Kentucky Derby 2018 Daily: On Apollo and his curse

March 19, 2018 04:56pm
Kentucky Derby 2018 Daily: On Apollo and his curse
Photo: Coady Photography

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Dailywhich will each day leading up to the May 5 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.

Within the last two years, the Leicester City Football Club won the English Premier League at odds of 5,000-1, and the Chicago Cubs took the World Series. Heck, just Friday, a 16 seed finally toppled a 1 in the NCAA tournament.

Is one of horse racing’s peskiest streaks next?

The so-called “curse of Apollo” is certainly in danger after this weekend’s results on the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail. Not since 1882 — and that was the only year it's ever happened — has a horse won the Derby without making a start at age 2.

Todd Pletcher-trained Magnum Moon’s victory Saturday in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes all but ensures at least one top contender the first Saturday in May fits that profile. Justify, another unbeaten colt from the Bob Baffert barn, could join the fray if he wins or places in his lone Derby trail start.

They are expected to meet in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 14.

The Kentucky Derby has run 135 times since Apollo won the race. For a bit of perspective, consider that in Apollo’s Derby…

 The race was run at 1 1/2 miles on May 16 — so not yet the first Saturday of the month — and Apollo entered already with a victory at that distance in the Cottrell Cup.

 Apollo carried 102 pounds, and none of his rivals had more than 107. Nowadays, males in the Derby carry 126 pounds.

 The ninth-place finisher wasn’t even named. He was listed as “Pat Mallow colt.”

 There was no starting gate. Instead, Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. beat a kettle drum, according to University of Kentucky archives, to signal the race’s start. Clark Jr., grandson of William Clark from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, built Churchill Downs.

 Apollo was viewed as a longshot winner with the runner up, Runnymede, the favorite. Runnymede turned the tables a week later when he defeated Apollo in the Clark Stakes, now known as the Clark Handicap.

Full field expected for Sunland Derby

A number of second-tier Kentucky Derby prospects are shipping to New Mexico for next Sunday’s Grade 3 Sunland Derby, with the race essentially a win-and-you’re-in that pays out qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.

A week out, the Sunland Park racing office considered as many as 18 horses in the conversation to fill the 12 spots available.

Those with graded stakes earnings considered probable are: Hollywood Star, Dark Vader, Ax Man, Choo Choo, Runaway Ghost, Seven Trumpets, Prince Lucky and Kentucky Club. Additionally, All Out Blitz and Peace are 50-50 to go.

Those horses will all get preference, but the name to know is Restoring Hope. The third-out maiden winner is a Gary and Mary West homebred who trainer Bob Baffert said “is ready for the deep end of the pool now” following the Feb. 2 victory.

Others targeting the race, but without graded stakes earnings, are Fortified Effort, New York Central, Dream Baby Dream and Fire When Ready. Trigger Warning, Trooper and Sphene make up the local contingent.

Derby links

 The Wynn Las Vegas distributed updated Kentucky Derby odds following Magnum Moon’s Rebel victory, making him the third choice with now just seven weeks until race day. Baffert and Pletcher train five of the top seven favorites.

 In addition to Magnum Moon, Sporting Chance, who was a surprising fifth in the Rebel Stakes, will get another shot on the trail in the Arkansas Derby. Said trainer D. Wayne Lukas: “It’s hard for me to handle that one because I thought I had him trained to the minute.”

 Solomini will take a road less traveled for Baffert trainees, at least lately, when he travels to New York for the Grade 2 Wood Memorial as a final prep. The colt’s racing manager, Justin Zayat, said the Rebel runner-up came out of Saturday’s race “perfect.”

 The field for next weekend’s major Kentucky Derby prep is already set, and we’ve got Louisiana Derby odds and analysis posted. Southwest Stakes (G3) winner My Boy Jack will take on the Top 3 finishers of the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds.

In case you missed it…

Get the scoop with recent editions of the Derby Daily Report!

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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps all in once place.

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