Hot List: Blue Grass & Arkansas Derby

April, 11, 2013
04/11/13
12:23
PM ET


By Shawn Rychling, Hot List Staff

This weekend's races, Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bluegrass Stakes, Keeneland

(No. 5) PALACE MALICE (B) lost all chance at winning the Louisiana Derby when he hit a wall of horses at the top of the stretch and had to check hard, which bottled him up for more than a furlong. He wound up seventh in that race, but should finish up much better today with a cleaner trip. (13) RYDILLUC has been superb on the turf, which usually bodes well for the synthetic surface, and note the marked improvement in his last two starts. (1) DYNAMIC SKY had a solid campaign in Tampa and we might be talking more about him if not for the wide trips in his last two races. Gets the rail here and we like the race over the Keeneland strip in October. (4) JAVA'S WAR ran second to Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby in both his 2013 debut and best race of his career. Two wins on turf could mean that he'll run well on the polytrack.

Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park

(4) FALLING SKY comes in off two sharp stakes efforts at Tampa Bay Downs, one of which was won by Verrazano. Note the work 6 days ago in preparation for this event and he should be primed going out third time off the layoff. (10) OXBOW might be our top choice if not for the wide post position which he draws for third straight time. Had to expend early energy to get position in those two races and it cost him at the end. (2) WAR ACADEMY freaked with huge improvement last time out for Bob Baffert against lesser foes. He may regress, but is bred for distance. (9) OVERANALYZE is a huge question mark after his Gotham, but a 4-wide trip on the Aqueduct inner track is tough to overcome and he may have needed that race off the layoff.

Last Weekend's Races

Wood Memorial, Aqueduct

Verrazano made it 4-for-4 in his career running his typical race as he broke sharply to be on or near the lead. This time he sat just off pacesetter Chrisandthecapper, settling in the 2-path after going 3-wide on the first turn. After a half-mile in a slow 49.62 seconds, he got a tap from jockey John Velazquez and powered past the frontrunner heading into the far turn. From there, he never gave up the lead repelling a rally by Vyjack coming off the turn, edging away in the stretch. He then held off a late-charging Normandy Invasion to get the win by a diminishing length. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt likely solidified himself as the Derby favorite, but he'll probably have to run faster early in Louisville and then need to get an extra furlong at the finish. So, we'll assign him a B as a way to avoid short odds on this one since the Derby is usually unkind to the favorite.

Normandy Invasion redeemed himself after a brutal trip in the Risen Star when he finished a fast-closing fifth. In the Wood, he got off to a much better start and settled toward midpack as Javier Castellano waited patiently to tip outside for a rally. Once clear he ran on strongly and nearly caught Verrazano for the top spot. The effort was even more impressive when you consider he gained ground in the stretch despite a very slow pace. We'll assign him an A as he'll have more ground to close into at Churchill Downs and Chad Brown should have him ready third off the layoff.

Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita

Goldencents rebounded from a fading fourth in the San Felipe to win this race decisively. He did so by rating just off the leader in the 2-path and saving some energy for the stretch drive. Confronted the leader midway on the turn when asked and when that one was put away he showed another burst of energy to repel a rallying Flashback at the 3/16ths pole and pull away for the convincing victory. He'll need an extra furlong on Derby Day, and that added real estate won't be easy for this speedster so we'll assign him a B.

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Hot List Key

A List: A preferred horse to watch
B List: Secondary horse to watch
*C List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 1st through 3rd
*D List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 4th or worse
* - 4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.

Do you have questions? Email Bob at ehalt.b@sbcglobal.net.

Shawn Rychling grew up around harness racing before a trip to Saratoga Race Course for the Travers Stakes hooked him on the Thoroughbreds. So began a 22-year tradition of attending the Midsummer Derby and soaking in all that Saratoga has to offer. Shawn works with Bob Ehalt on the daily compilation of the Hot List.
• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.

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