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Kentucky Derby Prep Races Betting Preview

With less than a month to go before the Run for the Roses, there are three major Road to the Kentucky Derby points races on tap on Saturday.

The $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, $1-million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland and the $1-million Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita each offer 100-40-20-10 points toward entry into this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), which will be run on Saturday, May 6, at Churchill Downs.

The winner of the three races are guaranteed a starting spot in the expected field of 20. The runners-up each earn 40 points which should also put them safely in the field. The third-place finishers earn 20 points which would put them on the bubble unless they have already picked up points.

Girvin leads the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings with 150, picking up 100 points with his victory in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds on April 1. The colt is currently the fourth choice in early Kentucky Derby wagering at Bovada at odds of 10-1.

Right now, Sonneteer sits in 20th place in the points standings with 20.

Here is a quick look at Saturday’s three Derby points races:

Blue Grass at Keeneland

A field of seven go to the post in the Blue Grass led by McCraken, who makes his first start since winning the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11.

The Ian Wilkes trainee missed some time with a minor ankle injury and is playing catch-up. He is the current betting favorite in early Kentucky Derby betting at Bovada at odds of 6-1.

He faces a tough group that includes Gotham (G3) winner J Boys Echo, Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tapwrit and Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up Practical Joke.

The play

Practical Joke figures to move forward off his runner-up finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) where he was beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Gunnevera, who came back to finish third in the Florida Derby (G1) in his next outing. The Chad Brown trainee is battle-tested, winning photos in the Hopeful (G1) and Champagne (G1) as a juvenile.

His third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) was his first career trip around two turns. And his last outing, which was his second, came off a four-month layoff. Not sure he can get 1 1/4 miles but 1 1/8 miles is within his scope and he figures to be a fair price in this spot. The $240,000 Keeneland purchase is by Into Mischief out of a stakes placed Distorted Humor mare.

Selections: Practical Joke – McCraken – J Boys Echo

Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita

The most wide open of the three Derby preps, a field of 13 will compete in the Santa Anita Derby. The likely betting favorite will be Iliad, who ran second to Mastery in the San Felipe (G2) in his last outing, beaten 6 ¾ lengths by the Bob Baffert trainee who was pulled up after the win and is off the Derby trail.

The Play

Gormley won the Sham (G3) in the slop going a mile in his three-year-old debut and I was expecting better in the San Felipe (G2) but the colt prompted the early pace and weakened to finish fourth. The outing was off a two-month break and he looks eligible to move forward off that effort.

He won the Frontrunner (G1) last October in his first go against winners and he is in good hands with the John Shirreffs barn and jockey Victor Espinoza. Six of the last eight winners of this race prepped in the San Felipe, four of them winning.

Selections: Gormley – American Anthem - Iliad

Wood Memorial at Aqueduct

The Wood features two horses that were major Derby contenders only to run poorly in their last starts. Mo Town won the Remsen (G2) in November but was the beaten favorite in the Risen Star (G2) in his three-year-old debut.

Irish War Cry was the buzz horse after winning the Holy Bull (G2) on Feb. 4 but was a disappointing seventh in the Fountain of Youth (G2) as the 6-5 betting favorite in his last start.

The Play

Cloud Computing ran a solid second last out in the Gotham (G3) which was his stakes debut coming off a maiden score in his first career start going six furlongs. He was 7 1/2 lengths clear of third-place finisher El Areeb, who was setting the early pace over a racing strip that was kind to speed that day.

The $200,000 Keeneland purchase is out of a stakes placed A.P. Indy mare that has dropped three other winners. Nine furlongs should be no problem and he still appears to have a ton of upside.

Selections: Cloud Computing – Battalion Runner – Irish War Cry

Handicapper Michael Dempsey will be covering the Road to the Kentucky Derby for OddsShark and his full card reports with selections, analysis, fair odds line and wagering recommendations for major tracks can be found daily at turfnsport.com.

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