The new points-based “Road to the
Kentucky Derby” series continues this weekend with a trio of juvenile
races. Points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in Saturday’s
$400,000 Foxwoods Champagne (Grade I) at Belmont Park and the $400,000
Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland. Also, the $200,000 Grey
(GIII) – the lone Canadian race is the series – will be staged Sunday at
Last week, the new series was
inaugurated with victories by Steeler-IRE and Power Broker in England’s
Royal Lodge at Newmarket and Santa Anita’s FrontRunner, respectively.
In June, Churchill Downs announced it
would institute a point system to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and
abandon the graded stakes criteria that was used from 1986-2012 to
determine which 20 horses would have preference for
America’s greatest race.
Condensed to 36 races, points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in each “Road to the Kentucky Derby” race.
The Champagne, Breeders’ Futurity and
Grey are three of 19 races that comprise the “Kentucky Derby Prep
Season” between late September and mid-February in which points will be awarded on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
The point values of races within the
10-week run up to the first Saturday in May will escalate by 5X or 10X
during the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series,” which encompasses 17
springboard events to the 1 ¼-mile classic.
The Top 20 point earners nominated to
the Triple Crown will earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if
more than 20 horses enter the race. The Derby field has been limited to
20 starters since 1975, and at least 20 horses
have entered the race since 2004, and 12 of the last 14 years.
If two or more horses have the same
number of points, which can often be the case whenever a point system is
introduced, preference will be given to the horse with the highest
earnings in non-restricted stakes races, whether
the races are graded or not.
CHAMPAGNE – Early
Kentucky Derby Future Book co-favorite Archwarrior will face multiple
stakes-winning stablemate Shanghai Bobby and five other promising rivals
in the 141st running of the one-mile Champagne,
which goes as Race 8 at Belmont Park on Saturday at 4:34 p.m. EDT.
The much-ballyhooed Archwarrior won his
debut by 1 ¾ lengths as a heavy 0.25-1 favorite. Four days later,
Shanghai Bobby won the seven-furlong Three Chimneys Hopeful (GII) by 3 ¾
lengths over Fortify to remain unbeaten in three
Archwarrior and Shanghai Bobby, along
with five-length maiden winner Micromanage (cross-entered in Saturday’s
$75,000 Dover at Delaware Park) are trained by 2010 Kentucky
Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who swept last weekend’s
2-year-old stakes at Belmont Park after winning 23 juvenile races at
PLETCHER ON ARCHWARRIOR – “He’s a big, strong colt who
has shown us a lot of ability in the mornings, and I thought he backed
it up with a good, solid effort in his debut. I liked the way he
finished the race and the way he galloped out, and
he’s trained well since then. It’s an ambitious move, but it’s a move
we think that fits his schedule based off what we’ve seen.”
PLETCHER ON SHANGHAI BOBBY
– “We were encouraged with the way he rated in the Hopeful. Even though
he was close to the pace, he was able to let horses go in front of him
and seemed to settle pretty well. The
fact he successfully got seven furlongs and wasn’t desperate doing it
was a good indication that a one-turn mile should be well within his
PLETCHER ON MICROMANAGE
– “We were expecting him to run well, but he actually exceeded our
expectations. We thought he ran very well. Not only did he run well, but
it seemed like he moved forward for having
run the race. He’s trained even better since then and has grown and
filled out. He’s really developing the way you want to see them do it
this time of year.”
TRAINER KIARAN McLAUGHLIN ON HOPEFUL RUNNER-UP FORTIFY
– “He was back there a little along the inside [in the Three Chimneys
Hopeful] and ended up taking some dirt. He took the worst of it while
and [his jockey] Rosie [Napravnik] were in the clear. It was good for
him education-wise. I was hoping he’d draw outside, and that he’ll have a
cleaner trip this time.”
BREEDERS’ FUTURITY –
Graded stakes winners Balance the Books and Pataky Kid head an overflow
field of 16 for the 99th running of the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity. The 1
1/16-mile race over Keeneland’s synthetic
Polytrack is scheduled as Race 8 at 4:49 p.m. EDT.
The Chad Brown-trained Balance the
Books switches from turf to Polytrack after winning the With
Anticipation (GII) at Saratoga. Pataky Kid, conditioned by Tom Proctor,
rolled to a three-length score in the Arlington-Washington
Futurity (GIII) at Arlington Park.
Other stakes winners in the field
include Joha, winner of the Colin at Woodbine; Java’s War, winner of the
Sunday Silence on turf at Louisiana Downs; Dynamic Sky, winner of the
Simcoe at Woodbine; and Tree of Life, winner of
the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex Park.
Runaway Belmont Park maiden winner Tizracer from trainer Todd Pletcher’s arsenal was made the mild 4-1 morning line favorite.
GREY – Uncaputured,
who at this stage shares the role as early Kentucky Derby Future Book
favorite with Archwarrior, puts his perfect 4-for-4 record on the line
Sunday in the $200,000 Grey (GIII) at Woodbine.
Uncaptured heads the field of seven
entered in the 1 1/16-mile race over the synthetic Polytrack. He is
owned by John C. Oxley, who campaigned 2001 Kentucky Derby champ
After wins against Canadian-breds in
the Clarendon and Vandal, the son of Lion Heart beat open company by 3 ¼
lengths in the seven-furlong Swynford on Sept. 9.
Conditioned by four-time Sovereign
Award-winner (Canada’s champion trainer) Mark Casse, Uncaptured’s chief
rivals are expected to be maiden winner Tesseron from the Josie Carroll
barn and maiden River Seven, who is trained by
The Grey is scheduled as Race 8 on Sunday at Woodbine at 4:42 p.m. EDT.
CASSE ON UNCAPTURED EARLY HYPE
– “It’s nice to be the future book favorite; now we just have to make
it to the Derby and be the favorite. There’s a lot of sweating before
then. It’s an honor and it’s a first.
I’m happy and I’m proud. Who would have thought a Canadian horse would
be the future book favorite for the Derby? The Grey, with the new point
system, has meaning to it because it comes with Derby points. It’s a big
deal and it’s important to us.”
CASSE ON UNCAPTURED EARLY ON
– “He was one of the best-looking yearlings I’ve ever seen. … I’ve been
buying horses now for over 30 years and there are certain things I look
for and he had every one of them.
I like a good neck and shoulder. On a scale of one to 10, he has a 10
neck and shoulder, a really nice hind leg and he has some stretch to
him. We’re always looking at horses we think can get a
mile-and-a-quarter for the Queen’s Plate or Kentucky Derby and
we thought he fit. He was the entire package from looks to pedigree.”
CASSE ON UNCAPTURED’S FUTURE
– “He’s been very impressive so far. Distance isn’t going to be a
problem. There will come a day when he has to dig deep and show us what
he’s made of. I just hope that day doesn’t
come for awhile. (Dirt) doesn’t concern me. He’s a beautiful moving
horse. He has a wonderful stride and I’ve said all along horses that
like Polytrack like Churchill Downs. He’ll have his transition to dirt
down at Palm Meadows (this winter). Hopefully, he
stays happy and healthy.”
LAST WEEK – Gary and
Mary West’s Power Broker won for the first time in four starts, surging
through the stretch under jockey Rafael Bejarano to capture the
FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita by 6 ½ lengths and
earn 10 points on the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby.”
He ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.44 and paid $12.60 at 9-2 odds for trainer
Bob Baffert, who extended his FrontRunner win-record to six. Power
Broker earned a spot in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) on
Know More, the 8-5 favorite running on dirt for the first time, finished second for trainer Doug O'Neill.
Capo Bastone was third. Carving,
co-owned by Olympic champion skier Bode Miller and Baffert's wife, Jill,
led much of the way before fading to fourth in his first loss in three
In the Royal Lodge at England’s
Newmarket, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum’s Irish-bred Steeler
set a “Rowley Mile” course juvenile record of 1:35.67 under Kieren
Fallon with a one-length victory Artigiano.
Steeler has now won three of five
starts while finishing second in the other two. Steeler took runner-up
honors behind the well-regarded Dundonnell in the Acomb (GIII) at York
on Aug. 22, and recorded his first stakes win in
the Stardom on Sept. 4 at Goodwood.
Although the race was part of the
Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” Series, trainer Mark
Johnston suggested that Steeler’s next target would be the one-mile
Racing Post Trophy (GI) at Doncaster on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Artigiano – owned by Sheikh Hamdan’s father, Sheikh Mohammed of Godolphin – also could resurface in the Racing Post Trophy.
The Royal Lodge was expected to include
Afonsa de Sousa, half-brother to 2008 Kentucky Derby champ Big Brown,
but he was scratched by trainer Aidan O’Brien.