Race of the Week 2017

50 Points or Bust

With the advent of the new Kentucky Derby point system, get ready for near misses, sure things and surprises.

First before we take any steps into the future Derby starting gate, let's agree that the likely cut off point for making the Run for the Roses will be 50 points. How do we arrive at 50 points? The final 15 races in Churchill's new plan give either 50 or 100 points for winning horses. If there are no repeat winners in this group of races (and with the way trainers run, or more specifically don't run their Derby hopefuls), then they'll be 15 different horses owning the top 15 winning scores of 100 or 50 points. This leaves room for five more Thoroughbreds, who I think will come from those already earning 10 points or more at this point in the road.

Unlike Orb, who had no Derby points until his first place Fountain of Youth finish, there are several horses from Shanghai Bobby's 24 points to the gridlock of horses at 10 points each that could reach the 50-point plus club with second through fourth place finishes through this first leg of the championship series (20, 10, 5 points respectively) and then earn 40 points for a second-place finish in the second leg, thus finding their way into the Derby gate with more than 50 points. 

In fact, the early point-getters from either their two-year seasons or early in their three-year-old year have just enough of cushion to get in with a little room to spare. It's highly likely that Goldencents, 24 points; Code West, 20 points; Oxbow 16 points and Speak Logistics, 11 points will get in if they hold form. Goldencents is scheduled to have two more starts and has a definitive upper hand in getting in with second place finishes in the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby. Oxbow has one more scheduled shot at redemption and needs at least a second place finish in his final prep, which is likely to be the Louisiana Derby. Code West could run out the Oaklawn prep series with starts in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby.

The biggest surprise, thus far, is 135-1 shot, Ive Struck a Nerve, who nailed Code West on the line in the Risen Star Stakes. Regardless of his next performance I say the Keith Desmoreaux-trainee makes the Derby gate, under my starting gate thesis, with a score of 51. This probable one-hit-wonder will likely keep out horses like Uncaptured, who will probably need the Tampa Bay Derby as a conditioning race and will finish less than first and/or a horse like Will Take Charge, who failed to contend in the Southwest Stakes and needs any points he can get wherever he runs next. 

The most intriguing decisions of this somewhat complicated Derby equation will rest with trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, who have multiple horses running at multiple tracks. If any of their numerous contenders has a misstep both Baffert and Pletcher will have to enter multiple entries in races like the Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida Derbies or the Wood and Blue Grass Stakes. This is easier said then done and places the dreams and hopes of one owner versus another. Competing stablemates can leave sour tastes in the losing connections' mouthes, figuring if the trainer trained well enough such situations would be avoided. A potential client disaster waiting to happen. 

Is the new point system better? Who knows, but there are always unintended consequences to changes in any system. It's obvious that Churchill wanted to place greater emphasis on current form of three-year-olds by providing the highest possible points on the prep races closest to the Big Dance. In graded stakes earnings days, a couple of big two-year-old wins were a lock for horses who failed to continue their good form the following year - think Gourmet Dinner. Remember him?


And as the plight of Violence reminds us, injuries along the way will play a huge roll in reshuffling the Derby deck. So stay tuned and plugged in for this road to Derby greatness, the ride is about to get bumpy. 


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Older Comments about 50 Points or Bust...

El Bakan
Sorry Charismatic was 4th in SA Derby in second to last start before Derby
owner: Estéban Rodriguez Tizol
I sincerely doubt it
The same Perez who won it with Bold Forbes?
This system will keep out those fat cats who just want to hear their colt's name mentioned once and can boast about it. Recall a fellow from Central America, named Perez, who did that all the time cluttering up the filed.
tony bada bing, As t_v notes above, Charismatic won the 1999 Lexington Stakes and did so in record time--1:41 or 1:41.06 depending upon the source. http://www.keeneland.com/sites/default/files/shared/mediaguide/main/Lexington-Coolmore.pdf
nope won the Lexington on the way to the big race. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1683&dat=19990419&id=13UaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Oy8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=2620,8164693
Although CDI's own original estimate was 40 points; today Steve Haskin of BH has remarked in his Derby Dozen blog (comments section) that CD now is saying 30 (thirty) points may be the cut-off.
Andy, I think if we look historical top finishers at the Derby finish in the money in their final preps. You'll know better than me, but I believe Charistmatic, finished fourth in his last prep, Lexington Stakes and oh yea, Mind that Bird. Floridaf, agree about purses but with almost meaningless preps like Delta Jackpot, $450,000 in two-year-old season a horse had wrapped up a start much earlier.
Winning the preps puts you in the best situation.....good point about the connections, it will be disappointing for many owners of TP and BB when their own barn is sealing their horses fate......
The one thing that really has not changed is the ability for a one hit wonder to make the field. Last year, all a horse had to do was win one race that had a big enough purse, and they were in. This year, if you can win one of the 100 point races, then you're probably in. Ive Struck a Nerve might very well be that longshot, but I'm interested to see how he does next out. Evidently, the trainer changed his running style, and it worked out for the best.
Last year the top 4 finishers in the Derby won their prep race--IHA (Santa Anita Derby 100), Bode (Ark Derby 100), Dullahan (Blue Grass 100), Went the Day Well (Spiral 50). That is, of course, based on this year's new point system.

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