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Derby Details 2021 Edition 14

On the inside looking out—off to the track on the Berkley Farm van!

Derby Details 2021 Edition 14

Suddenly on the Outside Looking In

By Tom Carley

April 6, 2021

The Kentucky Derby prep races of the past two weeks have delivered a series of upsets unlike anything seen since the Kentucky Derby point system was put in place.  This caused a dramatic shakeup in the list of the top 18 horses ranked by the most qualification points.  Just 2 weeks ago, it looked like 25 points would be enough to get a horse into the field. However, today the 21st horse on the list has 40 points.  Historically it has taken around 25 points to safely get into the field.   

There are 2 prep races left which will be held this Saturday: Arkansas Derby and Lexington.  The Arkansas Derby offers points in 100-40-20-10 format while the Lexington only offers 20 points to the winner.  Entries close for both races on Tuesday.  

Horses that I reported here a few weeks ago were safe because they had over 30 points, now find themselves on the outside looking in.  The connections of many of these horses are deciding whether to enter one of the remaining two Derby preps or wait for the Preakness.  For those making one last try this weekend, they have begun dealing with all the logistics necessary to run in a race (entries, travel, moving of equipment & help, etc.) being held this weekend.  

These barns no longer have the luxury of structuring rest periods and workouts with the Kentucky Derby as the sole goal.  The barns now must consider the effects of an unexpected prep race on their horse.  Without going into detail, this effected Palace Malice in 2013 when he suddenly had to run in the Arkansas Derby to earn points for the Derby.  He was a tired horse in the Derby and sprinted off to the early lead before tiring.  Five weeks later, when properly rested, he won the Belmont Stakes.  I tell people that is my biggest error as a handicapper.    


There are 3 weeks left until the Derby.  The final Kentucky Derby prep races will be held this weekend. We will then know how many points each Derby contender has. 

This leaderboard update reflects the recent upsets.

Horses already in who have indicated they would enter the Derby with points in parenthesis:

Essential Quality        140

Hot Rod Charlie          110

Like the King               104

Known Agenda           102

Rebel’s Romance       100     Godolphin might not bring this horse to the Derby.

Rock Your World        100

Bourbonic                    100

Greatest Honour          80

Medina Spirit                74 

Midnight Bourbon       66

Weyburn                        60          Might wait for Belmont Stakes

Mandaloun                    52

Concert Tour                 50

Highly Motivated         50 

Helium                            50

Japanese Qualifier

European Qualifier

This amounts to 17 spots already tied up in the field.  

The next horses are vying for the final 3 spots:


Panadol                          (40 points)

Soup and Sandwich     (40 points)

Dynamic One                (40 points) 

Crowded Trade             (40 points)

Sainthood                      (40 points)  


Next Race






The above horses are listed in order of earnings— which is the first tiebreaker for horses that have equal points.  

Horses that have one more prep race:


Proxy                  (34 points)

Hozier                (20 points)

Caddo River      (10 points) 


Next Race




Weekly Developments

Capo Kane, who had been running in the New York suffered a slight injury and has been retired.

Rock Your World, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, will train at Santa Anita up until the Kentucky Derby.

Essential Quality, winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, will move to trainer Brad Cox’s barn at Churchill Downs April 5th after training hours.

Rombauer, will most likely wait and try the Preakness Stakes.

Hidden Stash, with 32 points after running 4th in the Blue Grass Stakes will target the Preakness or Belmont Stakes.

Keepmeinmind is off the Derby Trail.

Trainer Todd Pletcherwill soon move all four of his Derby horses, Known Agenda, Bourbonic, Dynamic One & Sainthood to his barn at Churchill Downs to prepare for the Derby. 

Jockey Julian LeParoux was announced that he will be riding Helium in the Kentucky Derby.

Pletcher now holds a 4-card hand 

With a 2nd weekend of upsets, we now have a situation in which Todd Pletcher has four Derby horses.  Pletcher’s horses have won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial as well as run 2nd in the Jeff Ruby Stakes and closing out the exacta in the Wood Memorial.  Todd has won 2 Derbies and will move all 4 of his horses this week to his stables at Churchill Downs.  

The performance of his horses all fit the same pattern, running a stake race the second time they have stretched out to two turns.  Because the races were at 9 furlongs and all his horses were running well at race’s end, each of his horses has the stamina to take on the Kentucky Derby’s mile and a quarter distance. 

Recap of Prep Races

Last week three major 100-point Derby prep race was held.

Wood Memorial

The Grade 2 $750K Wood Memorial was run at Aqueduct.   The race featured multiple horses that had hit the board in the local prep races.  Attention was focused on the two Chad Brown entrants as well as Prevalence, who was trying to remain undefeated in what would be his 3rd career race.   However, the two Todd Pletcher trained horses stole the show.  Bourbonic, sent off at odds of 72 to 1, was as much as 20 lengths behind the leader and was last at the quarter mile pole, rallied furiously to win the race.  He overtook his barn mate, Dynamic One, in the last jumps to win the race.  Chad Brown trained Crowded Trade ran third.  Watch the “biggest upset in racing history” here:

Takeaways from the race:

  • Bourbonic displayed great closing style.  However, historically this style has not had much success in a full Derby field.
  • Crowded Trade continues to show success at 9-furlong distances.  He should like the pace setup in the Derby.
  • Weyburn put forth a dull effort and the trainer is thinking about skipping the Kentucky Derby. 
  • The top 3 finishers should all run in the Kentucky Derby.
  • This race has been a historically poor Derby prep race.

Blue Grass Stakes

The $800K Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes was run at Keeneland.   The race featured Essential Quality, considered by many to be the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.  Chad Brown trained Highly Motivated was considered the only other threat to win the race. Highly Motivated took the early lead until the top of the stretch.  Essential Quality started to make a move and the 2 horses dueled throughout the stretch.  Highly Motivated’s jockey Javier Castellano did a great job moving his horse off the rail making the 2-year-old champion work harder.  In the last few jumps Essential Quality overtook Highly Motivated to win the race. See for yourself:

Takeaways from the race:

  • Essential Quality did have to fight his way down the stretch instead of just cruising by his competitors as he had in all other races.  This should help him come May.
  • Highly Motivated answered the question of whether he could get the 9-furlong distance.   
  • Keepmeinmind is now off the Derby trail.
  • The first two finishers all have announced they will be coming to Louisville to race in the Kentucky Derby.

Santa Anita Derby

The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby was run at Santa Anita for $750K.   The race suffered when Life Is Good was injured and had to undergo surgery.  The field of 10 was made up of only 2 horses that had won stakes races with 7 of the 10 horses only having won maiden races.  Rock Your World, making his 1st start on dirt, took the lead and held it all the way to win the race.  Medina Spirit ran second and Dream Shaker ran third.  Here is that video:

Takeaways from the race:

  • Rock Your World showed the ability to run on the front end for 9 furlongs.
  • Medina Spirit continued to show strong running ability in stakes races.
  • Both winner and runner up will be going to the Derby.

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