We’ve got three Kentucky Derby prep races coming up Saturday. Last week, this space featured how to play these races on $20 budgets. However, we had a very good day with Pick Four tickets, as two of them hit (including a $6 ticket at Gulfstream that returned nearly $230!). With that in mind, I’m going to focus on Pick Four sequences at Aqueduct, Keeneland, and Santa Anita that all feature these prep races and could present some value.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9
36 bets, $18
RATIONALE: #8 Unified will be a popular single in the opening leg, the Grade 1 Carter, and for good reason. He defeated Mind Your Biscuits in his 4-year-old debut, and that rival went on to cruise home in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. #2 Tommy Macho and #9 Ocean Knight are solid horses, but if Unified repeats or improves upon his last-out effort, he’ll be very tough to beat.
I used the logical horses in legs two and three, the Wood Memorial and the Gazelle. The only horse that will likely take money in the Wood while remaining off my ticket is #2 Mo Town, whose Remsen win has lost plenty of its luster with those he beat not doing much since then. I went four-deep in the Gazelle, and I hope that’s enough, as I’m not sold on this year’s crop of 3-year-old fillies and it seems like many of these can win.
The nightcap features my price play of the day across all three tracks. The entry of #1 Broken Engagement and #1A Super Luke will likely be favored, and #3 Build to Suit merits respect, too. However, there’s a longshot that I think you need to use. #7 Money Laundering’s pedigree doesn’t jump off the page, but he fetched a respectable $40,000 at auction last May after being bred for just $3,500. A deep dive shows that his dam is a half-sister to Hilda’s Passion, a Grade 1-winning sprinter. The workouts are solid, trainer Bruce Levine can win with first-time starters, and with the exception of Broken Engagement and maybe #5 Altesino (who’s 0-for-7 with six minor cashes, the kind of horse I HATE betting in a Pick Four sequence), the form among those that have run before isn’t anything to write home about. He’s 15-1 on the morning line, and I hope we get that price.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7
45 bets, $22.50
RATIONALE: The fields in this sequence aren’t huge, but this Pick Four could still pay handsomely. There may not be a single prohibitive favorite in this group of races, and if you can find a spot to take a stand, I think you can create some value.
The Shakertown kicks things off, and it’s a handicapping puzzle. If you want to hit the “ALL” button, I get it (that turns the ticket into a $40.50 play), but I was able to at least throw four horses out. The Madison (the second leg) is no picnic, either, but I settled on going three-deep with horses that are in good form: #4 Constellation, #5 High Ridge Road, and #6 Paulassilverlining.
My single comes in the third leg, the Ashland. #2 Elate salvaged third in the Grade 3 Honeybee despite an absolutely awful break, and the horse that won that race, It Tiz Well, will likely be the second choice in a much tougher spot (the Santa Anita Oaks). Elate has hinted at tons of potential in her short career, and barring more adventures leaving the gate, I think she could sit a dream trip just off the early speed. If she does, I think she’ll be tough to beat.
In the Blue Grass, I used three of the four logical horses. I’m not sold on J Boys Echo, who may have trounced a weak field in the Gotham and gets a stiff class test here against some of the top 3-year-olds in the country. I’ll let him beat me if he’s good enough, and I’ll settle on #2 McCraken, #4 Tapwrit, and #7 Practical Joke.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8
R10: 1,4,6,8 (2)
80 bets, $40
RATIONALE: Some Pick Fours should be treated like win bets with enhanced odds, and this is one of them. I’m going deep in three of the four legs and singling #1 Sircat Sally in the Providencia. She’ll likely be even-money, at best. However, if this Pick Four hits, I’ll likely get at least 4-1 on my money, making it a worthwhile investment.
That payoff is because the other three races are very tough. The Santa Anita Derby kicks things off, and while #9 Iliad is a nice horse and a worthy favorite, he’s no cinch. #6 American Anthem’s effort in the Rebel is a complete throw-out, and the 1-2 finishers in a March 9th allowance event, #3 Battle of Midway and #2 Reach the World, have both worked lights-out since then.
The 10th is the Echo Eddie for Cal-breds, and it’s the first of two very challenging races to close things out. #8 California Diamond is an honest horse who’s never been out of the top two in 10 career starts, but this may be the toughest field he’s faced at the state-bred level. If there are any scratches of horses I’ve used in this race, throw in #2 B Squared, a sibling to Grade 1 winner Ralis who I just didn’t have the budget to use.
As far as the 11th is concerned…good luck. We’ve got class drops, equipment switches, and jockey changes, all among a group of horses that, by and large, hasn’t shown a whole lot. There is one big price I used here. #10 Great is 20-1 on the morning line, but he takes a drop into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time and exits what seems like a very strong maiden special weight event. That race last month was his first outing since November, and improvement is certainly logical at a big price.