One of the most interesting Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races held each year is the $250,000 Remsen Stakes, which will take place this Saturday at Aqueduct.
Held over 1 1/8 miles, an unusually long distance for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds to negotiate, the Grade 2 Remsen hasn’t produced a Kentucky Derby winner since the 1994 edition, causing some handicappers to view the race skeptically as a source of serious Derby contenders. But on the other hand, eight of the last 16 Remsen winners have gone on to win at the Grade 1 level, so the race remains a steady source of high-class racehorses.
Eight horses were entered for the 2022 Remsen, with #1 Mo Donegal arguably the best of the lot. Conditioned by two-time Remsen-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Mo Donegal is a son of 2-year-old champion and successful stallion Uncle Mo, who previously sired 2016 Remsen hero Mo Town.
Mo Donegal debuted in a maiden sprint at Belmont Park at the end of September, where a slow start and a troubled trip compromised his chances. Despite these obstacles, Mo Donegal gained a lot of ground down the homestretch to finish third by 5 1/4 lengths, a promising debut from a horse bred to run long distances.
Naturally, Mo Donegal performed much better when stretching out to 1 1/16 miles at Belmont last month. The bay colt once again broke a bit slowly, but managed to avoid traffic while rallying wide to score by 1 1/2 lengths, earning a solid 91 Brisnet speed rating and a field-best 97 Equibase Speed Figure. Finishing third by seven lengths was Life Is Great, who returned to smash his next start at Aqueduct by 6 3/4 lengths.
Mo Donegal has yet to race around two turns, which is the configuration he’ll encounter in the Remsen. But his pedigree suggests the more challenging setup and longer trip will only enhance his chances. Throw in hot jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (a 29% winner at Aqueduct this fall), and Mo Donegal looms as a logical choice to win the Remsen.
#7 Zandon is another logical contender. Under the care of four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Zandon was a flashy debut winner sprinting three-quarters of a mile at Belmont two months ago. After settling a couple lengths off the pace in midpack, Zandon rallied resolutely down the homestretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths with an 88 Brisnet speed rating. The fact Zandon finished the final eighth of a mile in a rapid :11 4/5 bodes well for his chances of stretching out in distance.
While Zandon brings potential to the table, #3 Judge Davis boasts proven form and experience. A maiden winner racing 1 1/16 miles at Belmont, the son of Distorted Humor has already competed at the graded stakes level, finishing third in the one-mile Grade 3 Nashua Stakes last month. Conditioned by hot trainer Shug McGaughey (a four-time winner of the Remsen), Judge Davis will race with blinkers on Saturday and has the tactical speed to secure a favorable trip.
One longshot worth supporting in the Remsen is #4 Fromanothamutha. True, the son of Unified has yet to win a race — he’s 0-for-4 so far. But his last two starts have seen him finish second in a pair of 1 1/16-mile maiden events at Belmont Park, and the winners were none other than Judge Davis and Mo Donegal. Clearly Fromanothamutha is close to competing at their level, so don’t be surprised if he snatches a top-three finish at solid odds on Saturday.
Parx maiden winner #6 Eloquist and Sleepy Hollow Stakes third-place finisher #2 Who Hoo Thats Me are the other horses we’ll consider for deeper exotic wagers like the trifecta.
Speaking of which, how should we bet the Remsen? We’ll start by betting Mo Donegal to win, but then — depending on your budget — we’ll key him on top of exacta or trifecta tickets emphasizing Zandon and Judge Davis underneath.
Wagering Strategy on a $12 Budget
$7 to win on #1 Mo Donegal
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 8th race, $7 to win on 1
$2 exacta: 1 with 3,7 ($4)
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 8th race, $2 exacta 1 with 3,7
$1 exacta: 1 with 4
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 8th race, $1 exacta 1 with 4
Wagering Strategy on a $36 Budget
$16 to win on #1 Mo Donegal
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 8th race, $16 to win on 1
$2 trifecta: 1 with 3,7 with 2,3,4,6,7 ($16)
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 8th race, $2 trifecta 1 with 3,7 with 2,3,4,6,7
$2 trifecta: 1 with 4 with 3,7 ($4)
What to say at the betting window: Aqueduct, 8th race, $2 trifecta 1 with 4 with 3,7
Good luck, and enjoy the race!