Derby Details 2021 Edition 13

Aerial view of 5/8-mile training track at Berkley Farm: Susquehanna River in the distance

Derby Details 2021 Edition 13

What a Difference an Hour Makes

by Tom Carley

March 31, 2021

They say the Kentucky Derby is the “fastest two minutes in sports”.  The measurement of time for the 2021 Kentucky Derby seems to have expanded from two minutes to an hour.  I specifically refer to the dinner hour last Saturday from 6 PM to 7 PM Eastern Daylight Time.  Within that hour there were two Derby prep races (covered in detail later in the column) with the outcomes greatly changing the fortunes of a trainer who has two Kentucky derby wins to his credit.  

Todd Pletcher had a rough start to 2021 with respect to his 3-year-olds.  Derby preps kept running and Todd Pletcher had proved to be of little importance.  Unlike years past, where he shipped horses to Louisiana and Arkansas, most prep races have been run without a Pletcher entrant.   Those horses Pletcher entered finished up the track and it appeared at 5:59 PM that Pletcher might be watching the Kentucky Derby from his television— just like most of us. Fast forward 61 minutes and Pletcher not only had won his 6th Florida Derby, but he also now had not 1, but 2 horses that will be in the Kentucky Derby after Sainthood closed to run 2nd in the Jeff Ruby Stakes.  What a wonderful hour it was for the Toddster and this is an example of the wonderful time of year that it is.

Leaderboard

There are 4 weeks left until the Derby.  The final Kentucky Derby prep races will be held over the next 2 weekends.  We are seeing a mad dash for points unlike any Derby since the new point system was put in place.  This was accentuated when 4 spots were taken by horses in Saturday’s prep races.

This leaderboard update will keep you informed.

Horses already in:

Known Agenda

Like the King

Hot Rod Charlie

Midnight Bourbon

Greatest Honour

Concert Tour

Mandaloun

Helium

Weyburn

Essential Quality

Soup and Sandwich

Sainthood

La Proverb (Japanese qualifier)

Proxy

Medina Spirit (European Qualifier)

Horses in good shape to qualify:

Horse

Hidden Stash           (22 points)  

Hozier                       (20 points) 

Crowded Trade       (20 points) 

Keepmeinmind       (18 points)   

Risk Taking              (10 points)    

Next Race

Blue Grass Stakes

Santa Anita Derby

Wood Memorial

Blue Grass Stakes

Blue Grass Stakes

Horses in trouble:

O Besos            (25 points) 

Rombauer        (14 points)   

Capo Kane       (12 points)   

None

Needs to run 3rd in Santa Anita Derby

Needs to run 2nd in Wood Memorial

Weekly Developments

Big Lake, who ran third in Rebel Stakes was taken off the Derby trail with an injury. 

Prevalence will run in the Wood Memorial.  The horse has 0 Derby points and would have to run 2nd in order to make the field.  This would be the fourth Godolphin owned horse to make the field.

Tarantino will make his next start on 7 days rest in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Untreated, trained by Todd Pletcher, broke his maiden March 6 with an 86 Beyer Speed rating and will try the Wood Memorial.  He has no Derby points and would have to win or run 2nd to earn enough points to get in the field.  He could be the 3rd Todd Pletcher trained horse in the field.

Candy Man Rocket will run in the Wood Memorial after originally targeting the Arkansas Derby.

Hush of a Storm scratched from the Jeff Ruby Stakes  and will now run in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Rebel’s Romance could come to Louisville and be the fourth Godolphin owned horse.  He looked very good getting 9 ½ furlongs in the UAE Derby.

Next week I will recap the riding assignments.  The number of available jockeys is rapidly diminishing.

Trainers Get to Double The Fun

With the upsets of Saturday afternoon, we now have a situation in which the Kentucky Derby will be controlled by a small group of trainers. At least 4 trainers who will have multiple horses in the race.  

Todd Pletcher Known Agenda, Sainthood

Brad Cox Essential Quality, Mandaloun

Mark Casse Helium, Soup and Sandwich

Bob Baffert Medina Spirit, Hozier (possible), Spielberg (doubtful)

Chad Brown has the chance to enter this group as he has 2 horses with at least 10 points and 1 prep race left.

Combine this with the fact that Godolphin, as an owner, could have 4 horses in the field and you have certain “power” groups for the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, the trainers all train for different owners. So contrary to what one St. Louis sports radio host tried to tell me with regards to Nick Zito’s 5 Derby horses in the 2005, Kentucky Derby trainers will not sacrifice the performance of 1 horse to benefit another.  Barns do get some benefit from running multiple horses on a big race day card.  The staff and barn visitors are not all standing around 1 horse, and the activity throughout the barn lessens the nerves of a horse running in the feature race. 

Three weeks ago it looked like Bab Baffert might have 5 horses in the field.  Now, he will have company with multiple entrants.

Recap of Prep Races

Last week 3 major 100-point Derby prep race were held.

UAE Derby

The UAE Derby was run at Meydan in Dubai.   The race featured a couple of horses that had hit the board in local prep races.  American trainers have sent horses to Dubai to get points in the UAE Derby to gain entry into the Kentucky Derby with some level of success.   However, there were a number of horses from Europe that had good credentials including 2 fillies.  The race was dominated by Godolphin owned Rebel’s Romance who was sent off at odds of 13 to 1.  He made one solid move as the field turned for home and won drawing away.  The favorite, Panadol, ran 2nd.  None of the American horses were a threat as none of these horses earned points. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfzUdg4khJI

Takeaways from the race:

  • Rebel’s Romance was the 3rd Godolphin horse who has earned enough points for entry into the Kentucky Derby.  Trainer Charles Appleby stated a decision would be made in the next 10 days.
  • It is doubtful any other horses will come to the Kentucky Derby from this race.
  • The last five winners of this race have run in the Kentucky Derby.

Florida Derby

The Florida Derby was run at Gulfstream Park.   The race featured Greatest Honour who had won both local prep races, the Holy Bull and the Fountain of Youth. He also was considered by many to be among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.  Other entrants had points, but all other horses needed to run well to secure enough points to get in the Kentucky DerbySoup and Sandwich contested Collaborate for the early lead.  This ensured a quick pace which Known Agenda was able to overcome with a good stretch move.  Greatest Honour did not show that strong kick he had displayed in his past 2 races and struggled to get up for third place. Here’s that fast-paced G1 $750K race video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7eSAdYoQ3I

Takeaways from the race:

  • Known Agenda became Todd Pletcher’s sixth Florida Derby winner.  The way he rated and won the race makes him a horse that will get attention in Louisville.
  • Soup and Sandwich answered the question of whether he could run well in a big race.  He becomes the second Derby horse for trainer Mark Casse who also trains Helium. 
  • Greatest Honour will still be one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby.  However, he did show some flaws that had not been exposed since his 2-year-old year.  I do think he will struggle in a deep field as he will have to wind his way through tiring horses.
  • Collaborate was not as fast a horse on the front end as many thought.When he did not get alone on the lead, it caused real problems for him, which he was not able to overcome.
  • The first 3 finishers all have announced they will be coming to Louisville to race in the Kentucky Derby.

Jeff Ruby Stakes

The Jeff Ruby Stakes was run at Turfway Park.   The race featured the top finishers of the local prep.  The race had a lot of interesting twists.  The winner of the local prep, Hush of A Storm, had to scratch and will run next week.  The only real speed horse Tarantino stumbled out of the gate and will also run next week.  When it was all said and done, Like the King escaped a bump in the stretch and won.  Sainthood made a huge stretch run to close for second with a bold move. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nk_m83r3Fhs

Takeaways from the race:

  • Hush of a Storm will get to answer the question of whether he can run well on dirt next week. 
  • Sainthood made a late closing move that was very impressive.  
  • Like the King showed the runner up in the local prep was not a fluke.  He can run a race in which he lays off the speed horses and make one run to win a race.
  • Gretzky the Great showed he has not improved since last year when he won a grade 1 race.  
  • Both winner and runner up will be going to the Derby.

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