Rich Strike, with Sonny Leon aboard, crosses the finish line ahead of Epicenter and Zandon to win the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. May 7, 2022
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- Around the globe horse racing has high end action this weekend with the $12 million Dubai World Cup getting the day rolling early
- The Louisiana Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks are significant Kentucky Derby prep races later in the day
- After diving into the past performances, where is value present for Saturday horse racing picks on the Sport of Kings?
With six weeks before the Kentucky Derby, narrowing the contenders from pretenders down is essential. The mile and three-sixteenths Louisiana Derby has been run since 1894 and has twice produced Kentucky Derby winners. Last year Epicenter came very close to becoming the third. We’ll break down this and more top races this weekend in our horse racing picks.
The horse that beat Epicenter in last year’s Run for the Roses, Rich Strike, took an unconventional route to Louisville. His three races before the Derby were on Turfway Park’s synthetic surface. He finished third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. Who will emerge this year from Cincinnati’s suburbs?
A world away, the second biggest purse in horse racing is contested in Dubai. Half of the 26 winners of the World Cup have been American including Cigar, Silver Charm, Curlin and California Chrome. The Far East has produced just one winner, Victoire Pisa in 2011, but they have the majority of the challengers this time around
Let’s look closely at these three big races, and see where we may find betting value.
Horse Racing Picks
|Louisiana Derby||Instant Coffee||+200|
|Jeff Ruby Steaks||Funtastic Again||+600|
|Dubai World Cup||Ushba Tesoro||+1000|
The two Derby preps will be run between 6-7pm EST and air on CNBC. Weather at Fair Grounds in New Orleans is expected to be in the low 80s with a significant chance of rain early in the day, but likely clear around race time. The mile-and-an-eighth Jeff Ruby could feature a wet track too. At Turfway Park there is likely to be rain in the early afternoon, but the synthetic course is designed to deal well with precipitation, and it should be in the high 50s when post time comes around. The main event in Dubai goes at 12:35pm EST. Dry conditions and temperatures in the 80’s are expected for the mile-and-a-quarter challenge. Fox Sports 2 will televise the race. Our picks for these races can be seen above with further analysis below.
The latest Kentucky Derby odds suggest this week’s races could have a significant effect on the Run for the Roses. Let’s look carefully at this weekends events.
Louisiana Derby Prediction
Instant Coffee (+200) has a single loss, and it was to current Derby favorite Forte. He finished 2022 with a strong win, and opened 2023 with an even more impressive victory.
Though only Instant Coffee’s last race towers over this field, it is difficult to seperate the other contenders. One of those alternatives is Dennington (+1200). He finished fourth behind Instant Coffee in the Lecomte Stakes, but returned with an impressive victory over lesser horses last month. Cagliostro (+1200) was a neck behind Dennington in his third career start.
The Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on February 18 saw Angel of Empire win by a length. Angel of Empire is not running on Saturday, but second place Sun Thunder (+500), fourth Tapit’s Conquest (+1000), fifth Single Ruler (+1500), and eighth home Curly Jack (+1200) are. Sun Thunder made up almost 10 lengths to finish as the runner up, afer being well behind Arabian Knight, who was among the Derby favorites before being injured, in the Southwest Stakes. Like Instant Coffee, Tapit’s Conquest is trained by Brad Cox.
Jace’s Road (+1200) is a third Cox entrant. He was fifth in the Southwest Stakes but perhaps did not like the sloppy surface. His three races on fast going have resulted in two wins including a dominating performance in the Gun Runner Stakes in New Orleans late last year.
Kingsbarns (+600) is two-for-two. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been patient with this $800,000 son of Uncle Mo, winning a maiden race at Gulfstream Park, and optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. He’s looked great, but the level of competition has not been high.
Disarm (+1000) is also making his stakes debut. He won his second career start, at Saratoga in August. His only race since was a second place performance in an optional claimer at Oaklawn Park last month. Top connections Steve Asmussen and Joel Rosario make Disarm a live longshot.
Louisiana Derby Pick: Instant Coffee (+200)
Jeff Ruby Steaks Prediction
Pletcher’s Major Dude (+250) gets top rider Irad Ortiz for his synthetic track debut. He has three wins in four tries on turf, and is one for three on dirt. His convincing win in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park on the sod in early February was strong.
Two Phil’s (+350) also has never raced on a synthetic surface. He finished second behind Instant Coffee in the Lecomte Stakes in January, and was third in the Risen Star last month. While he has three wins in seven tries, his back-to-back runner up efforts against tough competition are his best career races.
Congruent’s (+500) synthetic debut three weeks ago was spectacular. Nothing about his first eight races suggested he was a Derby contender, but he seemed to love Turfway coming from way back to easily win a stakes race March 4.
Funtastic Again (+600) also has responded to the synthetic. His debut on turf didn’t go well, he broke his maiden on a race rained off the turf and run on the dirt at Saratoga, and then flopped on the dirt in the Breeders Cup. However, at Turfway in December and January he won easily. Was that level of competition, or has trainer Wesley Ward found something?
Wadsworth (+800) is another who has come to life at Turfway. His first three races were clunkers. On the synthetic on December 31 he won by 10 lengths against maidens, and then backed it up winning an optional claiming event on February 11.
While Major Dude or Two Phil’s might be the best, it is hard to love a horse running on a surface you don’t know in your horse racing picks whether they are going to take to or not.
Jeff Ruby Steaks Pick: Funtastic Again (+600)
Dubai World Cup Prediction
Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer (+300) is America’s only legitimate hope this year. He won the Dubai World Cup last year, after finishing second in the Saudi Cup. Last month, he once again was the runner up in Saudi Arabia.
The Dubai World Cup is two turns, one turn and an eighth of a mile longer than the Saudi Cup. It fits Country Grammer perfectly, and that may not be the case for Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa (+1000). Both horses are drawn to the extreme outside in a 15 horse field, and that means Panthalassa has to cross over or be strung wide, since he is going to the lead. Country Grammer must navigate the 14 post to try and save ground without giving up too much early distance.
Algiers (+300) has the 13-post, but was in less than ideal spots in the gate when winning two local prep races. He ran second finishing his 2022 campaign in a top tier race in Great Britian.
Emblem Road (+2000), who won the Saudi Cup in 2022, and finished sixth this year will break from post number two.
Like Panthalassa, Cafe Pharoah (+1200) may like shorter distances better. That said, he won each of his Group 1 races on dirt last year and held his own in the Saudi Cup.
Ushba Tesoro (+800) beat T O Keynes (+1000) in a Group 1 race on February 1 in Japan. Ushba Tesoro has won four straight, and two against top foes. His form has taken a major step forward since being switched from turf to dirt racing. T O Keynes has consistently held his own against strong competition.
Dubai World Cup Pick: Ushba Tesoro (+800)