There is one “sure thing” on this year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby: compelling drama will be abundant.

Over the next nine weekends, 3-year-old Thoroughbreds will continue their quest for points in select races to secure a berth in the starting gate for the 144 th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) on Saturday, May 5 at Churchill Downs.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is action-packed this weekend with a quartet of races, led by Saturday’s Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds which is the first “Championship Series” race that will award 50 points to the winner and 20 to the runner-up. The third and fourth-place finisher will earn 10 and 5 points, respectively.

The “Prep Season” races, which award 10-4-2-1 points to the Top 4, conclude with Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate and Monday’s Southwest (GIII) at Oaklawn Park.

Also, one spot in the Kentucky Derby could be reserved Sunday morning as the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby concludes at Tokyo Racecourse with the Hyacinth. – Darren Rogers

INSTILLED REGARD IS RISEN STAR FAVEOxo Equine LLC’s California-based Instilled Regard will invade New Orleans on Saturday as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the $400,000 Risen Star to kick off the 16-race “Championship Series.”

  The 1 1/16 mile Risen Star is the ninth race on Fair Grounds’ 12-race program and has a scheduled post time of 6:03 p.m. (all times Eastern).

  The 3-year-old colt by Arch is familiar with traveling to The Pelican State. He scored a comfortable 3 ¾-length triumph in the Jan. 13 Lecomte Stakes (GIII) for the Hall of Fame duo of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Javier Castellano.

  Purchased for a hefty $1,050,000, Instilled Regard began his journey on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the Dec. 9 Los Alamitos Futurity (GI) when he crossed the wire in third behind Solomini and McKinzie but was placed second due to a disqualification of Solomini.

  Chief among Instilled Regards’ challengers are Lecomte second and third place finishers, Three Chimneys Farm’s Principe Guilherme (7-2 morning line, jockey Florent Geroux) and Bloom Racing Stable ’s Snapper Sinclair (8-1, Adam Beschizza), respectively. The Steve Asmussen-trained duo will attempt to give the 52-year-old Hall of Fame conditioner a record-tying third victory in the Risen Star. Trainers Neil Howard (1992, ’98, 2004) and Todd Pletcher (2010, ’12, ’14) are the only three-time winners of the race.

  Pletcher hopes to add a fourth win in the Risen Star with WinStar Farm and Repole Stable’s Gulfstream Park-invader Noble Indy. The 3-year-old colt by Take Charge Indy is unblemished in the first two starts of his career after an eye-catching maiden triumph by 8 ¾ lengths on Dec. 3 and a hard-fought allowance win on Jan. 11, his first start around two turns. – Kevin Kerstein

MOURINHO TOPS SOUTHWESTPhoenix Thoroughbred III ’s Mourinho will attempt to continue his success at Oaklawn Park when Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert ships the son of Super Saver from his Southern California base to Hot Springs, Ark. for Monday’s $500,000 Southwest Stakes (GIII).

  Mourinho made his name known on the Road to the Kentucky Derby after a front-running 3 ¼-length victory in the Jan. 15 Smarty Jones Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn Park under jockey Drayden Van Dyke. The pair will reunite Monday and break from post position 4.

  A horse on several insider’s Kentucky Derby lists is Robert Baker and William Mack’s Sporting Chance. The son of Tiznow scored a narrow triumph in the Sept. 4 Hopeful Stakes (GI) at Saratoga but was subsequently sidelined after he had a bone chip removed from his knee. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas, Sporting Chance drew post 2 and will be ridden by Luis Saez

  Post time for the race is 6:10 p.m. – Kevin Kerstein

CHOO CHOO IS EL CAMINO FAVE – Only two of the nine horses entered in Saturday’s $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate are nominated for the Triple Crown: Calumet Farm’s Choo Choo, winner of the California Derby last time out, and Holly and David Wilson’s turf maiden winner Calexman.

  Choo Choo, trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer , is the 9-5 morning line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile race over the synthetic Tapeta surface. Calexman, conditioned by Vladamir Cerin, is 20-1.

  The field for the 6:45 p.m. race also includes the filly Paved, a 5 ½-length maiden winner over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita for trainer Michael McCarthy. – Darren Rogers

RUGGERO BACK FOR HYACINTH – Triple Crown-nominated Ruggero (JPN) and Work and Love (JPN) are among the 16 horses that were entered for Sunday morning’s Hyacinth at Toyko Racecourse.

  The one-mile race for 3-year-olds, which has a 12:25 EDT post time Sunday, concludes the three-race Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby and will award points to the Top 4 finishers on a 30-12-6-3 scale.

  Takashi Muraki’s Ruggero (JPN), trained by Yuichi Shikato, garnered 10 points for winning the one-mile Cattleya Sho by a half-length at Tokyo in November.

  According to racing officials, the connections of three horses will consider paying the $6,000 late Triple Crown nomination fee should they win the Hyacinth. The horses are Dark Repulser (JPN) , Meisho Isana (JPN) and Meisho Opus (JPN).

  All of the aforementioned horses also are nominated to the $2 million UAE Derby (GII) at Meydan Racecourse on March 31.

  Only one invitation to compete in the Kentucky Derby will be extended with preference given to the horses with the most points in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby series. No invitation will be extended beyond the Top 4 point earners but if a horse also qualifies through America’s 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, the invite will be extended to the next eligible horse.

  If two or more horses have the same number of points, the tiebreaker is lifetime earnings as of April 14. – Darren Rogers

 MONOMOY GIRL FAVORED IN OAKS RUN – On the Road to the Kentucky Oaks – the Derby’s companion race for 3-year-old fillies on Friday, May 4 – Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables and The Elkstone Group’s Monomoy Girl will make her 3-year-old debut as the 8-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds.

  The 1 1/16-mile race, with a post time of 5:05 p.m., will award the Top 4 finishers points for the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) on a 50-20-10-5 scale. – Kevin Kerstein



SPOTLIGHT HORSE: GOOD MAGIC

 ·     Eyes will be on South Florida next Saturday in what is expected to be the seasonal debut of Eclipse Award-winning Good Magic in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic still remains high on many expert’s Kentucky Derby lists after he broke his maiden in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) by 4 ¼ lengths under jockey Jose Ortiz .

·     Owner information: Good Magic is owned by Bob and Kristine Edwards e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables LLC . Bob Edwards is a pharmaceutical executive and started e Five Racing in 2015. Banke’s Stonestreet Stables was started in 2005 by her late husband Jess Jackson. Stonestreet has a rich history in Thoroughbred horse racing having campaigned 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin and ’09 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Both ownership groups are seeking their first win in the Kentucky Derby

·     Trainer information: Chad Brown is a native of upstate New York and is pursuing his first Kentucky Derby victory (4-0-0-0). The 39-year-old multiple Eclipse Award-winning conditioner grew up going to Saratoga and became interested in horse racing as a child. Brown began working with harness horses while in high school but transitioned to Thoroughbreds while in college and worked for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. Before training on his own, Brown was most known as the assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel . In 2017, Brown recorded a career-high 213 victories and amassed $26,202,164 in earnings. – Kevin Kerstein


PAST PERFORMANCES & HISTORY

Brinset.com Triple Crown Past Performances: http://bit.ly/2E87Vr2

Brisnet.com Risen Star Past Performances: http://bit.ly/2Fa5MJO

Brisnet.com El Camino Real Past Performances: http://bit.ly/2C2Ywk1

Brisnet.com Southwest Stakes Past Performances: http://bit.ly/2ENHFCE

Risen Star Stakes History: http://bit.ly/2CpUwFV

Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard: http://bit.ly/1NkdWAX


DERBY DETAIL

THE TODD SQUAD – Trainer Todd Pletcher will attempt to win his third Kentucky Derby this year and become only the seventh trainer to win the coveted race in back-to-back years.

   The 50-year-old has had a Kentucky Derby starter in 17 of the last 18 years and every year since 2004, winning it with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017). Pletcher’s record in the Derby is 48-2-2-3, which puts him in a tie with his Hall of Fame mentor D. Wayne Lukas (48-4-1-5) for most starters in the race.

  Pletcher’s top 3-year-olds this year are led by 5 ½-length Holy Bull (GII) winner Audible and include Magnum Moon , Impact Player, Vino Rosso, Life’s a Parlay, Noble Indy , Marconi, National Flag and Biblical. – Darren Rogers


BAFFLING TALENT – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the four-time Kentucky Derby winner who has a 27-4-3-3 record in the race, has assembled another promising cast of 3-year-olds in Southern California.

  Los Alamitos Futurity (GI) and Sham (GIII) winner McKinzie, Smarty Jones winner Mourinho and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) runner-up Solomini lead the way but the 65-year-old also has Ax Man, Nero, Restoring Hope and Zulfikhar. – Darren Rogers

WILL THIS BE THE YEAR?Medaglia d’Oro, who finished fourth in the 2002 Kentucky Derby for owner Edmund Gann and Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, has been a brilliant stallion since he entered stud duty in 2005.

   Just last year he had seven Grade I winners – including top Kentucky Derby contender Bolt d’Oro – and the only other stallions to accomplish that feat in a single year are Danzig, Mr. Prospector and Storm Cat.

   Overall, Medaglia d’Oro’s progeny has earned more than $81.6 million and he’s had 110 stakes winners.

   His stud fee for the 2018 breeding season at Darley in Lexington, Ky. is $250,000, which is one the highest fees in North America.

   Amazingly, however, with his previous 10 crops, Medaglia d’Oro has never produced a starter in the Kentucky Derby. That’s right: none.

   His best hope might have been Violence, who was the winter book favorite for the 2013 Kentucky Derby after wins in the CashCall Futurity (GI) and Nashua (GII) at age 2. However, he suffered a career-ending fractured sesamoid when second to eventual Derby winner Orb in the Fountain of Youth (GII) in his only start as a 3-year-old.

   Overall, Medaglia d’Oro had nine progeny that were early nominations to this year’s Kentucky Derby led by Bolt d’Oro, Enticed, Higher Power and the filly Wonder Gadot.

  His son, Montauk, also was considered to be a top Derby prospect, but was withdrawn from Derby consideration by his owners after undergoing a throat procedure on Monday.

  Bolt d’Oro, the beaten favorite in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), is likely to make his 3-year-old debut in the March 10 San Felipe (GII) at Santa Anita.

  The colt breezed five furlongs in :59.40 on Wednesday, which was his fourth published workout since a muscle pull delayed his 3-year-old debut.  – Darren Rogers


EVERYONE LIKES A WINNER – Each of the last six Kentucky Derby winners were unbeaten as 3-year-olds heading into America’s greatest race, and that’s been the case in half of the last 20 runnings.

   2017: Always Dreaming (3-3-0-0)

   2016: Nyquist (2-2-0-0)

   2015: American Pharoah (2-2-0-0)

   2014: California Chrome (3-3-0-0)

   2013: Orb (3-3-0-0)

   2012: I’ll Have Another (2-2-0-0)

   2011: Animal Kingdom (2-1-1-0)

   2010: Super Saver (2-0-1-1)

   2009: Mine That Bird (2-0-1-0)

   2008: Big Brown (2-2-0-0)

   2007: Street Sense (2-1-1-0)

   2006: Barbaro (3-3-0-0)

   2005: Giacomo (3-0-1-1)

   2004: Smarty Jones (4-4-0-0)

   2003: Funny Cide (3-0-2-0)

   2002: War Emblem (4-2-0-0)

   2001: Monarchos (4-3-1-0)

   2000: Fusaichi Pegasus (4-4-0-0)

   1999: Charismatic (7-2-2-0)

   1998: Real Quiet (3-0-2-0)

– Darren Rogers

PLAYING CATCH UP – When Always Dreaming won last year’s Kentucky Derby, he became only the third horse in the last 50 years to win his first career race in the month of January and wear the roses. He broke his maiden on Jan. 25, 2017 at Gulfstream Park and won the Derby 101 days later – the shortest span between markers since Brokers Tip broke his maiden in the 1933 Derby.

  Promising 3-year-old colts who displayed talent while winning their first career race this year include Magnum Moon, who won a first level allowance/optional claiming event on Thursday at Tampa Bay Downs to remain unbeaten in two starts. The son of Malibu Moon trained by two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher won by two lengths in 1:39.18 for one mile and 40 yards.

  Other notable 2018 maiden winners: Ax Man (trained by Bob Baffert), Exclamation Point (Brad Cox), Fascilitator (Steve Asmussen), Givemeaminit (Dallas Stewart), He Takes Charge (Mark Casse), Life’s a Parlay (Pletcher), Machismo (Anthony Quartarolo), Mitole (Asmussen), Nero (Baffert), Restoring Hope (Baffert), Telekinesis (Casse), Tenfold (Asmussen) and Transgress (D. Wayne Lukas). – Darren Rogers

BEWARE OF APOLLO – Some horse racing pundits consider “having a race at 2” to be the last so-called Derby “rule” left standing. That’s understandable.

   Apollo, who won the 1882 Kentucky Derby, is the only Kentucky Derby winner to win the “Run for the Roses” without racing as a 2-year-old.

   The record of horses in the Derby without a race at 2 since 1937 is 61-0-3-5. During that span, the only horses to finish in the Derby Top 3 without racing at 2 were runner-ups Coaltown (1948), Strodes Creek (1994) and Bodemeister (2012) and third-place finishers Hampden (1946), Agitate (1974), Reinvested (1982), Curlin (2007) and Battle of Midway (2017).

  Promising colts that did not race at 2 and are nominated to this year’s Triple Crown include Ax Man (trained by Bob Baffert), Exclamation Point (Brad Cox), Life’s a Parlay (Pletcher), Magnum Moon (Pletcher), Telekinesis (Casse) and Tenfold (Asmussen). – Darren Rogers

OAKS, TURF CLASSIC NOMS DUE – Nominations for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and the Old Forester Turf Classic (GI) (formerly known as the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic) close Saturday. For more information: http://bit.ly/2spFso1 – Kevin Kerstein


TAKING SHAPE

The possible fields for Kentucky Derby Championship Series races are fluid as horsemen vie for points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.” Below are known horses (with Road to the Kentucky Derby point totals) mentioned to be under consideration for each race based on published news reports and other sources. Again, the shape of these fields is fluid and some horses are considered “possible” for multiple races:

MARCH 3 FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH – $400,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) to be run over 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.: Good Magic (24), Free Drop Billy (14), Enticed* (13), Gotta Go (0), Storm Runner (0), Strike Power* (0). Points to Top 4: 50-20-10-5.


MARCH 10 GOTHAM – $300,000 Gotham (GIII) to be run over one mile at Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y.: Firenze Fire (24), Enticed* (13), Cove Blue (0), Kanthaka (0), Quip* (0), Strike Power* (0). Points to Top 4: 50-20-10-5.

MARCH 10 TAMPA BAY DERBY – $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (GII) to be run over 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.: Avery Island* (14), Enticed* (13), Flameaway (10), Tiz Mischief* (6), Vino Rosso (2), Quip (0), Untamed Domain (0). Points to Top 4: 50-20-10-5.

MARCH 10 SAN FELIPE – $400,000 San Felipe (GII) to be run over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.: McKinzie* (20), Bolt d’Oro (14), Solomini* (14), Lombo (10), Ayacara (GB) (4). Points to Top 4 : 50-20-10-5.

MARCH 17 REBEL – $900,000 Rebel (GII) to be run over 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.: McKinzie* (20), Solomini* (14), Tiz Mischief* (6) Higher Power (0), Title Ready (0). Points to Top 4: 50-20-10-5.

MARCH 17 JEFF RUBY STEAKS – $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) to be run over 1 1/8 miles (S) at Turfway Park in Florence, KY: TBA. Points to Top 4: 20-8-4-2.

MARCH 24 LOUISIANA DERBY – $1 Million Louisiana Derby (GII) to be run over 1 1/8 miles at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La.: Avery Island* (14), Catholic Boy* (14). Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

MARCH 25 SUNLAND DERBY – $800,000 Sunland Derby (GIII) to be run over 1/18 miles at Sunland Park in Hobbs, New Mexico: TBA. Points to Top 4: 50-20-10-5.

 

MARCH 31 UAE DERBY – $2 million UAE Derby (GII) to be run over 1 3/16 miles at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai: Gold Town (GB) (0). Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

MARCH 31 FLORIDA DERBY – $1 million Florida Derby (GI) to be run over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.: Catholic Boy* (14), Audible (10). Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

APRIL 7 WOOD MEMORIAL – $750,000 Wood Memorial (GII) to be run over 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y.: TBA. Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

APRIL 7 BLUE GRASS – $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (GII) to be run over 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky.: TBA. Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

APRIL 7 SANTA ANITA DERBY – $1 million Santa Anita Derby (GI) to be run over 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.: TBA. Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

APRIL 14 ARKANSAS DERBY –$1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) to be run over 1 1/8 miles at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.: TBA. Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

APRIL 14 LEXINGTON – $200,000 Lexington Stakes (GIII) to be run 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, KY.: TBA. Points to Top 4: 20-8-4-2.

*Under consideration for multiple races.


ROAD TO DERBY VIDEO SERIES

 

·        How do horses earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby?: http://bit.ly/2Ez2GC5

·        Through a Jockey’s Eyes: The Iroquois Stakes: http://bit.ly/2C4qsEh

·        The Lead Up to a Breeders’ Cup Showdown: http://bit.ly/2ELdZWQ 

·        Behind the Scenes with Bolt d’Oro: http://bit.ly/2HmXWNC

·        Riding in the Kentucky Jockey Club: http://bit.ly/2odEVnI

·        Remington Park Springboards on Road to Kentucky Derby: http://bit.ly/2ELeAry

·        Three Races, Three Horses to Watch: http://bit.ly/2HkZk31

·        Withers Faceoff: Underdog vs. Favorite: http://bit.ly/2GkXUEj