Race of the Week 2017

Will Two Preps be Enough for Shanghai Bobby?

Shanghai Bobby wins 2012 Champagne.
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese


Anything and everything can change on the road to the Kentucky Derby in the blink of an eye. Right now however, the 2013 trail for Shanghai Bobby seems to have been decided. Its name is Gulfstream Park. Specifically, all signs point to only two preps. The first is will be the G3 Holy Bull Stakes followed by the meet's feature race, the G1 Florida Derby.

Analyzing this route without pointing out the difference between the old qualification system versus the new one is impossible. So, let’s start right there. If this were last year Shanghai Bobby would already be a lock for a qualifying position in the 2013 Kentucky Derby. That was when graded stakes earnings did all the talking. Based on how much he’s already been awarded his spot could only be scratched in two different ways; a decision by his connections or an untimely and unfortunate set back. However, that qualifying system is out. 
Since this is the inaugural year for the points system we unfortunately don’t have a single a year to compare Shanghai Bobby’s traveled path and upcoming journey to. Instead, we can only speculate on what decisions his connections will make if things don’t go as planned. Right now Shanghai Bobby is in the driver’s seat with 20 Points. Leading all Juvenile’s is very comfortable but there’s still speculation on how many more points he’s going to need.
I don’t have any uncertainty about how much fun the 2013 Prep season is going to be. While it’s going to be exciting to see our hopefuls travel through these uncharted waters it might also drive me nuts because I can’t wait to find out how many points will earn that final post position. For now your guess is as good as mine so for the purpose of the scenarios I’m going to roll out let’s just say that it’s somewhere between 40 to 50 points.
The points system is structured into 4 separate series’ or categories. The first, known as the Kentucky Derby Prep Season, is active right now and will remain in play until the Risen Star Stakes on February 3. Therefore, first through fourth place finishers in the Holy Bull will also earn points on the scale of 10-4-2-1. As for the Risen Star Stakes the points increase to 50-20-10-5 up until the Louisiana Derby. This is where the Major Derby Preps are raced. Things will heat up inside the second leg of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series because this is when the biggest points will also be awarded - 100-40-20-10.
From the assumption that Todd Pletcher and Starlight Racing Stable are targeting only the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby then here are the point totals that he could score. Keep in mind that a win in the Florida Derby should be considered an automatic qualifier so that has been removed from any of the scenarios below.
1st in the Holy Bull
+ 2nd or 3rd place finish in the Florida Derby = 70 or 60 points
Conclusion: Qualifier
Holy Bull 2nd, 3rd or 4th place finish
+ 2nd place in the Florida Derby = 64, 62 or 61 points
Conclusion: Qualifier
Holy Bull 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place finish (or worse)
+ 3rd place Finish in the Florida Derby = 44, 42 or 41 points (or 40 points)
Conclusion: On the Bubble
1st in the Holy Bull
+ 4th place finish in the Florida Derby = 40 points
Conclusion: On the Bubble
Anything less than what was mentioned above means trouble because the total will be less than 40 points. I’ve heard speculation that 40 points will get you in but for some reason I’m finding that to be too low. If so, the last scenario could also leave Shanghai Bobby out and a Wild Card race, The Derby Trial or Lexington Stakes, would have to be used if Pletcher determines that the Kentucky Derby is still the goal.
Let’s break these scenarios down a little further. Again, this is all based on the assumption that Shanghai Bobby will skip the first leg of the Championship Series after the Holy Bull Stakes and not race again until the Florida Derby.
My conclusion is that if Shanghai Bobby shows rust in the Holy Bull Stakes and doesn’t win then no one should be overly concerned. He’s still in good hands and will have plenty of time to recover. However, Todd Pletcher may have to make a revised decision on Bobby's next race. Waiting for the Florida Derby will be long, his ranking will drop and a lot more pressure will be added. Before the Major Preps begin there will be several derby contenders closing in on 20 points or passing that total. This is why Todd Pletcher may choose to add another race between the Holy Bull and Florida Derby. It may be a wise decision and an attempt to score more assurance points before the Major Prep season begins.  
This is why a win in the Holy Bull will be very important and worth more than some might be estimating. It will bring him to 30 points and protect the two prep plan. Todd Pletcher will also benefit because it will give him more time and breathing room to prepare for the Florida Derby.
As we’ve seen time and time again a horse that may look the best in the Major Preps doesn’t always have the ability to find that form again in the Kentucky Derby. In fact, it’s become obvious that a horse that finishes close behind the winner in those races has a very probable chance of finding another gear the next time out. This is why I believe that if Shanghai Bobby wins the Holy Bull and comes back to duel to no worse than 3rd in the Florida Derby he should still be considered a top 5 contender. Qualification will be secured and he will have his chance to become the best 3-yr-old in the world.
Finally, there’s one thing that trumps all of this. It has everything to do with the veterans that are handling Shanghai Bobby. Something that I have always admired about the sport is the top trainers and owners and how they operate. All of these scenarios could be null and void in an instant because they’re always thinking way ahead. Probably further ahead than we give them credit for. Although the qualification system has changed, the way in which Todd Pletcher is handling his colt’s path towards May remains the same. He’s prepared to send Shanghai Bobby to the Kentucky Derby on the trail that was devised originally but he’s always prepared to reroute if necessary. If he isn’t pleased with what he sees then I would say that such an occurrence is still standard business for him and Starlight Racing. The Florida Derby is more important than the Holy Bull and the Kentucky Derby is always the ultimate goal. Getting there is something that they are good at. So, without putting their horses in harm’s way, they will be ready to accomplish that feat and put their star Juvenile’s in the best possible position to win.  
There's also the likelyhood that nothing in 2013 will turn out the way I'm thinking that it might. But, that's only part of the wild ride to the Kentucky Derby. It should be a blast so hang on for what could be a dynamic journey for Shanghai Bobby and all of the other Kentucky Derby contenders. 


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Older Comments about Will Two Preps be Enough for Shanghai Bobby?...

Kay, you're correct. Jackson Bend had three prep races before the KY Derby; all three were graded stakes races, and he finished third in all three of them. JB and Shack were gutsy hard-knocking horses, and it's these stallions that we need to breed our mares to. Our sport is in desperate need of some new, sound genes.
Flordaf, I believe that Jackson Bend, who along with Shack is notable for his soundness in recent years, also had at least three preps before his Derby. He also had a long nice career. Buackpasser, what Nerud says makes sense to me. Makes me hope that both Jackson Bend, Shack, Musket Man, Musketier, and others who proved to have long sound careers in recent years get huge books of high quality mares!!!
The lack of racing preps is the reason according to Johnny Nerud is why we have so many unsound horses that barely make it through their three year old season. Nerud then goes on to say that you breed a horse that has only run a handful of times to a mare that has the number or less starts and you get a horse that is able to race even less. Horses in the past raced far more. It was not uncommon to have at least four major stakes preps with some allowance races thrown in as well. I have always felt that BArbaro and others started this trend towards less starts with long stretches between them.
I think you may be on to something, Kay. Remember Shackleford last year? He had 3 prep races, albeit one was an allowance race, before the KY Derby. He then went on to race a total of 10 times last year, including all 3 legs of the TC, as well as many summer and fall's big races.
I would often pick up tongue ties in the winner's circle that were blood tinged all the time. It's NOT unusual...sound like old Tom Jones singing.
and they used to run in the Derby prep a week before the big race...My how the breed has fallen...COULD DRUGS be the causation or a weak mind set in the trainers/owners?
in that pic of bobby is that blood around his mouth
I really wonder about the trend recently for only two Derby preps. Sure, you get a fresh horse for the Derby itself, but it seems like many colts simply cannot compete in all three of the Triple Crown races anymore, or become injured during the course of training and competing in those three long races in that short time span. I really think the two prep race trend might be adding to the injuries among the leading three year olds, as many of them are simply not physically fit enough or experienced enough to make it through three very tough races so close together in time. Most of them have not even run in three shorter easier two year old races in five weeks - much less the three longest and hardest races most of them will ever run. trainers have to get beyond thinking about only the Derby and start thinking of getting their colts ready for ALL THREE races if we are to ever see another TC winner.
I'm going to say no to Shanghai Bobby. If he wins the Florida Derby, I might become slightly interested, but I won't forget Gemologist.
Which was my point in a round about way. I said last year that the fields for the Sam F. Davis and TB Derby were by far the weakest fields of KY Derby prep races. I anticipate that that will be true in 2013, as well.
You don't want your trip to be too easy or you might be embarassed down the line.
That is true. I think by far the easiest road to the KY Derby is through Tampa Bay.
There is no one RIGHT road to the first Saturday in May, only the one that works
The other factor is the rest of the soon to be 3-year old crop. If they take turns beating each other, then things could get interesting. But if you have one or two that consistently beat the rest, then we'll have a clearer idea of who's in and who's not in.
Exactly, Floridaf. As I said in my first, lengthy comment above; SB may not need to run in any of the 100 point races in order to get into the Derby gate.
Of course, the other thing to keep in mind is that Shanghai Bobby might run in the Fountain of Youth rather than the Florida Derby.
Churchill Downs is estimating that it'll take 40 points to get into the Kentucky Derby. If he wins out, two prep races will be plenty considering that he already has accumulated some points.
Thanks for making the correction, HRN.
There has to be some quality control as the field is littered often with owners who just want their colt's named called ONCE in the big race.
Here is another chart of the point system races set out in a different and simple format. It takes a bit of study to grasp the new system, but each level is important. http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/racing-news/2012/06/14/points-based-system-will-determine-kentucky-derby-field.aspx

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