Handicapper Blog

Posted by Brian Skirka on Thursday, May 03, 2012 9:41 PM

The Monmouth Park Blog is back, baby!  And what perfect timing – just in time for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. 


There’s 25 races at Churchill Downs over the next two days – 12 stakes – and both cards begin at 10:30 am.  I know I used the same line last year, but is there anything better than an amazing racing card that begins at 10:30 am?!  That’s 7:30 am for all you MP Blog readers on the west coast.  “Um, yes, I’ll take a large coffee, a scone and a $5 double!!”


Anyway, I’m going to keep it relatively short as my opinions, while strong, are not overly-abundant:


We’ll get right to it and start with Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (Churchill Downs, Race 11).  I start and end with #4 Union Rags.  (I actually contemplated just doing a two-word blog, but thought better of it at the last second.)  The bottom line is I think Union Rags is the best horse in the race.  I liked him a lot going into last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  I liked him even more coming out of that race.  I really liked him going into this year’s Florida Derby.  And while that didn’t go according to plan, I am absolutely all-in in the Kentucky Derby.  I might not even look for horses to use underneath, but Gemologist and Daddy Nose Best would be my next two in either order.


On another note, handicapping and gambling aside, I am rooting for Union Rags.  I am rooting that Julien Leparoux is able to redeem himself and quiet his critics after a tough trip in the Florida Derby.  And I am rooting for trainer Michael Matz and wheelchair-bound owner Phyllis Wyeth.


In Friday’s Oaks, I like morning line favorite #2 Grace Hall.  Like with Union Rags, I just think she is the best horse in the field.  Being able to physically see both Grace Hall and Union while down at Gulfstream this winter, they’re just physically bigger than at least their Florida competition.  I think an Oaks/Derby daily double might be in order – using the same two horses I used in the Gulfstream Oaks/Florida Derby double five weeks ago.


A few Oaks/Derby Day quickies:


In the Edgewood Stakes (Race 8) on Friday’s card, #11 Anna Sophia is the hunch bet of all time.  I’ll leave it at that.  (She actually ran a good race two back at Gulfstream with some traffic issues.)


In Saturday’s Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap (Race 7), I have the utmost respect for morning line favorite #4 Shackleford.  He dances every dance, never backs down from a fight, and always gives his absolute all.  The only problem – almost never wins.  #6 Amazombie has won before at 7 ½ furlongs.  I don’t see why seven should be a problem here.


In the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile (Race 8), I’m interested to see if people are going to give up on #7 Aruna – after all, she was last in her 2012 debut.  If so, I’m in.  #10 Hungry Island is also interesting upon first glance.


In the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, (Race 9), why is Joel Rosario not riding #7 Switch?  Hmm.


What a great race the Grade 1 Turf Classic (Race 10) seems to be on paper.  I’ve been a big fan of #4 Get Stormy for years now, but there’s a lot of speed in there.  I’ll be looking for a horse from off the pace.  #7 Data Link is a horse I’ve been following for the last two years.  If he’s not already, he’ll be a top turf horse very soon.  #10 Brilliant Speed, #6 Doubles Partner and #2 Turallure also seem to fit the race flow.


…U-N-I-O-N R-A-G-S…that’s all I’m saying.


Best of luck on Derby Day!! 

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Brian Skirka graduated from Rutgers University in 2007 with a degree in journalism. He currently works for Monmouth Park’s marketing and publicity departments and is in his fifth year working at the track. In the past, Brian’s work has also been published on www.thebigm.com and www.ntra.com.