Before beginning the handicapping segment this week, I must first offer congratulations to Frank Mirahmadi for being named the new announcer at Oaklawn Park. Frank is an excellent race caller, a better person, and I cannot wait to hear him inject his unique brand of excitement into the racing season in Arkansas next season.
The Grade 2 Virginia Derby offers a strong, competitive field of twelve horses going 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Colonial Downs. The morning-line favorite at 5-2 is Banned, who won back-to-back graded turf races at Churchill Downs during the spring season, the Grade 2 American Turf and the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup. Here is the analysis:
The top pick in here will be #8 Crimson China from Team Valor and trained by Graham Motion, the same owner-trainer team of Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom. Julien Leparoux will ride this colt in here. He is a perfect 2 for 2 over the turf this year, winning at Gulfstream in February and an ungraded stakes race at Monmouth in May. His works are fairly strong and he offers decent value at 5-1. I will put #4 Street Game in the second spot with the riding services of Edgar Prado. This horse ran off three straight wins over the turf at Belmont leading into this go. Two of those were over yielding turf and one of those was the Grade 3 Hill Prince. Prado actually is getting back aboard this colt Saturday, having not ridden him since a second at Gulfstream in March. I will use the favorite, #7 Banned, in the third spot. Those two graded stakes wins at Churchill stand out and the Sire is Kitten's Joy, pure turf breeding for sure. It is worth noting that in winning those two races in Kentucky, he defeated a couple of the foes he faces here. Jose Lezcano is in the saddle Saturday. A longshot to like is #3 Newsdad with Kris S. present on the Sire side for more strong turf breeding. However, this 15-1 shot only has a maiden win to his credit at Gulfstream on January 28. Bill Mott is the trainer and if you can get 15-1 on a Mott horse in a big spot, it might be worth the effort. Here is the play for the Grade 2 Virginia Derby:
$5 WP #8
$1 EX BOX 3-4-7-8-10
$1 TRI 4-7-8 with 4-7-8 with 2-3-4-7-8-10
The blog is currently MINUS $788 for the year. I think if we get to MINUS $1,000, we might have to stop keeping track. Maybe that is the best way to start a winning streak. Anyway, remember that They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!