Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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April 18th 2016 – Updated April 28th 2016

The Kentucky Derby prep season is officially over and it went out with a bang in the Arkansas Derby this past Saturday when Creator (11.6-1 odds) surprised the Oaklawn crowd with the win. This has been a theme for the big point paying final Derby prep races this season as none of the race favorites found victory lane. Not a single one. Let’s review: Mo Tom (Louisiana Derby), Mohaymen (Florida Derby), Shagaf (Wood Memorial), Zulu (Blue Grass Stakes), Mor Spirit (Santa Anita Derby) and Cupid (Arkansas Derby).

Who won these races? Gun Runner the bettors 3rd favorite in the Louisiana Derby. Nyquist the bettors 2nd favorite in the Florida Derby. Outwork the bettors 2nd favorite in the Wood Memorial. Brody’s Cause–2nd favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes. Exaggerator–3rd favorite in the Santa Anita Derby. And Creator, the bettors 4th favorite in the Arkansas Derby.

The Kentucky Derby favorite only wins roughly 1/3rd of the time. So when you are alone in your thoughts at the Churchill Downs window and ready to place a Win bet for the Kentucky Derby, you might opt for the 2nd favorite among bettors. Right now that appears to be Exaggerator and if the Derby is a wet, sloppy race this year, he should be your race favorite. Remember how the Desormeaux brother’s colt Swipe gave Nyquist a run for his money last year? Keith and Kent Desormeaux felt all along that Exaggerator was their most talented Derby trail colt with the most upside.

Overall, the unpredictability of the big Derby prep races says quite a bit about this 2016 Kentucky Derby class. We were spoiled by the 2014 and 2015 classes. The 2016 class as a lot are INCONSISTENT, their times are slow and they have failed to produce any eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures. Note that we didn’t have a 2 year-old in this class eclipse the 100 mark for a Beyer Speed Figure. This was the first time this has happened going back to the records I have from 1993.

So this is why I think the 2016 Kentucky Derby will be wide open and an exciting race. Nyquist undoubtedly is the cream of the crop. And the filly Songbird is the best 3 year-old regardless of gender and a superstar in the making. Unfortunately, she will miss the Kentucky Oaks due to a fever but she will be back.

Getting back to Nyquist, he has impressively gone undefeated in 7 starts. He should be the Kentucky Derby favorite around 5/2 or 3/1 odds. He has proven that he can win several different ways as pacesetter, as a stalker and coming off the pace like he did in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that I alluded to in my last blog.

If you need a visual reminder, rewatch Nyquist (horse #13) in this video below. This is a 15 horse Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field (just 5 less than the Kentucky Derby field) and Nyquist displays impressive talent moving mid pack through traffic to cross the wire first. He didn’t have the greatest trip and was forced wide:

We will have to wait to see who officially gets entered into the Kentucky Derby and post-position draws. However, right now, I see Nyquist assuming a stalking position behind Danzing Candy in the Kentucky Derby. I see Destin and Mor Spirit in the same stalking group. Then I think these three will battle it out for the lead coming into the stretch and then the leader will have to ward off late chargers Exaggerator, Brody’s Cause, Suddenbreakingnews and Creator. Right now as far as betting strategies, I would probably key Nyquist to win in a Trifecta with 3 horses: Exaggerator, Destin and Mor Spirit.

Below is my Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders along with projected Kentucky Derby morning line odds in parentheses. As you will see, I don’t have the Arkansas Derby winner Creator in my Top 10 as I feel Steve Asmussen’s most talented Derby horse is Gun Runner. Why is that? It took Creator six attempts to break his maiden. I think the race that 2nd place finisher Suddenbreakingnews ran in the Arkansas Derby will translate better to the Kentucky Derby with an additional furlong of distance.

I also moved Mohaymen up a few spots as I feel that I may have been a bit too harsh on his 4th place finish in the Florida Derby. Note that in the past 20 years, only two horses (Giacomo and Mine That Bird) finished 4th in their final prep race (the Santa Anita Derby) and went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

***I originally had Outwork 4th and Mor Spirit 5th in my rankings but after reviewing times from the final 3/8ths of a mile in the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby, Mor Spirit had a significantly faster stretch run. So I moved Mor Spirit up one and Outwork down one. I also switched Brody’s Cause and Danzing Candy because I feel that a closer will fare better than a pacesetter in this year’s Derby.

1) Nyquist (3/1 Odds) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. Undefeated in 7 starts, he has 4 Grade 1 stakes wins and has already earned $3.3 million dollars. He was the first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente in January. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo  (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 94  – 97.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

2) Exaggerator (6/1) – The only Derby trail horse to produce three 95+ Beyer Speed Figures in 2016: San Vicente Stakes 98, San Felipe Stakes 96, Santa Anita 103. His 103 Beyer Speed Figure earned in the Santa Anita Derby is the top speed figure for this year’s Kentucky Derby crop. His pedigree (Sire: Curlin) suggests that he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. If anybody is going to upset Nyquist, Exaggerator seems to be the most likely. He lost to Nyquist in the San Vicente but he will have 3 more furlongs to work with at Churchill Downs. 

Career: 9 Starts 4-2-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby, 1st in 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.66 – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 103  – 99.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – Santa Anita Derby

3) Destin (12/1) – He set track record of 1:42.82 in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below)–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. Todd Pletcher bypassed a final Derby prep race, instead opting for some rest and 8 weeks of training. A fast, fresh horse could be very dangerous in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82Tampa Bay Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 100  – 99 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Mor Spirit (12/1) – After his Robert B. Lewis Stakes win, he has two 2nd place finishes in the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. I think his running style is best suited for dry, fast tracks. Note that he has never finished below 2nd place in all seven of his career starts.

Career: 7 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Eskendereya 
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.66 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 94  – 95.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97San Felipe Stakes

5) Outwork  (15/1) – Winner of the Wood Memorial, he is a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February. He has never finished below 2nd in 4 career starts. He seems to be peaking at the right time.

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 (calculated) – Tampa Bay Derby
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.92 – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 93  – 95.5 avg
Beyer Speed Average for 2016: 989.3Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

6) Mohaymen  (8/1) – He finished a disappointing 4th in the Florida Derby and didn’t seem to have the necessary kick and stamina down the stretch to make me feel that he will be in the mix in the Kentucky Derby. 

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 80  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Holy Bull Stakes

7) Brody’s Cause (15/1) Dale Roman’s winner of the Blue Grass Stakes and the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. He has excellent closing speed which may make him a factor in the Kentucky Derby if the opening fractions are fast. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>7th–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Projected Jockey: Luis Saez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 80, 91  – 85.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Blue Grass Stakes

8) Danzing Candy  (20/1) – The San Felipe Stakes  winner (shown below) finished a disappointing 4th in the Santa Anita Derby. He may be a one-trick pony, limited to getting out early into the lead for wins. This won’t translate well to the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby distance.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-0-1 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Twirling Candy
Trainer: Clifford Sise
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.78 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 83  – 91.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

9) Gun Runner (15/1) – Since the creation of the Derby point system in 2013, every Kentucky Derby winner had 150 or more Derby points. Gun Runner is the only horse that will fit this description this year (151 points). I generally don’t see him as a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby. The last Louisiana Derby winner that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996. I see Gun Runner more as a horse who could round out a superfecta. 

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st

Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Projected Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Keeneland Allowance Race 10/17/15
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 91  – 90.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

10) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) – He will join Exaggerator and Brody’s Cause as closers that will try to mow down Nyquist in the final furlong. 

Career: 8 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>2nd
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes 
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.30 (calculated)Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 86, 94  – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes


These 20 horses have qualified for the Kentucky Derby: Gun Runner 151, Nyquist 130, Exaggerator 126, Outwork 120, Brody’s Cause 114, Creator 110, Lani 100, Mor Spirit 84, Mohaymen 80, Danzing Candy 60, Destin 51, Cupid 50, Shagaf 50, Oscar Nominated 50, Suddenbreakingnews 50, Whitmore 44, Tom’s Ready 44, My Man Sam 40, Majesto 40 and Trojan Nation 40.

There are always horses every year who qualify for the Derby but aren’t entered for various reasons. It was announced last week that Bob Baffert won’t enter Cupid into the Derby. So these six horses will be next in line in case any horse listed above isn’t entered or they can become one of the two alternates in case of scratches: Mo Tom 32, Fellowship 32, Adventist 32, Laoban 32, Dazzling Gem 30, Cherry Wine 25.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


FWIW – Beyer Speed Figures in the Kentucky Derby

Since 1990, the lowest winning Beyer Speed Figure for the Kentucky Derby came in 2014 when California Chrome won with a 97 Beyer. The only horses projected to start in this year’s Kentucky Derby that have produced a 97 or higher Beyer Speed Figure are: Exaggerator (103, 98), Nyquist (101), Destin (100, 98),  Danzing Candy (100), Outwork (98) and Mor Spirit (97).    


 I would also like to remind everyone that many handicappers have various predictive analytics they like to use to forecast the Kentucky Derby winner. I have a few I like, such as raced as a 2 year-0ld, broke his maiden in his first 3 starts, produced a sub 1:50 time in a 1 1/8th mile race, finished first or second in his last start, etc.

However, remember that occasionally there will be a horse like Mine That Bird where you can just throw every conventional analytic out the window. Mine that Bird finished 4th in the 2009 Sunland Derby–his last derby prep race. Most of his success came as a 2 year old on synthetic surfaces at Woodbine in Canada. He finished dead last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. Consequently, he was a 50-1 longshot but scored one of the biggest upsets in sports history by winning the 2009 Kentucky Derby (shown below).

–Michael

Arkansas Derby and Oaklawn Handicap Previews

April 16th 2016

Today will be a very interesting day on several levels at Oaklawn Park. First, the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby will catapult at least one horse into the Kentucky Derby field. Secondly, the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap will be be an intriguing race in the older horse division and as a future reference for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic contender watch.

The Oaklawn Handicap will be a rematch of the Santa Anita Handicap race winner Melatonin and 3rd place finisher Effinex who was the race favorite for that race. Point Piper is also entered in the Oaklawn Handicap and he finished 5th in the Santa Anita Handicap. Thrown into this mix is the Razorback Stakes winner Upstart and Todd Pletcher’s Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Blofeld.

As for the Arkansas Derby, it is interesting to note that three out of the last four race Arky Derby winners have gone on to finish in the top 3 of the Kentucky Derby (2015 American Pharoah- 1st, 2014 Danza – 3rd, 2012 Bodemeister 2nd).

Bob Baffert’s Cupid is the morning line favorite at 2/1 odds in the Arkansas Derby. However, some background info on the Derby prep races at Oaklawn Park this year–the race favorite has failed to win every race. Here is how the race favorites have fared. In the Smarty Jones Stakes, Toews On Ice finished 6th. In the Southwest Stakes, Collected finished 4th. In the Rebel Stakes, Suddenbreakingnews finished 5th. 

I think both of these races are wide open and will be exciting races to watch. Below are post position draws and morning line odds.

Oaklawn Handicap – 1 1/8th Mile Race #9 at Oaklawn Park – Post-Time: 5:09 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Blofeld (116) – Velazquez/Pletcher 4-1
2. Melatonin (119) – Talamo/Hofmans 7-2
3. Point Piper (113) – Garcia/Hollendorfer 15-1
4. Financial Modeling (113) – Ortiz/Cox 8-1
5. Carve (115) – Bejarano/Asmussen 15-1
6. Upstart (119) – Bravo/Violette 7/2
7. Domain’s Rap (114) – Vazquez/Villafranco 12-1
8. Effinex (121) – Smith/Jerkens 2-1

Commentary: The most compelling story line here is Melatonin, the surprise winner of the Santa Anita Handicap. Was his win in the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap a fluke or is Melatonin the real deal? I have no magic handicapping advice for this one but a Show bet on Effinex should be a safe bet. Blofeld was given 4/1 morning line odds but he has never raced further than 1 mile. I like a 2,6,8 Boxed Trifecta and Upstart for the surprise win.

Upstart was a third place finisher in the 1 1/8th mile Haskell Invitational last year behind American Pharoah and Keen Ice. Jockey Joe Bravo seems to have some magic at this track haven ridden 41-1 odds Danza to a 2014 Arkansas Derby victory. And he is coming off a win on Upstart in the Razorback Handicap.

Arkansas Derby – 1 1/8th Mile Race #11 at Oaklawn Park – Post Time: 6:18 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Discreetness – Court/Fires 20-1
2. Cutacorner – Birzer/Van Berg 50-1
3. Creator – Santana Jr./Asmussen 10-1
4. Suddenbreakingnews – Quinonez/Von Hemel 5-1
5. American Pioneer – Bejarano/Catalano 8-1
6. Unbridled Outlaw – Lanerie/Romans 10-1
7. Dazzling Gem – Talamo/Cox 12-1
8. Whitmore – Ortiz Jr./Moquett 9-2
9. Luna de Loco – Bravo/Asmussen 30-1
10. Cupid – Garcia/Baffert 2-1
11. Gray Sky – Vazquez/Lukas 30-1
12. Gettysburg – Velazquez/Pletcher 6-1

Commentary: I like Cupid but if immediate history holds form at Oaklawn as I noted earlier, the race favorite doesn’t win. If anyone is going to beat Cupid it will be one of these three horses: Whitmore, Suddenbreakingnews and Gettysburg. There are no concerns about Gettysburg going the distance as he finished 2nd in the 1 1/8th Sunland Park Festival of Racing back in March. Suddenbreakingnews is a closer. He won the Southwest Stakes but finished a disappointing 5th in the Rebel Stakes. He should finish higher than 5th with an extra furlong to work his closer magic.

Whitmore finished 2nd in the Southwest and Rebel Stakes. He has sort of been the bridesmaid at Oaklawn this year. He did press Cupid for the win in the Rebel. Will it be his turn to visit victory lane? I am not sure. I like a 4-10 (Suddenbreakingnews, Cupid) Exacta Box in this one.

–Michael

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

April 11th 2016

After a huge weekend on the Derby trail, below is my updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings. The undefeated Nyquist is the standout in this year’s crop and my favorite entering the Derby. He’s #1 in my rankings not simply because he is undefeated. He’s #1 due to the fact that unlike most of his peers, he has won several different ways: as a pacesetter (Florida Derby & San Vicente), as a stalker (Del Mar Futurity & FrontRunner Stakes) and coming off the pace, midpack and manoeuvring through traffic like he did in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (see horse #13 below).

Plus, he is battle tested and has shown a willingness to fight for a win like he did against Swipe in the FrontRunner Stakes. He is about as complete of a horse you can have at this point.

But just as American Pharoah proved to be beatable last year, Nyquist can be beaten as well.

I think the 2016 Kentucky Derby will be more wide open than the past two Derbys. This year’s 3 year-old crop have produced slower times, lower Beyer Speed figures and have been more inconsistent than I can remember. Last year, American Pharoah and Dortmund were consistent, produced some great times and speed figures and went into the Derby as the consensus 1-2. We don’t have a consensus 1-2 this year. The wet tracks at Aqueduct and Santa Anita produced a few surprises this past Saturday, most notably 81-1 longshot Trojan Nation finishing 2nd to Outwork in a photo finish in the Wood. So I am not sure how much useful information the wet races provided.

Exaggerator bounced back from a so-so third place finish in San Felipe and ran a huge race to win the Santa Anita Derby. But is he just a horse that excelled on a wet, sloppy track? I think he would have ran a huge race on any track condition, so he moves to #2 in my rankings.

Brody’s Cause bounced back from a lackluster 7th place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby to win the Blue Grass Stakes. Mohaymen believers may point to this performance as hope that their favorite Tapit-colt will re-emerge on Derby day after a disappointing 4th place finish in the Florida Derby. But the Tampa Bay Derby was Brody’s Cause first start as a 3 year-old. The Florida Derby was Mohaymen’s third start as a 3 year-old and he was right where he needed to be but seemed to lack stamina and the final kick to press Nyquist. Mohaymen could bounce back but history proves way more often that a disappointing effort in a horse’s final Derby prep race doesn’t usually translate into Roses.

Also adding to the mystery and wide-openness of this year’s Derby is a horse like Destin who set a track record in the Tampa Bay Derby and will skip the final Derby prep races, opting for rest and 8 weeks of training under Todd Pletcher. Destin has proven to be fast. And a fresh, fast horse could be extremely dangerous in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher used the same strategy of skipping prep races with Liam’s Map and Stopchargingmaria last year and was successful with it in the Breeders’ Cup World Championship.

So here it is…

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Nyquist (130 Derby Points) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year put on a dazzling display to win the Florida Derby (shown below). That was all Nyquist, his jockey Mario Gutierrez never had to show him the whip. Undefeated in 7 starts, he now has 4 Grade 1 stakes wins and has already earned $3.3 million dollars. He has answered any criticism you may have had that his times and Beyer Speed Figures weren’t impressive or that he is better suited as a miler. He just wins. He was the first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

2) Exaggerator (126 Derby Points) – The surprise winner of the Santa Anita Derby. He simply blew away the field to pick up the biggest win of his career. Breaking the 1:50 mark in a 1 1/8th mile race on a sloppy track was an impressive feat. He earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort–the best Beyer Speed Figure of 3 year-old colt thus far. His pedigree (Sire: Curlin) suggests that he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. 

Career: 9 Starts 4-2-1-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.66 – Santa Anita Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103Santa Anita Derby

3) Destin (51 Derby Points) – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt broke into my contender list by virtue of his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below) where he set a track record with a time of 1:42.82–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby as Todd Pletcher is bypassing another Derby prep race and focusing on 8 weeks of training instead. I would have liked to see how he fared stretching out to 1 1/8th mile on a track other than Tampa Bay Downs. However, it is hard to fault a move from one of the top trainers in the business.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Outwork  (120 Derby Points) – Winner of the Wood Memorial, he earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort. Outwork is a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February. He seems to be peaking at the right time.

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 (calculated) – Tampa Bay Derby
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.92 – Wood Memorial
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

5) Mor Spirit (84 Derby Points) – After his Robert B. Lewis Stakes win, he has two 2nd place finishes in the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. I think his running style is best suited for dry, fast tracks. Note that he has finished 1st or 2nd in all seven of his career starts.

Career: 7 Starts 3-4-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.66 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97San Felipe Stakes

6) Danzing Candy  (60 Derby Points) – The San Felipe Stakes  winner (shown below) finished a disappointing 4th in the Santa Anita Derby. He may be a one-trick pony, limited to getting out early into the lead for wins. This won’t translate well to the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby distance.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-0-1 
Sire: Twirling Candy
Trainer: Clifford Sise
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.78 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

7) Cupid  (50 Derby Points) –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year-old who moved into my contender list after a solid win in the 14 horse field of Rebel Stakes. His winning time was 1:43.84 and resulted in a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He displayed the necessary fight in this race when challenged by Whitmore. He is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby April 16th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95 Rebel Stakes

8) Brody’s Cause (114 Derby Points) Dale Roman’s winner of the Blue Grass Stakes and the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. I would have ranked him higher but on a dry fast track at Keeneland, his time of 1:50.20 wasn’t that impressive in the Blue Grass Stakes. However, he has excellent closing speed which may make him a factor in the Kentucky Derby if the opening fractions are fast. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-0
Sire: Giant’s Causeway 
Trainer: Dale Romans
Projected Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 – Blue Grass Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Blue Grass Stakes

9) Mohaymen  (80 Derby Points) – Some may be surprised to find Mohaymen this far down the list. But the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt finished a disappointing 4th in the Florida Derby and didn’t seem to have the necessary kick down the stretch to make me feel that he could be a Kentucky Derby winner. He couldn’t even hold off Fellowship for third place, a horse that finished third behind him in his last two wins. Was it the wet track that he didn’t like? Whatever the reason, after the Holy Bull Stakes win in January–Mohaymen has regressed. A more relevant question: Who has Mohaymen beaten? No horse that will make the Kentucky Derby field.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Holy Bull Stakes

10) Gun Runner (151 Derby Points) – The Steve Asmussen-trained horse has secured his spot in the Kentucky Derby with a Louisiana Derby win. He has won his 2 starts as a 3-year-old but has failed to put up impressive times or Beyer Speed Figures. I generally don’t see him as a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby. The last Louisiana Derby winner that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996. I see Gun Runner more as a horse who could round out a superfecta. He will be well-rested and have plenty of time to train up to the Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Sire: Candy Ride

Trainer: Steve Ausmussen 
Projected Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.94 – Risen Star Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews (10 Derby Points) – The Southwest Stakes winner finished 5th in the Rebel Stakes. This was a disappointing finish as the race seemed to set up well for his closer running style with fast opening fractions from Cupid. However, this performance was not enough to drop him off the Derby radar. He seemed to get blocked a bit and if this was a 1 1/8th mile race like the Arkansas Derby will be, he seemed to have plenty of steam left to hit the board. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. Closer’s always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Swipe (12 Derby Points) – This Desormeaux brothers colt finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts and narrowed the gap each time. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and has been back in in training since February 27th. He has been rumored to be an entry in the Lexington Stakes on April 16th but this race only pays out 10 points to the winner. His next start will have to come in the Arkansas Derby if he wants a shot at the Kentucky Derby. He has 12 Kentucky Derby points and will need a 3rd place finish or better to have a chance at the Run for the Roses.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Sire: Birdstone (Finished 8th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (if he doesn’t ride Exaggerator)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Collected (11 Derby Points)Yet another Bob Baffert-trainee, the Sham Stakes winner collected his biggest win and best Beyer Speed Figure (90) in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes on March 20th. No word yet as to where his next start will be but it will have to be the Arkansas Derby on April 16th if he wants to get into the Kentucky Derby field.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: City Zip

Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.98 (calculated) – Southwest Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes


Horses who currently have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby include: Gun Runner 151, Nyquist 130, Exaggerator 126Outwork 120, Brody’s Cause 114Lani 100, Mor Spirit 84, Mohaymen 80Danzing Candy 60, Destin 51, Cupid 50, Shagaf 50, Oscar Nominated 50, Tom’s Ready 44, My Man Sam 40Majesto 40, Trojan Nation 40, Fellowship 32, Mo Tom 32, Adventist 32 and Laoban 32.

Note that there 21 horses above and the Kentucky Derby field is 20 with two alternates in case of scratches. There is another big points-paying race in the Arkansas Derby this coming Saturday. However, every year there are always a few horses who qualify for the Derby but aren’t entered for various reasons.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Arkansas Derby – Oaklawn Park – April 16th, 2016 (Cupid, Suddenbreakingnews)
Lexington Stakes – Keeneland – April 16th, 2016 (Swipe)

Interesting Fact: 70% of the Kentucky Derby winners the past 20 years raced in one of these three final Derby prep races: The Santa Anita Derby (6), The Florida Derby (4) and the Arkansas Derby (4).

The other Derby Prep races to produce Kentucky Derby winners: Louisiana Derby (2), Wood Memorial (2), Blue Grass Stakes (1) and the Lexington Stakes (1).

–Michael

Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes Previews

April 6th 2016

This coming Saturday April 9th are three big Derby Trail races–the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. All three have $1 Million dollar purses and offer 170 Derby points. The winner and 2nd place finishers in these races will qualify for the Kentucky Derby as they pay out 100 points for 1st and 40 points for 2nd. 40 points will be enough to get a horse into the Kentucky Derby. 3rd place and 4th place pay out 20 and 10 points respectively. You can follow the Kentucky Derby point standings by clicking HERE.

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for all three races. Please note that all three races will be televised in NBC Sports between 4 and 6 PM Central Standard Time.

Wood Memorial Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile at Aqueduct- Race #10 Post Time: 4:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Shagaf – Ortiz Jr./Brown 2-1
2. Adventist – Carmouche/Gyarmati 10-1
3. Trojan Nation – Gryder/Gallagher 30-1
4. Tale of S’avall – Velasquez/Tagg 20-1
5. Flexibility – Franco/Brown 8-1
6. Matt King Coal – Ortiz/Rice 3-1
7. Dalmore – Alvarado/Desormeaux 12-1
8. Outwork – Velazquez/Pletcher 5-2

Commentary: My projected order of finish 8-6-1 (1st: Outwork, 2nd: Matt King Coal and 3rd Shagaf). I would probably recommend an 6-8 Boxed Exacta. Matt King Coal is a horse that has shown a lot of promise but has zero Derby points. So he must finish 1st or 2nd to make the Kentucky Derby field. Flexibility has 15 Derby points and needs to a top 3 finish to make the Derby.


Blue Grass Stakes 1 1/8th Mile at Keenland- Race #10 Post Time: 5:00 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Lookin for a Kiss – Gaffalione/Tomlinson 50-1
2. Donegal Moon – Garcia/Pletcher 5-1  
3. Cherry Wine – Lanerie/Romans 12-1
4. Zulu – Castellano/Pletcher 5-2
5. Crescent Drive – Graham/Amoss 20-1
6. Brody’s Cause – Saez/Romans 4-1
7. Laoban – Lezcano/Guillot 12-1
8. Twizz – Murrill/Maker 12-1
9. Goats Town – Albarado/Lukas 20-1
10. American Dubai – Landeros/Richards 20-1
11. Cards of Stone – Lopez/Pletcher 20-1
12. Zapperini – Torres/Foley 30-1
13. Star Hill – Jaramillo/Arnold 10-1
14. My Man Sam – Leparoux/Brown 10-1
AE. Pinson – Bravo/Maker 30-1
AE. Hint of Roses – Geroux/Maker 30-1

Commentary: Zulu is the class of this large field. I like his post position draw so I think he wins this one. It is difficult to project who will finish 2nd through 4th because we don’t know which Brody’s Cause will show up. The one who was a non-factor and finished 7th in the Tampa Bay Derby or the who showed great promise as a closer as a 2 year-old? He has 14 Derby points so he will need to finish in the top 3 to make the Kentucky Derby field. So my advice is to stick to win bets for Zulu or key him to win over Donegal Moon, Star Hill, My Man Sam and Brody’s Cause in Trifectas and Superfectas.


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Santa Anita Derby 1 1/8th Mile at Santa Anita Park- Race #8 Post Time: 5:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Denman’s Call – Bejarano/O’Neill 15-1
2. Exaggerator – Desormeaux/Desormeaux  4-1
3. Danzing Candy – Smith/Sise 9-5
4. Mor Spirit – Stevens/Baffert 8-5
5. Smokey Image – Espinoza/Gaines 15-1
6. Iron Rob – Elliott/Papaprodromou 12-1
7. Dressed in Hermes – Prat/Armstrong 15-1
8. Rare Candy – Talamo/Hofmans 30-1
9. Diplodocus – Baze/Baltas 30-1
10. Uncle Lino – Perez/Sherlock 20-1

Commentary: Danzing Candy benefited from getting out into the lead on a semi-damp track at Santa Anita to win the San Felipe Stakes back on March 12th. I watched the San Felipe live that day and my thought was that day that Mor Spirit will bounce back and win a rematch. So I would key #4 Mor Spirit to win in your Trifectas and Superfectas.

It is difficult to access if Smokey Image bounces back after a lackluster performance in the San Felipe. So I would recommend Trifectas 4 over 2,3 over 2,3. Exaggerator could excel with an additional furlong so don’t be surprised if he finishes 2nd. I am also perplexed how the Santa Anita handicapper could assign Uncle Lino 20-1 morning line odds when he finished 4th in the San Felipe and 2nd in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Denman’s Call and Iron Rob have never raced further than 7 furlongs. Iron Rob will probably be the early pacesetter in this race.

–Michael

My Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contender List

kentucky derby contenders

April 2nd, 2016

Five weeks away from the Kentucky Derby and with the Nyquist vs Mohaymen battle now behind us, below is my updated Kentucky Derby Contender list. With the impressive Florida Derby win, Nyquist moves back into the #1 spot that I originally had him in during the fall of last year when I named him my “way too early Kentucky Derby favorite” on September 9th. Mohaymen free falls to 6th after an unexplained disappointing 4th place finish in the Florida Derby. Everything seemed to set up well for Mohaymen but he just didn’t fire when he had to coming down the stretch.

Please note that next Saturday April 9th will be a huge day on the Derby Trail with three Derby prep races scheduled: the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. So I will have an updated contender list on Sunday April 10th.

My Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Nyquist (130 Derby Points) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year put on a dazzling display to win the Florida Derby (shown below). That was all Nyquist, his jockey Mario Gutierrez never had to show him the whip. Undefeated in 7 starts, he now has 4 Grade 1 stakes wins and has already earned $2.3 million dollars. He has answered any criticism you may have had that his times and Beyer Speed Figures weren’t impressive or that his smallish build makes him better suited as a miler. He just wins. He was first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

2) Destin (51 Derby Points) – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt broke into my contender list by virtue of his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below) where he set a track record with a time of 1:42.82–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby as Todd Pletcher is bypassing another Derby prep race and focusing on 8 weeks of training instead. I would have liked to see how he fared stretching out to 1 1/8th mile on a track other than Tampa Bay Downs. However, it is hard to fault a move from one of the top trainers in the business.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

3) Mor Spirit (44 Derby Points) – Bob Baffert’s best Derby trail horse thus far. I have been somewhat critical of his times since they have been way off what Dortmund produced last year in Los Alamitos Futurity, Robert B. Lewis Stakes and now the San Felipe Stakes. However, what I witnessed in the San Felipe was a horse that came off the pace and made up significant ground to finish 2nd. He is my favorite to win the Santa Anita Derby on April 9th that will be half furlong (1/16th of a mile) further than the San Felipe Stakes.

Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Felipe Stakes

4) Danzing Candy  (50 Derby Points) – The surprise winner of the San Felipe Stakes (shown below). He has three wins in his last three starts. He got a perfect trip in the San Felipe by getting out in the lead and then holding on for the win. Give credit to jockey Mike Smith for this win because it was a great strategy because the track wasn’t forgiving to closers that day. His next start will be a rematch against Mor Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0 
Sire: Twirling Candy
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

5) Cupid  (50 Derby Points) –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year-old who moved into my contender list after a solid win in the 14 horse field of Rebel Stakes. His winning time was 1:43.84 which is a very good time at Oaklawn Park and resulted in a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He displayed the necessary fight in this race when challenged by Whitmore. He is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby April 16th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95 Rebel Stakes

6) Mohaymen  (80 Derby Points) – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt finished a disappointing 4th in the Florida Derby and didn’t seem to have the necessary kick down the stretch to make me feel that he could be a Kentucky Derby winner. He couldn’t even hold off Fellowship for third place, a horse that finished third behind him in his last two wins. Was it the wet track that he didn’t like? Whatever the reason, after the Holy Bull Stakes win in January–Mohaymen has regressed.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

7) Exaggerator (26 Derby Points) – The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes. I expected a better performance in this race from the Delta Downs Jackpot winner who gave Nyquist a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. However, with his pedigree (Sire: Curlin), I wouldn’t give up on him yet as he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. His next start will be the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on April 9th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98San Vicente Stakes

8) Zulu  (20 Derby Points) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee and half-brother to Greenpointcrusader. He finished 2nd to Mohaymen in Fountain of Youth Stakes (shown below) and answered some questions in that race as to how he would like distance since it was his first past 7 furlongs. He also showed a willingness to battle so this was a performance that can be built on. His next start will be the Blue Grass Stakes on April 9th. 

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.20 (calculated) – Fountain of Youth Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Fountain of Youth Stakes

9) Matt King Coal  (0 Derby Points)- The Linda Rice-trained colt returned to racing as a 3 year-old on March 6th at Aqueduct and produced a win with a time of 1:44.92 (good for a 97 Beyer Speed Figure). In his last three starts, he has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 93, 96 and 97. I like the upward progression. His next start will be the Wood Memorial on April 9th. He will have to win or finish 2nd in order to obtain enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0
Sire: Cool Coal Man (Finished 15th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)

Projected Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – Aqueduct Allowance Optional Claiming Race– 3/6/16

10) Collected (11 Derby Points)Yet another Bob Baffert-trainee, the Sham Stakes winner collected his biggest win and best Beyer Speed Figure (90) in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes on March 20th. No word yet as to where his next start will be but the Arkansas Derby on April 16th seems like the most logical.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: City Zip

Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.98 (calculated) – Southwest Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes

11) Gun Runner (151 Derby Points) – The Steve Asmussen-trained horse has secured his spot in the Kentucky Derby with a Louisiana Derby win. He has won his 2 starts as a 3-year-old but has failed to put up impressive times or Beyer Speed Figures. I generally don’t see him as a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby. The last Louisiana Derby winner that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996. I see Gun Runner more as a horse who could round out a superfecta. He will be well-rested and have plenty of time to train up to the Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Sire: Candy Ride

Projected Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.94 – Risen Star Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

12) Shagaf (50 Derby Points)Like Mohaymen, another Chad Brown trainee from Shadwell Stables. He is undefeated in 3 starts and displayed a fighting spirit to win the Gotham Stakes (shown below). His next start will be the Wood Memorial on April 9th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: Irad Ortiz
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.90 – Gotham Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – MSW Aqueduct – 11/22/15

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews (10 Derby Points) – The Southwest Stakes winner finished 5th in the Rebel Stakes. This was a disappointing finish as the race seemed to set up well for his closer running style with fast opening fractions from Cupid. However, this performance was not enough to drop him off the Derby radar. He seemed to get blocked a bit and if this was a 1 1/8th mile race like the Arkansas Derby will be, he seemed to have plenty of steam left to hit the board. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. Closer’s always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Outwork  (20 Derby Points) – A Todd Pletcher-trained horse and a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February. His next start will be the Wood Memorial April 9th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

Swipe (12 Derby Points) – This Desormeaux brothers colt finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts and narrowed the gap each time. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and has been back in in training since February 27th. His most recent work was 6 furlongs at 1:13.00 at Santa Anita Park on April 2nd. His next start will be the Lexington Stakes on April 16th. He has 12 Kentucky Derby points and will have to win this race and pick up the 10 first place points. 22 Derby points may or may not be enough to get him into the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Sire: Birdstone (Finished 8th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (if he doesn’t ride Exaggerator)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile


Horses who currently have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby include: Gun Runner 151, Nyquist 130, Lani 100, Mohaymen 80, Destin 51, Cupid 50, Danzing Candy 50, Shagaf 50, Oscar Nominated 50, Mor Spirit 44, Tom’s Ready 44, Majesto 40, Fellowship 32 and Mo Tom 32.

Horses who are either off the Derby trail or won’t have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby: Gift Box, Greenpointcrusader, Airoforce, Cocked and Loaded, Toews On Ice, Awesome Speed,  Conquest Big E

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Wood Memorial – Aqueduct – April 9th, 2016  (Shagaf, Matt King Coal, Outwork)
Blue Grass Stakes – Keeneland – April 9th, 2016 (Zulu, Brody’s Cause)
Santa Anita Derby – Santa Anita Park – April 9th, 2016  (Mor Spirit, Danzing Candy, Exaggerator)
Arkansas Derby – Oaklawn Park – April 16th, 2016 (Cupid, Suddenbreakingnews)
Lexington Stakes – Keeneland – April 16th, 2016 (Swipe)

Interesting Fact: 70% of the Kentucky Derby winners the past 20 years raced in one of these three final Derby prep races: The Santa Anita Derby (6), The Florida Derby (4) and the Arkansas Derby (4).

The other Derby Prep races to produce Kentucky Derby winners: Louisiana Derby (2), Wood Memorial (2), Blue Grass Stakes (1) and the Lexington Stakes (1).

–Michael