Race 11 (Saturday, June 9, 2018: 6:46 p.m./ET; 3:46 p.m./PT)
This Saturday, the big, beautiful chestnut colt JUSTIFY looks to join the elite list of 12 other Triple Crown legends like AFFIRMED, CITATION, SEATTLE SLEW, SECRETARIAT, and AMERICAN PHAROAH. But nine other three-year-olds look to spoil the party for the undefeated JUSTIFY which poises the question, ‘Does anybody have what it takes to beat the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner?:
#1 JUSTIFY, the son of the late SCAT DADDY, won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in gate to wire fashion over a fast track before out-finishing 2017 two-year-old champion and Grade I winner GOOD MAGIC in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1), both contested over wet tracks. With the rail draw, expect this guy to be forwardly placed in his quest for a prestigious Triple Crown score.
#2 FREE DROP BILLY is bred to love every step of this mile-and-a-half distance, being by Belmont Stakes (G1) winner UNION RAGS out of a GIANT’S CAUSEWAY mare. He flopped when finishing sixteenth over a sloppy track in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and is winless in four starts this year, but has in-the-money finishes in the BlueGrass (G2), Gotham (G3) and Holy Bull (G2). His recent form suggests he’ll need to pick up the pace but his breeding makes him a bit intriguing.
#3 BRAVAZO came flying late in the Preakness (G1) but had to settle for second, finishing a half-length behind #3 JUSTIFY at the wire. He is bred to be comfortable with racing the 12-panel distance, being by AWESOME AGAIN out of a CEE’S TIZZY mare. The last time this Calumet Farm homebred won, he defeated a large field in the Risen Star (G2). One to consider.
#4 HOFBURG is a half to Grade I winning mare EMOLLIENT and their mother, SOOTHING TOUCH, is by TOUCH GOLD, who defeated SILVER CHARM in the 1997 Belmont Stakes (G1). Breeding says this guy can run all day and keep in mind he got in some traffic trouble in his last start, the Kentucky Derby (G1), where he got stopped on the far turn before finishing up with good energy down the lane and galloped out strong. Main contender.
#5 RESTORING HOPE finished third in the Wood Memorial (G2) behind #8 VINO ROSSO and came back to run very poorly in the Pat Day Mile (G3) over a sloppy track on Kentucky Derby Day. His most recent poor performance may have been a result of a wet track he did not care for but unfortunately for him, wet weather is expected once again this Saturday. Will need to turn the tables on #8 VINO ROSSO and other top three-year-olds in this spot. Not going to be easy.
#6 GRONKOWSKI makes his U.S. debut and first start for trainer Chad Brown. Son of European sire LONHRO has won four races in a row, including a sharp victory in the 32red Burradon Stakes in Great Britain. Colt has yet to win a graded stake and is facing a whole new level of competition now. Looking elsewhere.
#7 TENFOLD is the most lightly raced runner in the field with just four career starts. The Steve Asmussen trainee came rolling late for third in the Preakness (G1), finishing just three quarters of a length behind JUSTIFY. The son of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner CURLIN has never won a stake before but will surely be content with stretching out in distance and has improved dramatically over time. He possesses plenty of raw talent. In with a shot.
#8 VINO ROSSO won the Wood Memorial (G2) before finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) five weeks ago. Like many in here, his breeding (by CURLIN out of a STREET CRY mare) suggests a mile-and-a-half distance is well within his scope. Todd Pletcher conditions and he has won the Belmont (G1) three times, including last year with TAPWRIT. Wouldn’t discount.
#9 NOBLE INDY beat BRAVAZO in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at the Fair Grounds before finishing 17th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The good news is you can be a bit forgiving of that last run considering he may have not liked the wet track on ‘Derby Day, but the bad news is the forecast calls for wet weather once again. He is another one bred to be fine with this twelve-furlong distance. The second Pletcher entrant.
#10 BLENDED CITIZEN has improved with age and racing experience. The son of PROUD CITIZEN comes off a decisive score in the Peter Pan (G3) over this track, stalking the pace before pulling away late to win by a length-and-a-half. Faces a lot tougher than what he defeated last time and may be a notch or two below the main contenders signed on.
- #4 HOFBURG – Rapidly improving colt may be ready for a career best effort.
- #1 JUSTIFY – Rooting for with my heart, but betting against with my wallet.
- #8 VINO ROSSO – May relish the mile-and-a-half distance.
LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY: #2 FREE DROP BILLY – Breeding suggests distance is ok.
I’ll box my top three picks in an exacta and make a straight win bet on my top choice.
BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)
$5 Exacta Box: #1 JUSTIFY and #4 HOFBURG and #8 VINO ROSSO ($30).
$20 Win: HOFBURG