Why a filly needs to try the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail

Why a filly needs to try the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

For a moment this past week, I thought the world of thoroughbred racing would see something truly momentous. I thought we would finally see connections willing to show the world that the Kentucky Derby point system is not truly to blame for a talented filly’s inability to run on the first Saturday in May.
Alas, that was not to be, as the connections of Grade 2 Demoiselle winner Wonder Gadot have effectively withdrawn their consideration of the Lecomte Stakes “unless there are major scratches,” trainer Mark Casse said.
The issue I see with that statement is the field is already potentially weak, so what major scratches would they be wanting? While packed with potentially great horses, for now it contains zero graded stakes winners — other than Wonder Gadot, who cross-entered the Silverbulletday Stakes for fillies, also on Saturday’s card at Fair Grounds.
The Lecomte, as with many early Derby preps, represents the perfect opportunity to snatch up some easy points against a less accomplished field. Instead, connections shied away.
For those saying that it’s too much too soon to ask a filly to face her male peers in a race earlier than the Derby, I say look at history. The only three fillies to ever have the garland of roses draped across their withers contested males before their Kentucky Derby victory. 
Regret faced nothing but males before the Kentucky Derby, while Winning Colors routed males in the Santa Anita Derby. And, perhaps the greatest of all three fillies, Genuine Risk, who competed in all three Triple Crown events, contested in the Wood Memorial before her Kentucky Derby victory, and what is more is that she didn’t even win that prep. She finished third, but the experience set her up perfectly for the Derby.
Every other filly that has tried to enter Kentucky Derby has lost, and most of them were not even close. One major exception is the late Eight Belles. So, truly, a fact that many overlook, when criticizing the system for any so-called “bias against fillies,” is that history has proven that the point system is actually doing the right thing by them, requiring that their connections race them against males prior to taking a stab at the Run for the Roses.
Regret, Winning Colors and Genuine Risk obviously didn’t qualify in the age of the points system. While the Lecomte alone wouldn’t springboard Wonder Gadot to the Derby, 10 points to the winner are worthwhile when as few as 25 have secured a spot in the field. A finish on the board in a major prep would likely do the job.
It could also be argued that testing a filly this early would be better in case things didn’t work out. There’s time to regroup and either pick an easier spot next out or head back to the Kentucky Oaks trail.

While I’m sure there will be complaints of how unfair the point system is toward fillies — especially if Wonder Gadot should win the Silverbulletday impressively — I will remain the voice of reason. 

The point system isn’t what holds these fillies back. It is their own connections. Nobody has been willing to take the shot. Hopefully, that changes soon.
Trainer D. Wayne Lucas had the courage when he sought to enter champion Take Charge Brandi in the Rebel Stakes back in 2015. Unfortunately, she was injured not long before the race and sidelined until later in the season.
If we are ever to see a filly take part in the Kentucky Derby, it’ll take another pioneer willing to run a filly against the boys before the first Saturday in May.
 



Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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