Coming into today, 20 points was a very interesting total and carried the potential to set off a wild string of events. Before the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby, there were seven Triple Crown nominated horses tied for 17th place in the Kentucky Derby point standings with 20. As a result, if today’s preps ended with 20 points still being enough to qualify for even a single post position then a familiar qualifying measure would have been forced back into play.
Under the new Kentucky Derby qualifying system, if there is
ever a tie for the final post position, or positions, then earnings in non-restricted
graded stakes races serve as the tie-breaker. Now, if this tie-breaker rule had
to be used, then we would be in for an exciting Wild Card Series.
Up next are the final qualifying races or “Wild Card Races” via the Coolmore Lexington Stakes and Derby Trial. The way those points are awarded is that the top finishers, 1 through 4, earn 20-8-4-2. Just for fun, let’s say that the winners that emerged from these two races were derby hopefuls that had yet to score a single point. Not only would the number of horses stuck on 20 points increase but the race to the 20th post position would be a photo finish. Just like the old system, the almighty graded stakes earnings would make all the difference and even the smallest amount of money would determine who got and who got left out.
Naturally the results of today's preps held all the cards but unfortunately
the derby gods decided against it. 20 points is no longer enough and those horses are now on the
outside looking in. So, what does this means for any derby hopefuls that are
still out there? The answer is that you had better be entering a wild card race
with at least 10 points in order to have a chance.
It’s very fitting that the horse that now holds the final
post position in the 139th Kentucky Derby with 30 points was one of
the seven horses tied at 20 going into today. Since Falling Sky was strong
enough to hold on to 4th place by only a neck in the Arkansas Derby,
he was awarded 10 points and officially made the jump into the Kentucky Derby
field. Not so fortunate was Den’s Legacy. At 20 points in the standings he
was also in need of one more top four finish. But, he did not have it in the end as
he faded from 2nd at the ¾ pole to finish 6th.
And so the stage is set for the wild card races. Again, you
must already have at least 10 points to your name. If you are right at 10
points then to unseat Falling Sky you must also out earn him in
non-restricted graded stakes races. The magic dollar amount: $207,500 (More than $100k behind the other two horses that also scored 30 points)
So who does that put into a position to remove Falling Sky
from making it to the Kentucky Derby starting gate? The first two horses that come
to mind are Code West and Departing. Similar to what Palace Malice did today,
they too could return from the Louisiana Derby and take one last shot at
qualification. Palace Malice needed a big effort today and he got it when he
bested everyone in the field except for Java’s War. The second place finish was
still a victory however because he gained an additional 40 points and jumped to
Both Code West and Departing are currently stuck in the 20
point club. But, a big effort and win in either wild card race will put them
over the top and lift them to 40 points. Between the two, Departing has a
higher graded stakes earnings total. So, in case anyone is wondering what would happen if they both won in separate wild card races, Departing would own the
Another horse that comes to mind is Merit Man, 3rd place in the Florida Derby last time out. Coupling that effort with a 4th place finish in the G2 Hutcheson Stakes, Merit Man has accumulated a total of $357,500 in non-restricted graded stakes earnings. In fact, he leads the 20 point club in graded stakes earnings so because of that he is right now classified as "the first one out" and ranked at #21. So, if his connections decide to give it a go, a win will automatically put him in.
As for any of the other horses listed below, I don't see any of them of entering a wild card race or winning if they do. I believe that if anyone is going to make a last ditch effort to qualify and accomplish that mission, it will one of the three I already mentioned. But, I guess I could be wrong so we'll have to wait and see which probable starters throw their hooves into the wild card round.
Hopefully this paints a pretty clear picture on where we
stand in the first edition of the points system before we head into the final two
races of the qualification season. Since
we are now three weeks out until the Kentucky Derby much can still change over
the course of the next two weeks. But, for now, it does not appear that any of the
horses inside the top 20 will not be be making it to Churchill Downs and running for the roses.
Besides Palace Malice and Falling Sky, the other horses that either saved their hinds or earned their keep by scoring enough points today to move from outside the top 20 into the Kentucky Derby field were: Java's War, Frac Daddy and Overanalyze.
Finally, the two horses that didn't race very well today but are still safe: Oxbow and Uncaptured.
2013 Kentucky Derby Top 20 (as of 4/13/2013)
|4||Java's War||Ken McPeek||122|
|7||Lines of Battle||Aidan O'Brien||100|
|9||Will Take Charge||D. Wayne Lukas||60|
|10||Itsmyluckyday||Eddie Plesa, Jr.||50|
|11||Govenor Charlie||Bob Baffert||50|
|12||Black Onyx||Kelly Breen||50|
|13||Palace Malice||Todd Pletcher||50|
|14||Normandy Invasion||Chad Brown||44|
|17||Oxbow||D. Wayne Lukas||36|
|19||Super Ninety Nine||Bob Baffert||30|
Have a Shot with a Wild Card Win (Triple Crown Nominated)
|21||Merit Man||Bob Hess, Jr.||20||$357,500 |
|22||Den's Legacy||Bob Baffert||20||$329,000 |
|23||Charming Kitten||Todd Pletcher||20||$206,000 |
|24||Departing||Al Stall, Jr.||20||$130,000 |
|25||West Hills Giant||John Terranova||20||$90,666 |
|26||Code West||Bob Baffert||20||$90,000 |
|29||Dynamic Sky||Mark Casse||13||$290,835 |
|30||Power Broker||Bob Baffert||10||$245,000 |
|31||Rydilluc||Gary Contessa||10||$127,500 |
|32||Mr Palmer||Bill Mott||10||$110,000 |