Guide to Saturday's pair of 2021 Kentucky Derby preps

Guide to Saturday's pair of 2021 Kentucky Derby preps
Photo: Ted McClenning/Eclipse Sportswire

We will know the top 20 3-year-olds in line to make the 2021 Kentucky Derby by Saturday night.

The final two points-paying Kentucky Derby prep races are on tap for this afternoon. Keeneland hosts the $200,000 Lexington Stakes (G3), which awards Derby points on a 20-8-4-2 basis, while Oaklawn Park offers the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), a 100-40-20-10 prep.

Thirty-four points is currently the minimum needed to make the top 20 of the Kentucky Derby standings, but that number could climb pending Saturday’s results. 

Here is a closer look at both the Lexington Stakes and Arkansas Derby. For more information on the Arkansas Derby, check out Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page.

Lexington Stakes, 5:30 p.m. EDT, Keeneland, TVG

Favorite Proxy (6-5) is the Lexington Stakes runner best positioned to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, although trainer Mike Stidham said the Tapit colt is “unlikely” to actually run for the roses May 1.

“He’s already run some big races in Louisiana,” said Stidham, referring to runner-up finishes in the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) and a fourth-place finish March 20 in the Louisiana Derby (G2). “We are hoping for another big effort and hopefully another step forward.”

Proxy enters Saturday with 34 points, putting him 20th in the Kentucky Derby standings.

The 1 1/16-mile Lexington would mark a first stakes win for Proxy, regardless of if he uses the race as a springboard to Churchill Downs. Jockey John Velazquez is at Keeneland this weekend and gets the mount.

Hockey Dad (8-1) sits 25th in the Kentucky Derby standings after earning 20 points March 27 with a third-place run in Turfway Park’s Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). The Nyquist colt will likely have to win the Lexington to qualify for the Derby field.

“We’ll see how Saturday goes,” Hockey Dad trainer Doug O’Neill told Keeneland’s notes team regarding a potential Kentucky Derby start.

Oaklawn Park allowance winner Swiftsure (5-1) makes his first start since January, while trainer Bob Baffert sends second-out Santa Anita maiden winner Bezos (8-1). Starrininmydreams (6-1) was off the board in both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby.

The last Lexington Stakes hero to win the Kentucky Derby was Charismatic in 1999 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Here is a look at the 2021 Lexington Stakes field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Noble Reflection (Richard Baltas, Javier Castellano), 15-1

2. Swiftsure (Steve Asmussen, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 5-1

3. Bezos (Bob Baffert, Drayden Van Dyke), 8-1

4. It’s My House (Bob Hess Jr., Umberto Rispoli), 30-1

5. Unbridled Honor (Todd Pletcher, Julien Leparoux), 10-1

6. Hockey Dad (Doug O’Neill, Mario Gutierrez), 8-1

7. Proxy (Mike Stidham, John Velazquez), 6-5

8. Ultimate Badger (Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie), 15-1

9. King Fury (Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez Jr.), 10-1

10. Starrininmydreams (Dallas Stewart, Luis Saez), 6-1

TimeformUS’ pace projections show Swiftsure going out to a lead under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., tracked closely by Noble Reflection. Favorite Proxy is projected to settle mid-pack early on.

Arkansas Derby, 7:41 p.m. EDT, Oaklawn Park, NBCSN and TVG

With Life Is Good off the trail and Medina Spirit upset last Saturday as the Santa Anita Derby (G1) favorite, Concert Tour looks like Baffert’s best Kentucky Derby hopeful. The Street Sense colt is the 1-1 favorite Saturday for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby.

Concert Tour is 3-for-3 for his young career, winner of both Santa Anita’s San Vicente Stakes (G2) and Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes (G2). He retains the services of hot jockey Joel Rosario.

Baffert also trains the second choice on the morning line in Hozier (3-1), who was runner-up to Concert Tour in the Rebel.

Concert Tour (50 points) and Hozier (20) rank 11th and 24th, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby points standings.

“I just feel fortunate that I have these two after losing Life Is Good,” said Baffert, who seeks a fourth official Arkansas Derby win. “It’s pretty tough, you know, but that’s why everything works itself out for the Derby. The horse will get you there.”

Only four other runners are lined up to face the Baffert duo. The shortest price of those is Caddo River (7-2), winner of the local Smarty Jones Stakes before finishing fifth in the Rebel.

Trainer Brad Cox has called for a more aggressive approach Saturday from jockey Florent Geroux.

“We’re just hoping that he can kind of get a little bit more of a forward run and maybe the jock drops his hands and kind of lets him do his thing and gets in a big rhythm and see if that works a little better than it did last time,” Cox said. “If it doesn’t, were in trouble – bottom line.”

Get Her Number (6-1) is the field’s lone Grade 1 winner, having taken Santa Anita’s American Pharoah Stakes (G1) last September, but was seventh in the Rebel. Super Stock (6-1) ran fourth in the Rebel and has not won since August.

American Pharoah in 2015 for Baffert was the last Arkansas Derby winner to also score in the Kentucky Derby. Country House was third in the 2019 Arkansas Derby, three weeks before stewards elevated him from second to first in Kentucky.

Here is a look at the 2021 Arkansas Derby field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Super Stock (Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr.), 6-1

2. Caddo River (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux), 7-2

3. Hozier (Bob Baffert, Martin Garcia), 3-1

4. Get Her Number (Peter Miller, Francisco Arrieta), 6-1

5. Concert Tour (Bob Baffert, Joel Rosario), 1-1

6. Last Samurai (Dallas Stewart, Jon Court), 15-1

TimeformUS’ pace projections show Concert Tour and Caddo River battling for the early lead.

Derby prep links

Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis go head-to-head handicapping the 2021 Arkansas Derby. Both writers pick a Bob Baffert exacta.

Ross and Tamulonis also offer a full-field rundown for the Lexington Stakes and make their picks. Both handicappers think runners with odds of 10-1 or greater can juice up the trifecta.

Reinier Macatangay handicaps both the Lexington Stakes and Arkansas Derby. In the Lexington, he lands on a couple of lightly raced 3-year-olds making stakes debuts as upset candidates.

This week on HorseCenter, hosts Matt Shifman and Brian Zipse reveal their Kentucky Derby top 10 lists and make Arkansas Derby picks.

Southern California-based trainer Richard Baltas has shipped Noble Reflection to Keeneland for the Lexington. Baltas spoke to Victor Ryan for an HRN Barn Tour, offering updates on Idol, Venetian Harbor and other of his stable’s standouts.

Baffert spoke with Ron Flatter about the 2021 Kentucky Derby picture. The six-time Derby winner praised Rock Your World’s Santa Anita Derby victory and said that, come May 1, “it could be one of those Giacomo years.”

Joel Rosario booted home Concert Tour and Hot Rod Charlie to Kentucky Derby trail victories last month on back-to-back weekends. Hot Rod Charlie trainer Doug O’Neill told Santa Anita’s communications team that Rosario is supposed to decide after the Arkansas Derby which one he will ride at Churchill Downs.

For Get Her Number, the Arkansas Derby represents a final shot at making the Kentucky Derby field. Trainer Peter Miller told Oaklawn Park’s notes team that he expects an improved performance as compared to a seventh-place Rebel Stakes finish.

A racing rarity will occur Saturday at Keeneland when Lexington favorite Proxy and half-sibling Micheline start in consecutive graded stakes for owner-breeder Godolphin. Micheline seeks a first Grade 1 score in the Jenny Wiley.

Other Saturday stakes

Courtesy of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, here is a look at other stakes action taking place Saturday across the U.S.

4:24 p.m. EDT – $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (G3), Keeneland, TVG

Steve Landers Racing’s 5-year-old Night Ops is slated to face four rivals in the 90th running of the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Javier Castellano, Night Ops will seek to improve off his third-place finish in a tough Essex Handicap on March 13 at Oaklawn. Tom Durant’s 7-year-old gelding Silver Dust was third in last September’s Alysheba Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs for trainer Bret Calhoun. 

5:49 p.m. EDT – $400,000 Oaklawn Mile, Oaklawn Park, TVG

Nine are slated to go in the Oaklawn Mile led by Allied Racing Stable’s and Spendthrift Farm’s By My Standards, a winner of three Grade 2 stakes races in 2020, and with career earnings of more than $1.8 million. Trained by Calhoun and ridden by Gabriel Saez, the 5-year-old By My Standards won last year’s Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Florida-bred Rushie, winner of last September’s Pat Day Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs for trainer Michael McCarthy, and the Cox-trained 4-year-old Wells Bayou, figure to be in the wagering picture. Wells Bayou, who won last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2), finished third in the Louisiana Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds in his first start of 2021. 

6:03 p.m. EDT – $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1), Keeneland, TVG

Trainer Chad Brown is shooting for his fourth consecutive Grade 1 Jenny Wiley for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The four-time Eclipse Award winner sends out Peter Brant, Mrs. M.V. Magnier and Mrs. Paul Shanahan’s Etoile, and Swift Thoroughbreds, Madaket Stables and Wonder Stables’ Tamahere. Etoile will be making her first start since winning the E.P. Taylor (G1) at Woodbine in October. Tamahere, winner of the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont Park in her U.S. debut in October, will be making her first start since finishing sixth in the Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar. Etoile and Tamahere will take on the challenge of race favorite Micheline, owned by Godolphin and trained by Mike Stidham, who opened the season with a win in the Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs, and finished second in last October’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland.

7:05 p.m. EDT – $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3), Oaklawn Park, TVG

Saturday’s six-furlong Count Fleet Sprint pits the nation’s top sprinters – Whitmore and C Z Rocket – in their third consecutive confrontation. Robert LaPenta, Southern Springs Stables and Head of Plains Partners’ 8-year-old gelding Whitmore defeated C Z Rocket, owned by Madaket Stables, Gary Barber and Tom Kagele, and trained by Peter Miller, in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland last November. Whitmore, who is co-owned and trained by Ron Moquett, was subsequently voted the Eclipse Award male sprinter trophy. The 7-year-old gelding C Z Rocket turned the tables on Whitmore in the six-furlong Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn on March 13, coming from last to overtake his rival by a neck. Seven will go to the post in the Count Fleet. The 9-5 favorite Whitmore will be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., and Florent Geroux will ride the 2-1 second choice C Z Rocket.

Top Stories

Baltimore   Pushed back 28 hours because of the me...
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit will start in...
Trainer Bob Baffert issued the following statement...
Baltimore A couple of trainers wondered how much l...
Baltimore While the sport of racing continues to d...