Bob Clancy's selections for three $1 million Grade 1 races Saturday, each of which offers Kentucky Derby points to the first four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 basis:
Site: Aqueduct Racetrack, New York; Post time: 5:30 p.m.; TV: NBC; Distance: 1 1/8 miles; Forecast: Cloudy with showers
MATT KING COAL (No. 6, 3-1) is the fastest horse in this field of eight. The son of Cool Coal Man is stepping way up in class for only his second start in five months, but the ease with which he has taken the lead in two straight wins indicates he can do so again. After a third-place finish on the Saratoga turf in his debut last summer, this colt lost by only a nose on a sloppy track at Belmont. Should have the lead turning for home and will be tough to beat with any improvement. Young standout Jose Ortiz rides for sharp trainer Linda Rice.
SHAGAF (No. 1, 2-1) is unbeaten in three career starts and won the Grade 3 Gotham last month from slightly off the pace in his first try around two turns. Began his career in ultra-impressive fashion at this track Nov. 22, winning by six lengths despite going five-wide. Inside slot is beneficial on the Big A's main oval, so he's likely to get a nice trip under Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose's older brother. Trainer Chad Brown also entered Jerome winner Flexibility.
OUTWORK (No. 8, 5-2) ran second to Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby, where he was seven lengths clear of the third-place finisher. Son of Uncle Mo hails from Todd Pletcher's barn, and John Velazquez will help him overcome the far outside post. Might be the right one if the distance suits.
Blue Grass Stakes
Site: Keeneland Race Course, Lexington, Ky.; Post time: 6 p.m.; TV: NBC Sports Network; Distance: 1 1/8 miles; Forecast: Partly cloudy, no rain
BRODY'S CAUSE (No. 6, 4-1) disappointed as the Tampa Bay favorite, finishing seventh in his first start in more than four months. Son of Giant's Causeway has had two nice breezes for Dale Romans since that race and now he's back at the track where he won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity Oct. 3. Four weeks later, he was a fast-closing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He's bound to be passing tired horses in a field of 14 and could get up in time if he avoids traffic trouble under new rider Luis Saez.
ZULU (No. 4, 5-2) was second to Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth after starting his career with two Gulfstream victories. Should be prominent throughout with Javier Castellano aboard, especially since Pletcher is adding blinkers.
CHERRY WINE (No. 3, 12-1) closed well for fourth in the Rebel last month at Oaklawn. Improving colt could make his presence felt when it counts the most. Corey Lanerie rides for Romans.
Site: Santa Anita Park, Arcadia Calif.; Post time: 6:30 p.m.; TV: NBC; Distance: 1 1/8 miles; Forecast: Steady rain likely, thunderstorm possible
DANZING CANDY (No. 3, 9-5) led all the way in the Grade 2 San Felipe for his third consecutive victory, all at Santa Anita. Considering his two recent workouts, a regression appears unlikely. Might have an early tussle with a couple of sprinters stretching out, but he should emerge with the lead well before the midway point. And though he has yet to run on an off track, wet conditions often favor horses near the front. Hall of Famer Mike Smith rides for hot trainer Clifford Sise.
MOR SPIRIT (No. 4, 8-5) has never been worse than second in six career starts and was runner-up on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs in November. Grade 1 winner was gaining on Danzing Candy last month and will be very tough with his best effort. Gary Stevens rides for Bob Baffert.
EXAGGERATOR (No. 2, 4-1) didn't have the best trip in the San Felipe, winding up third. Son of Curlin gave Nyquist a battle in February and likes a muddy track. Keith and Kent Desormeaux team up. Must be included in trifecta tickets.
Contact Bob Clancy at email@example.com.