2019 El Camino Real Derby, Southwest Stakes, and Risen Star Stakes Expert Betting Picks
It's both a busy weekend of Triple Crown prep races and a significant one. The El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco isn't typically a big prep race, but 10 points are available to the winner, and it has a couple of interesting horses. The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas is another 10-point race and has a couple of interesting horses in it, too. The highlight of the three-year-old racing weekend, though, is the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. This one matters because the winner gets 50 Kentucky Derby points. That is about twice as many points as a horse typically needs to get into the Derby, so this is essentially a win-and-you're-in race. And second place earns 20 points, which goes a long way to getting a horse in, too. We're starting to get into serious territory here. Here is a look at each race:
The namesake for this race was the winner of the Preakness and Belmont in 1988. Risen Star is the last winner of the race to win a Triple Crown race but not the last horse to go onto big things. In the last dozen years, Lawyer Ron has gone on to be a champion, Mucho Macho Man won the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Gun Runner was the highly decorated Horse of the Year. This is a classy race.
The solid favorite here is Mark Casse-trained War of Will, at 5/2. He has won his last two races after four also-rans to start his career. The last win was in the LeComte, the local prep for this race. He has been a much better horse since switching from the turf to the dirt, though, and he looked excellent in that last race. He's stuck outside in this one, which isn't ideal for a horse that likes to stay in touch with the leaders or preferably lead himself. He's the class of the field, though, and is the clear choice here to prove that he belongs in a significant spot on the road to the Derby.
Owendale, at 6/1, is the second choice. That tells you a lot about this field. He's making his stakes debut and has a lot to prove. This is a large field but not a particularly classy one. If War of Will doesn't win, there is going to be a bit of a bizarre horse with a spot in the Derby.
Keep an eye on Country House, a Bill Mott-trained son of Lookin at Lucky. He's a longer shot at 20/1 on the morning line, but he is getting a lot of buzz at this point and is likely to be at much lower odds by post time. He could easily be the second choice. He's another one taking a step up in class, but his connections are strong, his last win was very impressive, and his breeding is excellent. This morning line price doesn't compute in this field.
El Camino Real Derby
This is the biggest prep race in northern California, but that's not saying much. It hasn't been relevant since Tabasco Cat won the Preakness and Belmont after winning this race in 1994. The biggest thing going against it is that it is run on a synthetic track. Horses that win on synthetic don't necessarily translate to dirt well.
The race drew 13 runners, but one stands out as particularly interesting. Kingly is a Bob Baffert horse, which is notable enough because you don't see him race up north very often. This is a full brother to Mohaymen, who ran fourth in the 2016 Derby as the fourth betting choice. That makes him a son of the outstanding sire Tapit. Kingly last ran on Jan. 31, so he is back on short rest. On that day he faced a Santa Anita track that was wet, which usually makes it's speed favoring. He is not a front runner, but he obviously showed enough in that race to be wheeled back here. What is also notable is that the horse was also entered in the Risen Star - at another track that doesn't see much of Baffert - but was scratched and sent here instead. There are some odd choices that make this horse tough to read, but Baffert has a deep stable this year, so he could just be looking for a spot for this horse where he can avoid stablemates. He'll be bet down because of Baffert, but he's interesting.
Like the Risen Star, this race was also won by Lawyer Ron in 2006. The most notable winner, though, came two years earlier when Smarty Jones won this before almost winning the Triple Crown. The race is run on Monday, so entries aren't in as I write this. There are a couple of horses that are interesting among the smallish field of likely starters, though. Sueno was second in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita last time out. He looked like he was going to win that day before getting surprised by hard-charging Gunmetal Gray late. He's not a very well-bred horse, but he is gritty and could be a factor against a largely local field.
The other likely shipper is Mark Casse's Olympic Runner. He has only two starts to his credit, breaking his maiden in his second try just three weeks ago at Gulfstream. The breeding is solid, and the connections are strong, so he's one to watch even if he has a lot left to prove.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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