Three Derby Preps and a Handicapping Contest

Danzing Candy holds off the late charge of Mor Spirit.

Danzing Candy holds off the late charge of Mor Spirit.

This Saturday will provide horseplayers with plenty of exciting stakes racing.

In addition to the three big Kentucky Derby prep races — the Wood Memorial, the Bluegrass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby — each host track will have a card full of graded stakes action.

While you are wagering on the big races at on Saturday, you can also play in an online handicapping contest that benefits the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

Per the PDJF website (

“The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity that provides financial assistance to some 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. Since its founding in 2006, the fund has disbursed over $7 million to permanently disabled jockeys, most of whom have sustained paralysis or brain injuries.”

Co-hosted by Firehouse Racing Stables and, ALL proceeds of the contest will go to the PDJF.

The winner of the contest will receive a framed, Gary Stevens-signed 8×10 photo of Oxbow and himself winning the 2013 Preakness Stakes.

The format is a simple, straightforward mythical $2 win/place-format contest consisting of eight races.

Anyone can enter the handicapping contest, but only entrants who donate a minimum of $10 to the contest at GoFundMe ( are eligible to win the grand prize.

The contest page can be found at:

As for the three Kentucky Derby preps on Saturday, here are my thoughts:

10th Aqueduct
Wood Memorial
1 ⅛ miles (dirt)

The other Derby preps today may have legitimate contenders for the first Saturday in May, but I don’t think the Wood Memorial will provide us with a viable candidate.

5-Flexibility has a graded stakes victory on his resume (the Grade III Jerome on Jan. 2) and hasn’t run since finishing fourth in the Grade III Withers.

1-Shagaf is undefeated (3-for-3) and won the Grade III Gotham.

Neither of the Aqueduct Derby prep wins by these horses was anything spectacular.

I’m going with a horse that won an $80k optional claimer here on March 6, 6-Matt King Coal. At 3-1 on the morning line, I’m hoping he’ll be in the 5/2 to 7/2 vicinity.

10th Keeneland
Toyota Bluegrass Stakes
1 ⅛ miles (dirt)

The Bluegrass is shaping-up to be a very exciting Derby prep. With 14 runners and a lot of speed, expect the pace to be brisk. With so many trying to vie for the early lead or stalking behind the first tier, I’m looking for horses that can close.

The outside post positions have two horses that fit the bill: 13-Star Hill and 14-My Man Sam. Both horses are listed at 10-1 on the morning line.

I suggest boxing these two in an exacta, as, come the final stretch, they should be making a push for the wire.

My preference is My Man Sam, who finished second to Wood Memorial contender Matt King Coal in a March 6 $80k optional claiming race at Aqueduct.

It’s not often that you can have two Kentucky Derby prep winners coming out of the same optional claiming race a month prior… but stranger things have happened.

8th Santa Anita Park
Santa Anita Derby
1 ⅛ miles (dirt)

The Santa Anita Derby, in my opinion, will produce this year’s Kentucky Derby winner.

3-Danzing Candy and Bob Baffert’s 4-Mor Spirit will be the favorites in this race and my “Derby horse” is the latter. I feel Mor Spirit is peaking right now — and, each year, great three-year-olds experience that “jump” in performance.

Will the Santa Anita Derby be the race in which Mor Spirit wows the nation? Maybe.

But even if he is beaten by Danzing Candy, or even 5-Smokey Image or 2-Exaggerator, I think Mor Spirit will have the best value come the first Saturday in May.

I kind of hope Mor Spirit finishes second, as I’ll get more bang for my buck in the Derby.

I can already see jockey Gary Stevens wearing a blanket of roses next month.

Ryan Dickey
Ryan Dickey is a full-time firefighter in Dearborn, MI, and a life-long horse racing fan. He is a handicapper and contributor to prominent horse racing Websites as well as a freelance sportswriter/photojournalist. He covers local high school sports and community events for multiple outlets, including bi-weekly newspapers and has over 200 works published to date.

Once again the owner of a race horse, Ryan is president (and currently sole member!) of Firehouse Racing Stables, LLC. This year @FirehouseRacing plans to send its first thoroughbred, That Is So Right (a 4 year old chestnut gelding), to run at tracks in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and, possibly, Indiana.

Having lived in Las Vegas for six years and working in the sports gaming industry, Ryan knows sports handicapping from “both sides of the counter.” Feel free to contact him on Twitter (@rdickey249) for questions, comments, criticisms, or critiques.

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