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Pletcher Holds Three Aces as Derby Field Takes Shape

Tapit Trice Impressive in Blue Grass Stakes Victory

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher could have the two betting favorites and three of the top half-dozen when the field is drawn for the 149th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Two-year-old champion Forte has done little wrong with victories in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park this year and lightly raced Kingsbarns went gate-to-wire to win the Louisiana Derby for Pletcher on March 25. Pletcher’s third heavyweight Tapit Trice was gutsy in winning the Blue Grass Stakes last weekend at Keeneland.

Pletcher Holds Three Aces as Derby Field Takes Shape
Derma Sotogake competes to win the UAE Derby - Karim SAHIB / afp

“I think he’s improving all the time,” Pletcher told reporters after Tapit Trice’s victory by a neck over Verifying. “We always felt like more distance would be good for him. We were happy to get him out to a mile-and-an-eighth today and we feel like a mile-and-a-quarter is going to be even better for him.”

Practical Move continued his journey to the first Saturday in May with a close win in the Santa Anita Derby and big longshot Lord Miles punched his ticket by taking the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct last weekend in horse racing news.

One more Derby prep is set for Saturday at Keeneland as 11 runners are expected to go to the post for the 1⅛-mile Lexington Stakes. Disarm is the only horse in the field that can gain enough points to qualify for the Derby.

Forte On Track

Forte had to work hard to get by Mage in the stretch to win his sixth race in seven outings at the Florida Derby on April 1.

The son of Violence leads the Derby points race with 190, followed by Practical Move (160), Arkansas Derby champ Angel of Empire (154), Tapit Trice (150) and Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Two Phil’s (123).

“I think the one thing we learned in the Florida Derby is that he handled the race really well,” Pletcher told reporters. “The best part of the race for him was the last sixteenth of a mile, which gives you confidence that the added distance (1¼ miles in the Derby) won’t be an issue. … He was on his toes after the race, which he normally is.”

There are 17 horses with at least 46 points, who are assured spots in the Derby if they want to run, and Continuar owns the 20th spot through the Japan Road. That currently leaves a tiebreaker at 45 between four horses. Reincarnate and Jace’s Road are in, while Skinner and Cyclone Mischief are currently out.

Disarm Set For Lexington

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s colt Disarm can gain enough points to qualify for the Derby with a first (20), second (8) or third-place (6) finish in the Lexington Stakes, which goes off as Race 9 at about 5:16 p.m. ET.

The son of Gun Runner has finished in the money in all four career races and was second at the Louisiana Derby in his first stakes race to register 40 Derby points. Disarm breaks from the 6 hole and is 7-2 on the morning-line horse racing odds.

There appears to be plenty of speed in the field, including trainer Bob Baffert’s Arabian Lion (11) and Saffie Joseph Jr. colt Prairie Hawk (9), while Empirestrikesfast (8) and Transect (4) could also join the pace.

While the pace should be hot enough to set up for Disarm and capable closer Denington (7), among others, having John Velasquez aboard Prairie Hawk and Irad Ortiz Jr. riding Arabian Lion does change the equation.

Red-hot trainer Brad Cox also sends out morning-line favorite First Mission (5) at 3-1. The son of Street Sense broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles on March 18.

Still, the prediction is for Disarm and Denington to be going the best at the end, while closer Baseline Beater (1) along with First Mission and Cox’s other colt Demolition Duke (3) could get a piece if you are online gambling.

  • Bet 6-7 with 6-7 w 1,3,5,9 trifecta.

Japan Sending Two

Japan may have its best chance to win a Kentucky Derby for the first time with impressive colt Derma Sotogake, who ran everyone off their feet to win the UAE Derby last month.

The son of Mind Your Biscuits will likely be part of the pace in the Derby, or on the lead, and Continuar is expected to give Japan two runners in the field for the first time.

Derma Sotogake is +1100 (tied for sixth) in the Kentucky Derby odds.

Continuar’s connections accepted an invitation and are getting the horse ready after his third-place finish in the UAE Derby.

Mandarin Hero, a third Japan-based horse, was second in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend and is sitting on 40 points hoping for enough defections to get into the Derby.

“It’s pretty exciting to have two talented colts here and hoping to have a third represent Japan,” Japan Racing Association representative Kate Hunter told Blood Horse. “We’ve been successful everywhere else; Kentucky is the next stop.”

Four horses based in Japan have raced in the Derby with Master Fencer (sixth, 2019) the top finisher, but Crown Pride had a nose in front near the top of the stretch last year before fading to 13th.

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