Photo: Benoit Photo
so here we are. The final leg of the Championship Series is official. There
are some surprising horses left out of the top 20. There is also one
wild card race left, but should no other 3-yr-old earn more than 20 points by
this time next week, and no 2014 Kentucky Derby starter withdraw, here is your top
|| California Chrome
|| Vicar's in Trouble
|| Dance With Fate
|| Wicked Strong
|| Intense Holiday
|| Wildcat Red
|| We Miss Artie
|| Ride on Curlin
|| Midnight Hawk
|| Ring Weekend
|| General a Rod
|| Medal Count
|| Candy Boy
|| Cairo Prince
|| Uncle Sigh
|| Harry's Holiday
|| Commanding Curve
|| Pablo Del Monte
|| Social Inclusion
|| Big Bazinga
|| Strong Mandate
|| In Trouble
|| Noble Moon
|| Conquest Titan
|| Asserting Bear
begin with the contenders that did not score enough points to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Strong Mandate – If you were to tell me in January that this horse would not be starting in the
Kentucky Derby I would not have believed you. I did not consider him a
potential winner but I did think he would score enough to get in.
For the D. Wayne Lukas trained colt by Tiznow and Clear
Mandate his best score was the G1 Hopeful Stakes. The problem now is that it was not a qualifier race. From there he started scoring; 3rd
in the G1 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, 2nd in the G3 Southwest Stakes.
equaled 6 points coming into the G2 Rebel. The points were
raised but Strong Mandate wasn't up for the occasion and finished 4th. 11 points required more and a top 3 finish in the Arkansas Derby was almost mandatory. Unfortunately, Strong Mandate once again failed to fire. The promising Juvenile will have to wait for
another opportunity in his racing career before he can regain the promise he
displayed in the G1 Hopeful.
Conquest Titan – I won’t say that I disagreed with his potential but I will say
that I did argue his ranking on a few occasions. Trained by Mark Casse, by
Birdstone and Miner’s Secret, he had one staple to his Juvenile Career; the
Swynford Stakes, a win that broke his maiden at Woodbine. From there the
Breeder’s Cup Juvenile did not go as planned (13th). Next was an
Allowance Optional Claiming race at Churchill Downs that he won.
He may have seemed ready but after that race he didn't make the right moves or finish where he needed to. A 2nd place effort in the G2 Holy Bull (4 pts)
followed by a 4th place finish in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby (5 pts)
brought him to where he stands today, 9 points. Like Strong Mandate it was all or
nothing in the G1 Arkansas Derby and a 5th place finish finalized
his derby hopes.
– The hype proved to be just that. In my opinion this lightly raced colt could
make a bigger impact down the line for Bob Baffert but now just isn’t the time.
He trained very well leading up to the Arkansas Derby but he really could have
used another Kentucky Derby prep race somewhere before today. 3rd
place and 20 points is nothing to discredit but when you have a horse that
skips his Juvenile season you’re stuck playing catch up. Should 20 points become enough for some
horse to take the final spot, Bayern and Social Inclusion will not get the call. Tie breakers decide that and 3rd place finish in only
one non-restricted graded stakes race will not be enough.
– Danza’s win in the Arkansas Derby really did a lot of damage to the Kentucky
Derby dreams of a lot of other connections. I personally didn’t think much of Commissioner's chances after he finished 3rd in the Sunland Derby (10 points) but
some may have thought he would do enough in the Arkansas Derby to get in.
However, his resume just doesn’t cut it. A 6th place finish
coupled with another 6th place finish in the G2 Fountain of Youth
leaves his 3rd place effort in the Sunland as his only score in
races that awarded points.
On the Bubble
– The Blue Grass Stakes was littered with horses with zero or barely any
Kentucky Derby points at all. That should explain why the Arkansas Derby is
getting most of the attention for horses that are now on the outside looking
in. Vinceremos though could have made a big move. From his position a 4th place finish is all he needed but it was not his
day, not even close. Vinceremos is now the leading 20 point contender with a
non-graded stakes earnings total of $191,666, most of which was earned at
Tampa Bay Downs (Sam F. Davis, TB Derby). He’s down but not out should any two starters
Harry’s Holiday – He is right behind Vinceremos with a non-graded stakes earnings total
of $152,622. If I were in the position of his owners I would have done the same but his
late Triple Crown nomination after a 2nd place finish in the G3
Spiral Stakes will not have any Kentucky Derby implications. He will
need three starters to withdraw and I don’t see that happening.
anyone think the points system has eliminated a horse that should be starting?
I can see the argument for a horse like Strong Mandate. When you look at his
non-restricted graded stakes earnings there is no question he would be starting
under the old system ($479,166). But, this system is “what have you done for
me lately”. Strong Mandate hasn’t done much. Which goes back to the
number one factor; should you be able to qualify so easily as a Juvenile? More
than 1 1/16 doesn’t appear to be his best so maybe the system got it right?
sums up the situation for a lot of camps that will be awaiting better news.
However, there are also a few other surprises that we can touch on.
– 41-1, zero Kentucky Derby Points, zero Kentucky Derby preps. It does not matter
as he won the Arkansas Derby and is now going to the Kentucky Derby. Don’t
like the points system? It does not matter; he’d still be going in the old
system. ($620,000 in graded stakes earnings)
Dance with Fate – Under the radar but Dance with Fate is a perfect example of a horse
gearing up for the big day. His connections, including trainer Peter Eurton,
said the Blue Grass Stakes was the goal all along but what’s great about this
contender is that he did enough before (2nd G1 FrontRunner, 2nd
El Camino Real). A marvelous win today sends him soaring and he’s in with 108
Medal Count – Wow, a late surge from off the grid to a Kentucky Derby starter in just 8
days. Yes, you read that correctly. On April 4 the Dale Romans colt by
Dynaformer and Brisquette scored big for the first time in the G3 Translyvania.
The win set him up to deliver after he failed in the G1 Breeder’s Cup
and G2 Fountain of Youth and he did. 2nd place earned him 40 points in
the Blue Grass Stakes and now he looks like he will be sent to race for the third time
Ride on Curlin – Stammering around without a win or runner up finish in any Kentucky
Derby prep put this pedigree hot shot in a predicament over the weekend. But,
it wasn’t even close; Ride on Curlin made a late move and proved he may be
worth a second look for the Kentucky Derby. He still doesn’t have a big win but
he is consistent – G1 Champagne 3rd, G3 Southwest 3rd, G2
Rebel 3rd, G1 Arkansas 2nd.
Cairo Prince – I was pretty hard on this colt and his connections after a surprising
4th place finish in the G1 Florida Derby. With the withdraw of the
Toast of New York and a few things going his way since, Cairo Prince now owns
the last spot in the Kentucky Derby. Will Kiaran McLaughlin send him?