Weekend Stakes: Will a Contender Stand Up?

Heading into last Saturday it was easy to be certain that I Want Revenge was going to run a solid race in the Wood Memorial.  It seemed safe to assume Pioneerof the Nile would be in the mix in the Santa Anita Derby.  It might not have been as clear that Musket Man would win the Illinois Derby, but it was quite conceivable.  That was then and this is now.

The two major Derby preps this weekend, the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) and the #1,000,000 (G2) feature bulky fields.  However, there seem to be few serious Derby contenders in either of those headliners.  Old Fashioned will have to erase the bad memories of a subpar stretch run in the Rebel Stakes last time out when Win Willy ran right by him at 55-1.  Win Willy will have to prove that he is not a one-hit wonder who capitalized on an incredible pace setup and belongs in the Kentucky Derby rather than the Lone Star or Iowa Derbies.  Papa Clem will have to find a way to hang around a bit when confronted as he had no answer for Friesan Fire in the Lousiana Derby after setting very slow fractions.  Any of those three have proven they’re capable of winning a race like this while the balance of the field will have to move forward in a big way.

In the Blue Grass Hold Me Back is clearly the horse to beat as he exits a terrific performance in the Lane’s End (G2) but he benefited from a perfect setup that day as the pace developed quickly in front of him.  That might not be the case today and the expected dull pace will hinder his ability to rally in the late stages.  Patena was considered by many, including yours truly, to be a serious Derby player but he was creamed in the Louisiana Derby.  He seems to like synthetic surfaces, so there are reasons to be excited.  The big unknown in this spot is Mafaaz, who recently scored in the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Kempton.  He has to prove he’s capable of competing against graded stakes animals in America, so I’ll pass on him as a win candidate.  For those of you who haven’t seen his one, take a look:

Join in the Dance recently ran a strong race in the Tampa Bay Derby as he cut out all the pace and was nailed in the final stages.  He should get a very nice trip on the front end this afternoon and if Charitable Man is taken back off the lead, Johnny V could find himself alone at the top.  Undoubtedly, the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby will be terrific betting races, so get your pencils handy and take a crack at the two biggest Derby preps left on the slate.

Here’s who I like on Saturday:

Blue Grass: Patena
Ark Derby: Old Fashioned
Commonwealth: Ravalo
Jenny Wiley: Backseat Rhythm
Shakertown: Fort Prado
Comely: Don’t Forget Gil

Who do you like?  Good luck!

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One Response to “Weekend Stakes: Will a Contender Stand Up?”

  1. Pat Cummings Says:

    BlueGrass – Patena
    Arkansas Derby – Captain Cherokee (his dad did it here before)
    Commonwealth – Rebellion
    Jenny Wiley – Kiss With A Twist
    Shakertown – Cannonball
    Comely – Holdontoyourdream

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