Saturday April 8th, seven 3 year olds will go to post in the $1 million dollar Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland. The big names in this prep are McCraken for Trainer Ian Wilkes, who is undefeated in 4 starts with BJ Hernandez in the irons. Todd Pletcher sends out Tapwrit with Johnny V aboard. Chad Brown brings Practical Joke to the party, and Dale Romans ships in J Boys Echo off a nice win in the Gotham. 100 derby points to the winner, 40 points to second, 20 points to third, and 10 points to fourth.
Let’s get to our analysis:
It’s your Nickel – Trainer: Kenny Mcpeek – Jockey: James Graham – M/L: 20/1 – Derby Points: 0
Coming in off a 6 length score in the John Battaglia on the poly track at Turfway. He’s up against it in this group. A possible longshot play in the bottom of exotics @ 20/1, but I see his future on the grass.
McCraken – Trainer: Ian Wilkes – Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. – M/L: 7/5 – Derby Points: 20
Undefeated in four starts, McCraken looks to rebound off a minor ankle injury after his win in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay over Tapwrit. He appears to be training well but comes into this race slightly slower on speed figures compared to others in the field, and at 7/5, he doesn’t offer much value. Nevertheless, he is an undefeated graded stakes winner over multiple surfaces, so he cannot be discounted. With only 20 derby points currently, he needs to at least stay up for 4th to potentially make the starting gates on May 6th.
J Boys Echo – Trainer: Dale Romans – Jockey: Robby Albarado – M/L: 4/1 – Derby Points: 53
Kentucky native Dale Romans ships J Boy down from New York after a 3 1/2 length romp in the Gotham Stakes @ Aqueduct. I like the confidence of Romans shipping J Boy in to give his horse a shot against this group. He had a nice ground saving trip in the Gotham, sitting off the front end speed and pouncing around the far turn, and if he runs back to that race, he’s going to be tough to beat…but that was a big jump up and I don’t see him duplicating that performance or moving forward here.
Tapwrit – Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Jockey: Jose Ortiz – M/L: 5/2 – Derby Points: 54
Once the Pletcher train pulls out of the station in spring for Derby prep races, it usually doesn’t slow down until that first Saturday in May. He ships Tapwrit in off of a 4 1/2 score in the Tampa Bay Derby. Tapwrit has progressed nicely this spring and hasn’t taken a backwards step so far. I see this one moving forward on Saturday and putting forth a strong effort. Will his best be better than McCracken’s? At 5/2 I’m willing to take a shot and say yes.
Wild Shot – Trainer: George Arnold II – Jockey: Corey Lanerie – M/L: 15/1 – Derby Points: 17
Wild Shot looks to be the pace in this race after coming up short trying to close in the Tampa Bay Derby. He’s had a trip over the surface and hung on for 3rd behind Classic Empire and Lookin at Lee in the Breeders Futurity last year. Can he hang on for a piece of the Bluegrass? I’ll give him a shot in the exotics @ 15/1.
Irap – Trainer: Doug O’Neill – Jockey: Julien Leparoux – M/L: 20/1 – Derby Points: 13
This hard trier has placed in three graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Los Al Futurity behind Mastery. He was up on a hot pace last out and faded to finish 4th. With only 13 days rest, I don’t him firing his best shot here.
Practical Joke – Trainer: Chad Brown – Jockey: Joel Rosario – M/L: 7/2 – Derby Points: 34
Practical Joke is a two time Grade 1 winner and ran a bang up 3rd in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last November at Santa Anita. The big question with Practical Joke is can he win going two turns? I don’t know if he can, and I’m not a big fan of him coming out of the 7 hole with Rosario potentially hanging him wide into the first turn, but his chance to prove himself is Saturday. He has been progressing nicely on speed figures and looks poised for a career best performance, IF he can get the 9 furlongs. At 7/2 he’s your 3rd choice in the wagering and is a top contender.
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