Uncle Mo came out on top of the computer rankings, but his late scratch Friday morning was the result of a lingering illness. With Uncle Mo out, Dialed In will be a slightly heavier favorite but still should stay above 3:1 by post time. Dialed In earned his spot near the top of the rankings based on his last-to-first win in the Florida Derby.
In a year when it seemed that none of the serious contenders could hold form, two horses in the race won their final prep races as well bet second or third choices — Dialed In and Animal Kingdom. Of these Dialed In is getting most of the press and is the morning-line favorite. To be fair, the Florida Derby is and should be the more prestigious prep race than the Spiral. But Animal Kingdom is no slouch and at 30:1catches the eye as value.
Most of the betting is expected to follow the late closing types. This is reflective of the heavy dose of early speed which is expected to produce a grueling pace, even with the late loss of Uncle Mo. Pace casualties should include Comma To The Top and Shackleford. Nehro will be well bet, largely based on his consistency and his late running challenge to Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby. Archarcharch has been training well and should also get some action. Animal Kingdom is another who likes to run late, but he will be overlooked in the betting because he has never competed over real dirt, let alone the Churchill track.
I expect the pace to be hot and the winner to come from off the pace. Nehro has been the most consistent closer so he will be my bet to win. Dialed In is slightly less experienced, particularly with large fields. He may get up but I prefer Nehro. My longshot play is Animal Kingdom.
For a trifecta box Animal Kingdom, Dialed In, Nehro and Archarcharch.
Liam Durbin is owner/handicapper of e-ponies.com.