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Pete’s Picks: Undrafted in Blue Grass, War Academy in Arkansas Derby

Posted by Pete Mitchell on 4/12/2013 5:27:52 PM

Who: Thoroughbreds – Undrafted, Java’s War, Palace Malice, Uncaptured, Rydilluc, War Academy, Oxbow
What: Horse Racing Betting Tips – The Blue Grass, The Arkansas Derby
Where: Keeneland, Oaklawn Park
When: Saturday, April 13th

A full field of 14 will head postward for the 89th Running of The Blue Grass at Keeneland on Saturday. Picking a winner out of this bunch presents us with a supreme handicapping challenge, but doing so will pay handsomely. A bit later in the afternoon, the lightly-raced but highly-regarded War Academy, trained by Bob Baffert, will tackle nine other three-year-olds in the 77th Running of The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Let’s take a closer look at these last of the major Kentucky Derby preps below.

Three Blue Grass entrants ran here in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, with #1-Dynamic Sky (10-1) doing the best with a second-place finish. Behind him that day was #4-Java’s War (4-1) in third and #8-Charming Kitten (10-1) in ninth. Of this trio, Java’s War appears to be the main threat, having finished second behind probable Kentucky Derby favorite Verrazano last out in The Tampa Bay Derby. That was the Ken McPeek trainee’s first start of the year, so he should move forward. #5-Palace Malice (8-1) had a troubled trip in The Louisiana Derby at odds of 7-2. The son of Curlin could turn things around here if he handles the Keeneland polytrack. Trainer Gary Contessa has been chirping about #13-Rydilluc (4-1) for some time now, but like Palice Malice, the surface is a question mark. I’m leaning toward the aptly-named #3-Undrafted (10-1), trained by Wesley Ward and owned by undrafted NFL wide receiver Wes Welker. Undrafted is ready to stretch out after a pair of solid 7-furlong stakes outings at Gulfstream Park. Note he won his only two-turn race, albeit on grass, to close out his 2YO campaign, and also won his only start over the Keeneland main track, wiring the field in his career debut last April. In a wide-open affair, I’ll take my chances with Undrafted across the board (Win, Place, Show) at odds of 8-1 or better.

To put it mildly, the Arkansas Derby field is a rather nondescript bunch…the kind that a new shooter like #2-War Academy (2-1) could dominate. The most accomplished members of the field include #10-Oxbow (5-2), winner of the Grade 3 LeComte at Fair Grounds in January, and second last out in the Grade 2 Rebel. With a top Beyer Speed Figure of 95, he’ll most likely need a career-best effort to win this. #9-Overanalyze (4-1) nosed out Normandy Invasion to win The Remsen at Aqueduct last November, but wasn’t much of a factor in the Gotham. The Pletcher runner will be supported at the windows, however, which should help the price on War Academy. War Academy is bred to run all day, and sure looked good in his first two-turn try, blowing away suspect competition in a first-level allowance event at Santa Anita, earning a lofty Beyer of 99. He worked a bullet seven furlongs from the gate last Sunday, indicating that his connections are serious about winning this race and moving on to Louisville. Regular rider Mike Smith is extremely high on this colt…and so am I at future book odds of 40-1! I’ll bet on War Academy to win the Arkanasas Derby at odds of 8-5 or better.

Those are my horse racing betting tips for this weekend. Best of luck and happy gambling!

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