class here but his chances are not hopeless. He possesses both the highest overall fig in this field, but also shows superior late-pace ability. Belongs in exotics at a big price.






Friday, May  19

On the eve of Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, we pose this question.

Who says “nobody remembers who finishes second,”?

Certainly not us at HorseRacingFLA, when it comes to the Triple Crown races since 2014.

We can rattle off the names because we made money on horses at 10-1 or higher that finished second in each of the last three runnings of the Preakness, and in the Kentucky Derby in 2014 and this year.

In the first four of those races we had the winning exacta. In this year’s Kentucky Derby, run on May 6, we put money down and in our published selections recommended Show bets and higher on Lookin at Lee who finished second at 33-1.

Our other long shot second place finishers were:
2014 Kentucky Derby – Commanding Curve, 37-1

2014 Preakness – Ride on Curlin, 10-1

2015 Preakness – Tale of Verve, 28-1

2016 Preakness – Cherry Wine 17-1

Our suggested bets made money in each of the last three runnings of the Preakness. Our combined return on investment (profit) was 51 percent.

This evening, we are starting our serious phase of handicapping for the Preakness (Grade 1).  Post time for the race tomorrow is 6:45 p.m. Eastern at Pimlico in Baltimore.

We probably will pick Always Dreaming to win—just as we correctly suggested betting on him to win the Kentucky Derby.

We are looking for a long shot or two to include an exacta box and in the second spot in an exacta part wheel.  Those we will consider are Hence, Conquest Mo Money and Multiplier.

There was a downpour late this afternoon at Pimlico.  But clear skies are forecast for tomorrow afternoon.

We will factor in the weather—along with the likely pace scenario, post positions and reports we are reading and hearing about which horses might be fresh and which horses might be tired. We also will consider the records of trainers in the Preakness and in other big races.

Check back in with HorseRacingFLA at 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, when we will post our next handicapping article.

At approximately 2:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, we will publish our Preakness bets on this Web site and on our blog which can be accessed on the menu bar at the top of the home page of this Web site.
In our next article, we will have details about why and how we featured Ride on Curlin, Tale of Verve and Cherry Wine in our Preakness bets. And we will point out how some of those lessons might apply late Saturday afternoon.

So, join us in reading the Past Performances and charts, watching replays and comparing notes with other racing fans. Of course, we are not a wagering or betting site – our information and recommedations are FREE.

Then, take the final step in making your picks — Use the Force.


HorseRacingFLA Seeking to Go Four-for-Four

With Winning Wagers on Preakness Stakes

By Jim Freer, 17 May 2017

This is HorseRacingFLA’s fourth year in handicapping the Preakness Stakes horse race. We are confident that we can make it four-for-four in winning bets and attractive payoffs.

Winning Bets: Our Successful Strategies

For the Preakness in 2014, 2015, and 2016, our recommended wagers produced a combined return on investment (profit) of 51 percent.

In each of those races, HorseRacingFLA’s bets made a profit of at least 40 percent. Over the three races, we recommended $156.00 in bets. The bets paid a total of $234.95.

Our winning bets included the exacta and trifecta in 2014, the high-priced exacta in 2015, and the exacta and trifecta in 2016.

Follow these links for more details and our stories on our wagers for the ’14, ’15, and ’16 Preakness races.

2014 – 2014 Preakness Wagers

2015 – 2015 Preakness Wagers

2016 – 2016 Preakness Wagers

2017 Preakness Stakes Update

Note — All times listed below are Eastern Daylight.

Post positions for the Preakness will be drawn at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. The race will be on Saturday at Pimlico in Baltimore.  Scheduled post time is 6:45 p.m.

HorseRacingFLA will publish our recommended Preakness bets between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. 

This will allow us to factor in track conditions and any late news, while giving readers ample time to include our selections in their bets.

Prior to Saturday, HorseRacingFLA will explore handicapping angles in several exciting Preakness previews.

Check out our Thursday edition for “Hedging Strategy Success,” a special article which will provide successful hedging strategies that we use in handicapping.

The 2015 Preakness is one example. We will explain how we hit an exacta that paid $62.20 on a $1.00 bet—with the 9-10 favorite American Pharoah winning, and 28-1 shot Tale of Verve coming in second.

Kentucky Derby Winnings

HorseRacingFLA also has a winning record in handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

Our recommended Kentucky Derby bets made a profit in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

In this year’s Derby, we had Win and Show bets on Always Dreaming, the favorite who won the race, and a Show bet on Lookin at Lee, the 32-1 shot, who finished second. We did not have the correct order in our exacta or trifecta bets.

The result was that our $89.50 in recommended wagers paid $81.00. Despite that minor loss, HorseRacingFLA still have a cumulative profit of 47 percent for the last four Kentucky Derbys.

If you are not a subscriber to our news feed, please consider that now. Our posts will be sent to your In-box automatically when we deliver them. Click this link to subscribe ! Subscribe



Wednesday, May 17

Five Preakness Contenders Arrive at Pimlico

From Pimlico Media Office

Three vans transporting five candidates for Saturday’s 142nd Preakness Stakes (Grade 1) arrived at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore within minutes of each other Tuesday afternoon.

The vans passed through the stable gate at 3:40 p.m. They also carried other horses that will run in stakes at Pimlico on Friday and Saturday.

Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) runner-up Lookin At Lee (photo on home page) was the first to be unloaded from the first van, followed by his stablemate 11th-place Derby finisher Hence.

The pair of Steve-Asmussen-trained colts had flown from Louisville, Ky., along with Doug O’Neill-trained Term of Art, who had boarded a plan in Southern California earlier in the day, and Kenny McPeek-trained Senior Investment, who were unloaded from the second van minutes later.

The third van that originated from Belmont Park in New York waited several minutes before Chad Brown-trained Cloud Computing could be unloaded.

Those horses are among ten that likely will be entered when the Preakness post position draw is held at 5:00 pm. Wednesday.  The race will be run on Saturday, with scheduled post of 6:45 p

Tuesday May 16

Likely Preakness Field

The post position draw for the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (Grade 1) will be held at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday.image001

The Preakness, at 1 3/16 miles, will be run this Saturday at Pimlico in Baltimore with scheduled post at 6:45 p.m.

It isepected that the  ten horses will  be entered. An asterisk * indicates that the horse ran ay Gulfstream Park aand.or at Tampa BayDowns this year./

Horse, Trainer, Jockey

*Always Dreaming—Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez

*Classic Empire—Mark Casse, Julien Leparoux

Cloud Computing—Chad Brown, Javier Castellano

Conquest Mo Money—Jorge Carreno, Miguel Hernandez

*Gunnevera—Antonio Sano, Mike Smith

Hence—Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux

Lookin At Lee—Steve Asmussen, Corey Lanerie

Multiplier–Brendan Walsh, JoelRosario

Senior Investment–Ken McPeek, Channing Hill

Term of Art—Doug O’Neill, Jose Ortiz

Tuesday, May 16

The Week Ahead: Gulfstream and Pimlico

HorseRacingFLA Staff Report

Gulfstream Park has its regular Wednesday through Sunday live  racing schedule this week, along with simulcasting that will feature Saturday’s Preakness Stakes  (Grade 1) at Pimlico in Baltimore.

Gulfstream will have nine races on Wednesday, with  a first post of 1:15 p.m.

The carryover is $218,821 on the Rainbow 6,  on the fourth through ninth  races.  The carryover has grown because Gulfstream  has gone twelve straight race days without the jackpot payoff requirement of just one ticket  with the winning horses in all six Rainbow 6 races.

The Rainbow 6 is a 20-cent per combination-only bet. Multiple horses can be used in each race, thus setting up a ticket with multiple 20 cent combinations.  For example, a ticket with two horses in each race has 64 combinations and costs $12.80.


Tampa Bay Downs will not have live racing again until June 30 when it begins its annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing.

Meanwhile, the Oldsmar track is open daily at 11:00 a.m.  for simulcasting with Gulfstream Pimlico and other major tracks.


Saturday at Gulfstream

First post is 1:15 p.m. at Gulfstream, unless otherwise noted.

Gulfstream’s first post this Saturday, may 20, wil1 be 1:00 p.m. to assure that its 11-race card will finish prior to the Preakness which has scheduled post of 6:45 p.m.

On Saturday, Gulfstream will have the $100,000 Big Drama Stakes at seven furlongs on dirt for  Florida-breds 3-years-old and  up.

It is the first stakes in a new ten-race series at Gulfstream sponsored and funded by the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and by Gulfstream.

The races all have $100,000 purses. Six of them are restricted to Florida-breds.  Four races are Florida-preferred. They are open to horses from all states, with bonuses for Florida-breds that finish first through third.


Pimlico will hold the post-position draw for the Preakness at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

Scheduled post for the Preakness is 6:45 p.m. on Saturday.

On Friday, Pimlico will have its annual Black Eyed Susan day lead-in to the Preakness.  It will have a 14-race card with first post of 11:30 p.m.

There will be six stakes races, highlighted by the Black-Eyed Susan (Grade 2) at 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3-year-old fillies and the Pimlico Special (Grade 3) for 4-year-olds and up at 1 3/16 miles on dirt.

The Preakness, for 3-year-olds, also is 1 3/16 miles on dirt.

A field of ten is expected. It will be headed by Always Dreaming, winner of the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 6.

Owners of the Kentucky Derby’s second place finisher Lookin at Lee and fourth place finisher Classic Empire plan to enter those horses in the Preakness.

Pimlico has a 14-race card on Saturday, with six stakes.  The Preakness is one of nine stakes races on the card.

The 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes (Grade 1), the third race in the Triple Crown, will be run on June 10 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.














Saturday, May 13

HorseRacingFLA Staff Report

Gunnevera is scheduled to leave Churchill Downs in Louisville. Ky., by van at 4 a.m. on Saturday for a trip to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Trainer Antonio Santo plans to enter Gunnevera in 1 3/16 mile Preakness (Grade 1) at Pimlico on Saturday May 20.

Gunnevera, owned by Peacock Racing Stables, finished seventh in the 20-horse field in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs.  He moved up from 14th place after three-quarters of a mile in the 1 ¼ mile race.

When Gunnevera is not on the road, he is stabled year-round in Sano’s barn at Calder (Gulfstream Park West) in Miami Gardens.

On Friday morning Gunnevera had his final training session at Churchill Downs.

“He went perfect,” Sano told the Churchill Downs media office.”

“We’re very happy with how he looks after the race (Kentucky Derby),” he added. “He didn’t really lose any weight, in fact, he looks similar to when he won the Delta Jackpot.”

Gunnevera won the 11/16-mile Delta Jackpot (Grade 3) last Nov. 19 at Delta Downs in Vinton, La.  — (Photo on home page).

This year, Gunnevera had three starts prior to the Kentucky Derby. All of those races were at Gukfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.

He finished second in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (Grade 2) on Feb. 4 and won the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) on March 4.

Gunnevera finished third in the 1 1/8 mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) on April 1.

Always Dreaming won the Florida Derby and then won the Kentucky Derby.

“Going into the race I thought Always Dreaming was the horse to beat,” Sano said of the Kentucky Derby. “We’ll go into the Preakness to try and win the race, not try to beat him.”

He added: “The (Kentucky) Derby was a tough race. With the weather that we dealt with and the competition, I’m very proud of my horse for what he accomplished.”


HorseRacingFLA Staff Report

The Triple Crown action is moving from the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., to Pimlico in Baltimore where the Preakness will be run on May 20.

This past Saturday’s Kentucky Derby had ten horses that had  raced at Gulfstream Park and/or at Tampa Bay Downs this year.

Note: Photo on home page (from Churchill Downs) is of Always Dreaming winning the Kentucky Derby. Earlier this year, he won a maiden race at Tampa Bay, an optional claiming race at Gulfstream and the Florida Derby (Grade 1) at Gulfstream.

Here is where the ten “Florida horses” finished in the Kentucky  Derby, along with an early look at whether they will run in the  Preakness.

Preakness status is based on information the Churchill Downs and Pimlico media offices received from trainers.

Derby Finish   Horse                   Status for Preakness

First – Always Dreaming              almost certain

Fourth — Classic  Empire              very likely

Fifth —  Practical Joke                     unlikely

Sixth – Tapwrit                                   unlikely

Seventh – Gunnevera                 50 percent chance

Eighth  — McCraken                   very unlikely

Tenth —   Irish War Cry             very unlikely

Fourteenth —  Patch                     unlikely

Seventeenth – Fast and Accurate    very unlikely

Nineteenth – State of Honor            very unlikely


By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink

HorseRacingFLA’s published suggested bets for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby included $5 to win and show on Always Dreaming, and $5 to show on Lookin at Lee.

Always Dreaming, the 9-2 favorite, won the race and  paid $43 on our recommended $10 in bets.

Lookin  at Lee, at 33-1, rallied to finish  second—2  ¾  lengths behind Always Dreaming and five lengths ahead of 40-1 shot Battle of Midway who came in third.

Lookin at Lee paid $38 on a recommended $5 bet.

Unfortunately, our recommended exacta and trifecta bets did not come through.

We included Always Dreaming and  Lookin at Lee in those bets. Our two key horses were Classic Empire,  who finished fourth, and McCraken, who finished eighth.

We  suggested $89.50 in bets. We had  a payoff of $81—for a 9 percent  negative return on investment.

But please note that this was the first time that we did not have a profit in our four years of recommending  Kentucky Derby bets.  In 2014, 2015 and 2016 our suggested bets on that race included the winning exacta.

Even with our slight loss last Saturday, we have a combined profit of 47 percent for the last four Kentucky Derbys. 

We have recommended $273.50 in Kentucky  Derby bets, with a payoff of $400.95.

 The Preakness (Grade 1) will be run at Pimlico in Baltimore on Saturday May 20.

We will publish our recommended Preakness bets early that afternoon.

Our recommended Preakness bets were profitable in 2014,  2015 and 2016.  That included a  winning  exacta bet each of the three years.

For her three years, our combined Preakness bets were $156.00 with a payoff of $234.35. That is a 50 percent return on investment.


Here is the field for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, May 6th

Scheduled post time is 6:46 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Horses are listed by post position with jockeys  and morning line odds. An asterisk indicates the horse raced at Gulfstream Park  or at Tampa Bay Downs tracks this year.

1. Lookin At Lee,  Corey Lanerie 20-1

2. Thunder Snow (Ire),  Christophe Soumillon 20-1

3. Fast and Accurate,  Channing Hill 50-1

4. Untrapped,  Ricardo Santana Jr. 30-1

5. Always Dreaming,  John Velazquez 5-1

6. State of Honor,  Jose  Lezcano 30-1

7. Girvin,  Mike Smith 15-1

8. Hence,  Florent Geroux 15-1

9. Irap,  Mario Gutierrez 20-1

10. Gunnevera,  Javier Castellano 15-1

11. Battle of Midway,  Flavien Prat 30-1

12. Sonneteer,  Kent Desormeaux 50-1

13. J Boys Echo,  Luis Saez 20-1

14. Classic Empire,  Julien Leparoux 4-1

15. McCraken,  Brian Hernandez Jr. 5-1

16. Tapwrit, Jose Ortiz 20-1

17. Irish War Cry,  Rajiv Maragh 6-1

18. Gormley,  Victor Espinoza 15-1

19. Practical Joke,  Joel Rosario 20-1

20. Patch Tyler,  Gaffalione 30-1

AE-21. Royal Mo,  Gary Stevens 20-1

AE-22. Master Plan, John Velazquez 50-1




HorseRacingFLA Staff Report

The post position draw for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) will be held at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

As of Tuesday morning, it was expected that these  20 horses will be entered—giving the 1 ¼ mile race its maximum field  size.

Jockeys are listed in parentheses.  An asterisk in front of the name indicates that the horse raced at Gulfstream Park and/or at Tampa Bay Downs in 2017.

*Always Dreaming (John Velazquez)

Battle of Midway (Flavien Prat)

*Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux)

* Fast and Accurate (Channing Hill)

Girvin (Mike Smith)

Gormley (Victor Espinoza)

*Gunnevera (Javier Castellano)

Hence (Florent Geroux)

Irap (Mario Gutierrez)

*Irish War Cry (Rajiv Maragh)

J Boys Echo (Luis Saez)

Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie)

*McCraken (Brian Hernandez Jr.)

*Patch (Tyler Gaffalione)

*Practical Joke (Joel Rosario)

Sonneteer (Kent Desormeaux)

*State of Honor (Jose Lezcano)

*Tapwrit (Jose Ortiz)

Thunder Snow (Christophe Soumillon)

Untrapped (Ricardo Santana)

The post draw is scheduled for approximately 30 minutes  and will be streamed on the  Churchill Downs Web  site. At the end of the program, Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia will announce the morning line odds for  the Kentucky Derby. Those are the odds he expects for each horse at post time.


Getting into the Kentucky Derby is based on points earned in the designated Kentucky Derby qualifying races.

The Derby post position draw is a traditional “pill pull” in which horses’ entry blanks are pulled simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine what stall a horse will break from the starting gate.

Up to 24 three-year-olds may enter the 1 ¼-mile race and four horses can be listed as “also eligible” and would be ranked in order accordingly; they could draw into the field should any horse(s) be scratched before scratch time on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 9 a.m. EDT.

As of Tuesday the connections of Royal Mo, Local Hero and Petrov were considering entering the Kentucky Derby as  also eligibles.

Scheduled post time for the  Kentucky Derby is  6:46 p.m. EDT. It is the 12th race  on the Churchill Downs card.

NBC will televise the race live.

Gulfstream Park and  Tampa Bay Downs will have  live racing on Saturday, and will have simulcast wagering on all of the  day’s races at Churchill Downs.

The two Florida tracks also will have giveaways and promotions related to the Kentucky Derby. We will have details later this week.


Kentucky Derby Prep Races—April 2017

April 1 (Saturday)

*Florida Derby (Grade 1) – Gulfstream Park,  Hallandale Beach, Fla.

*Louisiana Derby (Grade 2) – Fair Grounds, New Orleans, La.

April 8 (Saturday)

*Wood Memorial (Grade 2) – Aqueduct, Ozone Park, N.Y.

*Blue Grass (Grade 2) – Keeneland. Lexington, Ky.

*Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1) – Santa Anita, Arcadia, Calif.

April 15 (Saturday)

*Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) – Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Ark.

*Lexington (Grade 3) – Keeneland, Lexington, Ky.

NOTE—the Lexington is 1 -1/16 miles and awards Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 basis for first through fourth place.

The other six races are 1- 1/8 miles.  They each award Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 basis for first through fourth place.


Florida Derby Draw Set for Wednesday

By Jim Freer

Gulfstream Park will draw post positions at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday for Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (Grade 1).

The Florida Derby is 1-1/8 miles on dirt for 3-year-olds, and is one of nine stakes races on Saturday’s card.  Five of the day’s other stakes are graded.

First post will be 12:00 p.m. for Saturday’s 14-race card.  The Gulfstream condition book shows the Florida Derby as the 14th race. Post time would be around 6:45 p.m.

On Wednesday evening we will have a story that includes the race schedule for Saturday.

The Florida Derby will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network (MBCSN) cable channel.

Gunnevera is the likely favorite, based on his runaway win in the 1 1/16 mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on March 4.

The Fountain of Youth’s second through fourth place finishers also are expected back for the Florida Derby.  They are Practical Joke, Three Rules and Talk Logistics.

Other likely Florida Derby starters are State of Honor, Impressive Edge, Unbridled Holiday and Always Dreaming.

As in previous years, there is the prospect that several other owners and trainers will enter horses in the Florida Derby.

Purse money starts at $600,000 for the winner and filters down to include $50,000 for fourth place.  There also is the chance to earn a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby.

The Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby are both “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points races. The qualifying points in the Florida Derby are 100,  40, 20 and ten for the first through fourth places.

Gunnevera has 64 points, including 50 for winning the Fountain of Youth.  He is virtually assured a spot in the 20-horse field for the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) on May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Last year the cutoff for horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby was 32 points.  That was the highest yet in the system that Churchill Downs began in 2013.

Among horses listed above, Gunnevera and four others have earned Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Point totals are – Practical Joke 32, State of Honor 22, Three Rules 10 and Talk Logistics 6.

Thus, all of the Florida Derby runners except Gunnevera  and perhaps Practical Joke will need points on Saturday, or otherwise not get into the Kentucky Derby. The 40 points for finishing second in the Florida Derby likely will be assurance for making the Kentucky Derby.

Gunnevera has a late-running style similar to his sire Dialed In who won the 2011 Florida Derby and finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

In the Fountain of Youth, Gunnevera  took the lead coming out of the turn and powered  ahead to beat Practical Joke by 5 ¾ lengths.  Three Rules finished third, another half-length back.

Last year, Gunnevera won the Delta Jackpot (Grade 3) at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., and the Saratoga Special (Grade 3) at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Regular jockey Javier Castellano is scheduled to ride Gunnevera for trainer Antonio Sano.

On Saturday, jockey Leonel Reyes rode Gunnevera in his final workout for the Florida Derby. He was clocked in 1:01.80 for five furlongs at Gulfstream Park West (Calder).

The time ranked seventh of 20 horses and was notably quicker than Gunnevera’s breeze March 18 that went in 1:04.60

“The jockey did exactly as I asked him and it went perfect,” Sano told the Gulfstream media office. “He was very calm on my horse. The last two furlongs I got him in :10 4/5 and the gallop out was very good.”

Sano added: “Last week the horse worked very slow. He is ready for the race (Florida Derby). He didn’t need more for the Florida Derby, so I breezed him looking ahead to the next one (Kentucky Derby).”

Practical Joke’s Kentucky Derby qualifying points are from his second place finish in the Fountain of Youth, third place in last year’s  Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade 1) at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., and wins in two Grade 1 stakes at New York tracks.  Those races were the Champagne at Belmont Park in Elmont. N.Y., and the  Hopeful at Saratoga.

Three Rules swept last year’s three-race Florida Sire Stakes series at  Gulfstream.  Those races are open only  to designated Florida-breds, and thus are not eligible for graded status from the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Jockey Club.

Churchill Downs only includes graded stakes in its of 35 qualifying points races.

Luis Saez is scheduled to ride Three Rules in the Florida Derby. Trainer Jose Pinchin recently said he will not enter Three Rules in the Kentucky Derby, and will instead wait to run him in the Preakness (Grade 1) at Pimlico in Baltimore on May 20.

Each of qualifying races run in 2016 had points awards of 10-4-2-1.  Kentucky Derby points are awarded based on which of three periods they are run, with all three grades treated the same.

State of Honor finished third in this year’s Sam F. Davis  (Grade 3) and second in the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2)–both at Tampa Bay Downs.  It is likely that State of Honor’s regular jockey Julien Leparoux will ride for trainer Mark Casse on Saturday.

Talk Logistics has Kentucky Derby points from fourth place finishes in the Fountain of Youth and in the 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 4.  Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. has named Joe Bravo to ride in the Florida Derby.

Among the likely starters listed in this  story, early speed has been shown by State of Honor, Three Rules and Always Dreaming


Monday. March 6

HorseRacingFLA Staff Report

This week, the spotlight in Florida thoroughbred racing is shifting to Tampa Bay Downs which on Saturday will have its annual Festival Day with five stakes races.

The day’s feature will be the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2). The 1 1/16 mile race for 3-year-olds is a major prep for the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 6.

Starting Tuesday, we will have daily previews of the stakes races that will be part of the year’s biggest day at Tampa Bay Downs.

The race week will begin Wednesday at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar and at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.GulfstreamPark-logo-final_new

Gulfstream’s 11-race Wednesday card has a first post of 12:35 p.m.

Tampa Bay has a nine-race Wednesday card with first post of 12:55 p.m.

Tampa Bay Downs

Tampa Bay will be dark, as usual, this Thursday. It will have racing Friday through Sunday.

The five Saturday stakes are: *$350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) — 1 1/16 miles on dirt, 3-YO

It is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points scoring race. The winner will get 50 points, virtually assuring a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

It was anticipated that the unbeaten McCraken would head the Tampa Bay derby field.

But McCraken will not race on March 11 due to what his trainer Ian Wilkes says is a mild strain in his left front ankle.

On Feb. 4, McCraken won the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (Grade 3) and set a Tampa Bay Downs record of 1:42.45 for 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Tapwrit, State of Honor and Wild Shot are scheduled to run in the Tampa Bay Derby.  They finished second through fourth, respectively, in the Sam F. Davis.

*$200.000 Hillsborough (Grade 2) –1 1/8 miles on turf, fillies and mares 4-YO and up

*$200,000 Florida Oaks (Grade 3) –1 1/16 miles turf, 3-YO fillies

*$100,000 Challenger — 1 1/16 miles on dirt, 4-YO and up

*75,000 Columbia – one mile turf, 3-YO

Gulfstream Park

Gulfstream will have racing Thursday through Sunday.

On Saturday, it will have  two stakes races.

The $75,000 Silks Run is five furlongs on turf for 4-year-olds and up.

The $75,000 Captiva Island is five furlongs on turf for flies and mares 4-years-old and up.

Each morning on this  Web site, we will have preview of the two tracks’ race cards.



Sunday, March  5

By Jim Freer

Gunnevera blew past his rivals entering the stretch in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, and won in a way that put a resounding stamp on a ticket to the Kentucky Derby.

Gunnevera beat Practical Joke by 5 ¾ lengths in the 1 1/16 mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2). Three Rules finished third, another half-length back, in the race run in the twilight.

With Javier Castellano riding, Gunnevera rallied from tenth and last place after a half mile to win in 1:44.25 on the dirt track listed as fast.

That was the fifth slowest time in the last six runnings of the Holy Bull.  But it came on a day when several winning times were relatively slow on the Gulfstream dirt.

In addition to the winner’s share of $235,000 of the $400,000 purse, Gunnevera earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) that will be run May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

That gives the son of Dialed In 64 qualifying points.  Last year, 32 points were needed to make the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

Barring an injury, trainer Antonio Sano and owner Peacock Racing Stables plan to take Gunnevera to Louisville for that race.

Before that, he likely will run in the 1 1/8 mile Florida Derby (Grade 1) on April 1. Dialed In, also known as a deep closer, won that race in 2011.

Saturday’s win was the fourth for Gunnevera in eight career starts, and third victory in a graded stakes.





Saturday March 4

McCraken to Return to Track for Training

By Jim Freer

The unbeaten 3-year-old colt McCraken will return to the track on Sunday at  the Palm Meadows Training Center, his trainer Ian Wilkes said on Saturday.

Last Tuesday, Wilkes said that McCraken had a slight strain in his left ankle and  would not make a scheduled  start in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11.

Wilkes’s crew noticed the strain early Tuesday. Later that day, X-rays were negative. McCraken had worked a half mile at Palm Meadows in Boynton Beach.

“He’s looking good, and it’s very minor,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes added: “What would you do if you had a sprained ankle?  You’d rest it and ice it. We did that.  We had the choice of missing a race or pushing the envelope.  We decided not to push the envelope.”

Wilkes has not set a date for McCraken’s next timed workout.

He said McCraken remains on target to run in the Blue Grass (Grade 2) at 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland on April 15.

That would be his final prep for the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby on May 6.

McCraken has 20 Kentucky  Derby  qualifying  points.  Last year, the cutoff for getting into the 20-horse field  was 32 points.

The first four finishers in the Blue Grass will get  100, 40, 20 and ten points respectively.

McCraken, a  son of Ghostzapper, won the 1 1/16 mile Sam F. Davis (Grade 3) in a track record 1:42.45 at Tampa Bay on Feb. 11.

O n Saturday, Wilkes spoke in the Gulfstream Park  winner’s  circle after his trainee Bird Song won the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (Grade  3).

Saturday March 4

‘Fountain’ to Highlight Huge Day at Gulfstream; Afternoon Coverage Will Be on Our Blog


By Jim Freer

To borrow a phrase from President Donald Trump, this Saturday “could be a huge day at Gulfstream Park—HUUGE.”

The Fountain of Youth Stakes (Grade 2), a huge race for 3-year-olds, is the feature on a 13-race card that has first post of 12:00 p.m.

The $400,000 Fountain of Youth is one of the day’s nine stakes races at the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track. The stakes (listed below) have total purses of $1.5 million.

There are guaranteed pools totaling $1.3 million on the Rainbow 6, Late Pick 5 and Late Pick 4.

We will be at Gulfstream on Saturday afternoon and will have coverage on our blog. It can be accessed on the menu bar at the top of this Web site.

The Weather Channel forecast is for a zero percent chance of rain and temperatures in the low 70s during racing hours. Winds will be out of the northeast at 20 miles per hour—at the horses’ backs as they come down the stretch.

The Fountain of Youth, at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race.  The winner will get 50 points, virtually assuring a  spot in the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) on  May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

The second through fourth finishers in the Fountain of Youth will earn 20, 10 and five Derby points respectively.

Fountain Field

Irish War Cry is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the 11-horse Fountain field. The Graham Motion trainee won the 1 1/16mile Holy Bull (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 4.

Irish War Cry was on an unchallenged lead throughout the Holy Bull and won by 3 ¾ lengths in the solid time of 1:42.52.

Joel Rosario retains the mount on Irish War Cry, who has won all three of his career starts. Irish War Cry is a son of Curlin.

Gunnevera, second in the Holy Bull, also is back for the Fountain of Youth. He is the 7-2 third choice in the morning line set by Jay Stone.

Gunnevera has the same late-running style as his sire Dialed In, winner of the 2011 Florida Derby (Grade 1) at Gulfstream.

Thus, his chances could be better in the 1 1/8 mile Florida Derby on April 1.

But Gunnevera is a win candidate in the Fountain, particularly if several horses test Irish War Cry early and there is a pace meltdown.

Javier Castellano is back on Gunnevera for trainer Antonio Sano.

The Fountain field also has Practical Joke, making his first since last Nov. 5 when he finished third in the 1 1/16 mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade 1) at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.

Earlier in 2016, Practical Joke won the seven furlong Hopeful (Grade 1) at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and won the one mile Champagne (Grade 1) at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

Practical Joke, a son of Into Mischief, likely will race in mid-pack in the race’s early stages

He comes into the Fountain off a series of fast workouts at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach.

Rosario rode Practical Joke in the Breeders’ Cup race.  Chad Brown, Practical Joke’s trainer, has turned to Jose Ortiz for the Fountain.

Three Rules is a solid exacta-trifecta threat in the Fountain, partly because of his “horse for the course” record at Gulfstream.

Last year, the Florida-bred son of Gone Astray swept the three-race Florida Sire Stakes series at Gulfstream.

On Feb. 4 at Gulfstream, Three Rules finished second by three-quarters of a length to Favorable Outcome in the seven-furlong Swale (Grade 2).

Luis Saez will ride Three Rules for trainer Jose Pinchin. Cornelio Velasquez, who rode Three Rules in his seven previous races, is at Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y.

The Fountain will be the first dirt track race for Made You Look, trained by Todd Pletcher.  His record includes a win in the 7 ½ furlong Dania Beach (Grade 3) on turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 7.

Castellano has ridden Made You Look in all six of his previous races.  With Castellano staying on Irish War Cry, Pletcher has turned to his other go-to jockey John Velazquez to ride Made You Look who is a stretch runner.

Irish War Cry is in post eight.  Horses (with posts) likely to contest him for the lead are Beasley (post 6) who is making his stakes debut, Three Rules (post 7) and Takaful (post 10) who is 12-1 in the morning line.

Last year, 32 points was the cutoff for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

Point totals going into the Fountain are: Gunnevera 14, Practical Joke 14, Irish War Cry 10, Takaful 2 and Talk Logistics 1.

Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the Florida Derby will be 100, 40, 20 and 10.

The Saturday Guarantees

*Rainbow 6 (Races 8 to 3) — $400,000, 20 cent-only

*Late Pick 5 (Races 9  to 13) — $300,000 50 cent minimum

*Late Pick 4 (Races 10 to 13) — $600,000, 50 cent minimum

If pools (including the Rainbow 6 carryover) do not meet the guaranteed levels, Gulfstream will put in money to make up the difference.

The Rainbow 6 pool will include a carryover of $139,818.42

In addition, there is a Super Hi-5 guarantee of $12,233.77 on the first race.


Saturday Stakes

Here are the stakes races, with scheduled post times:

*4th– $100,000 Herecomesthebride (Grade 3):  1 1/16 miles turf, 3-YO fillies; 1:30 p.m.

*5th –$100,000 Fred W. Hooper (Grade 3): 1 mile dirt. 4-YO and up. 2:00 p.m.

*6th—$100,000 Sand Springs: one mile turf; fillies and mares. 4-YO and up, 2:30 p.m.

7th—$150,000 The Very One (Grade 3): 1 3/16 miles turf, fillies and mares 4-YO and up, 3:01 p.m.

9th–$100,000 Palm Beach (Grade 3): 1 1/16 miles turf, 3-year-olds, 4:03 p.m.

10th–$200,000 Davona Dale (Grade 2): one mile dirt, 3-YO fillies, 4:34 p.m.

11th–$150,000 Canadian Turf  (Grade 3): one mile turf, 4-YO and up, 5:05 p.m.

12th–$200,000 MacDiarmida (Grade 2): 1 3/8 miles turf, 4-YO and up
13th–$400,000 Fountain of Youth (Grade 2): 1 1 1/16 miles dirt, 3-YOs, 6:05 p.m.

The combination of that lineup and the guarantees virtually assure that Gulfstream will continue this season’s trend of exceptionally strong handle on Saturdays.

Last year, Gulfstream ran the Fountain of Youth and six other stakes on a 13-race card on Saturday Feb. 27.

On a clear day, all-sources handle was $24,113,490—a Fountain of Youth day record.

With clear skies forecast for Saturday. So, look for a new Fountain of Youth handle record.

Yes, folks, it should be a  huge day.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

With McCraken Out, TB Derby Looks Wide Open

By Jim Freer

McCraken has a slight strain to his left front ankle and will not run in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11, the 3-year-old colt’s trainer Ian Wilkes said on Tuesday.

In an article in BloodhorseDaily Wilkes called the injury “a minor setback.

He said he plans to point McCraken to the 1 1/8 mile Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 2) at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., on April 15 as his final prep for the 1 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1).  The Kentucky Derby will be run May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Trainer Ian Wilkes

Trainer Ian Wilkes

The unbeaten McCraken almost certainly would have been favored in the Tampa Bay Derby, a 1 1/16  mile dirt race that is a key prep for the Kentucky Derby.

On its Twitter page Tuesday, Tampa Bay Downs gave a “thumbs up” to Wilkes’ comment that he wants to do “what is good for the horse.”

Wednesday morning, the Tampa Bay Downs media office told us: “Suddenly, it appears to be a much more wide-open race. We are hoping for a full field and we wish McCraken and his connections the best moving forward.”

March 11 Races

However, McCraken’s injury will undoubtedly take some of the luster from what was shaping up as one of the biggest days in the history of Tampa Bay Downs.

March 11 is the Oldsmar track’s annual Festival Day, with the Tampa Bay Derby and four other stakes races.

McCraken won the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (Grade 3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11, setting a track record 1:42.45 for 1 1/16 miles (photo on home page courtesy of Tampa Bay Downs).

McCraken is first on many analysts’ lists of Kentucky Derby contenders, and his presence would have generated huge national publicity from the racing press. Festival Day also was looming as one of the biggest days ever for handle and attendance at Tampa Bay Downs.

On the plus side, the second through fourth place finishers from the Sam F. Davis are expected back for the Tampa Bay Derby. They are Tapwrit, State of Honor and Wild Shot. The highly regarded No Dozing, sixth in the Sam F. Davis, also is likely to run in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Entries for the Tampa Bay Derby and other March 11 races will be announced on Wednesday March 8.

Wilkes said the strain in McCraken’s ankle was discovered on Tuesday morning and that X-rays were clean.

On Monday, McCraken worked four furlongs in 48.90 seconds at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach. The son of Ghostzapper cooled out in good order after the workout. Wilkes said.

“Horse Comes First”

It was McCraken’s first workout since the Sam F. Davis

“He worked yesterday,” Wilkes said. “He worked great. This morning he just had a slight strain.”

Wilkes added: “I just feel like… the horse comes first. And I don’t want to come back and work him next week

for the Tampa Bay Derby. If I have to miss a race, I would rather miss this one, take care of the horse, get him right, and run him in the Blue Grass.”

McCraken  will probably need to finish third or better in the Blue Grass to get into the Kentucky Derby.

The Derby’s 20 starting spots are reserved for pre-entered horse with the most points in “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying races. There are 34 races in the United States, one in Dubai and two in Japan.

Last year, the cutoff was 32 points—the highest in the first five years for that qualifying system.

McCraken has 20 qualifying points

As a final round qualifying race. The Blue Grass awards 100 points to the winner.  Second through fourth place are worth 40, 20 and ten points respectively.

Thus, finishing third or higher would get McCraken into the Kentucky Derby.

McCraken earned ten points each for his wins in the Sam F. Davis and in the Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade 2) last Nov. 26 at   Churchill Downs.TampaRacing4_Days

The Tampa Bay Derby is a second round race, with  50 points for the winner.  Second through fourth are worth 20, ten and five points.

Thus, the winner (if he stays healthy) will be assured a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Though Wilkes hoped to get three 2017 prep races into McCraken leading into the Kentucky Derby, he takes comfort in the already solid foundation Janis Whitham’s homebred has in his four career starts.

The bay colt won all three of his starts as a juvenile. His win in the Sam F. Davis was his first 2017 race and first start outside of Churchill Downs.