The Road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby got off to an official start on Saturday night at Churchill Downs, with the first of 34 points races that will determine the starting field for the Run for the Roses next May.
The $150,000 Iroquois (G3) offered up 10 points to the winner and the Dale Romans trained Cleburne rallied from off the pace to get up and win by a neck in a three-way photo at odds of 34-1.
The runner up and earner of four Derby points was his stablemate Smart Cover, who also came from far off the pace and at a big price, sent off at 26-1. The duo combined for a $2 exacta that returned $500.00.
It was another neck back to Tapiture, who had the lead heading for home but could not hold off the late runners, completing a $2 trifecta that paid $4,256,80.
The Derby future betting probably will not be affected much as the winner earned just a 69 Beyer Speed Figure, completing the 1 1/6 miles in 1:45.65.
Cleburne Wins Iroquois
That time was considerably slower than the $150,000 Pocahontas (G3) for juvenile fillies, which was run one race earlier at the same distance. The winner was Untapable, who stopped the timer in 1:44.38, earning a Beyer of 81.
The most impressive effort of the weekend was Pants on Fire, who earned a 107 Beyer for his victory in the $100,000 Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill Downs for the Kelly Breen barn.
The five-year-old was coming off a career top in his win in the Monmouth Cup (G2) and now with his victory on Saturday night looks as if he could be a force in the handicap division.
Departing looks like he could be a major player in the three-year-old division after winning the $500,000 Super Derby (G2) at Louisiana Downs on Saturday, but is hitting the bench after one more start.
The colt earned a 104 Beyer which stacks up nicely among the top numbers earned by three-year-olds so far this year. The Al Stall trainee has now won six of his eight career starts with earnings of $1,379,500.
Stall said the plan is to start Departing just one more time this year, and that outing will come in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) at Remington Park on Sept. 29.
Departing Wins Super Derby
Penn-Belmont Team Up for Pick 4
I have to admit I was a little puzzled when the New York Racing Association announced a new Pick 4 wager involving two races each from Belmont Park and Penn National, which starts on Thursday.
The good news for horseplayers is the wager has a reduced takeout of 15%, which is considerably lower than most Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers, which can be as high as 27%.
The bet will be on the final two races of the card at Belmont Park and the first two races at Penn National each Thursday.
While I am all for low takeout wagers, I just have a difficult time wagering my money on a bet that supports Penn National.
The track has a completely ridiculous takeout of 31% on trifectas, the highest figure in the U.S. The Penn National purses are subsidized by slots and gaming, and for their takeout to be at such a high level makes no sense to me.
I’ll stick to the late double at Belmont Park and then call it a day.
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