The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” runs through the Bluegrass State Saturday where California-invader Tamarando, the morning line 3-1 favorite, heads a wide-open field of 12 young Thoroughbreds who will go to the starting gate in the 43rd running of the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky.
Tamarando, ranked 19th in the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard point standings, is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and he comes into this race with a narrow half-length victory in the 9-furlong El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields in February. Here’s a video of that race and the chart call:
TAMARANDO was unhurried to the half then was asked for speed into the second turn, rallied while circling five wide to the stretch then dug in determinedly late and caught DANCE WITH FATE in the late stages.
Since finishing fourth in his maiden debut last June, Tamarando has never finished worse than third and he’s compiled a 4-2-3 record in 10 starts. Whether Tamarando can win this race remains to be seen. But, I look for him to be competitive.
A long shot I like in this race is Smart Cover (20-1), ranked 40th in Derby point standings, who comes into the Spiral with a 1-1-0 record in four starts.
After finishing off the board in his maiden debut last June, Smart Cover showed promise winning a one-mile maiden race at Ellis Park on July 28. His finish time of 1:39.56 for the mile contest is comparable to the mile splits for most of the horses entered in the Spiral Stakes (G3). In September, Smart Cover followed up his maiden win with a second-place finish in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs where he narrowly lost by a neck to Cleburne and finished a neck in front of Tapiture who is ranked seventh in the Derby point standings.
After a seven month layoff, Smart Cover made his debut as a three year old on March 1 in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park where he stumbled at the start and finished eleventh. The finish time in that race was a blistering fast 1:46.19 and Smart Cover’s 12-length loss would bring him across the finish line somewhere with a time of 1:48 or 1:49. That finish time would make him very competitive in the Spiral.
Smart Cover has room to improve in his second start as a three year old. And in what appears to be a wide-open Spiral, Smart Cover could bring home an upset at a very nice price.
Another long shot I like is All Tied Up who was tabbed with morning-line odds of 12-1. All Tied Up has yet to earn any Derby points and he comes into this race with a 2-1-1 record in seven turf starts for trainer Todd Pletcher who is 31% in wins switching from turf to an all-weather surface and, overall, he’s 28% in wins on the all-weather.
All Tied Up has won twice at 8½-furlongs and he has the breeding to stretch out to nine furlongs. He likes to come from the back of the herd and, if he has room to run in the stretch, he should be competitive in this race.
We Miss Artie (4-1) is also trained by Todd Pletcher and he’s ranked 23rd in Derby point standings. We Miss Artie comes into this race with a 2-2-0 record in seven starts including a 2¾-length win in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last October and a narrow loss by a head in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulstream Park on January 19.
Pletcher makes a jockey switch to John Velazquez who in previous races guided We Miss Artie to a 2-1-0 record in four starts and could, perhaps, help him to be competitive in the Spiral.
Under the new scoring system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility for horses to enter the Derby starting gate, the winner of the Spiral Stakes (G3) will receive 50 points while second-place will yield 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points. Here’s a look at the current top 20 list:
2014 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Samraat, 60, Rick Violette, Jr., $450,000
2. Hoppertunity, 55, Bob Baffert, $376,000
3. Intense Holiday, 53, Todd Pletcher, $327,500
4. Wildcat Red, 50, Jose Garrofalo, $410,000
5. Ring Weekend, 50, Graham Motion, $210,000
6. California Chrome, 50, Art Sherman, $182,250
7. Tapiture, 42, Steve Asmussen, $420,738
8. Midnight Hawk, 32, Bob Baffert, $144,000
9. Albano, 24, Larry Jones, $150,000
9. Uncle Sigh, 24, Gary Contessa, $150,000
11. Vinceremos, 20, Todd Pletcher, $190,000
12. Vicar’s in Trouble, 20, Mike Maker, $160,000
13. General A Rod, 20, Mike Maker, $140,000
14. Ride On Curlin, 15, Billy Gowan, $154,387
15. Havana, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
16. Cairo Prince, 14, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $470,000
17. Honor Code, 14, Shug McGaughey, $340,000
18. Kristo, 14, John Sadler, $56,000
19. Tamarando, 12, Jerry Hollendorfer, $490,000
20. Strong Mandate, 11, D. Wayne Lukas, $472,500