The spotlight burned up to, and through, the Triple Crown makes Saturday's $500,000 Ohio Derby an event keen on the minds of fans and horseplayers. Half of the 8 runners here passed the entry box for the Kentucky Derby, including a trio of eventual starters. The 1-1/8 miles Ohio Derby anchors an 11-race card as the finale, following a highly anticipated running of the $250,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes with a strong national cast of distaff division raiders.
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WHITE ABARRIO has the field's signature Grade 1 victory in the Florida Derby. CLASSIC CAUSEWAY is a Grade 2 winner, while TAWNY PORT has Grade 3-winning credentials. ETHERIAL ROAD is a stakes winner and Grade 2-placed. WHITE ABARRIO has kept the strongest company lines overall an rates an edge in the class department.
CLASSIC CAUSEWAY should be prominent from the start with PINEAPPLE MAN. The second flight likely consists of BRIGADIER GENERAL and BARESE. The tempo looks honest for 1-1/8 miles and open to the best horse delivering a victory not necessitating to be aided by pace.
WHITE ABARRIO has been Gulfstream's kingpin, unbeaten in 4 starts in Hallandale. But his 2 roadtrips to Churchill Downs proved disappointments at age 2 and 3. Its uncertain whether he's a horse-for-course, travel averse or simply less-than-his-best at Churchill Downs. The answer likely lies at the finish line Saturday in Ohio. At what figures to be a short price, the gamble-against will be my approach as two out of those three scenarios stack against victory.
CLASSIC CAUSEWAY knows only one way to success, and that's going to the front. The X-factor becomes the barn switch from Brian Lynch to Kenny McPeek. The new barn is more well known for its stamina and finishers, rarely in possession of a horse with devastating early action. Jockey Brian Hernandez was proficient on the front end with Fort Larned back in his heyday, so he's a rider who can handle speed. While I expect an improved effort from the last few after going off form, he's never indicated that 1-1/8 miles would be his best trip.
TAWNY PORT looks to continue a super post-Triple Crown run for trainer Brad Cox with the sophomores. Two weeks ago, Cyberknife bounced out of the Derby to win the Matt Winn at Churchill. Last week, Oaklawn Stakes winner Home Brew returned to capture Monmouth's Haskell prep, the Pegasus Stakes. TAWNY PORT was a better-than-expected seventh in the Kentucky Derby. His prior starts in the Jeff Ruby and Lexington Stakes have proven key events with Rich Strike exiting the former to win the Kentucky Derby, and Ohio Derby rival ETHEREAL ROAD exited the Lexington to win Pimlico's Sir Barton.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
TAWNY PORT has that often-key bullet workout 2 drills before the engagement and his barn is humming right now.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
BARESE pressed the pace in the Wood Memorial before running a decent race in hindsight as that event produced the Preakness (Early Voting) and Belmont (Mo Donegal) winners. Stretching back out from the rail with a good speed jockey in Kendrick Carmouche intrigues ... but the 9-2 morning line price must be increased to consider a win bet.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$90 win TAWNY PORT. $10 exacta TAWNY PORT over BARESE.