Afew years ago when asked about a full field in a weak Derby prep, I joked that bettors should just play the 3 longest shots on the board. Surprisingly, I was right. When I half-joked about that strategy in a similar situation the next year, I was right again. I’m not joking this time.

San Felipe Stakes

This race shapes up as a field of 10 horses incapable of separating from one another. The weak-willed speedsters (Midnight Hawk, Kristo, Unstoppable Colby and a few underaccomplished sprinters) will push one another into mid-stretch exhaustion. The midpack early runners (such as California Chrome) will struggle to stay within sight and then flatten and fade late. Enter the longshots.

Home Run Kitten (20-1) failed miserably in the R.B. Lewis, his first 2-turn try. With the speedsters giving way late, he should have closed resolutely but did not. The promise shown in his turf sprint victory earns him a 2nd chance in my opinion and in his trainer’s opinion.

Rprettyboyfloyd (12-1) looks for his first career victory here. Nakatani will compress his springs at the back of the pack. Let’s hope they uncoil in time and at odds closer to 20-1.

My 3rd and final choice should be Schoolofhardrocks, but his 9-2 odds seem skimpy in such a chaotic race. Instead I’ll go with Recanted (20-1) who has the patient Mario Gutierrez aboard.

Obviously this race ranks low on my scale of predictability, so my wagers will be appropriately minute. Unless Schoolofhardrocks lives up to the monster-size hype surrounding him this week, I doubt any contender from this race earns a spot in the Derby starting gate.

Tampa Bay Derby

As your dentist likes to say, “Rinse and repeat.”

Given the quick demise of Harpoon, who lost the Sam Davis Stakes by a nose in slow time, you should doubt the quality of others in that race who show up here. Quickly draw a line through the Sam Davis winner Vinceremos (4-1), show horse Cousin Stephen (9-2) and 4th-place finisher Matador (8-1). The fact that they all finished within a length of each other is further proof this was a slow race among weak stakes horses.

Look instead at Conquest Titan (7-2), East Hall (10-1), Hy Kodiak Warrior (10-1) and Coltimus Prime (15-1). All of these horses finished well vs. tougher horses than those in the Sam Davis. I’ll ditch the Titan, though, because of his short odds and take a flyer on the other three.