The accepted Kentucky Derby (G1) invitation to Master Fencer (#20) via the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby series currently leaves 19 available domestic slots pending the final result of the Europe Road to the Kentucky Derby series this week. In a nutshell, space is at a premium for would-be Derby contenders with just two point-earning opportunities remaining in the U.S. on Saturday in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Lexington (G3).
As far as last weekend's action, several runners solidified their hold on a Kentucky Derby slot with first- or second-place finishes in the three major preps. Vekoma (#2, 110 points) improved his position considerably with a big win in the Blue Grass (G2) as did Roadster (#4, 100), who scored his first points in the series winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Even reigning juvenile champion Game Winner (#7, 85) gave himself some breathing room above the bubble space running second in the Santa Anita Derby, as did Blue Grass runner-up Win Win Win (#14, 50).
Less fortunate was Signalman (#18, 38), the Blue Grass third who may need need help in the coming weeks to get into the Derby field, while Somelikeithotbrown (#22, 30) and Instagrand (#23, 30) fell out of the top 20 completely.
The Arkansas Derby will award qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 while the Lexington disperses points of 20-8-4-2. A second-place finish or better in the Arkansas Derby can seal Derby participation for the likes of Omaha Beach (#19, 37.5), Country House (#25, 30), Improbable (#27, 25), Gray Attempt (#31, 10), and Galilean (#33, 7.5). However, nothing less than victory in the Lexington would seemingly assure Anothertwistafate (#24, 30) and Sueno (#26, 28) a ticket to the first Saturday in May.
In one of the more contentious Road to the Kentucky Derby series since its introduction earlier in the decade, the points cutoff line will be presumably be much higher than in recent years when all is said and done. The one certainty is that the likely Derby lineup will come into sharper focus by Saturday evening.