G2 Commonwealth Derby: Preview, odds, analysis

by | Sep 23, 2016 | Breaking, Handicapping, Maryland, MD Racing, Racing, Top Stories

American Patriot wins the Kent. Photo by The Racing Biz.

From a Maryland Jockey Club release

WinStar Farm LLC’s American Patriot was among 10 3-year-olds entered Wednesday in Saturday’s $200,000 Commonwealth Derby (G2), bringing Grade 1 stakes-placed credentials into the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance at Laurel Park.

Todd Pletcher-trained American Patriot is coming off a third-place finish in the Aug. 13 Secretariat (G1) at Arlington Park. The son of War Front offered a strong stretch rally to finish just three-quarters of a length behind victorious Beach Patrol. The son of War Front previously added graded-stakes status to his resume by winning the Kent (G3) at Delaware Park.

The WinStar homebred launched his career at Gulfstream last winter with a pair of fast-closing third-place finishes, losing by three-quarters of a length and a neck, respectively. He graduated in his third start, surging from 12th and last to score by a neck at Keeneland in April, before an off-the-board finish following a slow start in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill on May 7.

American Patriot returned to winning form with a three-length victory in an optional claiming allowance at Belmont in June prior to his victory in the Kent.

Trevor McCarthy has the mount aboard American Patriot in the Commonwealth Derby, in which graded-stakes winner Isotherm is slated to seek his first victory of the 2016 season.

Matthew Schera’s Isotherm made his sophomore debut at Gulfstream in January, losing a photo to Life Imitates Art by a head in the Dania Beach (G3). On the sidelines for seven months, Isotherm was compromised by crowding at the start of the Hall of Fame (G2) at Saratoga, finishing an even fifth. In his most recent start he pressed the pace between horses before finishing third, beaten by a length, in the Saranac (G3) at Saratoga Sept. 3.

After debuting with a fourth-place finish over the main track at Saratoga in August 2015, the George Weaver-trained colt held off next-out winner Life Imitates Art by a neck to graduate at the Spa three weeks later. Isotherm established himself as a graded-stakes winner in his next start, capturing the Pilgrim (G3) over Grade 2 stakes-winner Azar by a neck. His connections opted to try him back on dirt at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), in which he encountered early bumping, as well as traffic, while never being a factor.

Feargal Lynch has been named to ride the Kentucky-bred colt.

Trainer Shug McGaughey, who won the 2015 Commonwealth Turf Cup (G2) with Mr. Speaker, entered late-developing Revved Up in the Commonwealth Derby. The son of Candy Ride is slated to make his stakes debut Saturday under jockey Jose Ortiz after registering back-to-back victories.

Revved Up was winless in three starts as a juvenile, finishing seventh in his debut on turf and fifth on dirt in his second start, both at Saratoga, before finishing fifth on a sloppy Belmont track. In his first 2015 start, he rallied from 10th to finish third over the Aqueduct turf course in April. A month later, he again rallied from far off the pace to miss graduating by a head at Belmont at 1 ¼ miles on turf.

In his back-to-back triumphs, the Phipps Stable homebred colt demonstrated considerably more early interest. He stalked the pace before taking over in the stretch to graduate by 1 ¾ lengths at 1 ¼ miles at Belmont in July. He attended the pace and took command with nearly six furlongs remaining in a 1 3/8-mile optional claiming allowance to prevail by a neck at Saratoga in August.

The Kentucky-bred colt is a son of champion Storm Flag Flying, the winner of the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the daughter of My Flag, the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Fillies winner and a daughter of undefeated champion Personal Flag.

Trainer Chad Brown, whose horses have scored a North America-leading 28 graded-stakes victories, entered Klaravich Stables & William Lawrence’s Deeply Undervalued in the Commonwealth Derby. The son of Kitten’s Joy finished a neck behind Revved Up at Saratoga Aug. 27 following a maiden-breaking victory at the Spa in July.

Brereton Jones’ He’ll Pay, who set the pace before finishing second behind American Patriot in the Kent, is set to make his second straight start at Laurel in the Commonwealth Derby. The Larry Jones-trained son of Haynesfield finished second in an off-the-turf optional claiming allowance last time out.

Other contenders include: Gary Barber’s Whatawonderflworld, a stakes-winning colt who fell a nose short of winning the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Aug. 28; West Point Thoroughbreds’ Scholar Athlete, who finished fourth in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine two starts back; and Clarke Ohrstrom’s Franklin Towers, who won the Lamplighter at Monmouth in his next to last race.

Artie Thriller and Stevie Q round out the field.

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  1. Stevie Q (15-1) — Sheldon Russell/Tim Keefe — Awfully tough assignment off the $50,000 claim to jump up into graded company.  Trainer Keefe is 4-for-24 first off the claim in the last five years.
  2. American Patriot (5-2) — Trevor McCarthy/Todd Pletcher — War Front colt has done a lot right in his brief career and scored his biggest win in the G3 Kent.  He gave a good accounting of himself last out in the G1 Secretariat against a solid group, and trainer Pletcher puts McCarthy aboard here.  He owns two wins from three tries at the trip, and there’s every reason for him to be a major player here.
  3. He’ll Pay (10-1) — Gabriel Saez/Larry Jones — This Haynesfield colt ran a big one to be second at 17-1 two back in the G3 Kent, setting the early pace and only giving way grudgingly to #2 American Patriot. There’s a little bit of other speed signed on here, which may complicate efforts to reprise that performance. Note the show horse from the Kent returned to win a G3 stake in his next start.
  4. Scholar Athlete (10-1) — Edgar Prado/Graham Motion — This guy tired late in his last two at 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 miles, so the cutback to nine furlongs might work to his advantage…. registered a front-running score in his most recent turf try, three back in a race that included one next-out winner and subsequent G3 winner Inspector Lynley.  He’ll need to bring his running shoes here, but that’s not entirely out of the question.
  5. Revved Up (5-1) — Jose Ortiz/Shug McGaughey — The first notable runner out of millionaire Storm Flag Flying, this Candy Ride colt has won two straight and looks ready to run a good one here. He was one of three next-out winners from his maiden score and edged #7 Deeply Undervalued last out in allowance company.  Fitness won’t be a concern, as his last two were longer than this, but you wonder how much he needs the added ground. You love to see regular pilot Jose Ortiz make the journey down from NY, and trainer McGaughey, who hits at 35 percent at LRL, is two-for-two in graded races locally, including winning this one last year with Mr. Speaker.
  6. Whatawonderflworld (10-1) — Daniel Centeno/Mark Casse — That’s no typo: owner Gary Barber apparently forgot to buy a vowel when naming this Tiz Wonderful colt. Regardless, he ran a big one for second in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury and owns two grass wins, albeit against NY-breds, from four starts.  He has talent but figures to be tested for class here.
  7. Deeply Undervalued (6-1) — Manny Franco/Chad Brown — This $200,000 Kitten’s Joy colt cannot be described as deeply undervalued: he’s been favored in four of five starts, though he has just a single win.  He just missed last out against #5 Revved Up, but didn’t look like he’d ever get by. Note that unlike Jose Ortiz, who followed his mount down here, Irad Ortiz is passing.
  8. Franklin Towers (30-1) — Jevian Toledo/Jane Cibelli — Jevian Toledo figures to be on a mission to get to the front with this speedy sort, who two back delivered a 20-1, front-running shock in the Lamplighter at MTH but gave way readily against allowance foes last out when never reaching the front.  If he can do that, and manage to dole out easy enough fractions — two big ifs — he has a chance to be around late. Note that he’s won twice in two starts at MTH and is 0fer everywhere else.
  9. Artie Thriller (15-1) — NA/Flint Stites — This PEN shipper has failed three straight against N2X foes, which makes this an awfully tough assignment.
  10. Isotherm (7-2) — Feargal Lynch/George Weaver — This guy was a G3 winner as a juvenile, and while he has yet to win in three tries this season, he’s twice placed in graded company.  The Lonhro colt gets Lasix for the first time and has the look of a major player in here.