Starr: Best Derby Dollars Options For This Weekend’s Derby Preps?

The goal of the Derby Dollars Contest, sponsored by Stats Race Lens, 123bet.com and the Paulick Report, is to score points as if we were wagering to win, place and show. There are seven races left in the contest, plus the Kentucky Derby. This weekend's races are the Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby. Scoring is based on a mythical $4 to win, place and show.

Florida Derby contenders:
Gunnevera had a troubled trip in the Holy Bull when trapped on the rail on the turn, and although without that trouble wasn't likely to beat winner Irish War Cry that day, with a better trip and physical and mental improvement Gunnevera won the Fountain of Youth rather easily with a career best 107 Equibase Figure. The fact he closed from last of 10, 13 lengths back in the early stages, suggests his outside post draw won't be an issue as Castellano can drop him back to last (or nearly so) once again and make a sustained run. As a son of Dialed In, the 1 1/8-mile trip isn't a concern either. Possibly the one to beat once again, for contest play purposes his starting odds of 9/5 may not offer sufficient return for players not near the top of the leaderboard.

Impressive Edge is an interesting horse for betting purposes and particularly for using in the Derby Dollars Contest. After two poor sprint efforts last spring and summer to start his career, Impressive Edge was given six months off to mature and he was moved to the barn of Dale Romans. When returned to the races in January, Impressive Edge won impressively in a sprint with a career best 89 figure. Fourth without threatening in the Swale Stakes in February, Impressive Edge got a jockey change to the number one winning jockey for the Romans barn, Corey Lanerie, for a seven-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream last month. Although he led after a few yards, Lanerie took the colt back early then without ever really asking him, Impressive Edge made a big move on the turn to go from three lengths back to three in front with an eighth of a mile to go and was ridden out to an eight-length win.

State of Honor was no match for Tapwrit when second to that one in the Tampa Bay Derby last month nor when third when Tapwrit finished second in the Sam F. Davis Stakes prior to that. However, blinkers come off after a two-race experiment and in both races State of Honor lost ground in the stretch. In his only win, last fall and without blinkers, he pulled away in the stretch and in his next start, in a stakes at this nine-furlong trip, he finished second to King and His Court, who won his next start and who is entered in the Louisiana Derby. Moving from the eight post last out to the rail helps his chances as he went four paths wide early in the Tampa Bay Derby. Additionally, trainer Mark Casse has a strong statistic when he takes blinkers off, according to Stats Race Lens, as nine of the 13 horses that meet the criteria in the past two years have won or placed. Considering those facts and that his only previous start over the track resulted in a head defeat in a stakes in January, State of Honor is also very playable in the Florida Derby.

Battalion Runner earned the best last race Equibase Figure in the field, 109 (better than Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth). However, he had to work hard to win at 1 to 5 odds in an allowance field. Considering Gunnevera, Impressive Edge, State of Honor and others all have run in stakes, at this time of the year that could be something to consider particularly as the colt opens at 3 to 1 odds.

Louisiana Derby contenders:
Girvin ran very well for second in early February when trying two-turns for the first time, albeit on turf, in the Keith Gee Memorial Stakes, so it was no surprise when he stepped up his game three weeks later to post the 8 to 1 upset in the Risen Star Stakes with a career best 102 Equibase Speed Figure. Stalking an average pace in fourth position in the Risen Star, Girvin made a strong move to go from 4 1/2 lengths back on the turn to be in front by a half-length in the stretch and was not challenged thereafter. Being a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Cocked and Loaded (via Stats Race Lens individual research pedigree statistics), Girvin has the class to continue running well on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The 102 Risen Star figure is likely to be improved upon in his third start as a 3-year-old and with a likely early pace duel between Hotfoot and Local Hero benefitting his closing kick once again, Girvin looks like the one to beat in the Louisiana Derby.

Patch could be another exceptionally well spotted shipper for the Todd Pletcher barn, similar to when Pletcher shipped in One Liner from Florida to win the Southwest Stakes in February and when he shipped Malagacy in from Florida to win the Rebel Stakes in February. Patch finished second sprinting in his debut in January then when stretched out to a mile (around one turn) on February 18, he won nicely and earned a 105 figure that is the best last figure in the field and better than Girvin earned winning the Risen Star. According to the pedigree research sections of Stats Race Lens, although Union Rags is a relatively new sire, it is easy to see his sons and daughters are showing a lot of ability in route stakes races, with his daughter Dancing Rags having won the Alcibiades Stakes last fall, his son Everybodyluvsrudy earning a second place finish in the Miracle Wood Stakes in February and his son No Dozing finishing second in last fall's Remsen Stakes. Additionally, his dam, Windyindy, has only produced two foals before this one and one of them was 2014 Indiana Oaks winner Tiz Windy. On that count, there is little doubt Patch will appreciate the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Louisiana Derby so if he improves off his last effort, he can win the race.

Senior Investment didn't run that well in the first three starts of his career but has won his last three, including a pair at Fair Grounds. He was disqualified from the win on January 27 but rebounded with a three-length win last month. Although the 90 figure earned last time out is not in the same league as the 100+ figures earned by Patch and Girvin, Senior Investment is trained by Ken McPeek, who is holding a hot hand in important races for 3-year-olds recently. He finished one-two in the Bourbonette Oaks last weekend, won the John Battaglia Memorial and saddled the runner-up in the Spiral Stakes. Three of those four runners had Channing Hill in the saddle, as will Senior Investment.

For exotic wagers, we have three others to consider. Local Hero set the pace in the Risen Star and although he faded to fourth, improved to a career best 97 figure. If able to clear Hotfoot in the early stages and relax on the lead, he could have a say in the outcome. Guest Suite may have been too far back (ninth) in the early part of the Risen Star before rallying from ninth to finish a neck behind Local Hero and prior to that he earned a 101 figure winning the LeComte Stakes so he fits with these. Last but not least, Sorry Erik finished seventh at 60 to 1 in the Risen Star but won two in a row prior to that (the best with an 85 figure) and as his trainer, Keith Desormeaux, saddled Rebel Stakes runner-up Sonneteer at 99-1 last weekend, we can't rule out this horse's chances for a piece of the purse. According to a Stats Race Lens angle on the connections, when Kent Desormeaux rides for his brother Keith in dirt route races in the past year, they have a pretty good record with 33% wins and 72% in the money with a 33% return on investment on win bets.

My Derby Dollars Contest play in the Florida Derby will be Impressive Edge.

For my Derby Dollars play in the Louisiana Derby, although Girvin may be the one to beat, unless someone playing in the Derby Dollars Contest has a score anywhere near the top three (currently $167.20) the payoff based on a $4 win, place and show bet at his 8 to 5 morning line odds won't have much of an impact.

Therefore, my Derby Dollars contest play in the Louisiana Derby will be Patch.

The Derby Dollars Contest is free to play and offers $2,500 in cash prizes. Sign up now!

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