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Derby Details 2021 Edition 12

Morning “prep” run after breaking out of the training gate at Berkley Farm 5/8 mile track

Derby Details 2021 Edition 12

Hello Hundred Pointers

By Tom Carley

March 23, 2021

The 100-point Kentucky Derby prep races have begun.  The first of these races was held last weekend. Three more 100-point prep races are planned for this upcoming weekend.   The Kentucky Derby is 38 days from today.  This column will become your place to track the events and will allow you to keep track of who is in, who is out and how a horse on the outside gets into the race. 

This past week was a busy week with many events that will shape the field.  The article will focus on these important events. 


There are 5 weeks left until the Derby.  The remaining Derby prep races will be held over the next 3 weekends. This leaderboard update will keep you informed.

Horses already in:

Hot Rod Charlie

Midnight Bourbon

Greatest Honour

Concert Tour




Essential Quality

La Proverb (Japanese qualifier)


Medina Spirit (European Qualifier)

Horses in good shape to qualify:


Hidden Stash           (22 points) 

Hozier                        (20 points)

Crowded Trade       (20 points)

Keepmeinmind       (18 points)



Next Race



Wood Memorial

Arkansas Derby

Dubai World Cup against easier field

Horses that need one good performance:


Spielberg               (17 points)

Hozier                        (20 points)

Crowded Trade       (20 points)


Next Race

Florida Derby

Needs to run 3rd in Santa Anita Derby

Needs to run 2nd in Wood Memorial

Weekly Developments   

Life is Good, the favorite in the March Derby Futures Pool, was injured last Saturday during a workout sustaining a hind ankle chip and is now off the Derby Trail.  He will have surgery at Rood & Riddle in Lexington on March 26.

Helium (winner of the Tampa Bay Derby) will train straight up to the Kentucky Derby.  He will ship to Churchill Downs from his Florida base 3 weeks before the Derby.  This will give the horse 8 weeks off between his last start and the Kentucky Derby.

Prevalence, trained by Brandon Walsh and owned by Godolphin, won a $52,000 Allowance Optional Claiming race.  The barn then said he would look to making his next start in the Arkansas Derby or Wood Memorial.  The horse has 0 Derby points and would have to run 2nd in order to make the field.

Spielberg will be the Baffert nomad and will make his next start in the Florida Derby.  This did not change even after the injury to Life is Good.

Untreated, trained by Todd Pletcher, broke his maiden March 6 with an 86 Beyer Speed rating, and will try either the Blue Grass Stakes or Wood Memorial.  He has no Derby points and would have to win or run second to earn enough points to get in the field.

Hot Rod Charlie is returning to his California base today (3/23) and will train there up to the Kentucky Derby.

Midnight Bourbon  has shipped to Churchill Downs after the Louisiana Derby and will train there up to the Kentucky Derby.

Mandaloun disappointed his connections in the Louisiana Derby and is now being pointed to the Lexington held 3 weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

Watch to see what horse jockey Mike Smith chooses to ride.  I would imagine it would be a west coast horse.  

Recap of Prep Races

Last week the first 100-point Derby prep race was held.

Louisiana Derby

The Louisiana Derby was run at the Fairgrounds.   The race featured the 3 horses that had hit the board in the 2 previous Louisiana prep races.  This is a trend that has been seen more in the Fairgrounds prep races than other prep races where the top finishers in the New Orleans prep races ran well in the Louisiana Derby.   However, West Coast invader Hot Rod Charlie— who had a good resume after running second in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, but had only won one race in his six previous starts— changed tactics and took the lead right from the start of the race.  The pace was slow with a 47 second first half mile.  He held off Midnight Bourbon.  O Besos ran 3rd after he struggled in his previous graded start.  Favorite Mandaloun ran a distance 6th.  Here is a video that $1 million Gr 2 race:

Takeaways from the race:

  • Hot Rod Charlie did show he can get the 10 furlong distance.  He did change his running style, but is not fast enough to compete with other horses. 
  • Midnight Bourbon answered the major question that I had him for him, which was the distance.  
  • Proxy put on blinkers to try and focus more on racing.  He still acted erratic.  Watch this horse if he can mature in the next eight weeks.  He will be a big price in the Kentucky Derby.
  • Mandaloun really fell apart.  The barn is looking at running him between now and the Derby in order to get him back to his old form.

Distance change to become a “good” prep race

When I look at prep races, the Louisiana Derby has had the worst record for producing Kentucky Derby winners.  Only two horses have ever won both the Louisiana Derby and the Kentucky DerbyGrindstone was the last horse to do this 25 years ago.

I take my hats off to the Racing Office at the Fairgrounds.  They increased the race distance this year from 9 furlongs to 9½ furlongs.  The 2021 Louisiana prep races steadily increased from 8 ½ furlongs to 9 furlongs to 9 ½ furlongs.   Doing so does answer the distance questions of the horses.  However, the race is still six weeks out.  

Except for Proxy, I do not see this group of Fairgrounds horses being one that can make much impact in the Kentucky Derby.   However, it does appear I may be overestimating the effects of the 6-week delay: 5 winners of the Fairgrounds Oaks, the race for 3-year-old fillies, have won the Kentucky Oaks.

Time will tell if the new look Louisiana Derby will be a good prep race, but the new distance does add a new twist to Kentucky Derby handicapping.

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