There were many boxes without Xs for Animal Kingdom before the gates opened on Derby day. Two minutes and two seconds later they were X'ed — thoroughly. The conversion from turf and artificial surfaces to dirt was a question mark but he handled the Churchill Downs surface with ease. The long layoff was a question mark. Also not a problem. Perhaps most impressively, when the fast pace he needed for his best shot did not unfold, he laid closer to the pace and still mowed down the front runners in the stretch. With a faster pace in the Preakness, the race should come back to him that much more. He deserves to be considered the one to beat.
For value: More often than not in the past 20 years, the Preakness winner ran in the Derby. This fact casts doubt on the "tired horse" theories for the horses coming out of the Derby. But of the newcomers, I would look the most closely at Astrology. He has never missed the board in seven starts and has been tested against many of the Derby field. He is very well bred for this distance and the fact that he has had more rest is certainly not a negative.
What to Bet: I will play Animal Kingdom to win. I will box Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man and Dialed In for my exacta. For my trifecta box, I will throw in Astrology.
Analysis: Enchanted Circle gets the nod as morning line favorite, but his record is far from stellar. He has been racing with better horses than many of these, but has never finished closer than fourth. This race is a big class drop for him, so he should improve off his other efforts. Count To Seven started his racing career with two straight second-place efforts. Most recently he turned in back to back third-place finishes, but against fairly soft company. Other than the favorite, this crowd is pretty lackluster as well so he should not be left out of the money today. Leather Gloves has been running and placing well in the Maryland circuit, but has never been beyond 5 1/2 furlongs and has never raced on turf. Curious positioning today but with this weak field, why not?
For value: First-time starter Sunshine Law has a couple of bullet works on form and is bred well for the turf. With so many in here who have already proven they are slow, he is worth a shot just because he hasn't — yet. Being coupled with Leather Gloves will shorten his odds, but might also help his chances.
What to bet: Enchanted Circle has the pedigree to finally fire with this large class drop. Decent value at 5-2. Key Stock Quote over Zippy's Tiger, Schoolhouse Woods, Sacred Soul and Whatdoyousee in exacta and trifecta wagers.