The Kentucky Derby is still several months away,
but leading Las Vegas handicapper Gordon Jones
says now is the time to start zeroing in on
top contenders who aren't necessarily the "media-hype"
horses that currently garner the most ink.
While Breeders' Cup Juvenile
champ Stevie Wonderboy was on everyone's list,
including Jones', his exit due to injury leaves
things wide open.
First Samurai, a son of 2000
Run for the Roses winner Fusachi Pegasus, is
the futures choice at many sports books, but
others are emerging from the pack and donning
the mantle of legitimate contender.
Jones, a resident handicapper
at the Boyd Group-owned Sam's Town, certainly
doesn't discount First Samurai -- now about
18/1 at local bet shops.
"The big two in Florida
are First Samurai and Keyed Entry (20/1), the
horse that beat him in the Hutcheson Stakes,"
Keyed Entry's conditioner is
Todd Pletcher, the 2005 Eclipse Award winner
who still is seeking his first trip to the Derby
A pair of West Coast colts also
have caught Jones' eye: 50/1 shot Da Stoops,
a Sunshine Millions winner at six furlongs,
and Bob Baffert-trainee Too Much Bling, who
was 80/1 before he added a victory in Santa
Anita's San Vicente Stakes to the San Miguel
Stakes he won in January and quickly tumbled
into the 15/1 to 20/1 range.
"Both have shown they are
good sprinters," Jones said. "Now
we have to see if they can stretch it out.
"They're like Ferraris going
Jones shrugs off many of today's
alleged top 3-year-olds, such as Barbaro, Achilles
of Troy ("He has no chance"), Bob
and John and Henny Hughes.
"They sent Henny Hughes
to train in Dubai, halfway 'round the world,"
he said. "Once you go to Dubai, you never
Jones cautions that some horses
included in Kentucky Derby futures books haven't
even been nominated to the race, which will
be run on May 6; likewise, some horses who have
been nominated aren't on futures book lists.
One that falls into the latter
category that Jones is keen on is Harborage,
a 3-year-old son of 2001 Kentucky Derby champion
Monarchos who just recently broke his maiden
at Tampa Bay Downs.
Jones asked for odds on the colt
and bet it at 150/1 at one local store.
Another 3-year-old that has been
drawing action around town is Lawyer Ron, a
colt that is four-for-four on the dirt, including
the Risen Star, and heads the field for Monday's
(President's Day) $250,000 Southwest Stakes
at Oaklawn Park.
"He's the one they like
here," said Stratosphere Tower Race and
Sports Director Robert Jaynes.
Lawyer Ron was a 100/1 long shot
when Jaynes first posted Derby futures, but
has fallen to 15/1.
First Samurai, Too Much Bling,
Keyed Entry and a long shot named Honor Due
also have been attracting Stratosphere bettors'
"A lot of what they're betting
depends on the price," Jaynes said.
always looking for value."
Brian Gabrielle is a documented member of The
Professional Handicappers League.
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