Bob Clancy's selections for Saturday's three Kentucky Derby prep races, all run at 11/8 miles (NBC Sports Network, 5:30-7:30 p.m.). Derby points awarded to the first four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 basis.
Wood Memorial (Grade 2)
Site: Aqueduct Racetrack, New York; Post time: 5:50 p.m. (10th race); Purse: $750,000; Forecast: Sunny, high near 55
MO TOWN (No. 2, 6-1) is back at the track where he won the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes on Nov. 26 in a very impressive performance. Son of Uncle Mo disappointed with a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds, but the winner of that race, Girvin, would tower over this field of eight. Javier Castellano rode Mo Town in his career debut at Saratoga and returns to the saddle for trainer Anthony Dutrow, who says this colt couldn't be doing much better. Post 2 certainly doesn't hurt with the short run to the first turn. Should be prominent from the start and has the experience edge over the favorites in both class and distance.
CLOUD COMPUTING (No. 7, 5-2) was a strong second to J Boys Echo in the Gotham Stakes on Aqueduct's inner track, his first try around two turns. Trainer Chad Brown knows he is asking a lot of a horse that did not race as a 2-year-old. There is no question, however, about the colt's potential. Irad Ortiz Jr. takes the riding assignment, replacing Manny Franco. Look for Ortiz to settle him early and make a strong late run.
BATTALION RUNNER (No. 3, 2-1) hasn't raced in more than two months, but so what, right? After all, he's from Todd Pletcher's barn and John Velazquez rides. Son of Unbridled's Son was scratched last week from the Florida Derby, won by stablemate Always Dreaming (with Johnny V.). Horses returning from Florida often have an advantage and he might simply be better than these.
Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 2)
Site: Keeneland Race Course, Lexington, Ky.; Post time: 6:15 p.m. (10th race); Purse: $1 million
Forecast: Sunny, high near 65
J BOYS ECHO (No. 3, 4-1) put it all together in the Gotham, blowing by the leaders at the top of stretch and drawing off to a 31/2-length victory. Colt sired by Mineshaft showed his affinity for Keeneland when he beat maidens handily in a two-turn race in October. Dale Romans has trained two of the past five Blue Grass winners, including Brody's Cause last year. Lots to like, though he can't afford any regression in very tough field of seven. Should be finishing fast after patient handling by Robby Albarado.
McCRAKEN (No. 2, 7-5) is undefeated in four starts and will be the Derby favorite if he wins again. Missed the Tampa Bay Derby because of a minor injury to his left front ankle and has been breezing at Keeneland in preparation for his first start since beating Tapwrit on Feb. 11. Trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by Brian Hernandez, the son of Ghostzapper accelerates every time turning for home. A very logical favorite.
TAPWRIT (No. 4, 5-2) won the Tampa Bay Derby, beating Florida Derby runner-up State of Honor by 41/2 lengths. Was no match for McCraken, but that was three months ago. Pletcher-trained colt should be in a good spot under Jose Ortiz and might be the right one if the distance suits.
Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1)
Site: Santa Anita Park, Arcadia Calif.; Post time: 6:30 p.m. (eighth race); Purse: $1 million; Forecast: Showers ending early, high near 65
ILIAD (No. 9, 7-2) held on well to finish second to the very talented Mastery in the Grade 2 San Felipe last month. Now that Mastery is off the Triple Crown trail because of a leg injury, he faces no such rival in a full field of 13. This son of Ghostzapper, unlike the Blue Grass favorite, will undoubtedly be among the early leaders. Ridden by Flavien Prat, he is one of three entered by Doug O'Neill. Looks like the fastest horse in the race and he likes this track. Distance is the only question.
GORMLEY (No. 8, 9-2) faded to fourth in the San Felipe, but he's a proven Grade 1 winner around two turns at this track. Could make it very tough on the top choice through the early stages. Victor Espinoza rides for John Shirreffs.
AMERICAN ANTHEM (No. 6, 5-1) was second to Gormley in the Sham before finishing well back in the Rebel at Oaklawn. Likely to rebound with Mike Smith staying aboard for Bob Baffert, who has three others in this race.
Kentucky Derby Points Standings
The top 20 qualify; tiebreaker is nonrestricted stakes earnings. The Kentucky Derby is May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville:
1. Girvin, 150; 2. Thunder Snow, 100; 3. Always Dreaming, 100; 4. Gunnevera, 84; 5. State of Honor, 62; 6. Tapwrit, 54; 7. J Boys Echo, 53; 8. Malagacy, 50; 9. Hence, 50; 10. Fast and Accurate, 50; 11. Patch, 40; 12. Practical Joke, 34; 13. Untrapped, 34; 14. Classic Empire, 32; 15. Local Hero, 30; 16. Gormley, 25; 17. McCraken, 20; 18. Master Plan, 20; 19. Iliad, 20; 20. Sonneteer, 20; 21. Blueridge Traveler, 20; 22. Cloud Computing, 20; 23. Wild Shot, 17.
Contact Bob Clancy at email@example.com.