Kentucky Derby Prep Analysis: Wild Shot deserves another chance in Tampa Bay Derby

DontLetTheGamePassYouByfortfus

Tampa Bay Downs | Race 11 | Post Time 5:27 p.m. (ET) | Go To The FREE TimeformUS PPs
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With an ankle injury temporarily sidelining McCraken, this 37th running of the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby is left without a clear favorite. McCraken obviously would have been a pretty formidable presence in this field. Yet in his absence, this race becomes a great opportunity for horseplayers to potentially catch a price.

Four runners who last raced in the Sam F. Davis Stakes are back in the Tampa Bay Derby, including that race’s pacesetter, State of Honor. He is likely to be forwardly placed again, but his hand may not be forced in the same way it was when he broke from the rail last time, and trainer Mark Casse has hinted that he’ll rate this time. Indeed, the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that Sonic Mule (#7) and Wild Shot (#9) are more likely to head out to the front, with State of Honor (#8) and Beasley (#6) tracking them. The forecast calls for a fast early tempo, which could help set up the late runs of the closers.

Let’s go through the entire field:

#1, TALE OF SILENCE (15-1): You have to wonder how far this full brother to Tale of Ekati really wants to go. He appeared to pull himself up after making a strong move to challenge for the lead at the eighth pole in his first two-turn test at Keeneland last fall. He was then never a factor in the Remsen Stakes, which has turned out to be quite a weak race in retrospect. A fast pace would help his cause, but he just looks to be too slow. 

#2, THE MONEY MONSTER (15-1): The runner he defeated by a half-length in the Pasco, Chance of Luck, returned to lose the Sam F. Davis by 17 lengths. He may be a potential pace factor, but he appears to be a cut below the rest in terms of quality.

#3, BASHA (12-1): He was well beaten by Fact Finding two back, and that one did not distinguish himself when finishing a dull fifth in the Sam F. Davis. Some may be tempted to give him the excuse of a sloppy track two back, but he didn’t run much better over a fast track last time when losing against a far weaker group than the one he meets today. I’m not convinced that he’ll get better as the distances get longer. 

#4, NO DOZING (6-1): He was the major disappointment of the Sam F. Davis. Fancied by many a horseplayer off his wide trips in both the Breeders’ Futurity and Remsen, he appeared poised to kick off a breakout 3-year-old season. It was not to be, as he never showed any signs of life, dropping out of contention before the field hit the quarter pole. He’s yet to run a particularly fast Beyer Speed Figure, and his one standout TimeformUS Speed Figure came in the Remsen, where speed figures have not been predictive of subsequent success. He’s starting to look like a precocious 2-year-old who just hasn’t progressed at age 3.

#5, TAPWRIT (3-1): This appears to be the horse whom everyone wants out of the Sam F. Davis. After a pair of easy wins at Gulfstream against far lesser competition, he took a major step forward in the Davis. While he did get a very good trip along the rail for much of the way, he had to wait for room as McCraken ran by him at the top of the stretch before regathering himself to rally for second late.

This $1.2 million yearling purchase is a big, long-striding colt who should keep improving. While he’s certainly not slow in the early going, he does figure to work out a trip from midpack here, so a quick pace up front should not hurt his chances. The only real problem is the price since this runner has vaulted to the top of many racing fans’ Kentucky Derby contender lists and looms as a potential underlay in this spot. I personally still want to see one more good effort out of him before I buy into the hype, but he is certainly going to be on my tickets.

#6, BEASLEY (9-2): This lightly raced colt scratched out of the Fountain of Youth last weekend to instead line up against this slightly softer group. The Mark Hennig trainee has made good progress through this three career starts, culminating with a good second-place finish to the highly regarded Battalion Runner last time. He appeared to drift out slightly on the far turn, but he nevertheless battled back gamely in the stretch that day.

He’s certainly bred to handle longer distances as a half-brother to multiple route winners Mr Palmer and Conspiracy, and his Preakness-winning sire is showing himself to be an effective stamina producer. Given the presence of a few key pace players to his outside, I would expect Irad Ortiz Jr. to rein him in early and take up a stalking position. He hasn’t yet run a speed figure that make him a contender to win the race, but I get the sense that he may have another forward move in him and would certainly use him prominently in exotic wagers.

#7, SONIC MULE (6-1): I have serious doubts about this colt’s capacity to handle two turns. He didn’t show up with his best effort when they stretch him out in the Sapling as a 2-year-old, and he appears to have relished the return to one-turn races since then. He has plenty of speed, so he figures to be a pace factor, but it’s hard to imagine him putting away proven routers like State of Honor and Wild Shot while still holding off the closers. This colt figures to take some play due to the Todd Pletcher factor, but I’m leaving him off my tickets.

#8, STATE OF HONOR (4-1): While he showed potential racing over Woodbine’s synthetic surface as a 2-year-old, this colt has really blossomed since switching to dirt during his 3-year-old campaign. He nearly got the better of Sonic Mule while going a distance that may have been a tad short for him in the Mucho Macho Man, despite having to endure a wide trip. Then, last time in the Sam F. Davis, while wearing blinkers for the first time, he was forced to be used early from his rail post position, cutting out an honest pace before succumbing to McCraken and Tapwrit in the late stages. The 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned for that effort ties him with Tapwrit for the highest figure in the field.

Mark Casse has indicated that this time around, Julien Leparoux will be instructed to work out a stalking trip, likely letting Sonic Mule and potentially Wild Shot go out to contest the early pace. Those tactics nearly worked for him in the Mucho Macho Man, but he just has to avoid working out a wide trip from this post position, especially going two turns. He’s undoubtedly one of the top contenders, but his form is somewhat exposed at this point. I’m slightly more interested in the runner who finished just one length behind him in the Sam F. Davis and happens to be drawn right next to him. 

#9, WILD SHOT (5-1): I’m thinking that Wild Shot could be the overlooked horse in this Tampa Bay Derby. Of all the runners exiting the Sam F. Davis, I believe that he worked out the toughest trip. Sure, State of Honor set a pressured pace, and Tapwrit briefly lost momentum at the top of the stretch, but I don’t believe either scenario was as detrimental as the wide trip that Wild Shot worked out. He raced three wide around the first turn and then made a premature four-wide move to the lead on the far turn, losing ground every step of the way. Trakus data for the race reveal that when ground loss is factored in, he actually maintained the highest average speed of anyone in that field. (Wild Shot’s average speed was 55.58 feet per second, whereas McCraken’s average speed was 55.45 feet per second, according to Trakus.)

I know that some may still question how far Wild Shot really wants to go, and those concerns are justified. After all, he’s lost ground at the end of all of his two-turn races. However, I believe that circumstances have had a lot to do with that. He has been involved in fast paces in the Breeders’ Futurity and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (indicated by red color-coding in TimeformUS PPs), and he sustained a wide trip last time. I’m going to give him one more shot and hope that this time, Robby Albarado can work out the same sort of beautiful trip that he orchestrated for J Boys Echo in that one’s Gotham victory last weekend.

#10, ZION VALLEY (50-1): Like the maiden Bluegrass Envy in the San Felipe, I have no idea what this overmatched colt is doing in a major Kentucky Derby prep race.

THE PLAY

I’m going back to Wild Shot (#9) one more time off his wide trip in the Sam F. Davis. It seems that most have abandoned his bandwagon despite his putting in a deceptively strong effort that day, so he figures to go off at a decent price once again. I’ll key him with likely underlay Tapwrit (#5) as well as Beasley (#6) and State of Honor (#8). I’ll also throw in No Dozing (#4) for insurance.

Win: 9

Exacta Key Box: 9 with 4,5,6,8

Trifecta: 9 with 5,6,8 with 4,5,6,8

 

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