Favorites Find Rough Trips on Road to Kentucky Derby: Weekend Recap

Posted on: March 11, 2019, 04:20h. 

Last updated on: March 11, 2019, 04:27h.

The cancellation of the San Felipe Stakes took a lot of luster off this past weekend’s Kentucky Derby prep races, and as such, there was little movement among the contenders for a spot in racing’s crown event.

Haikal came from well off the pace Saturday to win the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. With the 50 points he earned for the victory, the colt is likely in the field for the Kentucky Derby. (Image: Adam Coglianese Photography/Joe Labozzetta)

Three prep races went off, but only one of them — the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Kentucky’s Turfway Park — saw the favorite win.

In New York, Instagrand, the even-money favorite, fell victim to a blistering pace and finished third in Aqueduct’s Gotham Stakes, where Haikal came from seventh to win the eight-horse race with a great ride down the stretch by jockey Rajiv Maragh.

And in Florida, 5-2 favorite Win Win Win failed to live up to his name, finishing third behind 12-1 shot Tacitus in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Instagrand’s Odds Go Up After Stakes Loss

With his result, Instagrand generated less interest from bettors in the latest round of Derby futures betting at Churchill Downs. The third pool, which closed Sunday night, saw Instagrand go from a 10-1 morning-line selection to 17-1.

Still, not everyone is writing off the colt just yet. Horse Racing Nation’s Mike Shutty thinks Instagrand persevered in his 2019 debut.

Instagrand moves to the top of my list,” Shutty said. “What a performance off the layoff participating in those brutal fractions and then hanging on for third when the race collapsed.”

Even with the third-place showing, Win Win Win saw his futures odds go from 50-1 in the morning line to 34-1.

Neither Tacitus nor Haikal were listed among the entries in Churchill Downs’ latest pool, and that meant they were part of the field entry, which finished with 9-2 odds after garnering the biggest share of the more than $282,000 wagered in the pool. Both horses earned 50 points for their win and likely guaranteed themselves spots in the Derby.

Sportsbook.ag lists Tacitus at 20-1 and Haikal at 25-1.

Somelikeithotbrown, the Jeff Ruby winner, also was not among the named entries in the Churchill Downs pool, and with only 20 points for his win, the son of Big Brown isn’t as certain for the Derby yet. Sportsbooks.ag lists him at 65-1.

Game Winner, Improbable Head to Arkansas, Remain Favorites

The unexpected suspension of racing at Santa Anita last week kept racing fans from seeing trainer Bob Baffert’s horses compete against each other, and while they’re both expected to race in Arkansas this upcoming weekend in the Rebel Stakes, it’s possible they’ll still avoid facing off.

After Santa Anita officials decided to postpone the race, Oaklawn representatives proposed running their stakes race in two heats, provided they could land enough horses. If 20 horses enter, the race would be divided, leaving open the possibility of Baffert’s horses not facing each other until the first Saturday in May.

The two horses find themselves atop of Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby media poll and are also popular with bettors. Game Winner — the No. 1 horse in the media poll — started as the 5-1 morning-line favorite in the Churchill futures pool, and went up slightly to 6-1, the same odds as Improbable, who started the round at 8-1.

At Sportsbook.ag, Game Winner lists 11-4 odds, while Improbable is available at 5-1.

If the Rebel ends up drawing 20 horses, the field will include several other top Derby contenders, including Extra Hope (50-1 at Sportsbook.ag), Omaha Beach (30-1), Galilean (20-1), Gunmetal Gray (9-1), and Long Range Toddy (75-1).