This week in horse racing: Another super Saturday of Derby preps

By Jeremy Plonk  ( 

April 5, 2022 03:54 PM

Last Saturday’s Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby and Jeff Ruby produced as many as seven starters for the Kentucky Derby on May 7. A similar allotment may be known by the end of racing Saturday after the Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass and Wood Memorial.

The Santa Anita Derby in California features the brilliantly fast Forbidden Kingdom and Messier in what forecasts to be a speed duel with potentially major consequences for the 2022 sophomore class. The Blue Grass in Kentucky features Epicenter’s Louisiana pursuers Smile Happy and Zandon in a chance for regional redemption. Meanwhile, the Wood Memorial in New York matches the Big A’s top winter stakes winners Early Voting and Morello against Florida snowbird Mo Donegal. The Santa Anita, Keeneland and Aqueduct cards are the signature local race days at all of those venues.

Santa Anita boasts seven stakes races, five of them graded, including the Santa Anita Oaks. Handicappers following stakes races at Santa Anita during the winter meet have witnessed the following trends:

Stakes favorites: 49.0% wins, 86.3% top 3

Average $2 winning stakes payout: $8.24

Top stakes jockeys: Flavien Prat (14-49, 29%), Victor Espinoza (5-19, 26%), Juan Hernandez (9-48, 19%), John Velazquez (7-38, 18%)

Top stakes trainers: John Shirreffs (3-8, 38%), Bob Baffert (11-34, 32%), Richard Mandella (4-14, 29%), Phil D’Amato (7-33, 21%)

What to Watch for This Week

1/ST BET handicapper Eddie Olczyk, fresh off of his winning tab of White Abarrio in the Florida Derby, will have his Santa Anita Derby video preview available Friday. You can view it at … It’s northern exposure week as horses from Gulfstream Park’s winter championship meet head up the coast to Aqueduct or divert to Keeneland. Some horses annually perk up with the cooler climates, so consider April experience after a previous move in the past performances … My picks and detailed stats analysis are offered daily at for each race of the 15-day meeting … Trainer Bob Baffert began his 90-day suspension Monday. Look for his former horses to reappear primarily in Southern California for trainers Sean McCarthy and Tim Yakteen. It probably won’t take long to see if the train chugs along or is derailed … Leading Santa Anita jockey Flavien Prat moves his tack to Keeneland and then he’s onto Churchill Downs in the summer. We’ll see who fills his significant void on the West Coast, most likely Juan Hernandez.

Friday Weekend Firestarter

With many of the major training outfits departing Gulfstream Park this week, look for some sharp local barns to have horses reserved and ready in the coming days. Trainer Jorge Delgado won five races at Gulfstream last April after the meet changeover, striking at nearly 25%. In Friday’s Race 2, he has No. 3 King Cairo shrewdly positioned after being claimed March 2 and waiting for smoother waters. Delgado wins an astounding 33% first time after the claim, and this one looks well-spotted to continue that roll. Win bet No. 3 King Cairo.

1/ST BET App Top Handicapping Tracks of the Week

The free 1/ST BET app allows you to apply millions of data points across dozens of handicapping factors in mere seconds and immediately place your wagers. Here’s where the artificial intelligence was most dialed-in last week by win percentage:

— Hawthorne: 44%

— Laurel Park: 43%

— Penn National: 42%

— Mahoning Valley: 41%

— Gulfstream Park: 40%

Tracks with most reliable favorites last week (by win pct.)

— Gulfstream Park: 58%

— Mahoning Valley: 56%

— Charles Town: 53%

— Santa Anita: 48%

— Hawthorne: 47%

Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or higher)

— Parx: 5

— Will Rogers Downs: 5

— Sam Houston: 4

— Tampa Bay Downs: 4

America’s hot jockeys last week

— Harry Hernandez (15-21, 71%), Turf Paradise, Sunland

— William Antongeorgi (6-9, 67%), Golden Gate Fields

— Kevin Roman (11-19, 58%), Fonner Park

— Jareth Loveberry (7-12, 58%), Hawthorne

— Kendrick Carmouche (8-18, 44%), Aqueduct, Parx

America’s hot trainers last week

— Bart Hone (4-6, 67%), Sunland, Turf Paradise

— Cipriano Contreras (4-6, 67%), Oaklawn, Turfway, Hawthorne

— Isai Gonzalez (10-16, 63%), Fonner Park

— George Weaver (4-7, 57%), Gulfstream, Aqueduct

— Anthony Farrior (10-20, 50%), Charles Town, Laurel

Tourney time continues

The college hardwoods may have quieted, but the horse racing handicapping tournament scene will be crowded with a series of contests at surrounding Santa Anita Derby weekend. Friday’s $80 entry Santa Anita Feeder tournament will lead into Saturday’s $1,500 entry Santa Anita Derby Challenge contest. Players also are welcome to the $500 Santa Anita Challenge contest on Sunday. For details and to register, go to

Statistics courtesy of

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