I enter Week 9 with a $6 profit on the bankroll and two futures tickets in hand—one on Zulu (33-1; entered in the Blue Grass Stakes this weekend), and one on Outwork (30-1; entered in the Wood Memorial). Week 9 feaures my first prime bet of the Derby prep season and bets on all three Derby preps.

The Blue Grass Stakes

Todd Pletcher’s Zulu comes off a 2nd-place finish to Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth. So it might seem wise, or at least wise-guy-ish, to bet against him after Mohaymen got dethroned in the Florida Derby. Running 2nd to a possible Grade 1 imposter merits little respect. Except in this case.

In the FOY, Zulu was making both his stakes debut and his route debut. He clicked off superb opening fractions—three consecutive sub :24 quarters! For a horse running 2 turns for the first time, his backers should have expected the worse. What they got in the end was pretty darn respectable. And what Zulu got was a perfect “legging up” for a more important target.

What makes Zulu an especially attractive proposition here is that he takes a de facto class drop. After facing two undefeated graded stakes winners last time out (Awesome Banner and Mohaymen), he faces just one stakes winner (Brody’s Cause) in the Blue Grass.

THE BET: $60 Win on Zulu at 2-1 or higher

The Wood Memorial

The script is nearly the same up north. Todd Pletcher’s Outwork comes off a 2nd-place finish to multiple stakes winner Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby. It was Outwork’s stakes debut as well as his first route attempt.

In that race Destin set the track record for the distance, with Outwork just a fifth of a second behind.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, Outwork faced six stakes winners! In the Wood he faces just two—the likely favorite Shagaf and Flexibility. Both of those foes won minor stakes in slow time on the winter surface at Aqueduct. Winter racing on an oversalted track is not the typical starting point for a successful Kentucky Derby campaign. So Outwork also takes a de facto class drop despite the “step up” to a Grade 1 race.

A bonus for bettors here is that Outwork won’t be favored. That honor goes (undeservedly) to Shagaf.

Outwork’s slow opening 4 furlongs in Tampa leave me with just a shadow of doubt about his potential. But the odds and low level of competition merit a bet.

THE BET: $20 Win/Place on Outwork at odds of 5-2 or higher.

The Santa Anita Derby

Danzing Candy and Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit will vie for favoritism in this race. Bettors expect either Baffert magic to prevail or Danzig Candy to win in wire-to-wire fashion as he did in the San Felipe last time out.

The lone-speed scenario seems unlikely to me. With crack sprinters breaking to Danzing Candy’s inside (Denman’s Call) and to his outside (Iron Rob), the pace should be hot from the start. Baffert magic seems equally unlikely because Mor Spirit will be pressing these solid early fractions.

Because I see this year’s California class to be subpar, I expect any horse on or near the lead to fade down the lane. That leads me to the longshot closer Diplodocus. The torrid early pace should set him up perfectly for a successful late run.

THE BET: $1 exacta wheel, Diplodocus over all.

Week 8 Bets:
$40 Win on Nyquist at odds of 9-5 or higher.
Nyquist went off at 6-5 (and won). No bet.

$10 Futures ticket on Zulu at 33-1
$10 Futures ticket on Outwork at 34-1

BANKROLL BALANCE: $1006 (a $6 profit)