Kentucky Derby Countdown

Peter Fornatale begins the journey to the Run For The Roses with a look at the hat-trick of Grade 3 contests taking place Stateside on Saturday night - live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Friday 31 January
  • Blog
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The road to the Triple Crown in the USA begins in earnest this weekend with a trio of Grade 3 prep races across the country.

We’ll start in my native New York with The Withers at Aqueduct, a nine-furlong race that sees SHOTSKI make his return to the races after his frontrunning score in the Remsen back in November. This time around, Monday Morning QB looks to be faster early, but I have real questions about his stamina. He hasn’t been farther than seven furlongs and is no lock to want to go this far on breeding or the appearance he made in the lane last time. I think this time Shotski can show a new dimension, stalking and pouncing to victory. It remains to be seen how he’ll stack up with the best of his generation as the tests get tougher, but for now, Shotski looks good enough to be the King of New York.

Watch U.S Racing live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) every evening.

Heading south to Gulfstream Park at Florida, we have the 8.5-furlong Holy Bull. TIZ THE LAW is the star on display here as he looks to make amends for his disappointing run at Churchill Downs last time. There were plenty of excuses there, including the sloppy track and the fact that he got bottled up at a critical stage. His worktab suggests we’re ready to see something much more impressive. Interestingly, in the USA he’s considered the antepost favorite for the Derby right now, but is available at 20-1 in places in the UK. If he runs off the screen Saturday, that number will obviously have to shorten up quite a bit. As for the Holy Bull, he’s be backable at the 3-5 of the USA morning line.

Out west at Santa Anita, we have the Bob Lewis, a race that Bob Baffert has won in four of the last six runnings, and wouldn’t you know, Baffert holds a strong hand here once again. Thousand Words will likely go favored off a win in the Los Alamitos Futurity, but today I’m more interested in one of the rivals he vanquished that day, his stablemate HIGH VELOCITY.

In the Futurity, the track was muddy, and High Velocity looked to be stuck down inside on the worst part of it. Thousand Words appeared to relish the going. On a dry track, with a possible pace edge, I like High Velocity’s chance to reverse the form. I also prefer the look of HV’s worktab heading into this, with fast, longer drills, compared to the more run-of-the-mill works from Thousand Words. These two are a bit down the pecking order in the Baffert barn (his best at the moment looking like Nadal and Authentic) but I think there’s an opportunity to bet High Velocity here today at anything over 2-1.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

SHOTSKI at 2-1 or higher in the Withers.
TIZ THE LAW at 3-5 or higher in the Holy Bull.
HIGH VELOCITY at 2-1 or higher in the Bob Lewis.

Kentucky Derby Countdown
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