Today in Racing, May 2, 2014

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Happy Oaks Day!!

Even the New York Times is in the spirit of Derby weekend, with one of those bucolic early morning backstretch photos plastered front and center on the very front page! (Don’t worry, they have the expected Joe Drape hit piece online, though it’s just a rehash of old news. Nothing to see there, just move on.)

We have previews of four of the stakes at Churchill on Oaks day up now:

The Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks
The G2 Alysheba Stakes
The G3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes
The G1 La Troienne Stakes

As well as previews for Derby Day:

The Grade 1 Kentucky Derby
The Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes
The Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes
The Grade 1 Humana Distaff

And you still have time to get in on the Derby package, which gets you all of the races at every track today and tomorrow.  Just click on the banner at the top of the post.

I checked out video of California Chrome galloping this morning.  I don’t know that those who are having doubts about him based on his appearances on the track this week will be at all appeased.  You can watch it here, via the HRTV.com site.  (And again, this is an excellent resource, even for those of us who haven’t paid for the premium version.  You can search by horse name and see many of their workouts, even at other tracks, and gallops too).  He’s just strolling down the track checking out the crowd on the apron; or maybe at those twin spires, or maybe he’s looking for some of those B-list celebrities that we’ll be seeing on NBC.

However, the important thing is whether the horse is doing anything differently here as opposed to his more comfortable surroundings in California.  And, if you look at this video of his final workout at his home base at Los Alamitos, he looks more or less the same before he breaks off for his work.  I suppose you can split hairs; perhaps he seems a tad more comfortable at home.  But who can blame him?  Fact is that we’re not seeing this horse strut his stuff here.  That will have to wait for the race. Personally, I think that if you like him, there’s little reason to change your mind.  And it’s very possible that his odds will drift up given the mediocre reviews he is getting.

On the other hand, the stock of Wicked Strong continues to rise.  He is the pick of our Robert Finnegan, whose Derby preview is up now.  He blew out three furlongs in 36.78 seconds on Thursday, earning raves all around.  Richard Migliore, on Pursuit of the Crown, was particularly effusive, pointing out that the horse was focused and not looking around as he had been doing.  But I dunno.  Looks like he was looking around to me. This horse is going to get bet hard.  I would not be at all shocked if, when the betting opens, he is favored in the early going.

Personally, as per my untrained eye, I think Intense Holiday looks fantastic.  Here’s his 15 seconds of galloping fame today.  I’m also impressed by the looks of Ride on Curlin, who I will be using towards the bottom of tickets; and by Danza, who I won’t be using at all.

We have Horses in Focus up for Belmont today…..Mike Beer’s full card Belmont analysis up on the NYRA site….and his Top Play of the day here.  Have a fantastic day!

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