UPDATE: Kempton canceled racing Thursday due to heavy snow, and the Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions S. will now be run on Wednesday, March 7. Friday’s originally scheduled points race, the Patton S., had already been transferred to March 9 after the cancellation of Dundalk’s card.
Great Britain might be in the grip of the brutal winter blast dubbed the “Beast from the East,” but the European Road to the Kentucky Derby is heating up again with Thursday’s points race at Kempton Park near London.
A one-mile test on Polytrack, the Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions S. offers Derby points (for the European leaderboard only) on a scale of 20-8-4-2 to the top four finishers. That points haul portends a shake-up in the European standings.
The race is held during an evening card, making for a post time of 2:30 p.m. (EST). You can watch live (and wager) at TwinSpires.com.
Two Triple Crown nominees, Gronkowski and Three Weeks, top the eight-horse field.
Gronkowski is of particular interest – not just to New England Patriots fans – since Racing Post reported that trainer Jeremy Noseda is already eyeing a U.S. trip for a Derby points race this spring. Owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred Ltd., which also campaigns leading Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender Dream Tree and Smarty Jones winner Mourinho, Gronkowski is two-for-two since adding blinkers and switching to synthetic surfaces. The Kentucky-bred son of Lonhro comes off a six-length romp at Newcastle on February 9 and keeps jockey Jamie Spencer aboard.
Fellow Kentucky-bred Three Weeks, by Tapit, has likewise won his past two on synthetic for William Haggas. Apple Tree Stud’s homebred has progressed in each start since a slow-starting eighth in his November unveiling, and he’ll need to maintain that upward trajectory to contain Gronkowski. Three Weeks picks up a top rider on the British “all-weather” circuit, Adam Kirby.
Fortune’s Pearl makes his debut on a synthetic surface after facing useful company on the turf last season, and that form makes him the biggest threat to Triple Crown nominees Gronkowski and Three Weeks. Trained by Andrew Balding, the Qatar Racing colorbearer was last seen finishing fifth in the Tattersalls (G3) at Newmarket in September. Two starts back, he’d beaten the well-regarded Thrave. Regular rider Oisin Murphy is back in the saddle.
Bobby Biscuit must have quite a backstory as an $8,000 bargain-basement son of Scat Daddy who later fetched 110,000 guineas as a two-year-old in training at Tattersalls. The Simon Dow pupil just scored in a novice race at this track and trip, but meets a better group here.
Jellmood is a homebred for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, perhaps best known to U.S. racing fans as the owner of 2015 Derby participant Mubtaahij. Not the most straightforward student so far for trainer Marco Botti, Jellmood brings a 1-for-7 record.
Prolific British trainer Mark Johnston sends out the well-experienced Ventura Knight. Although he has racked up four wins from a total of 11 starts, the turf handicapper has yet to break through in his two attempts on synthetic.
David Elsworth’s filly Morning Has Broken has won twice in her own division before being upset by the boys in a handicap last time out at this track. Ambient, still a maiden after six outings, looks up against it in this second start for new owner/trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam.
Kempton Park is offering free admission (up to four tickets per household) for Thursday’s program, a promotion available via the track’s website, www.kempton.co.uk.
Those of us unable to make it to Kempton can watch on TwinSpires.com Thursday at 2:30 pm. (EST)!
For more details and analysis, including why Aidan O'Brien took out Mendelssohn and stablemates, see the Kempton preview on Brisnet.com.