Scheduled post time 3:04pm PT
Sunday’s Grade 1 Hollywood Derby brings together 10 horses to run 10 furlongs on a turf course that we expect to be firm. The colt to beat is Admiral Kitten, but as with most deep closers, Admiral Kitten’s chances will depend heavily on the pace scenario, which doesn’t figure to be favorable to his chances of winning. This is an animal who always seems to fire, but he has been a bridesmaid five separate times this year and visited the winner’s circle only once. In a big field, it’s difficult to accept the 5-2 morning line on a horse who has more often than not come up short. That said, we fully expect Admiral Kitten to contend for the victory on Sunday. He has strong speed figures. His trainer gets a TFUS Trainer Rating of 94 when switching circuits, as he is doing today. Indeed, there is plenty to like here. But there are certainly candidates that could get the jump on him and leave him with too much to do in the final stages of the race.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector puts the #3 horse, Gervinho (8-1 ML), on an uncontested early lead in a race that favors horses on or close to the pace. Gervinho is coming off a dull effort in which he posted a disappointing 92 figure while finishing a close-up third in the Grade 2 Twilight Stakes. But there are reasons to think Gervinho is sitting on an improved effort as he stretches out to 10 furlongs. Based on his two-year-old figures, this is a horse with plenty of upside. A year ago, he ran a 96 figure in finishing a close 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The race must have knocked him out because he didn’t come back to the races until June of this year. In his four starts as a three-year-old, Gervinho has run well, if not quite spectacularly, hitting the board in each start and posting a top figure of 100. He retains the services of Rafael Bejarano, and trainer Carla Gaines sports a strong 96 rating when using Bejarano. Gervinho is a threat to steal the race.
European shippers must always be taken seriously when they challenge US-based horses on the grass. While we don’t expect Seek Again to be anywhere near his 6-1 morning line when the gates open, this horse is a major threat. Two races back, he finished 5th in a stakes race, which seems a bit more impressive when you consider that 31 horses went to post for the race, a number that makes the typical Kentucky Derby field look small by comparison. Then, in winning his last race, Seek Again posted a 112 figure, which is by some distance the best number earned by any horse in this field. Intuitively, we harbor some degree of skepticism about this colt’s 10-furlong breeding, with the sprint sire Speightstown on top, but the 83 Pedigree Rating for turf routes helps calm the nerves a bit. Perhaps the dam-side breeding will come in handy because we feel he’s another who will get the jump on Admiral Kitten and have every opportunity to hold that one at bay in the final strides.
Longshot Irish Surf rates a look. This horse promises to be at least 15-1, and possibly north of 30-1. Note that this is one of the few horses in the field with experience at this distance. In fact, Irish Surf has been running against older horses at longer distances. Two races back, he lost to Indy Point by only six lengths. Indy Point hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. A repeat of that sort of effort gives Irish Surf a good chance to be in the exotics on Sunday.
The Play: Gervinho and Seek Again in multi-race wagers. Gervinho and Seek Again in an exacta box, and then Admiral Kitten underneath each in exactas. Gervinho, Seek Again, and Admiral Kitten on top in trifectas with the same three and Irish Surf in the two/three holes.