Charlotte - With a few weeks to go until the Kentucky Derby this weekend is huge for those still looking for qualifying points to head to Louisville the first weekend of May. There is a lot of talent in the races being run this weekend and we will now see some of the contenders bringing some speed into play.
First up, The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The favorite, Shagaf, will come from the first post but he will need to be tactical with all the speed to the outside of him. He's trained by Chad Brown and has already qualified for the Derby, he will use this race as a tune up. Matt King Coal and Outwork should be in route to the lead first and setting the pace. Matt King Coal has experience on a wet track and with snow and rain expected in the forecast for New York City he's tough to overlook. Outwork will have Johnny Velazquez on board and needs only a top four finish to qualify for the Derby.
Next, The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland has a full field entered in this race with two eligible horses. Lightly raced Zulu is the 5-2 morning line favorite looking to snatch up some Derby qualifying points. Zulu gets blinkers added to keep him focused and he should be stalking the field. This race is about as wide open as any other prep race with Broady's Cause being the second choice in the field. Broady's Cause is the only graded stakes winner in the field.
Finally, the Santa Anita Derby on the west coast will have a field of 10 competing for the coveted Derby points. Mor Spirit was installed as the morning line favorite at the post position draw and his connections are undeniable with Hall of Frame Trainer Bob Baffert and Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens. It appears to be their race to loose. Danzing Candy will have Mike Smith steering the second favorite in the field with 9/5 odds. There is rain in the forecast expected at race time on the west coast and it will be interesting to see how this field competes on a wet surface.
We should see more pace in this weekends races. The past few Kentucky Derby's have been taken by horses who have won off the front end. If rain becomes a factor for those who don't like having the dirt in their face, they will have to get into position early and get to the lead.