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Derby Radar

When, where will 2019 Kentucky Derby contenders debut?

Bring up the 2019 Kentucky Derby at this point, eight months away from the first Saturday in May, and you’re bound to hear it from a racing fan — something along the lines of “it’s too early” and “Justify didn’t even race at 2.”


This Triple Crown winner was certainly an exception on the Derby trail.


In readying Horse Racing Nation's new Derby Radar, we examined the fields for each Derby since 2013. That year, Churchill Downs instituted its points system to qualify horses for the race, removing the need for connections to rush into lucrative juvenile races.

RELATED: 15 horses (plus a few) on the Derby Radar


Still, this is the time of year to be tuning into maiden, allowance and stakes races for the 2-year-olds if hoping to see 2019 Derby contenders. Take a look at these points-era numbers:


2018 Kentucky Derby contenders


Earliest debut: Flameaway (May 28 at Woodbine)

Latest debut: Justify (February 18 at Santa Anita)


Top months for debuts: September (7), August (3) and June (3)

Top tracks for debuts: Saratoga (5), Churchill (3), Del Mar (3)


2017 Kentucky Derby contenders


Earliest debut: Classic Empire (May 4 at Churchill Downs)

Latest debut: Battle of Midway (Jan. 21 at Santa Anita)


Top months for debuts: October (4), July (3), August (3)

Top tracks for debuts: Churchill (4), Saratoga (3), Four-way tie (2)


2016 Kentucky Derby contenders


Earliest debut: Outwork (April 23 at Keeneland)

Latest debut: My Man Sam (Dec. 19 at Aqueduct)


Top months for debuts: September (6), October (3), November (3)

Top tracks for debuts: Santa Anita (4), Belmont (3), Churchill (3)


2015 Kentucky Derby contenders


Earliest debut: Far Right (April 25 at Keeneland)

Latest debut: Materiality (Jan. 11 at Gulfstream)


Top months for debuts: August (5), October (3), November (3)

Top tracks for debuts: Saratoga (4), Santa Anita (3), Four-way tie (2)


2014 Kentucky Derby contenders


Earliest debut: California Chrome (April 26 at Hollywood Park)

Latest debut: Uncle Sigh, Chitu (Dec. 7 at Aqueduct, Hollywood)


Top months for debuts: July (4), September (4), October (3)

Top tracks for debuts: Belmont (4), Hollywood (3), Four-way tie (2)


2013 Kentucky Derby contenders


Earliest debut: Lines of Battle (May 27 in Ireland)

Latest debut: Verrazano (Jan. 1 at Gulfstream)


Top months for debuts: September (4), November (4), August (3)

Top tracks for debuts: Saratoga (6), Belmont (3), Churchill (3)


So, what did we learn?


1. Justify is the only one of 116 total Derby starters since 2013 to make his debut in February.


2. Only five Derby contenders made their debuts in January. Notably, four of them were trained by Todd Pletcher. The fifth, Battle of Midway, is conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer.


3. The sweet spot is this month, September, in which 25 eventual Derby contenders went postward for the first time. August is the second-hottest month, not too much of a surprise given the popular Saratoga and Del Mar meets are running.


4. Few eventual Derby contenders debut outside of the bigger circuits in New York, California and Kentucky. Woodbine and Monmouth Park produced 2 starters over six years, while just one apiece came out of a debut at Arlington, Fair Grounds, Laurel, Presque Isle and Remington.


5. It’s one thing to identify when Derby contenders debut, and another to note when they tend to break their maiden and emerge as horses to watch. We’ll delve into that more on Thursday.

 

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About the Derby Radar

New for the 2019 Kentucky Derby trail, Horse Racing Nation's Derby Radar seeks to identify promising maiden, allowance and even stakes winners who could target points-paying preps next out. We'll cover the buzz horses, of course, then using a systematic approach based on past years' Derby contenders identify other talented colts moving up the ladder.

Did we miss one? Email editor Jonathan Lintner (jlintner@horseracingnation.com) if you know of a horse that should be on the radar.


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