• Triple Crown Insider weekend preview

    POSTED Mar 23, 2012
    One of the "games" I like to "play" on "the Twitter" is to ask before certain Triple Crown prep races the odds of a starter from that race going on to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.

    The answers immediately before the Tampa Bay Derby ranged from 50- to 300-to-1, so there wasn't a lot of confidence in that race being key to unlocking this year's Derby puzzle. I don't know what answers I'll get ahead of this weekend's Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes and Sunland Derby, but I'd be shocked if anyone I respect thinks either has a better than 15-to-1 chance of sending a starter on to win the roses come May 5.

    It's not that I disrespect either prep race--we all know the recent history of three classic winners coming from these two races in the past three years (Mine That Bird, Animal Kingdom, and Ruler On Ice)--but considering that of all 20 entrants from both races (12 in the Spiral plus 8 in the Sunland), only Castaway (12th) is ranked among the top 20 of the Paulick Derby Index, 15-to-1 on either race (before the race) is probably an underlay.

    However, the simple math is that the winners of both races will have enough graded stakes earnings to be in the Derby starter gate, and recent history suggests that Derby starters very rarely go off at odds of less than 50-to-1, so even though 15-to-1 on a Spiral starter to wear roses seems like an underlay, 50-to-1 is certainly an overlay if you think more than one Spiral starter will make it to the Derby gate, and even 15-to-1 is fair if two Spiral starters end up being 30-to-1 each on Derby day (and all this applies to Sunland as well).

    This week's Triple Crown Insider approaches both races from a similar standpoint: Given the dynamics of the graded stakes earnings chase, both races are extremely likely to produce Derby starters, but the credentials of most competitors to date makes it difficult to assess the likely impact of either race. The Spiral, for instance, does not feature a graded stakes winner, and only four of the dozen entrants have even earned black type.

    Other than the connections of three-year-olds attempting to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the people with the most riding on these two races are the 17 still alive for $1-million in the TwinSpires.com Triple Crown SHOWdown promotion.

    Those who make it through this weekend will be nearly halfway home with 11 races down and 12 to go (including the Triple Crown). There are no gimmes in either race, though, as I don't expect the favorite of either heat to be less than 5-to-2.

    If I were still alive at this point, I'd legit be sweating this week's picks because that would mean in order for me to be eligible, I'd no longer be employed by TwinSpires so I'd really need that $1-million. Actually I'd be nervous no matter what. These two races are definitely mines, but I wouldn't tiptoe around them. Make your pick and go for it. No second guessing, no worrying, etc.

    Easier said than done, though, so here's Toga Tout to help take the edge off.

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