The Road To The Kentucky Derby slows down a bit this week. With only one prep race on the schedule I decided to make it the main focus. As they say, “You can beat a race, but you can’t beat the races.”
Studying this race took me back to a moment that I experienced at a racetrack years ago. I was huddled around a TV with four or five other strangers, watching a race that was being simulcast from Saratoga. For what seemed like the 1000th time that day, the favorite ended up winning the race. One of the strangers immediately looked over at and me blurted out loud, “It’s all chalk! You can’t make any money when it’s all chalk!”
That stranger was absolutely wrong. You can make A LOT of money in horse racing by knowing when to bet the chalk. In fact, some of my best and biggest scores have involved needing the heavy favorite to win. One of the great things about betting horses is that there are multiple ways to find value around short priced favorites. You can bet that horse in combination of multiple races, or bet on which horses will finish behind the favorite. Let’s break down the field of the Tampa Bay Derby and find value to pair with who I perceive to be the most likely winner.
1) Grantham (20-1)
This horse comes into the race as longshot. He is 0-2 on dirt and his only career win came on the synthetic with a maiden breaking win as a heavy favorite at Turfway. Grantham ran a non-threatening 4th against similar competition in his last race at Aqueduct. The addition of Samy Camacho in the saddle is a plus, but I believe this horse to be up against it here, I will not be using Grantham on my tickets.
2) Trademark (30-1)
A last place finish in his most recent race, the Sam F. Davis Stakes, has taken some of the allure away from using him in my bets for this race. Honestly, even though he went off at 27-1, I still expected this horse to be fairly competitive last out. Maybe it is a good sign they run Trademark back here again? His two career wins came at Churchill Downs in similar fashion. He led wire to wire, had a relatively slow place and no one got near him. That will definitely not be the case here; Trademark is another horse I will be against in the Tampa Bay Derby.
3) Happy Boy Rocket (12-1)
Trained by the legendary Bill Mott, I expect this horse to run well in this spot. He is lightly raced, having only two career races under his belt, but I like what I have seen thus far. A lot of the time, with these younger horses, it’s not so much if they win but how they run. In only his second start, Happy Boy Rocket was able to win and show a lot of ability doing it. Look for this horse to sit a couple lengths off of the early pace and get first run at the early leader as they turn for the stretch.
4) Classic Causeway (8-5)
The foreshadowing from the opening paragraphs was always leading us here. If I had to guess, Classic Causeway odds will end up closing to 6/5 or even money. (+120 or +100 for all of you sports bettors) This horse was a front running winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes last out, and it was quite the win. After setting fast fractions to open the race, Classic Causeway pulled away in the stretch, while the others who ran up front with him faded to the back. The difference here is that, at least on paper, there looked to be a lot more pace in the race last time out. There is a chance of rain tomorrow too, and if the track comes up muddy that should only help his cause. This will be where I place my win bets.
5) Giant Game (10-1)
We discussed this horse last week, as he was expected to run in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. Giant Game finished 3rd in the Breeders Cup Juvenile as a two year old. His first race back this season did not go as planned though. Giant Game finished a distant 8th and it was reported he had a minor health issue that impacted his performance. What kind of performance we get here is anyone’s guess, but the talent is there and he has been working well since his disappointing 2022 debut. Giant Game is worth another chance here.
6) Golden Glider (12-1)
12-1 on the morning line odds here but I will take the over on that. He came into the Sam F. Davis as a perfect 2-0, but was not able to do any better than 5th. From a trip standpoint, I believe he should have run much better than he did last time. This group is much tougher and I do not expect Golden Glider to be much of a factor in deciding the winner of this race. He also hasn’t improved much from a speed figure standpoint in any of his races, which is a red flag as well.
7) Strike Hard (8-1)
He comes into this race as one of the most experienced horses in the field and has won 2 out of his 7 career races. Another positive is the jockey change to Luis Saez for this race, which is one of the top jockeys in the United States. It is troubling that Strike Hard’s worst races have been the two races around two turns. He might be a horse who does his best work at a one-turn mile, but his last race was good enough to convince me to use him in the exotics here.
8) Major General (9-2)
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, I would expect this horse to be over bet in this spot. He has only raced twice in his career, and both of those ended up being wins. However, he has not raced since September of 2021. That race, the Iroquois Stakes, has not gone on to be a very impressive race. I get why they are running here, but I don’t expect him to be a serious contender in this spot. This is an awfully tough ask.
9) Shipsational (5-1)
Admittedly, I did not love this horse going into the Sam F. Davis in his most recent race, but boy was I wrong. He ran really well, and easily was the second best behind Classic Causeway. If the track comes up sloppy, that should help Shipsational as well. In five career starts, he hasn’t done much wrong as he has never finished worse than 4th. Luis Saez and Javier Castellano rode him earlier in his career and they both end up on other horses in this race, so read into that what you will. Shipsational will be on all of my exotic tickets for this race.
10) Belgrade (20-1)
Another horse that I think their odds will be lower than the morning line suggests. This horse absolutely reeks of being the “wise guy horse” in this spot. Yes, he technically is a perfect 2-2 lifetime, but he has faced NOTHING like the horses he will face in this race. It would require a huge step forward for this horse to be competitive here. He fits on speed figures, but looking at who he has beat, I think those numbers are inflated. I am not going to be using this horse today.
11) Money Supply (10-1)
Chad Brown has said this horse will most likely scratch, so he will be a non-runner.
12) Spin Wheel (20-1)
Coming off of a 6th place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream last out, I think this spot fits much better for Spin Wheel. His last race was a little better than it looks on paper, as he didn’t get the easiest of trips. The outside post position is a hindrance but if he improves off of his last race, I could see him getting a third or fourth place finish here with a little bit of racing luck. This horse likes to close from way off of the pace, and Tampa Bay is more conducive to that running style than Gulfstream is.
Now let’s get to the betting. For this race I am going to play a trifecta. Most casual players are familiar with using a “box” method on exotic wagers, where you pick your runners and they can come in, in any order. I am going to use the “with” button here. Here is what the ticket will look like, and I plan on using at least a $2 denomination.
We’re basically betting that the 4 Classic Causeway will win and that two of our six selections will finish second and third. If the odds are 4/5 or higher, I will also be betting Classic Causeway to win straight up. So in essence, we are saying the favorite will win and that we can get a couple of longer shots to round out the trifecta and create a decent score for us. Follow along on Twitter, as I will be putting out spot plays and multi-race wagers through the day as well! Good luck!