Saturday was jam-packed with activity on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby. As we drew even closer to the first Saturday in May, there was plenty of action on the leaderboard as well in three of the most prestigious Kentucky Derby prep races.
A familiar name has returned to the top of the leaderboard, and several others broke through and stamped their tickets to Churchill Downs. Let's jump in and analyze who's in, out or on the bubble by running down the changes prompted by this weekend's results.
Essential Quality, 140 points
The son of Tapit, trained by Brad Cox, is still perfect. By scoring another win in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2), after winning the Southwest Stakes (G3) last time time out, he enters the Kentucky Derby with five career wins in as many starts, a feat that could earn him the choice of becoming the Kentucky Derby’s morning-line favorite. As the new points leader, Essential Quality also will look to become the first Kentucky Derby winner that started in the Blue Grass Stakes since Street Sense in 2007 and the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to wear the roses since Nyquist in 2016.
Weyburn, 60 points
By winning the Gotham Stakes (G3) and paying the late Triple Crown nomination fee, the son of Pioneerof the Nile already was headed to the Kentucky Derby. After finishing fourth in the Wood Memorial, however, that momentum took a step back on Saturday.
Rock Your World, 100 points
All it takes is one big race at this stage of the Kentucky Points Series to earn your way into the top 20. In his first career race on dirt, first graded stakes and first points contest, Rock Your World is now probable for the Kentucky Derby after winning the Santa Anita Derby.
Bourbonic, 100 points
Heading into the Wood Memorial, the son of Bernardini didn't have a racing history that looked like he belonged in the Kentucky Derby conversation. After laying down his best race yet, however, this Calumet Farm homebred is scheduled for Churchill Downs and an improbable chance at the roses. For trainer Todd Pletcher, it is the second win in two weeks after he followed up a nice win with Known Agenda in the Florida Derby (G1) with his sixth career win in the Wood Memorial (G2).
Medina Spirit, 74 points
While some 3-year-olds catapulted into the top 20 by starting in just one race, others had to secure their spot by starting in several points races. Medina Spirit has had a fantastic 3-year-old season even before entering the Santa Anita Derby (G1), but he didn't have enough points to safely make it into the Kentucky Derby field. By finishing second over the weekend, though, the Bob Baffert trainee has moved off the bubble and into the top 10.
Highly Motivated, 50 points
It hasn't turned out to be the 3-year-old season that many may have expected so far, but Highly Motivated still has done enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He did it without winning, so trainer Chad Brown is still looking to return to the winner's circle with the son of Into Mischief for the first time since his juvenile season. He bobbled at the start in the Gotham and gave way to Essential Quality in the final furlong of the Blue Grass Stakes, so if it’s going to come in the Kentucky Derby, he will have to deliver a top-level effort from gate to wire.
Dynamic One, 40 points
Crowded Trade, 40 points
Both contenders slipped into the top 20 by finishing second and third in the Wood Memorial. They are safe this week at numbers 18 and 19 on the leaderboard, but that could change next weekend. With only two points races remaining, their connections will closely watch the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes and see whether Dynamic One or Crowded Trade can hang on to their places in the standings.
On the bubble
Rombauer, 34 points
Hidden Stash, 32 points
Dream Shake, 30 points
All three hopefuls could still make the also-eligible list or possibly make it into the starting gate. Next weekend's results will influence their destiny, but so will the coming weeks' decisions. If any connections opt to wait for the Preakness and bypass the Kentucky Derby, it would help their chances since they need any help they can get at this stage.
Defunded, 10 points
The Bob Baffert trainee took a shot and finished a respectable fourth in his first graded stakes race.
Next Saturday will conclude the 2021 Kentucky Derby qualification series with one of the largest points payout races, the Arkansas Derby, and the Lexington Stakes, a wild card race that is represented with fewer points and serves as a final bid to earn more points to qualify.