The road to Kentucky Derby is in full swing. Last weekend, we saw two impressive performances: Uncontested romped in the slop at Oaklawn Park in the Smarty Jones Stakes to earn 10 Derby points, and Gormley won a tough stretch duel by a head-bob over American Anthem in the Sham Stakes from Santa Anita. What did we learn? There are already some very talented three year-olds gearing up for major Kentucky Derby preps that will be run over the next six weeks.
The Le Comte Stakes (Fair Grounds – Saturday, January 21st)
The slight 9-2 morning line favorite in the race is the three year-old colt, UNTRAPPED (Trappe Shot-Exit Three, Giant’s Causeway), trained by Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr.
The interesting thing about this colt is that in his debut, he had very rough start, which any avid handicapper knows for a two year-old in their debut is basically ending before you have every begun. UNTRAPPED, on the other hand, closed with a fury to finish second to, guess who?, UNCONTESTED. The horse that just waltzed in the Smarty Jones Stakes. As a slight morning line favorite in a full field of 12, if patterns stay true to form, betting off that key race, may be the way to go if you can get decent odds on UNTRAPPED.
The Zell Family Trust bred SHAREHOLDER VALUE (6-1 M/L) in my opinion could be improving the most at the right time for trainer Tom Amoss. After breaking his maiden as a two year-old, he ran a disappointing sixth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, but he did finish just behind UNCONTESTED in that race. With improvement, SHAREHOLDER VALUE could be the horse with the most to prove this coming Saturday.
Here are the remaining entrants in the field and some tidbits that could interest you.
#1 – PHAT MAN (C.J.McMahon/Joe Sharp) Has a win over the surface for a trainer who is winning everywhere in this country. He learned from Michael Maker and his horses can win at first asking in cases like this, but it will be a long shot with the rail post position. Also note: His loan win came at the MCL30k level which doesn’t put him in this class.
#2 – ARKLOW (J.Court/Brad Cox) trainer Cox has been very hot past two weeks, Arklow is still a maiden, if he plans to break in stakes, this is his last chance. He did finish well to TAKEOFF who is on the outside of this field, if you like TAKEOFF, I would say ARKLOW is a better bet at longer odds. I am dismissing until I see a victory at any level. Underneath however is a possibility.
#3 – TOTALITY (D.Flores/Asmussen) Asmussen has three entries in the race and I feel this one is less talented than the other two, but I have yet to see this one run yet. He did run an impressive second in the Springboard Mile, major improvement off that effort would put this horse right in the mix, but I truly think that UNTRAPPED is the horse this race is set up for.
#4 – SHAREHOLDER VALUE (Bridgmohan/Amoss) *NOTE ABOVE* MY TOP SELECTION
#5 – UNTRAPPED (Santana Jr./Asmussen) *NOTE ABOVE* DANGEROUS
#6 – MARCO MISCHIEF (Marcelino Pedroza/Gabriel Jr) Long shot doesn’t have much of chance off the turf win. Would need to really surprise to compete in this race.
#7 – TIP TAP TAPIZAR (J.Graham/Asmussen) I have a strong opinion that horses bred by Tapizar will have a lot to say in the future, but I have not seen this one with my own two eyes yet, so I can’t say if this one is going to be live on Saturday. He has an awful lot of experience and was highly thought of as a two year old. He has shown talent but also has come nowhere close to the ultra-talented GUNNEVERA, so it’s hard to think this is the best of the Asmussen trio either. I am still leaning towards UNTRAPPED as the way to go.
#8 – GUEST SUITE (Albarado/Howard) This is probably the most interesting horse I didn’t mention at the top of the article. With two nice wins and a third place two back to Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner MCCRAKEN, evaluating where this one stands against some of the best in New Orleans, Louisville, and Hot Springs will be discovered on Saturday. It’s an intriguing spot, but I would take a wait and see approach if I were betting on this horse
#9 – RUNNING MATE (G.Saez/L.Jones) Hasn’t raced against much to date, but was very impressive in first two victories. Lost last time out to an unknown commodity on this track, but he also won two back on this track. He was disqualified to third in his most recent stakes and has been very green on the track. If Larry Jones continues with this one then improvement will be likely. I do like the chances of this horse spurting the upset in a couple situations. If this race gets an extremely strong pace up front, this horse has never gone two turns, if he takes to the distance with a hot pace, that’s the case for an upset. I am not positive whether or not it’s going to happen. I would lean to it not happening in this race with a big field, but never throw out a Saez/Jones entry.
#10 – TAKEOFF (Geroux/Casse) Probably the wildcard of the crew being trained by Casse who has had the right touch on anything he is training right now. For me to cash Saturday, I have to beat this horse. I just don’t care for the post position on the very outside or the horses that TAKEOFF has defeated. I think this one may be a bit soft. I will know at the top of the lane whether I am dead wrong or right on. Plus with Flo in the saddle, the odds will be lower than I would hope for if I was betting on this one.
#11 – PAT ON THE BACK (Davis/McPeek) Caught out wide as far as post position for a horse with tactical speed could be okay, and he proved in the Delta Downs Jackpot that he does have talent. He improved ground but then failed to kick on. It will be interesting to see how much McPeek has gotten into this one since the ‘Jackpot. Has a chance of running in for some of the smaller Derby Points available.
#12 – SAINT’S FAN (Hernandez Jr./Stewart) This one has the ability to run away with this race and make the rest of them looking like they are spinning their wheels. He is undefeated which at this point must be worth something, but the post position is very tough. And a horse by Tale of Ekati going two turns for the first time doesn’t scream to me victory, but who knows I may be wrong. I just think there are too many obstacles to overcome.
MY FINAL ANALYSIS:
#4 – SHAREHOLDER VALUE surprisingly is the BEST VALUE
#5 – UNTRAPPED is the MOST LIKELY winner
#9 – RUNNING MATE is a LIVE LONGSHOT