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Post Time: Derby trail heats up this weekend

The Derby trail winds from coast to coast Saturday with the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream, the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct.

The Withers will be run at 1 1/8-miles and the other two at 1 1/16-miles with each race worth 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers.

All three races can be seen live on FS2 during a 2 ½-hour telecast broadcast by the New York Racing Association starting at 4 p.m. It is the first of 12 editions of Fox Sports Saturday At The Races.

Last year’s Holy Bull was won by Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Audible, who finished fifth in last weekend’s Pegasus for trainer Todd Pletcher. The race drew the biggest field of the three Derby preps this weekend, with 10 entrants.

Here’s a look at the entries for the Holy Bull (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):

Race 11 – Gulfstream Park, Post Time: 5:13 p.m. ET

1 – Garter and Tie (Nicks, Gaffalione, 12-1). Florida-bred who likes to stalk the pace and has some speed. Was less than three lengths behind the highly regarded Mihos in last out and his numbers are not out of line here. Could pull the surprise. Rail winning at a fairly high 27 percent. Watch out.

2 – Federal Case (Pletcher, Castellano, 6-1).  High-profile connections on the undefeated son of Gemologist who won an allowance at Gulfstream after breaking his maiden at Keeneland. Johnny V jumps off to ride Mihos for Jimmy Jerkens, that could be telling enough for this one.

3 – Epic Dreamer (Breen, Ortiz, Jr., 15-1).  Longshot son of Orb, who had some success at this track on his way to Derby glory. Has some back class, finishing ahead of Mihos in his debut race in September at Belmont Park. Looks to be a step slow to stay with this group.

4 – Everfast (Romans, Landeros, 30-1). Son of Take Charge Indy has failed to follow up his maiden win with another victory in five tries. Seems to be overmatched here. Landeros, who impressed on Pegasus day last weekend, gets his first-ever mount on the Romans hopeful.

5 – Harvey Wallbanger (McPeek, Hernandez, 15-1).  Returns after a layoff and immediately steps up in class after breaking his maiden in his fourth attempt at Churchill in November. Has never missed the exacta in his four outings, but enters deeper waters here.

6 – Mihos (Jerkens, Velazquez, 5-2).  Improving son of Cairo Prince, who won this race in 2014 impressively, draws second choice on the morning line. Comes in third off the layoff on the form cycle and looks ready to roll. Dangerous.

7 – Come on Gerry (Romans, Albarado, 20-1). Lightly raced colt gets Romans’ first call rider in Albarado and comes out of a maiden breaker on the local track. Expensive Keeneland purchase ($335,000) will need to step up in a big way to contend.

8 – Maximus Mischief (Reid Jr., Ortiz, 1-1). Even-money favorite draws outside, which could present problems in the short run to the first turn. His numbers are the best of any in the race, but they don’t run 'em on paper. The Remsen winner is the one to beat, and beat him we’ll try.

9 – Gladiator King (Mejia, Montalvo, 30-1). Hasn’t fared well at the longer distances and a successful stretch out seems highly unlikely. Solid Calder runner, but is going to struggle against the big boys.

10 – Going for Gold (Hess, Jimenez, 30-1). Laurel shipper stretches out for the first time and adds blinkers. Only his third career race and the outside post won’t do him any favors. Will wait one out on this one.

Post Time Outlook:  1 – Mihos; 2 – Garter and Tie; 3 – Maximus Mischief; 4 – Federal Case

Withers

Race 9 – Aqueduct Racetrack; Post Time 4:30 p.m. ET 

The Withers drew a field of seven colts and geldings trying to obtain those valuable Derby points at the Big A in Ozone Park. Morning-line favorite Tax (2-1) was a close third in the local prep, the Remsen, in November for trainer Danny Gargan. New York-based trainer Todd Pletcher will start Moretti (3-1) with Manny Franco in the irons after breaking his maiden at the distance on the Big A dirt. The potential upsetter is Our Braintrust (6-1), who was beaten by the well-regarded Mind Control in the Jerome on New Year’s Day.

Post Time Outlook:  1 – Braintrust; 2 – Moretti; 3 – Tax; 4 – Lucky Lee

Robert B. Lewis

Race 6 – Santa Anita Race Track; Post Time: 5:53 p.m. ET

The Great Race Place is the final stop of the day for the Derby trail, with the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on tap. A small field of six challengers will approach the gate in Southern California. Three colts appear to be head and shoulders above the others with morning-line favorite Mucho Gusto (8-5) getting the slight nod over Gunmetal Gray (9-5) by the Santa Anita oddsmaker. Nolo Contesto (5-2) is also in the mix, trained by John Sadler. We’ll go with the classy Gunmetal Gray with Mike Smith in the irons over the favorite trained by Bob Baffert. He has faced tougher company and comes out of an impressive win in last month’s Sham.

Post Time Outlook:  1 – Gunmetal Gray; 2 – Mucho Gusto; 3 – Nolo Contesto; 4 – Magnificent McCool

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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