Chocolate Ride the One to Beat in Grade 2, $300,000 Muniz Memorial
Betting against Chocolate Ride at the Fair Grounds has been a fruitless proposition for those with that though in mind, and could be so again as the six year-old gelding faces ten rivals March 26 in the Muniz Memorial Handicap.
Tabbed as the 5/2 morning line favorite in the mile and an eighth turf race, Chocolate Ride finds himself in a familiar role, winning his last six starts at Fair Grounds, including four stakes races. The Brad Cox trainee won last year's running of the Muniz Handicap and has picked up right where he left off so far in 2015. In two starts this year, Chocolate Ride has won the Grade 3 Colonel Ed Bradley Handicap and Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap in succession, recording gate-to-wire wins under jockey Florent Geroux in both. While he may face a stiffer challenge for the early lead, there is no question that Chocolaste Ride is once again the deserving favorite.
World Approval give Leparoux options
World Approval (9/2) could pose a serious challenge to the favorite after posting a gate-to-wire score of his own last out at Gulfstream March 6. While the win came against a high-priced allowance field, World Approval has proven himself against better, winning the Grade 3 Saranac last fall at Saratoga. The four year-old has won 5 of 11 starts and looks ready to improve as an older horse.
Motion runner offers plenty of value
Can'thelpbelieving (8/1) is a fascinating item for trainer Graham Motion and looks to be an excellent value-based play while making his second start off the layoff. In his last race, the five year-old gelding posted a 96 Beyer Speed Figure while finishing second to a next-out stakes winner at Gulfstream Park. Can'thelpbeliving gets an extra sixteenth of a mile in the Muniz, which figures to suit his late-charging style.
For all the negative buzz about Nyquist's average speed figures and vulnerability, the newly crowned and much-deserving 2016 Kentucky Derby winner might just have the most impeccable credentials of any Derby winner in the illustrious history of the race - and certainly in the modern era.
On Friday at Churchill Downs, the field has been set for the 142nd running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks. The Grade 1 event, carded at a mile and an eighth, has drawn a full field of fourteen three-year-old fillies with one listed as an also-eligible.
With the final round of Kentucky Derby preps in the books, it seems improbable, but arguable that the March 12 Tampa Derby was the most useful and review-worthy of the 24 official point-bearing races in 2016.