The Kentucky Derby trail winds through three tracks Saturday as Tampa Bay Downs (Tampa Bay Derby), Aqueduct (Gotham) and Santa Anita Park (San Felipe) all host qualifying prep races.
All three races will offer the top four finishers Derby qualifying points totaling 50-20-10-5.
The Tampa Bay Derby and Gotham will be shown live on FS2 in a 90-minute broadcast of FOX Sports Saturday at the Races starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.
In addition to the Derby preps, Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is available to bettors through 6 p.m. ET Sunday.
Tampa Bay Derby
The feature race of the Tampa Bay Downs meet will pit a full field of 12 competitors seeking an elusive Derby gate, including local prep winner Sole Volante (2-1), the top choice on the morning line. The race is 1 1/8-miles over the Tampa oval and will go off at 5:32 p.m. ET as Race 11.
The favorite won the Sam F. Davis last month, garnering 10 Derby points and sits in No. 17 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Trainer Patrick Biancone already has one colt in the Derby with Ete Indien’s win last Saturday at Gulfstream. Florent Geroux will make his Tampa debut aboard the son of Karakontie.
Chance It (5-2) scratched out of last weekend’s Fountain of Youth due to an outside post position with the short run to the clubhouse turn at Gulfstream. His chances are improved over this field, which appears weaker than last weekend’s group in South Florida.
He has won two straight and ventures outside of Gulfstream for the first time for Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey Paco Lopez will likely have the Mucho Macho Man winner on the engine early.
After the top two, the talent level looks to drop, but trainer Todd Pletcher will take a swing at a record sixth victory in the race, sending three colts to the starting gate. Of the three, Market Analysis (8-1), a lightly raced son of Honor Code, looks to be the most threatening to the favorites. He beat Gotham starter Attachment Rate in his lone career race, a maiden win at Gulfstream.
His longest shot also looks dangerous. Unrighteous (20-1) just was nipped by a good-looking Spa City (10-1) last out and has been working lights out.
Post Time Outlook (Tampa Bay Derby): 1 – Chance It, 2 –Market Analysis, 3 –Sole Volante, 4 – Unrighteous
The Big A is the site for the Gotham Stakes, a one-turn dirt mile that attracted 11 sophomore colts looking for Derby points.
The field for the $300,000 Grade 3 Gotham will go to post at 5:42 p.m. ET as Race 10 on a stakes-filled card in Ozone Park.
The favorite is the runaway Swale winner Mischievous Alex (3-1), trained by John Servis, who conditioned 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. Kendrick Carmouche will ride the $140,000 OBS April purchase for Servis.
Partly owned by Cash is King LLC -- the group that owned dual classic winner Afleet Alex -- the son of Into Mischief has won consecutive races impressively and stretches out to a mile.
With plenty of speed in the race, a horse who will definitely be coming late is Montauk Traffic (6-1), the Linda Rice-trainee who has won two in a row, including last month’s Jimmy Winkfield over the Big A surface. It will be the Cross Traffic colt’s first attempt at a route, where Rice is hitting at a 28 percent clip. Lots to like about the gray colt who will be a nice price at the windows.
Dale Romans will ship in a promising Hard Spun colt, Attachment Rate (9-2), who comes out of a six-length maiden breaker at Gulfstream. The speedy 3-year-old out of an Afleet Alex mare comes in third off the layoff with Luis Saez in the irons.
A colt who looks to be improving is Untitled (4-1), who will have Junior Alvarado aboard. Mark Casse, who had a brilliant 2019 Triple Crown season, is shipping in from Florida and looking to bring home valuable Derby points with the son of Khozan.
Post Time Outlook (Gotham): 1 – Mischievous Alex, 2 –Montauk Traffic, 3 –Attachment Rate; 4 –Untitled
San Felipe Stakes
The race with the most stars, including two in this week’s National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Top Ten, will be contested at Santa Anita Park. A short field of seven will run 1 1/16-miles over the Arcadia strip in the $400,000 Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. It will go to post at 6:01 ET as Race 8.
Shockingly, Bob Baffert has the top two colts in the race in Authentic (6-5) and Thousand Words (9-5). Drayden Van Dyke will ride Authentic, an Into Mischief colt coming off a seven-length win in the Grade 3 Sham.
He is ranked No. 6 in the NTRA poll, four slots behind Thousand Words. It will be Authentic’s third career race and his workout tab hints that he’s sitting on a big one Saturday.
Thousand Words, the second choice on the morning line, has won all three of his career races, including the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity and the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis over the Santa Anita track. Flavien Prat will ride.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and last year’s 2-year-old divisional champion Storm the Court (5-1) looks to rebound off his disappointing fourth-place finish in last month’s Grade 2 San Vicente. Joel Rosario gets the call in the irons for trainer Peter Eurton.
An under-the-radar option is Honor A.P. (4-1), an Honor Code colt who will have Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the irons. It will be his first start in his 3-year-old campaign, so it might be too much to ask for against the top two.
Post Time Outlook (San Felipe): 1 – Thousand Words; 2 – Authentic; 3 – Honor A.P.; 4 – Storm the Court
Derby Future Wager Pool 3
With 24 wagering interests, Pool No. 3 provides plenty of opportunity to bet on a horse who will likely be lower odds on Derby day. Tiz the Law (8-1), the Holy Bull winner, is the lowest-priced colt in the pool. All Others (9-2), meaning any horse not included as part of the pool in positions 1-23, will likely retain the favorite’s role as it did in Pool 2.
Colts who have piqued my interest include Silver Prospector (20-1) and Gouverneur Morris (20-1). If either wins a prep race, his price will likely go down significantly. Any horses who win this weekend before the close of the pool, will likely plummet to odds that won’t make sense to bet in a Future Pool, when you can wait for a better price on Derby day.
Exacta wagering is also available and this will lead me to an exacta box, including Tiz the Law, Thousand Words, Chance It and All Others.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.