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Blog - GAMBLING

California Chrome stamped himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite Saturday. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)

The $1 million Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby 

April 5, Santa Anita Park

It only took 1 minute and 47.52 seconds to instill the clarity that the Kentucky Derby had been missing for months.

Even with two more major preps on the horizon, there’s no longer any mystery about who will be the favorite on the first Saturday in May. In dominating the Santa Anita Derby and cruising to yet another lopsided triumph, California Chrome vaulted himself to the top of the 3-year-old ranks.

Perhaps his modest pedigree will catch up with him at Churchill Downs, but for now there’s no denying that California Chrome has raced at a level of excellence a notch or two above any other horse in the division.

A winner by 7 ¼ lengths in the Grade 2 San Felipe in his previous start, California Chrome once again toyed with his West Coast rivals in taking California’s premier prep for the opening leg of the Triple Crown. Showing speed from the break, the 3-5 favorite pressed the pace of 33-1 shot Dublin Up, with 5-2 second choice Candy Boy outside him in third. Approaching the quarter pole, California Chrome shifted into a higher gear and pulled away from those two, not to mention the rest of the field, with ease.

By mid-stretch, California Chrome was ahead by five lengths and en route to a decisive 5 ¼-length triumph.

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While there was not a big enough swing in the late wagering to earn anyone a spot on the Hot List, California Chrome’s performance was so impressive that he received an A on the Hot List as a preferred horse to watch in its next race.

Come the first Saturday in May, if someone wants to win the Run for the Roses, California Chrome is unquestionably the one they’ll have to beat.

Hoppertunity, who won the Grade 2 Rebel in his last start, rallied from fifth to take second, but was left off the Hot List because he was soundly beaten with no visible excuse.

Candy Boy, though, has the look of a horse that should improve off his effort in the Santa Anita Derby and received a B as a secondary horse to watch. The Santa Anita Derby was his first start since winning the Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 8 and he may have needed the race. Fresh off the layoff, he was closer to the pace than usual and was unable to match strides with California Chrome when he tried to move with the 3-5 favorite on the final turn.

Candy Boy wound up third, beaten 8 ¾ lengths. Yet if he can crack the field of 20 for the Derby, a more seasoned Candy Boy figures to run in mid-pack and could emerge as the one who poses a major threat in the final furlong to the speedsters, like California Chrome.

At the very least, he’ll offer better odds and more value than the horse who finally made clarity a part of the Kentucky Derby outlook, California Chrome.

Santa Anita Derby Late Wagering Report

Horse

Odds 3 min. to post

Final Odds

1. Rprettyboyfloyd

24-to-1

27-to-1

2. Friendswith K Mill

44-to-1

46-to-1

3. Hoppertunity

4-to-1

4-to-1

4. Big Tire

49-to-1

54-to-1

5. California Chrome

3-to-5

3-to-5

6. Candy Boy

5-to-2

5-to-2

7. Schoolofhardrocks

16-to-1

16-to-1

8. Dublin Up

30-to-1

33-to-1

The $1 Million Grade 1 Wood Memorial

April 5, Aqueduct Racetrack

At first glance, Wicked Strong’s 3 ½-length win in the Wood Memorial seemed like another surprising chapter in a Triple Crown prep season marked by the defections and disappointments of its top contenders.

Yet upon further review, there’s a lot to like in this victorious 9-1 shot. His time in the mile and an eighth Wood was a quick 1:49.31, the fastest clocking since Bellamy Road in 2005. He also showed a strong late kick that bodes well for his chances of handling a classic mile and a quarter distance in the Derby. That late-running style also offers a nice contrast to the early speed of the probable favorite, California Chrome.

WICKED STRONG IMPRESSED IN THE WOOD MEMORIAL

Wickedstronghero

The Wood hasn’t been a great barometer of Derby success as Fusaichi Pegasus is the only horse to win both races from 1982 through 2013. Yet in going back to 1981, there was a colt whose exploits might be a harbinger of things to come for Wicked Strong.

As a 2-year-old, Pleasant Colony won the Remsen at Aqueduct, but lost in his first two races at three in Florida. When he returned to New York in April, he blossomed and captured the 1981 Wood and then prevailed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Wicked Strong was a close third in the Remsen, losing by less than a length to Honor Code and Cairo Prince, then flopped in two Florida races. He, too, became revitalized in New York and perhaps that form may carry over to Churchill Downs as well.

He may not be as impressive as California Chrome at this point, but based on his effort in the Wood, Wicked Strong looks like a horse that should be a serious factor in the final furlong of the Derby and was placed on the Hot List with a B.

Uncle Sigh joined him on the Hot List with a C as he dropped from 7-1 to 5-1 in the final three minutes of wagering.

Though he finished fifth, Uncle Sigh had a rough trip as he broke slowly and then lost considerable ground while racing four wide on both turns. He’s a question mark for the Kentucky Derby with just 24 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, but Uncle Sigh nonetheless figures to improve in his next start, wherever that may be.

In a final footnote to the race, the nose that separated runner-up Samraat from the 8-5 favorite Social Inclusion (whose odds went up late after he acted up in the post parade) could change the complexion of the Derby. By finishing third, Social Inclusion received only 20 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series and may not crack the field of 20.

A runner-up finish in the Wood would have given Social Inclusion 40 points and perhaps punched his ticket to Louisville for the Derby, where his sharp early speed has the potential to make things difficult for California Chrome on the front end.

For now, the Preakness looks like the next stop Social Inclusion, but a few defections might convince his connections to give the Run for the Roses a try  - a move that would certainly help the cause of Wicked Strong and the other closers in the race.

Wood Memorial Late Wagering Report

Horse

Odds 3 min. to post

Final Odds

2. Wicked Strong

8-to-1

9-to-1

3. Noble Moon

17-to-1

20-to-1

4. Harpoon

7-to-1

7-to-1

5. Los Borrachos

37-to-1

47-to-1

6. Kristo

15-to-1

17-to-1

7. Schivarelli

16-to-1

16-to-1

8. Samraat

3-to-1

3-to-1

9. Effinex

40-to-1

59-to-1

10. Uncle Sigh

7-to-1

5-to-1

11. Social Inclusion

3-to-2

8-to-5

Hot List horses are rated in four lettered categories:

A: A preferred horse to watch off his effort in the race

B: A secondary horse to watch off his effort in the race

*C: Went down 2 or more betting notches in the final minutes of wagering and finished 1st through 3rd 

*D: Went down 2 or more betting notches in the final minutes of wagering and finished 4th or worse

* - 4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more. 

For questions on the Hot List, email: nyhotlist@gmail.com

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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