Expert Horse Racing Picks for Holy Bull, Robert B Lewis, Withers 2019
There are three races on the road to the Kentucky Derby this weekend, and though it is still early all three could factor into the first Saturday in May. There is quality in the Holy Bull Stakes, Robert B. Lewis Stakes and Withers Stakes - perhaps not as much in the last two as would be ideal, but still enough to make us take notice. Let's look at each race in turn:
The South Florida attack on the Derby gets rolling this weekend. The Holy Bull hasn't produced a winner that won the Derby since Barbaro in 2006, but winners like Audible last year and Irish War Cry the year before have certainly been a big part of the puzzle.
The favorite here is the unbeaten Maximus Mischief, currently viewed as one of the top Derby contenders. He is at 5/2 in the morning line. He has won at a mile and an eighth already, and around two turns, and his last work was stunning. If he is as good as he could be, then he'll win this one. His biggest challenger is Mihos, at 7/2. He has won at a sprint and stretched out and has shown some real toughness overcoming some adversity along the way. He's going to give up some ground to Maximus Mischief early, though, and as he steps up in class, I'm not sure he is ready for that. I will have him in my exotics, but not on top.
Todd Pletcher is always a factor in Florida, and he has won this race twice in the last seven years, so his Federal Case gets a look at 5/1. He has several of the same owners as the great Justify, so maybe that can rub off on him. He's making his stakes debut here off a nice win in an allowance, but I'll need to see more before I buy in. Garter and Tie is an interesting one at 6/1. He has already run seven times and is based at Gulfstream. He has home track advantage but is taking a huge step up in class, and his breeding is not as good as some. I would love to use him in the bottom of my exotics, but not at 6/1.
If I was looking for a simple play here, I would put Maximus Mischief atop an exacta over Mihos and Federal Case. It won't pay great, but it could easily happen.
Robert B. Lewis
This Santa Anita race has been around in some form since the 1940s and most recently produced Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another in 2012. This year, only six horses have entered, but three of them are very interesting.
Not surprisingly, the favorite is trained by Bob Baffert, who has won this race six times, including three of the last six years. Mucho Gusto lost his last race at two, but it was to stellar stablemate Improbable, and he still ran very nicely in second. He needs to up his game here, but he has talent and strong breeding. The 7/5 price is a little less than I would ideally bet, but I'm a sucker for a Baffert horse on the Derby trail, so I'll have a piece of him.
Jerry Hollendorfer's Gunmetal Gray, 8/5, was the surprise winner of the Sham Stakes last time out after uncorking a massive closing kick. Now he has to prove that that was no fluke. I wasn't on him then, and at this price I won't be on him here, either.
Nolo Contesto, out of the John Sadler barn at 4/1, is the third horse of interest. He had a disastrous first outing but came back to win nicely in his second race. Now he faces his toughest challenge. My biggest concern is that he will be looking to run much the same race as Mucho Gusto, and I'm not convinced he's good enough, but if he goes off at close to this price, I'll have him and Mucho Gusto both ways in an exacta.
This race at Aqueduct lost a little luster when highly-touted Mind Control passed on the race. But there are still two runners in the seven-horse field I am excited to see. There is plenty of early speed, and the top two horses will both benefit from coming off that speed.
Todd Pletcher is a factor in every Triple Crown prep race he enters, and his Moretti is the likely favorite in this one, sitting at 9/5 on the morning line. He has run only twice and broke his maiden last time out. It was a very impressive win, but there is so much more upside because he was very distracted down the stretch. Pletcher left this horse to train in New York the last month instead of taking him to his base in Florida, which is a sign that this race has been the immediate target all along. It's hard to not to be optimistic.
The second big contender comes from Mark Casse's barn. Our Braintrust was a strong second behind the aforementioned Mind Control last time out, so we will get a sense of how good that horse is even if we don't get to see him here. I don't love the breeding, but I really respect Casse, and at 5/2 I'll have this colt in an exacta with the favorite.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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