Assuming those already firmly positioned within the Top 20 Graded Stakes Earnings list perform well in prep races on April 3, 10 and 17 and exit those races in good order, it’s conceivable that it could take as much as $200,000 in graded stakes earnings to crack the Kentucky Derby 136 field on the first Saturday in May.
After all, there’s still plenty of money to be earned in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (April 3), $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (April 3), $500,000 Illinois Derby (April 3), $1 million Arkansas Derby (April 10), $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (April 10) and $300,000 Coolmore Lexington (April 17). Last ditch efforts could also be made in the $200,000 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (April 24) at Churchill Downs or the $150,000 Withers (April 24).
The Kentucky Derby has been restricted to 20 starters since 1975, and the current system to determine the field by highest graded stakes earnings has been in place since 1986. The “bubble” to get in has varied year to year. Last year, it took only $55,500 for Nowhere to Hide to complete the 20-horse field. Two years ago, the last horse in was Denis of Cork who had $165,000 – the highest total ever for the last spot in the field.
As of April 1, this year’s Top 20, which is based on known intentions or a consideration to run in the Kentucky Derby, looks like this:
Rule, Mission Impazible, Ice Box, Endorsement, Conveyance, Discreetly Mine, Dean’s Kitten, Homeboykris and A Little Warm won’t have another Derby prep race. On March 28, A Little Warm’s trainer Tony Dutrow told Daily Racing Form that if it was left up to him, he would not go to the Derby, which could open another spot. Also, final decisions on Conveyance and Interactif might not be made until their trainers – Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, respectively – watch their horses train over the Churchill Downs main track.
Fillies She Be Wild ($1,272,100), Blind Luck ($861,150), Devil May Care ($364,000) and Crisp ($225,000) appear more likely for the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks on Friday, April 30, although trainer Todd Pletcher said last weekend that the connections of Bonnie Miss winner Devil May Care haven’t entirely ruled out the Derby just yet.
Godolphin’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Vale of York-IRE ($1,114,784) has been sidelined by colic and UAE Derby third Mendip ($200,000) appears likely to remain overseas, along with Coolmore’s Beethoven-IRE ($342,616).
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has said that D’ Funnybone ($420,000) “will not run in the Derby” but could be aimed at the Preakness. Also, his Radiohead-GB ($196,332) appears more likely for the Grade II, $175,000 American Turf at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Oaks Day. In mid-March, Buddy’s Saint ($210,000) was sidelined by a right front ankle chip following a workout at Gulfstream Park.
Grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial – Aqueduct, Race 9, 5:12 p.m. ET (NBC Sports, 5-6 p.m. ET)
Likely In: Awesome Act ($200,000 in graded stakes earnings). Needs Top 3 Finish: Eskendereya ($150,000). Needs Top 2 Finish: Schoolyard Dreams ($100,000) and Jackson Bend ($80,000). Must Win: Carnivore ($0). Not Nominated: Most Happy Fella ($0).
Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby – Santa Anita, Race 6, 5:36 p.m. ET (NBC Sports, 5-6 p.m. ET)
Already In: Lookin At Lucky ($1,390,000). Needs Top 4 Finish: Sidney’s Candy ($180,000). Needs Top 3 Finish: Caracortado ($108,000). Needs Top 2 Finish: Alphie’s Boy ($90,000), What’s Up ($60,000) and Cardiff Giant ($54,000). Must Win: Setsuko ($30,000), Posse Power ($18,000) and Thomas Baines ($0). Not Nominated: Skipshot ($0).
Grade I, $500,000 Illinois Derby – Hawthorne, Race 7, 5:37 p.m. ET
Needs Top 4 Finish: Backtalk ($172,566). Must Win: American Lion ($87,000), Dave in Dixie ($30,000), Turf Melody ($13,857), Boulder Creek ($3,000) and Game Ball ($0). Not Nominated: Stephen’s Got Hope.
Note: Horses not nominated to the Triple Crown can only run in the Kentucky Derby if less than 20 eligible horses are entered.
Click here for the Kentucky Derby Graded Stakes Earnings “Bubble” At A Glance (Since 1999) Chart