Derby Details 2021 Edition 8
Predicting the Future
by Tom Carley
February 23, 2021
The weather around this country has affected the prep schedule of many of the horses in the Midwest. With the cancellation of the Southwest Stakes, we did not have any U.S. prep races last week. I will participate in an exercise which will be memorialized in this week’s column that I have never done before. I am going to channel my inner Johnny Carson’s ‘Carnac the Magnificent’ and predict where I think the major contenders will run their final prep races.
The first part of this exercise will be to determine exactly how many points a horse will need to qualify for the Derby. A historical benchmark has been 30 points. However, I will use a needed amount of 35 points for the following reasons:
- The Japanese qualifier has been Triple Crown nominated (the only horse in Japan) and given all indications he will come to the Derby. This leaves only 19 spots in the race left available.
- There are eight 100 point races in which 100 points is awarded to the winner and 40 points to the runner up.
- There are five 50 point races in which 20 points is awarded to the runner up.
- These 13 races should provide at least 14 spots in the Kentucky Derby field. This leaves 5 “at large” spots in the field.
There are only four horses with greater than 24 points earned as of the date of this article. This will put much pressure on the remaining horses to perform well in the latter prep races.
I have looked at each equine contender. I have put forth what I guess their remaining prep races will be. The exception to my guessing is where I mark (definite) as this denotes a race in which the trainer has publicly stated the horse will run. I then analyze how I feel each horse needs to perform in order to assure himself a spot in the Derby field.
Bob Baffert horses:
While the barn appears loaded with six Derby horses, only two horses have earned any Derby points and none more than 14 points. This lack of points is a repercussion of Baffert waiting so long to develop his horses. Compare this to Brad Cox, who has all three of his horses only needing minimal performances to get in the starting field. The pressure is mounting for the Baffert horses as they have little room for error in their final prep races.
Life is Magic (10)
San Felipe (definite)
Santa Anita Derby
He either needs to win or run second in San Felipe or hit the Board in the Santa Anita Derby
Medina Spirit (14)
Arkansas Derby/FL Derby
Baffert already has declared another barn mate is running in the Rebel Stakes. Because he is a Florida bred, I could see him running in Florida. The Florida group of runners appear weaker than in recent years. Baffert has not had great success at Gulfstream Park. He needs to win or run second in one of the next two races to get his spot in the Derby field. He has shown some distance limitations so he needs to capitalize on the next prep race at a shorter distance.
Freedom Fighter (none)
Baffert has announced he will send this horse to New York for the Gotham. One would assume he will continue the New York prep path to Louisville. He must win one of the two races. If not, he needs to run second in the Wood Memorial or second in the Gotham and no worse than 3rd in the Wood Memorial.
Santa Anita Derby
Will stay home and run against the superior barn mate. He needs to hit the board in both his remaining races to get in the Derby field. A runner up spot in the Santa Anita Derby would also get him in the field.
Concert Tour (none)
He needs either to win a prep race or to hit the board in both races.
Blue Grass Stakes
He did not hit the board in the maiden debut. Baffert will probably send him out of California and he will be forced to win or run second in a 100 point prep. The logical race would be the Toyota Blue Grass as this is the only race in which Baffert has not been mentioned for any of his horses. The Lexington, run 2 weeks before the Derby, does award 20 points to the winner. If this horse would run 3rd or 4th in the Blue Grass, then winning the Lexington would get him in the field.
Brad Cox horses:
No trainer is standing in the good position that Cox is. He has three Derby horses, two of which have all put secured their spot in the Derby field.
He already has sufficient points.
Essential Quality (30)
Arkansas Derby/Blue Grass
He already has sufficient points. The barn might choose to run him in the Blue Grass as he has won two major races at Keeneland as well as having more time to rest from the last prep until the Derby. The barn would prefer three prep races, but the schedule does not allow this to happen with the rescheduling of the Southwest Stakes.
Caddo River (10)
Rebel Stakes/Arkansas Derby
He only needs to hit the board in 2 of the 3 races. If Essential Quality is moved to the Blue Grass, this would make his Arkansas Derby much easier.
Other Derby contenders:
Common ownership with Essential Quality
The connections will leave this horse in New Orleans where he has hit the board in both prep races. He only needs to run 4th in the Louisiana Derby. If he misses the board in the Louisiana Derby, he would only need a few points to get entry into the Derby and could easily pick these up on 4 weeks rest in the Lexington Stakes.
Midnight Bourbon (26)
Only needs to run 4th in his final prep race to get enough points to get into the Derby field.
Jackie’s Warrior (12)
Rebel/ Arkansas Derby
Would need to win the Southwest or hit the board in one of the last two prep races. This horse has distance questions so he would want to take advantage of the shorter distances of the two upcoming Oaklawn prep races. He could always come back in the April 10 preps if he still needs points, but these would be at 9 furlongs.
Arkansas Derby/Bluegrass Stakes
If he wins or runs second in the Southwest, he will have enough points. The next race would probably be the Blue Grass Stakes as the field for this race will be easier than the expected tough Arkansas Derby field. He simply needs to run 4th in the 100 point prep if no points are earned in the Southwest.
Greatest Honour (10)
Fountain of Youth
Would only need to hit the board in one of the next Florida prep races.
Risk Taking (10)
Wood Memorial (definite)
Lexington (if needed)
Trainer Chad Brown has the winner of the Withers (a 9-furlong race) set up to run on a 6-week rest and then go to the Kentucky Derby on 5 weeks rest. He only needs to run 3rd to have enough points.
Santa Anita Derby
Trainer Trevor McCarthy indicated the horse’s next race will be a 9 furlong race. He only needs to run 4th in the 9 furlong prep race to have enough points. This horse did win the El Camino Real Derby.
This week it was formally announced that the Sunland Park meet would not be held. This includes the cancellation of the Sunland Park Derby. This means there will be one less race for West Coast based horses to earn points. This race was a race in which Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher sent their lower-level prospects in order to make an attempt to obtain the needed Derby qualifying points.
The final Japanese prep races happened early Sunday meeting: the Hyacinth Stakes was held at only 1 mile so the winner will have to run a full quarter mile farther in the Derby. The race was won by La Perouse. The horse is the only Japanese horse who is nominated for the Derby and the connections have indicated the horse will be shipped to Louisville.
Cowan, who had run 2nd in the Smarty Jones was shipped to Saudi Arabia and ran 2nd in the Saudi Derby. The horse ran 2nd in Saudi Arabia. Because of the shipping across the world, this essentially removes the horse from the Derby Trail.
Recap of Prep Races
Last week there were no USA prep races.
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