Each week leading up to the Kentucky Derby, I’ll publish bets I make with a $1000 bankroll. My maximum bet will be about $60 (or 6% of bankroll). Entering Week 5, the bankroll shows a $2 loss. I have two preps to work with this week: the San Felipe Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby.

Tampa Bay Derby

Two key facts: the pace figures to be fast; the favorites figure to sit back and close late. So why do I intend to bet against top choices Brody’s Cause and Destin? Because their trainers told me to.

I didn’t chat personally with Dale Romans about Brody’s Cause. Dale left a message in my racing form: he hits at just 10% with horses coming off a long layoff. And that percentage likely goes down when it’s a 2-turn race off a layoff. And likely sinks further when it’s 2 turns in a stakes race off a layoff. The 5-2 odds flashing on the toteboard serves as your warning that you get no value here.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of likely 2nd choice Destin, left similar clue. First he shipped Destin to a weaker circuit (the Fairgrounds), where Destin ran a distant 4th in the LeComte Stakes. Now after Destin wins the Sam Davis, Pletcher removes his #1 jockey and puts him aboard the horse’s lightly raced stablemate Outlook. Twice Todd has told us that Destin isn’t top stakes material. I’ll take his word for it.

Two other horses grab my attention and offer better value: Economic Model (5-1) and Rafting (6-1).

Economic Model‘s trainer Chad Brown wins about 26% of the time when using Irad Ortiz in graded stakes races. That duo also wins 34% of the time in dirt routes and 35% of the time with 3-year-olds.

The horse’s patient style will play well in a field with 3 or 4 underperforming frontrunners. His sharp 2nd-place finish while sprinting in the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream last time out shows he can compete with topnotch stakes horses. The Brown/Ortiz combo¬†also scores 29% of the time with horses running 2 turns for the first time and an amazing 50% of the time with horses going from sprints to routes.

Rafting runs for another strong trainer/jockey team, Graham Motion and Edgar Prado. They win 36% of the time in graded stakes and have 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 runs in dirt routes. After winning twice in 4 starts, Rafting lost all chance when bumped at the start of a slow-paced race. At the top of the stretch, he rallied to within a half-length of Destin, who had an easy stalking trip and plenty left in the tank. I like his chances for improvement here.

THE BET: $30 win on Economic Model and $20 win on Rafting.

San Felipe Stakes

The 2-1 favorite Mor Spirit is slow. His winning times are average at best for this class level at this time of year. The 5-2 second choice, Exaggerator, lost ground in the stretch in all 3 tries around 2 turns. His final times, like most of the entrants in the San Felipe, fall within a few fifths of a second of the favorite. This race is wide open, so getting good odds is a must!

I foresee a theft on the front end by Danzing Candy, who comes into the race with back-to-back front-running wins. His fractional times and final time in his allowance victory last time out stack up well vs. today’s rivals. The 7-2 morning line seems like a decent deal for a clear-lead scenario.

THE BET: $20 Win/Place on Danzing Candy.

Roger LeBlanc