Crunch time is upon us as we enter the Championship portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
The Prep Season began in September and ran through Feb. 15, with 19 races offering points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
The top 20 point earners will earn a spot in the 142nd running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 7.
Unbeaten champion 2-year-old Nyquist led all Kentucky Derby hopefuls with 30 points at the conclusion of the Prep Season. Based on the West Coast with 2012 Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, Nyquist was followed on the Leaderboard by Mor Spirit (24), who is conditioned by four-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert; and unbeaten East Coast star Mohaymen (20).
The standings shifted with the Feb. 20 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, which offered points on a 50-20-10-5 scale as the first of 16 races in the Championship Series.
Gun Runner, who was unraced since earning a point for finishing fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28, returned to action with a half-length victory in the Risen Star, withstanding the rallies of runner-up Forevamo and third-placer Mo Tom to record his initial stakes victory.
The Risen Star vaulted Gun Runner, who is owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Three Chimneys Farm, to the top of the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with a 51-point total.
Expect significant movement in the standings over the coming weeks.
The Feb. 27 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park is up next and holds plenty of importance. Mohaymen is a leading contender and the 1 1/16-mile event is expected to be the first points’ race for Kentucky Derby hopefuls Awesome Banner, Awesome Speed, Cherry Road and Zulu.
We’ll continue to provide a brief recap of the action in the Road to the Kentucky Derby Series.