There are three major Kentucky Derby preps on Saturday. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct features a robust field of six with two betting interests destined to be very low (Eskendereya and Awesome Act). The Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita has a 4-5 morning-line favorite in 2009 Juvenile Champion, Lookin At Lucky. So, those two will not cut the mustard as far as wagering opportunities. So, we turn to Hawthorne in Illinois for the Grade 3 $500,000 Illinois Derby with a field of eight, none of whom have ever raced over the Hawthorne track.
I will go with #6 Dave In Dixie on top, even though this will be his first try over a regular dirt surface. All four of his previous tries were over synthetics in Southern California. He only won one of those, his maiden breaker, but his second in the Robert Lewis two back makes him an interesting choice in here, especially at decent odds of 9-2 on the morning-line. I also like that he topped my second choice, #1 American Lion, in that Robert Lewis at Santa Anita. American Lion is removing blinkers for this try on Saturday. His last race, the San Felipe, resulted in his worst finish of his career, a fourth. The distance certainly won't be an issue, either here on in Kentucky, since his Sire is two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Tiznow. His last work at Santa Anita on March 29 was five furlongs in one minute flat. I will put #7 Backtalk third in the Illinois Derby. His last workout was a bullet on March 25 at Fair Grounds. He had two graded wins last year at Churchill Downs and Saratoga, so he appears to have the money in the bank to make the First Saturday In May. His Sire is 2004 Derby winner, Smarty Jones. Also, Miguel Mena is four for four in the saddle of this colt. Finally, I will wrap up the top four with #5 Turf Melody. His last victory came in a stakes race at Remington Park in Oklahoma last December. His last workout was a bullet five furlongs in 1:01.1 on March 27. Here is the play for the Grade 3 Illinois Derby:
$5 WP #6
$1 EX BOX 1-6-7 and $1 TRI BOX 1-6-7
Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!