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The Kentucky Derby Post

2017 Kentucky Derby: Score or Stay Home

On Saturday, Malagacy became the winner of the sixth 2017 Kentucky Derby qualification series race that awards 50 points to the victor. With that score, he also became another guaranteed qualifier, as that amount of points has always been more than enough to earn a spot in the field of twenty, since the points system first began.

Of the six winners thus far, two of them stood out as contenders prior to their score. Unfortunately, Mastery has since fallen off the Derby trail due to injury, so that leaves Gunnevera, winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes, as someone we expected to see in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Prior to that win, the son of Dialed In compiled 14 points with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot, and a runner-up finish in the Holy Bull. As for the other four winners, Malagacy, Girvin, Tapwrit and J Boys Echo, their performances may have been somewhat surprising or unexpected to a certain extent.

Something else that has been surprising over these last few weeks, is where we saw a few other horses finish. Unfortunately, for this list, they may have fallen from contender and demoted to pretender. The good news is that there’s still one more series that is worth even more points, so if a redo has been requested, they all are entitled to one more chance.

For all of these horses, they need to make it count, because they do not currently have enough points to be considered safe. Their Derby hopes rest on their next start in one of the seven 100 points races. The scoring in the next series is: 100-40-20-10, so for some of these hopefuls, a top three finish will be the safest way to qualify, whereas 10 more points may leave them on the bubble.

Risen Star – Fair Grounds Race Course

Kentucky Derby Qualifiers:  Girvin (50 points), Untrapped (34 points)

Guest Suite – Louisiana Derby: The son of Quality Road was on the Kentucky Derby radar in his juvenile season after he finished third behind McCraken and Baladeen in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. Where he really made headlines, however, was when he won his first graded stakes race, and scored his first qualifying points.

It came in the LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds. The track was muddy that day and Guest Suite was forced to go the extra distance as he rallied five wide through the slop. The ride by Robby Albarado was solid and Guest Suite looked like a potential Risen Star winner.

However, next time out, Guest Suite was caught racing too far back behind modest fractions out front. By the time he began his rally after the first half mile, from ninth place in an eleven horse field, he never had a chance at catching Girvin who took the lead at the top of stretch. Fourth place was the best he could do. The additional four points were helpful but for now, that amount will keep him on the outside looking in, and he will need to finish in the top three next time to guarantee himself a spot in the top 20. Another fourth place finish will bring his total to 24; enough points most often, but not in 2016.

Mo Town – Florida Derby: 2017 did not start out the way 2016 ended. In fact, it wasn’t even close. Trained by Anthony Dutrow, the son of Uncle Mo made a name for himself when he won the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct to finish his juvenile season. Unlike Guest Suite, however, his point total stood still after a fifth place finish in the Risen Star. Ten points is not enough to even make the bubble, so Mo Town will need to find his form and a top three finish next time out. Again, a fourth place finish may send him into the Derby field with 20 points, but until that can be confirmed, he will remain on the bubble.


Fountain of Youth – Gulfstream Park

Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Gunnevera (64 points), Practical Joke (34 points)

Irish Way Cry – Wood Memorial: The trip down to Florida for the winter started out wonderfully for Graham Motion when the son of Curlin won the Holy Bull Stakes after ending his 2016 season with a win in the Marylander Stakes at Laurel. Nothing went right in the Fountain of Youth, though. The result was a seventh place finish and 0 points. Similar to Mo Town, Irish War Cry is stuck on 10 points, so he will need a top 3 finish next time out if he wants to stay away from the bubble, and gain an entry into the Kentucky Derby.

Three Rules – Florida Derby:  There’s no doubt this colt had an excellent two-year-old season. However, because he was only entered in one points race, and it was the toughest one, Three Rules ended his opening season with 5 wins and 0 points.

Coming into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Three Rules was the undefeated visitor from Florida that had yet to enter a graded stakes race. The Jose Pinchin trainee, and son of Gone Astray, seemed like he was ready to go. He might have been, but this race was filled with young talent and speed, so maybe that is why Three Rules finished seventh.

His three-year-old campaign began with the Swale Stakes, another race that is not a part of the Kentucky Derby points series. His runner-up finish was a good start and proved to be a nice prep for the Fountain of Youth where he finished third. However, those were also the very first points he has scored, and ten is not enough. So, it’s all or nothing in the Florida Derby, where a top 3 finish will be required for a safe entry into the field of twenty, and a fourth place finish might give him a chance.


Gotham Stakes – Aqueduct

Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: J Boys Echo (50 points), (El Areeb 30 points)

Bubble watch: Cloud Computing (20 points)

The Gotham Stakes ended a four race win streak for El Areeb which included three stakes wins and 20 points. However, he was good enough to hold on to third place and he was awarded another 10 points for the effort. He has scored enough, and his qualification for the Kentucky Derby is secure. However, like a lot of these horses, his status as a contender can be questioned. The Wood Memorial will give the Cathal Lynch trained horse a chance to bounce back from a surprising third place finish last time out.


Tampa Bay Derby – Tampa Bay Downs

Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Tapwrit (50 points)

Bubble Watch: State of Honor (22 points), Wild Shot (17 points)

None of the Tampa Bay Derby starters stood out to me as probable Kentucky Derby contenders prior to the race. Therefore, after the race I can’t list any of the non-winners as horses that took a big step backwards. Instead, I think horses such as State of Honor, Wild Shot, and even No Dozing could make it into the Kentucky Derby field if they continue to make modest progressions. Their next step will have to be their biggest otherwise the best they could do is qualify but their chances of doing any damage will remain unlikely.


San Felipe Stakes – Santa Anita Park

Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: None 

Bubble Watch: Iliad (20 points)

Gormley – Santa Anita Derby: Technically, Gormley should be classified as on the bubble. In each year prior to 2016, 25 points was enough to qualify. However, last year it was not. So, Gormley is on the bubble right now, but I would not have believed it prior to the San Felipe Stakes for I thought third place would be his absolute worst outcome.

Fourth place, and only ten points, for the two-time graded stakes winner is what actually happened. However, of all of the horses that I have indicated here as those that took a step back in their last race, I rank Gormley as the leading candidate to bounce back the most aggressively next time out. In conclusion, regardless of his bubble status at the moment, Gormley will score again in the Santa Anita Derby and secure his spot as a Kentucky Derby starter. 


Rebel Stakes – Oaklawn Park

Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Malagacy (50 points), Untrapped (34 points)

Bubble Watch: Sonneteer (20 points)

Lookin at Lee: This horse trained by Steve Asmussen has been on the radar since the juvenile season. Things started when the son of Lookin at Lucky won the Ellis Park Juvenile. Following that win he would finish runner-up to a pair of serious contenders; Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes and Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity.

Then it was on to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he would score again when he finished fourth. In his opening act of the 2017 season Lookin at Lee did what he always did in Kentucky Derby qualification races; score but not win. This time it was the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. The third place finish was a nice prep for the Rebel but then something happened that we haven’t seen yet when Lookin at Lee didn’t score any points at all.

After his sixth place finish in the Rebel, Lookin at Lee only has 12 points. It’s hard to believe considering he has scored in four different races but that is where he stands. Therefore, a better effort and more points are required next time out. Nothing is official but it is safe to assume the decision for his connections will be between the Blue Grass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby.

Uncontested: It may have only been 1 point but when you score it at Churchill Downs behind a horse like McCraken it can still put you on the radar. If that didn’t do it for you, Uncontested made himself more visible with a win in the Smarty Jones. However, an eighth place finish in the Rebel leaves him at 11 points. So, it’s score or stay home next time out. It has not been confirmed but I would guess that the Arkansas Derby will be the race, if Wayne Catalano chooses to send him back for a final qualification race.

Royal Mo: This John Sherriffs trainee didn’t do much in his two-year-old season, but he made his mark on the Kentucky Derby trail when he won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. That was a step in the right direction but a ninth place finish in the Rebel didn’t help at all. Instead, it is most likely that we will see him next in the Santa Anita Derby, against a very tough field, including his stablemate Gormley.

American Anthem: The post time favorite flopped in the Rebel Stakes. After a runner-up finish to Gormley in the Sham Stakes, the son of Bodemeister slipped in the starting gate and never rebounded. No injuries were reported so his Derby dreams are still alive. Like the rest of the field, I cannot confirm where Bob Baffert will send him next, but I would guess that the Arkansas Derby is still the plan. Either way, points are needed if this Kentucky Derby hopeful wants to make it into the top 20. 


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About Me

Meet Bryan Brinkmeyer – Chicago, IL


Growing up across the river from the Bluegrass State I was able to spend a lot of summer days at Ellis Park, Henderson, KY. 


In the spring of 2000, I made my inaugural Kentucky Derby appearance and the tradition continues because there is no other city in the racing world like Louisville, KY on Derby Day. 


Although the story of a Kentucky Derby winner is legendary, a champions trail is what The Kentucky Derby Post is all about. The coverage begins when Juvenile season starts and continues until the field is set, the picks are in and the roses are awarded. 



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Racing's 12th Triple Crown Winner

First Grand Slam Champion

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