On Saturday, Malagacy became the winner of the sixth
2017 Kentucky Derby qualification series race that awards 50 points to the victor.
With that score, he also became another guaranteed qualifier, as that amount
of points has always been more than enough to earn a spot in the field of twenty, since the points system first began.
Of the six winners thus far, two of them stood out as
contenders prior to their score. Unfortunately, Mastery has since fallen off
the Derby trail due to injury, so that leaves Gunnevera, winner of the Fountain
of Youth Stakes, as someone we expected to see in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Prior to that win, the son of Dialed In compiled 14 points with a
win in the Delta Downs Jackpot, and a runner-up finish in the Holy Bull. As for
the other four winners, Malagacy, Girvin, Tapwrit and J Boys Echo, their
performances may have been somewhat surprising or unexpected to a certain extent.
Something else that has been surprising over these last few
weeks, is where we saw a few other horses finish. Unfortunately, for this list, they may have fallen from contender and demoted to pretender. The good news is
that there’s still one more series that is worth even more points, so if a redo
has been requested, they all are entitled to one more chance.
For all of these horses, they need to make it count, because they do not currently have enough points to be considered safe. Their Derby
hopes rest on their next start in one of the seven 100 points races. The
scoring in the next series is: 100-40-20-10, so for some of these hopefuls, a
top three finish will be the safest way to qualify, whereas 10 more points may
leave them on the bubble.
Risen Star – Fair Grounds
Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Girvin (50 points), Untrapped (34 points)
Guest Suite –
Louisiana Derby: The son of Quality Road was on the Kentucky Derby radar in
his juvenile season after he finished third behind McCraken and Baladeen in the
Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. Where he really made headlines,
however, was when he won his first graded stakes race, and scored his first
It came in the LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds. The track
was muddy that day and Guest Suite was forced to go the extra distance as he rallied five wide through the slop. The ride by Robby Albarado was solid and Guest
Suite looked like a potential Risen Star winner.
However, next time out, Guest Suite was caught racing too far
back behind modest fractions out front. By the time he began his rally after
the first half mile, from ninth place in an eleven horse field, he never had a
chance at catching Girvin who took the lead at the top of stretch. Fourth place
was the best he could do. The additional four points were helpful but for now,
that amount will keep him on the outside looking in, and he will need to finish in
the top three next time to guarantee himself a spot in the top 20. Another fourth
place finish will bring his total to 24; enough points most often, but not in
Mo Town – Florida Derby:
2017 did not start out the way 2016 ended. In fact, it wasn’t even close.
Trained by Anthony Dutrow, the son of Uncle Mo made a name for himself when he
won the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct to finish his juvenile season. Unlike Guest Suite,
however, his point total stood still after a fifth place finish in the
Risen Star. Ten points is not enough to even make the bubble, so Mo Town will
need to find his form and a top three finish next time out. Again, a fourth
place finish may send him into the Derby field with 20 points, but until that
can be confirmed, he will remain on the bubble.
Fountain of Youth –
Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Gunnevera (64 points),
Practical Joke (34 points)
Irish Way Cry – Wood Memorial:
The trip down to Florida for the winter started out wonderfully for Graham
Motion when the son of Curlin won the Holy Bull Stakes after ending his 2016
season with a win in the Marylander Stakes at Laurel. Nothing went right in
the Fountain of Youth, though. The result was a seventh place finish and 0 points.
Similar to Mo Town, Irish War Cry is stuck on 10 points, so he will need a top 3
finish next time out if he wants to stay away from the bubble, and gain an entry
into the Kentucky Derby.
Three Rules – Florida Derby: There’s no doubt this colt had an excellent
two-year-old season. However, because he was only entered in one points race, and
it was the toughest one, Three Rules ended his opening season with 5 wins and 0
Coming into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Three Rules was the undefeated
visitor from Florida that had yet to enter a graded stakes race. The Jose
Pinchin trainee, and son of Gone Astray, seemed like he was ready to go. He
might have been, but this race was filled with young talent and speed, so maybe that is why Three
Rules finished seventh.
His three-year-old campaign began with the Swale Stakes,
another race that is not a part of the Kentucky Derby points series. His
runner-up finish was a good start and proved to be a nice prep for the Fountain
of Youth where he finished third. However, those were also the very first
points he has scored, and ten is not enough. So, it’s all or nothing in the
Florida Derby, where a top 3 finish will be required for a safe entry into the
field of twenty, and a fourth place finish might give him a chance.
Gotham Stakes –
Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: J Boys Echo (50
points), (El Areeb 30 points)
Bubble watch: Cloud Computing (20 points)
The Gotham Stakes ended a four race win streak for El Areeb
which included three stakes wins and 20 points. However, he was good enough to
hold on to third place and he was awarded another 10 points for the effort. He has scored enough, and his qualification for the Kentucky Derby is secure.
However, like a lot of these horses, his status as a contender can be questioned.
The Wood Memorial will give the Cathal Lynch trained horse a chance to bounce
back from a surprising third place finish last
Tampa Bay Derby –
Tampa Bay Downs
Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Tapwrit (50 points)
Bubble Watch: State of Honor (22 points), Wild Shot (17
None of the Tampa Bay Derby starters stood out to me as
probable Kentucky Derby contenders prior to the race. Therefore, after the race
I can’t list any of the non-winners as horses that took a big step backwards.
Instead, I think horses such as State of Honor, Wild Shot, and even No Dozing
could make it into the Kentucky Derby field if they continue to make modest
progressions. Their next step will have to be their biggest otherwise the best
they could do is qualify but their chances of doing any damage will remain unlikely.
San Felipe Stakes – Santa Anita Park
Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: None
Bubble Watch: Iliad (20 points)
Gormley – Santa Anita
Derby: Technically, Gormley should be classified as on the bubble. In each
year prior to 2016, 25 points was enough to qualify. However, last year
it was not. So, Gormley is on the bubble right now, but I would not have
believed it prior to the San Felipe Stakes for I thought third place
would be his absolute worst outcome.
Fourth place, and only ten points, for the two-time graded
stakes winner is what actually happened. However, of all of the horses that I have
indicated here as those that took a step back in their last race, I rank Gormley
as the leading candidate to bounce back the most aggressively next time out. In
conclusion, regardless of his bubble status at the moment, Gormley will score
again in the Santa Anita Derby and secure his spot as a Kentucky Derby starter.
Rebel Stakes –
Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Malagacy (50 points),
Untrapped (34 points)
Bubble Watch: Sonneteer (20 points)
Lookin at Lee:
This horse trained by Steve Asmussen has been on the radar since the juvenile
season. Things started when the son of Lookin at Lucky won the Ellis Park
Juvenile. Following that win he would finish runner-up to a pair of serious
contenders; Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes and Classic Empire in the
Then it was on to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he would
score again when he finished fourth. In his opening act of the 2017
season Lookin at Lee did what he always did in Kentucky Derby qualification races;
score but not win. This time it was the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. The third
place finish was a nice prep for the Rebel but then something happened that we
haven’t seen yet when Lookin at Lee didn’t score any points at all.
After his sixth place finish in the Rebel,
Lookin at Lee only has 12 points. It’s hard to believe considering he has
scored in four different races but that is where he stands. Therefore, a better
effort and more points are required next time out. Nothing is official but it
is safe to assume the decision for his connections will be between the Blue
Grass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby.
may have only been 1 point but when you score it at Churchill Downs behind a
horse like McCraken it can still put you on the radar. If that didn’t do it for
you, Uncontested made himself more visible with a win in the Smarty Jones.
However, an eighth place finish in the Rebel leaves him at 11 points.
So, it’s score or stay home next time out. It has not been confirmed but I would
guess that the Arkansas Derby will be the race, if Wayne Catalano chooses to
send him back for a final qualification race.
Royal Mo: This
John Sherriffs trainee didn’t do much in his two-year-old season, but he made his mark
on the Kentucky Derby trail when he won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. That was a
step in the right direction but a ninth place finish in the Rebel didn’t
help at all. Instead, it is most likely that we will see him next in the Santa
Anita Derby, against a very tough field, including his stablemate Gormley.
The post time favorite flopped in the Rebel Stakes. After a runner-up finish to
Gormley in the Sham Stakes, the son of Bodemeister slipped in the starting gate
and never rebounded. No injuries were reported so his Derby dreams are still
alive. Like the rest of the field, I cannot confirm where Bob Baffert will send
him next, but I would guess that the Arkansas Derby is still the plan. Either
way, points are needed if this Kentucky Derby hopeful wants to make it into the