Kentucky Derby Day stakes picks & bankroll challenge

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Tapit Trice, working outside a stablemate last month at Churchill Downs, is one of three major players in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher. Coady Photography.

The big day is finally here, the 149th Kentucky Derby and all its pomp and circumstance.

All the time watching the countdown clocks and checking those Derby watch lists and top 10s, dozens, 20s and all don’t really matter since it’s time to put up or, you know.

Churchill Downs rolled out a stacked card for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks and does the same for Kentucky Derby Day. Nine stakes are on tap, led by the $3 million headliner that has seen more than its share of drama and all in the last few days. By this writing we’re down to 19 confirmed starters.

Todd Pletcher, who just missed after a stellar run by Gambling Girl in the Kentucky Oaks, sends out the stellar trio of champion Forte, Grade 1 winner Tapit Trice and Grade 2 winner Kingsbarns. They’ll be tough to beat, but Brad Cox tries to keep his momentum rolling with his own quartet of Hit Show, Verifying, Jace’s Road and Angel of Empire.

We’re not entirely pumped that two trainers might send out 37 percent of the field but it looks like those days are here for a while.

Don’t count out the Japanese contingent, who look to add another major international prize with Derma Sotogake and Mandarin Hero.

How about a ‘little guy?’ Not sure there’s a true candidate in the mix but Keith Desormeaux, Larry Rivelli, Gustavo Delgado, Ben Colebrook and Ron Moquett certainly don’t fall into the so-called “super-trainer” mold.

There’s plenty to like – and maybe not to like – in this year’s run for the roses. Dig in and enjoy.

The Saratoga Special and This Is Horse Racing handicappers are looking for better luck Saturday after struggling Friday. Joe Clancy, Sean Clancy and Jessica Paquette were able to come with a pair of winners apiece, while Paul Halloran, John Shapazian, Tom Law, Charles Bedard and Rob Whitlock each picked one winner. At least no one was blanked.

Here are the picks for Saturday, May 6, Kentucky Derby Day, plus the Bankroll Challenge. Scroll down. Be safe, enjoy and good luck.

Derby City Distaff Stakes presented by Kendall-Jackson Winery (G1). $750,000, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. Post time 12:04 p.m. ET.

Small field of six to kick off the stakes action, thanks to the daunting presence of champion Goodnight Olive. Winner of the Grade 1 Madison last time out, 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper looks to make it eight straight against Wicked Halo, Matareya and others.

John: Good Night Olive, Hot And Sultry, Wicked Halo.
Jessica: Wicked Halo, Goodnight Olive, Hot And Sultry.
Joe: Goodnight Olive, Wicked Halo, Matareya.
Paul: Goodnight Olive, Hot And Sultry, Wicked Halo.
Sean: Goodnight Olive, Matareya, Wicked Halo.
Tom: Goodnight Olive, Wicked Halo, Matareya.
Charles: Goodnight Olive, Wicked Halo, Hot And Sultry.
Rob: Goodnight Olive, Wicked Halo, Hot And Sultry.

Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G2). $500,000, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, 1 mile, turf. Post time 12:36 p.m.

New York-bred Grade 1 winner Spendarella makes first start since taking last year’s Del Mar Oaks in late August. She’s prepped of late at Fair Hill and looks tough against last year’s winner Speak Of The Devil and her stablemates Fluffy Socks and Haughty, along with Wakanaka.

John: Spendarella, Fluffy Socks, Wakanaka.
Jessica: Spendarella, Freedom Speaks, Haughty.
Joe: Spendarella, Haughty, Wakanaka.
Paul: Spenderella, Haughty, Speak Of The Devil
Sean: Spendarella, Wakanaka, Haughty.
Tom: Spendarella, Wakanaka, Haughty.
Charles: Haughty, Spendarella, Fluffy Socks.
Rob: Spendarella, Wakanaka, Speak Of The Devil.

Knicks Go Overnight Stakes presented by L&N Federal Credit Union. $175,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 mile. Post time 1:14 p.m.

Three Technique returns to defend title after winning last year at 36-1. He’ll be a big price again against likes of Baby Yoda, Zozos, Masqueparade, Caddo River and Kneedeepinsnow.

John: Baby Yoda, Zozos, Caddo River.
Jessica: Masquerade, Baby Yoda, Zozos.
Joe: Masqueparade, Zozos, Baby Yoda.
Paul: Baby Yoda, Masqueparade, Zozos.
Sean: Zozos, Kneedeepinsnow, Baby Yoda.
Tom: Baby Yoda, Masqueparade, Caddo River.
Charles: Baby Yoda, Kupuna, Caddo River.
Rob: Masqueparade, Zozos, Promise Keeper.

Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes presented by Cohere Health (G2). $500,000, 3-year-olds and up, 5 1/2 furlongs, turf. Post time 1:56 p.m.

Big Invasion returned from layoff to win turf sprint stakes at Gulfstream last time out and looks to build another win streak. Big field also features Nothing Better, Arrest Me Red, Motorious and Carotari.

John: Big Invasion, Nothing Better, Arrest Me Red.
Jessica: Just Might, Necker Island, Oceanic.
Joe: Arrest Me Red, Big Invasion, Motorious
Paul: Big Invasion-Just Might-Arrest Me Red
Sean: Motorious, Go Bears Go, Big Invasion.
Tom: Evan Sing, Go Bears Go, Carotari.
Charles: Nothing Better, Noble Reflection, Motorious.
Rob: Evan Sing, Big Invasion, Bad Beat Brian.

Pat Day Mile Stakes presented by TwinSpires (G2). $500,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile. Post time 2:46 p.m.

General Jim, winner of the Grade 3 Swale, and Echo Again, winner of a 1-mile allowance last time out at Oaklawn Park, look like the standouts in full field of 14. Fort Bragg also shortens up after fifth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby last time out while Kangaroo Court ventures out of Cal-bred company for the first time. Puzzler.

John: General Jim, Kangaroo Court, Echo Again.
Jessica: Damon’s Mound, Echo Again, Midnight Rising.
Joe: Fort Bragg, Echo Again, General Jim.
Paul: Curly Jack-Echo Again-Gun Pilot
Sean: General Jim, Gilmore, Echo Again.
Tom: General Jim, Damon’s Mound, Echo Again.
Charles: Lugan Knight, Fort Bragg, Midnight Rising.
Rob: General Jim, Echo Again, Fort Bragg.

American Turf Stakes presented by BMW (G2). $500,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, turf. Post time 3:40 p.m.

Connections of Major Dude opted for this spot instead of trying to enter the Kentucky Derby and wind up on the also-eligible list. They would have gotten in but instead return to the grass in search of third graded stakes victory. Another full field, including Transylvania winner Mo Stash, Carl Spackler, Far Bridge and Andthewinneris.

John: Carl Spackler, Far Bridge, Major Bridge.
Jessica: Behind Enemy Lines, Far Bridge, Major Dude.
Joe: Major Dude, Carl Spackler, Far Bridge.
Paul: Carl Spackler-Talk of the Nation-Far Bridge
Sean: Far Bridge, Mo Stash, Carl Spackler.
Tom: Andthewinneris, Major Dude, Carl Spackler.
Charles: Talk Of The Nation, Major Dude, Mo Stash.
Rob: Mo Stash, Major Dude, Carl Spackler.

Churchill Downs Stakes presented by Ford (G1). $750,000, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. Post time 4:31 p.m.

Cody’s Wish makes anticipated debut after brilliant season in 2022 that warmed hearts and included back-to-back Grade 1 victories. Godolphin homebred is looking at a similar campaign this season, with a stop at Belmont Park for the Met Mile most likely, but it all starts here against C Z Rocket, Tejano Twist, Endorsed and Get Her Number.

John: Cody’s Wish, Endorsed, Tejano Twist.
Jessica: Cody’s Wish, White Abarrio, Tejano Twist.
Joe: Cody’s Wish, Hoist The Gold, Here Mi Song.
Paul: Cody’s Wish-Endorsed-Tejano Twist
Sean: Cody’s Wish, Endorsed, Fortin Hill.
Tom: Cody’s Wish, Endorsed, Get Her Number.
Charles: Cody’s Wish, C Z Rocket, Here Mi Song.
Rob: Cody’s Wish, Endorsed, Tejano Twist.

Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic Stakes (G1). $1 million, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, turf. Post time 5:27 p.m.

Santin returns to scene of his biggest wins – last year’s Turf Classic on Derby Day and the Arlington Million in August. Winless in his last three, Godolphin homebred prepped with a fourth on synthetic in the Kentucky Cup Classic last time out behind Wolfies Dynaghost. Todd Pletcher sends out strong duo of Steady On and Up To The Mark, and Phil D’Amato ships Earls Rock and Hong Kong Harry from California for traditional Derby Day undercard stakes.

John: Hong Kong Harry, Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Master Piece.
Jessica: Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Spooky Channel, Bye Bye Melvin.
Joe: Steady On, Hong Kong Harry, Spooky Channel.
Paul: Up to the Mark, Hong Kong Harry, Bye Bye Melvin.
Sean: Up To The Mark, Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Steady On.
Tom: Santin, Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Up To The Mark.
Charles: Hong Kong Harry, Up To The Mark, Ocean Atlantique.
Rob: Up To The Mark, Bye Bye Melvin, Earls Rock.

Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). $3 million, 3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles. Post time 6:57 p.m.

The main event and the one everyone’s been talking about for months. Plenty of movement in the field – to put it lightly – with scratches of Skinner, Practical Move, Lord Miles and Continuar allowing the three also-eligible runners to draw into the field. The two favorites, champion Forte and Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Tapit Trice, remain and will be tough to beat. Arkansas Derby winner Angel Of Empire, Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarns and Japanese invader Derma Sotogake add depth to the cast.

John: Forte, Kingsbarns, Practical Move.
Jessica: Two Phil’s, Disarm, Forte.
Joe: Forte, Angel Of Empire, Confidence Game, Rocket Can.
Paul: Tapit Trice, Forte, Angel Of Empire
Sean: Tapit Trice, Angel Of Empire, Mandarin Hero.
Tom: Forte, Rocket Can, Tapit Trice.
Charles: Angel Of Empire, Mandarin Hero, Forte.
Rob: Derma Sotogake, Disarm, Verifying.

Derby Day Bankroll Challenge

We gave the handicappers from The Special $100 to play with – mythically of course – Friday and Jessica Paquette and Rob Whitlock made the most of it.

Jessica went all in with a win bet on Didia in the Grade 3 Modesty and after the Argentinian-bred filly won she pocketed a cool $359. She leads heading into Saturday’s Derby Day card, where we gave the handicappers $200 apiece for their mythical wagers.

Rob Whitlock also showed a profit on Oaks Day, scoring on his $25 win bet on Played Hard in the Grade 1 La Troienne. He cleared $248.25 on that wager.

John Shapazian, Charles Bedard and Tom Law were blanked on their mythical bets.

Here are the team’s plays for Saturday:

John Shapazian:
Race 12: $150 Win 15; $25 Exacta Box   6-15

Jessica Paquette:
Race 7: $1 Superfecta Box 5-7-8-9; $1 Trifecta Box 5-7-8-9.
Race 8: $20 Win 13.
Race 10: $12 Pick 3 7-3-3.
Race 11: $20 Double 3-3.
Race 12: $100 Win 3.

Charles Bedard:
Race 4: $2 Pick 3 2/3,5,7/3,11,12.
Race 8: $2 Pick 3 3,4,7/1,4,8/7.
Race 10: $1 Pick 3 2,3,7/1,5,7/14,15,22.
Race 10: $20 Win-Place 7.
Race 12: $30 Win-Place 14.
Race 12: $17 Win-Place 15.

Rob Whitlock:
Race 6: $100 Win 2.
Race 12: $100 Win 17.

Tom Law:
Race 4: $2 Pick 3 2,3/5,4/2,3,7,8,9.
Race 7: $10 Win Place 2.
Race 9: $5 Win Place Show 13.
Race 11: $15 Win 3. $10 Place 3.
Race 12: $100 Win 15.