Keeler Johnson’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 — 3/14/18

Bolt d'Oro (left) and McKinzie battle to the wire in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) - © Benoit Photo While it can be difficult to determine the strength of a given crop of three-year-olds until the year is over and the whole racing season can be reviewed, early indications suggest that this year’s Kentucky Derby contenders are a very deep and talented group. There’s Quip, who recently returned from a layoff to win the Tampa Bay Derby [...]

Did a Favorable Pace Setup Help Enticed in the Gotham Stakes?

Enticed winning the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct - Photo by Coglianese Photography If you’re looking for the definition of a race that is “fast early, slow late,” check out the results of the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) on March 10th at Aqueduct. From start to finish, the one-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race got slower with every quarter-mile fraction, and while this isn’t surprising for a slow track like Aqueduct, it was the extent [...]

Three graded stakes events headline a solid late Pick 4 sequence on Tampa Bay Derby Day

After a massive Saturday of racing last weekend at Gulfstream Park, things heat up on Florida’s west coast this weekend with the running of the Grade 2 $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby. The mile and a sixteenth event over the main track is one of three Kentucky Derby prep races held in North America this Saturday that reward 50 qualifying points to the victor and marks the eleventh race on Tampa’s twelve race card. A late Pick 4 sequence that includes [...]

Analyzing a Competitive Renewal of the Gotham Stakes

Firenze Fire winning the Jerome Stakes (NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Chelsea Durand When handicapping Kentucky Derby prep races, it’s usually simple to narrow down the field to a couple of main contenders. But that isn’t the case in Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, a race in which nearly half the entrants boast impressive credentials. Leading the way are the Grade 1 winners #5 Firenze Fire and #6 Free Drop Billy, who also strike me as the most likely [...]

Why Audible’s Holy Bull Victory Was Sensational

Audible winning the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park - Photo by Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photography It’s not every week that my jaw drops in awe at a performance on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but that was pretty much my reaction when the field turned for home in the February 3rd $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. At that juncture in the 8.5-furlong race, the Grade 1-winning Free Drop Billy had just [...]

Spot Plays for Holy Bull Day at Gulfstream Park

Enticed wins the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs (Coady Photo/Churchill Downs) The Pegasus World Cup may be in the rearview mirror, but Gulfstream Park has yet another strong card on tap for Saturday afternoon headlined by the Grade 2 Holy Bull. With five graded stakes events scattered over the 12-race slate, there are plenty of options for those that prefer gambling on the highest quality of thoroughbreds. However, my favorite wagers on the card outside of [...]

Looking for an Upset in the Holy Bull Stakes

Enticed (blue silks) winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) - Coady Photography/Churchill Downs It’s an oft-stated fact that outside post positions are a disadvantage in 8.5-furlong and 9-furlong races at Gulfstream Park. With a very short run to the first turn, horses drawn outside are in danger of getting hung wide early in the race. That could certainly be the case in the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) on Saturday, the first of Gulfstream’s three official [...]

Keeler Johnson’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 — 1/30/18

Bolt d'Oro - © Benoit Photo. In what could be considered the calm before the storm, very little happened last weekend on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but with three major prep races scheduled for February 3rd, there’s no doubt that the action is about to heat up quickly. The upcoming races are the $250,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, and the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes [...]

Keeler Johnson’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 — 1/22/18

Good Magic winning the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Photo by Carson Denis/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup) On a quiet weekend without any official Kentucky Derby prep races, the biggest news came from Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, where the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Good Magic made his much-anticipated return to the work tab. The son of Curlin went three furlongs in a bullet :36.95 as he prepares for an undetermined seasonal debut expected to come in early [...]

Keeler Johnson’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 — 1/17/18

Instilled Regard winning the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds - Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir Following a busy week that featured three Kentucky Derby prep races and a full slate of competitive maiden and allowance events, there’s plenty to digest on the road to the Derby! Needless to say, my Kentucky Derby Top 10 underwent some significant changes over the weekend. Newcomers to the list include Instilled Regard, a decisive winner of the Lecomte Stakes [...]