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Blog - GAMBLING

Officer Alex (outside) outduels Bobcat Jim to win the Bachelor Stakes on April 6 at Oaklawn Park. (Photo Courtesy of Coady Photoghraphy)

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The 89th running of the $175,000 Derby Trial Stakes offers the winner 20 points as the last race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, but it’s unlikely, though not entirely out of the question, that the winner will come back in one week to traverse the first leg of the Triple Crown. That being said, the Derby Trial is still a very good race. Perhaps leading the field in terms of name recognition is Capo Bastone, trained by North American leading trainer Todd Pletcher. Losing all chance at the start in the Spiral Stakes last month, Capo Bastone won his 2013 debut following a third-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to wrap up his 2-year-old year. Another to consider strongly is Officer Alex, who has won two races in a row including the Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn Park in his most recent start. Forty Tales ran poorly when fifth of 11 as the favorite last month in the Swale Stakes but before that proved he belongs at this level when second in the Hutcheson Stakes. Titletown Five finished second in the Gazebo Stakes at the beginning of March then finished ninth in the much tougher Louisiana Derby, so he could be a factor versus these easier foes. Recent Sophomore Stakes runner-up (by a nose) Ruler of Love won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Stakes last fall and could be on an improving pattern in his third start off a layoff, while Ruble tackles stakes competition for the first time but has won two races in a row, including his most recent effort at the same one-turn mile distance as the Derby Trial. Tour Guide won the Sugar Bowl Stakes and Allen’s Landing Stakes in December and January, respectively, before a poor eighth-place finish in the Bachelor Stakes. Zee Bros ships in from California for the always dangerous Bob Baffert barn and, although just a last out maiden winner, could be the one to catch. G. T. Tabu rounds out the field, a maiden claiming winner in February with two poor efforts since and who seems to be overmatched.

Officer Alex does not need the lead for his best, as evidenced by his rally from fifth to first in his most recent race when victorious in the Bachelor Stakes three weeks ago. Having improved to a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure with that effort, Officer Alex has worked exceptionally well since shipping into Churchill Downs, his most recent morning drill in preparation for the race the second-best of 81 at the distance of a half-mile a few days ago. With improvement projected off his last effort and having won his last three sprints (under a mile) in a row, Officer Alex gets top billing to win this year’s Derby Trial Stakes.

Forty Tales won the first two races of his career, then in only his third lifetime start missed winning by a half-length when second in the Hutcheson Stakes, a graded sprint stakes for 3-year-olds just like this race. In his only start after the Hutcheson, Forty Tales was sent to post as the prohibitive favorite but could only manage a fifth-place finish. Just the same, Forty Tales ran the fastest he had ever run as he earned a 102 Equibase Speed Figure. Rested since then and with red-hot rider Joel Rosario aboard, Forty Tales could be right there at the finish line with Officer Alex in this situation.

Ruble has improved his Equibase Speed Figures in each of his last three races, all since returning from a two-month layoff in January. Starting with a 91 speed-figure effort when second and beaten a half-length, Ruble improved to 92 when winning by more than three lengths then improved again to move right through the first allowance level with a 101 Equibase Speed Figure. That last win comes at the same one-turn mile trip as the Derby Trial and with a strong workout (third-best of 43) at Churchill Downs coming into the race, Ruble is yet another that has a shot to earn his first stakes victory.

Zee Bros earned the second-best last-race Equibase Speed Figure in the field, 104, when winning nicely at Santa Anita last month at the distance of seven furlongs (seven-eighths of a mile) then was flattered when both the runner-up and third-place finishers came back to win their next races. Titletown Five won at the same seven-furlong distance last fall at Churchill Downs, earning a career-best 110 Equibase Speed Figure that is the best earned by any horse in the field. However, Titletown Five has led at the first quarter-mile mark in his last five races and Zee Bros led at the same point in his two starts, so it appears they will get into a battle for the early lead at any cost that should cause them to be vulnerable to a host of stalkers and closers in the late stages.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Capo Bastone (92), G. T. Tabu (88), Ruler of Love (99) and Tour Guide (93).

My Selections:

Officer Alex

Forty Tales

Ruble 

$175,000 Derby Trial Stakes

Saturday, Churchill Downs, Race 10, 10:42 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 mile

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1

Officer Alex (PA)

R. Albarado

L. Whiting

2

Ruler of Love (FL)

R. Napravnik

J. Scott

3

Zee Bros (KY)

M. Smith

B. Baffert

4

Forty Tales (KY)

J. Rosario

T. Pletcher

5

Ruble (KY)

A. Garcia

I. Wilkes

6

Capo Bastone (KY)

G. Gomez

T. Pletcher

7

Tour Guide (KY)

M. Mena

D. Lukas

8

G. T. Tabu (FL)

W. Martinez

S. Parbhoo

9

Titletown Five (KY)

G. Stevens

D. Lukas

All carry 118 pounds.

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Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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