Derby day card always irresistible

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Everywhere you turn today and tomorrow everybody will offer up an opinion on the Kentucky Derby. The race and its supporting program didn’t become the biggest handle day of the year on the American racing calendar by chance, so the trio of handicappers from This Is Horse Racing will take a dip into the pool and offer up their picks for Saturday’s stakes at Churchill Downs. We won’t count these against the overall standings, but bragging rights will of course be in the line.

Post time for the first race Saturday at Churchill is 10:30 a.m. EDT, with the first of six stakes going at 1:19 p.m. Thankfully, or maybe not so much, there’s plenty of time between races to grab a bite or a drink, and of course, to put your money where your opinion is.

Post time for the Derby is 6:24 p.m., the 11th of 13 races on the card. This year’s event offers up plenty of intriguing storylines, starting with the weather (90% chance of rain in Louisville Saturday as of 7 p.m. Friday, according to The Weather Channel). On track the stories include Kentuckian Shug McGaughey chasing his first Derby with Orb, Todd Pletcher sending out a record five entries and trying to buck more than 100 years of history with Verrazano, recently named Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel seeking a fourth Derby win since 2007 to tie a guy named Shoemaker, D. Wayne Lukas going for his fifth win and move within one of a guy named Jones, and Kevin Krigger seeking to become the first African American jockey to win the race since 1902 to name just a few.

And oh, there’s the undercard.

Slightly lost in the Derby hoopla is the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes, which would be the race of the day (year?) any other day of the year with a showdown between Horse of the Year Wise Dan and Point of Entry offered up.

So here goes, good luck.

Twin Spires Turf Sprint S. (G3). Post time, 1:19.

Havelock tries to follow up is win in Shakertown Stakes three weeks ago against field that includes wily veterans and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winners Chamberlain Bridge and Regally Ready. The white-hot Mike Maker sends out Ghost Is Clear.

  • Joe: Icon Ike, Havelock, Ghost Is Clear.
  • Tom: Icon Ike, Ghost Is Clear, Southern Dude.
  • Sean: Icon Ike, Havelock, Regally Ready.

Humana Distaff S. (G1). Post time, 2:08.

Not the strongest edition in recent memory but a good balanced group led by Southern California shipper Rumor, Inside Information Stakes winner Aubby K, and Emma’s Encore and Jamaican Smoke, the one-two finishers from last year’s Grade 1 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga.

  • Joe: Aubby K, Byrama, Rumor.
  • Tom: Byrama, Rumor, Emma’s Encore.
  • Sean: Same Cross, Rumor, Aubby K.

Churchill Distaff Turf Mile S. (G2). Post time, 2:59.

Hungry Island is back to defend against a very strong group led by Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf runner-up Marketing Mix, Daisy Devine, Stephanie’s Kitten, and Karlovy Vary.

  • Joe: Hungry Island, Karlovy Vary, Marketing Mix.
  • Tom: Marketing Mix, Hungry Island, Karlovy Vary.
  • Sean: Hungry Island, Stephanie’s Kitten, Marketing Mix.

Churchill Downs S. (G2). Post time, 3:49.

Champion and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Trinniberg is back on short rest after failed attempt in Dubai and could be vulnerable. Delaunay is going about as good as he could be with five straight wins, but takes first crack at graded company. Hierro and Unbridled’s Note put perfect Churchill marks on the line.

  • Joe: Delaunay, Trinniberg, Unbridled’s Note.
  • Tom: Unbridled’s Note, Hierro, Delaunay.
  • Sean: Pass The Dice, Delaunay, Politicallycorrect.

Woodford Reserve Turf Classic S. (G1). Post time, 4:44.

Wise Dan vs. Point of Entry. Need anything more? Alright, after the scratch of Swift Warrior Saturday morning the race also features three others with graded stakes wins already this year in Slim Shadey (GB), Optimizer, and Jeranimo. Silver Max won the American Turf last year on Oaks day and likes the course.

  • Joe: Point of Entry, Wise Dan, Slim Shadey.
  • Tom: Wise Dan, Point of Entry, Swift Warrior.
  • Sean: Point Of Entry, Wise Dan, Slim Shadey.

Kentucky Derby (G1). Post time, 6:24.

Plenty of questions for the 19 remaining entrants following scratch of Spiral Stakes winner Black Onyx Friday morning. What if the track is wet? What if it’s drying out? Can they get the distance? Who gets the trip? How fast will the pace be? How fast does the pace need to be? Will Borel come up the fence, again? Something for everyone in here, enjoy.

  • Joe: Orb, Overanalyze, Itsmyluckyday.
  • Tom: Orb, Goldencents, Vyjack.
  • Sean: Orb, Itsmyluckyday, Revolutionary.