Derby Details 2021 Edition 10
Fifty Ain’t Half a Hundred
by Tom Carley
March 10, 2021
Three Derby preps were held last weekend in which the winner received 50 Derby Prep points. The number 50 really has a definitive significance, but unlike other numbers, it does not mean a ranking or order, but rather it means a yes or no. Simply put, if you have 50 points, you are in the Derby.
The Kentucky Derby is not like hockey as there is no real benefit to having the most points. There is no trophy to the horse that has the most points. Just qualifying for the race is all that matters. Since all post positions are drawn randomly, there is no real incentive for the horses to be pushed once they reach 50 points. The connections can now plan their horse’s training and racing schedule without worry of race performance until May 1.
This also allows the trainers with multiple Derby prospects to give preferential placement to other horses in their barns who still need Derby points without effecting these 50-point earners.
There are 8 weeks left until the Derby. There are Derby prep races the next 5 weekends. Now is the time to begin looking at the leaderboard as horses have, at most, two more races to earn their way into the starting gate.
Horses already in:
Life Is Good
La Proverb (Japanese qualifier)
Horses in good shape to qualify:
Rebel Stakes, then Arkansas Derby
Dubai World Cup against easier field
Horses that need one good performance:
(14 points) (12 points)
Needs to run 3rd in Santa Anita Derby
Needs to run 2nd in Wood Memorial
All other horses need to finish first or second in the 100 point races.
Another aspect of the race worth looking at is the jockey situation. As of right now, the following jockeys appear to be linked to the following horses:
Life is Good
Medina Spirit (Probably) or Proxy
This leaves the following big name jockeys without a Derby mount:
Keep an eye on where these jockeys end up. This is always a subplot of the Derby story. I always give preference to a jockey who has historically done well at the Kentucky Derby in comparison to those jockeys which have never competed in the “Run for the Roses”. This will be discussed more in upcoming weeks.
Life is Good was the favorite in the March Derby Futures Pool which concluded last weekend. His odds of 2 to 1 were the lowest ever for any horse. Other notables were
Essential Quality 5 to 1
Greatest Honour 6 to 1
All other horses was the fourth choice at odds of 7 to 1.
This is only the fourth time that an individual horse was the favorite in the March Derby Future Pool. The other three favorites all lost the Kentucky Derby.
Proxy, who ran 2nd and 3rd in the two Fairgrounds prep races is now training in blinkers. Trainer Michael Stidham feels this will help keep him focused. He is one of my top 5 prospects.
Jackie’s Warrior is officially off the Derby Trail and is training for the Pat Day Mile.
Drain the Clock is off the Derby Trail to focus on sprinting races.
Recap of Prep Races
Last week there were three major prep races.
The Gotham Stakes was run last weekend at Aqueduct for a purse of $300K. The race appeared to be wide open with several major contenders all looking at sealing their spot in the Derby. However, the longest shot on the board, Weyburn, won the race at odds of 46 to 1. He made a closing sweeping move you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egrHvmnuOco. Trained by James Jerkens, he had never run farther than 7 furlongs before the race. Remember, this Grade III race was run at 1 mile so there still are some distance questions. The winner had not been previously nominated to the Triple Crown, but the connections indicated this would be done. Chad Brown trained both the 2nd and 3rd place finishers, Crowded House and Highly Motivated. Look for all three to come back and race in the Wood Memorial.
Takeaways from the race:
- Weyburn really must find a way to add stamina as he has to go another ¼ mile farther than he did Saturday in 8 more weeks. He will be hard to support in the Derby.
- Crowded Trade showed a lot of good characteristics in the race. This was only his second career race.
- Highly Motivated was making his first start since November. I do feel he can take a step forward, but wish he had two prep races instead of one to earn Derby points. He was ridden by Javier Castellano, who is still looking for his Derby mount.
San Felipe Stakes
The Grade 2 San Felipe was held Saturday at Santa Anita. The $400K purse race attracted a field of only 7 horses who combined had won only 10 races coming into this March race. As expected, Life is Good set the early pace and drew off to win by 8 lengths easily without ever being challenged. Disappointing was how he drifted out in the stretch to the 12 path from the rail. Jockey Mike Smith blamed it on the video board. Second was Baffert barn mate Medina Spirit while Dream Shake ran 3rd. Here’s the video of that romp for Life Is Good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ug1-vK-VK8.
Takeaways from the race:
Life is Good ran a huge race and earned a Beyer Speed figure of 107. This is 11 points higher than any Derby prep winner has earned this year. He is fast, but he still did not answer questions if he could rate behind a leader or if he had the stamina to get 10 furlongs.
- The California 3-year-old crop continues to appear weak except for the winner of this race.
- Johnny Velazquez took the mount on Medina Spirit, who had been ridden in all 3 career races by Abel Cedillo.
Tampa Bay Derby
The Tampa Bay Derby was run at Tampa Bay Downs. The Grade 2 race for $400K appeared to be wide open with various pace scenarios. The 41st running of the 11/16 mile competition featured 3 horses trained by Joseph Saffie, 2 trained by Todd Pletcher, and Bill Mott’s Candy Man Rocket who won the local prep race. The race had a very odd pace scenario as different horses vied for the lead. The Mark Casse trained Helium closed strongly and won coming off the pace at odds of 15 to 1. Hidden Stash ran second to hit the board in both Tampa prep races. This one really surprised me. Candy Man Rocket faded and ran 11th. Here is the visual: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpEB1d6ZMhc
Takeaways from the race:
- Helium continues his winning ways following up on two wins on the poly track at Woodbine as a 2-year-old. He answered the two turn test. He has enough points to run in the Derby and the connections indicated they would pay the supplemental fee of $6,000 to nominate him.
- Candy Man Rocket was very disappointing. No information from the barn has given a reason for his poor performance.
- This was the last race for the Tampa prep races. These horses will all go north to complete their final preparations and try to earn enough points to get into the Derby field.