For the first time in the history of one of the most iconic races for 3-year-olds, the Mid-Summer Derby lent its legacy to the Kentucky Derby by becoming an attractive stop on the trail that leads to Churchill Downs in 2020.
While the anticipation for the Travers Stakes was geared more toward the Kentucky Derby points leader and his final prep race, it also offered one last chance to qualify for a few starters that needed more points.
At the conclusion of the Travers Stakes, Tiz the Law emphasized his talent with a dominant performance. A new contender also surged into the top 20, while the final bid for an invitation to the Kentucky Derby ended without a ticket to Louisville for two starters.
Here is an updated look at the points picture ahead of the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.
Caracaro, 60 points
The son of Uncle Mo and his connections capitalized on an opportunity that no one could have imagined once he broke his maiden in January. But with circumstances like we've never seen before, it should come as no surprise that a late bloomer such as Caracaro is eligible to race in the Kentucky Derby. After finishing second in the Peter Pan and Travers, Caracaro is destined for Churchill Downs and another chance of upsetting Tiz the Law.
Tiz the Law, 372 points
What a year it's been for the son of Constitution. After securing his place in the top 20 with a win in the Holy Bull and Florida Derby, Tiz the Law returned to his home state of New York to reaffirm his status as the Kentucky Derby favorite. Adding wins in the Belmont Stakes and Travers elevates the expectations for the Kentucky Derby, but Tiz the Law and trainer Barclay Tagg look like they're ready.
Max Player, 60 points
The son of Honor Code is another horse that benefited from the revised Kentucky Derby date and schedule. The difference between Max Player and Caracaro is that Max Player was already on the radar before the Kentucky Derby was rescheduled. He first entered the conversation when he won the Withers Stakes in February, but we didn't get to see him race again until June. Although his connections had to overcome an alternate path to Louisville, they practically made it when Max Player delivered a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. His points total before the Travers probably would have been enough to qualify, but now there's no question about it as he climbs into the top 10 on the leaderboard with another third-place effort.
Country Grammer, 50 points
The son of Tonalist locked up his Kentucky Derby qualification with a win in the Peter Pan, but he gave up his momentum with a fifth-place finish in the Travers on Saturday. It's still an excellent rebound to be ranked safely inside the top 20 after his Kentucky Derby pursuit started with a disappointing effort in the Fountain of Youth. However, we should still expect Country Grammer to be a long shot in the Kentucky Derby on the heels of Saturday's performance.
Shivaree, 40 points
Assuming the connections for the son of Awesome of Course are going to push on, they will need their 3-year-old to make a massive improvement at a distance greater than 1 mile. Since finishing runner-up to Tiz the Law in the Florida Derby, Shivaree finished 11th in the Blue Grass Stakes and last in the Travers.
On the Bubble
Uncle Chuck, 20 points
Three-year-olds that became late arrivals on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard have been fun to watch as they took advantage of their second chance to qualify, but not all will make it in. After Uncle Chuck defeated Thousand Words in the Los Alamitos, it looked like we would see them face off again in the Shared Belief. However, Bob Baffert elected to send Uncle Chuck to Saratoga, where he finished sixth in the Travers.
There's still a chance that this son of Uncle Mo could end up in the top 20, but he's going to need a lot of help. Ranked at No. 24, Uncle Chuck will need a few horses ahead of him to opt out. A few possibilities are Rushie and Dean Martini, since they have not been nominated for the Triple Crown, and Swiss Skydiver, the filly that is destined for the Kentucky Oaks. He also will require the possible contenders from the international pool to decline an invitation to the Kentucky Derby. Finally, there are two races left on the points schedule, so there's always a chance his position on the leaderboard could fall further away from number 20.
South Bend, 18 points
When your horse is healthy, and the opportunity is there, trying to qualify for the Kentucky Derby is worth a shot. The connections for South Bend gave it a go in the Travers after a runner-up finish in the Ohio Derby, but he came up short in his quest to pull off a similar result. The Ellis Park Derby might have been a better spot to secure the additional points he needed, but it was still a valiant effort.
Also Worth Mentioning...
The Road to the Kentucky Derby continues Sunday afternoon when the trail shifts back to the Blue Grass State for the Ellis Park Derby. The Pegasus at Monmouth Park, the final race on the revised Kentucky Derby Series, is scheduled for next weekend.