Three vital steppingstones to the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) – the Wood Memorial (GII), Blue Grass (GII) and Santa Anita Derby (GI) – will be staged Saturday as 3-year-old Thoroughbreds continue their quest to accumulate sufficient points to start in the 145th running of America’s greatest race on Saturday, May 4 at Churchill Downs.
Each race Saturday will award 100 points to the winner and 40 points to the runner-up, which is an almost-guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Additionally, the three 1 1/8-mile races will award 20 and 10 points, respectively, to the third and fourth-place finishers, which could be decisive to those competitors that have already garnered points in earlier races.
One word to describe this year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby is competitive. Out of 40 different point races, there have been 37 different winners. At this point last year there were 32.
Compelling drama will be abundant as the prospects jostle for points with hope of landing within the Top 20 point leaders at the end of the Road to the Kentucky Derby (reminder: two invitational spots could be carved out for a horse on the European and Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, respectively).
The Wood Memorial will go as Race 10 at Aqueduct with a post time of 6 p.m. (all times Eastern). The Blue Grass is Keeneland’s Race 10 at 6:23 p.m. and the Santa Anita Derby is Race 9 at 7:18 p.m.
All three Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series races will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 5:30 p.m. The races also will be broadcast on satellite radio’s Sirius 83 as part of Horse Racing Radio Network’s coverage, which can also be heard online at www.horseracingradio.net.
GAME WINNER FACES FIVE IN SANTA ANITA DERBY – Champion juvenile Game Winner will seek to make amends for his first career defeat in a division of last month’s Rebel (Grade II) when he heads a field of six in Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Derby (GI) over 1 1/8 miles.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep will offer qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers, though Game Winner himself is safely in with a current total of 45 accrued from earlier wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and American Pharoah (GI).
An intended starter in the San Felipe (GII) prior to its cancellation, Game Winner instead made his seasonal return in the split Rebel, where he just missed to Omaha Beach in a dramatic and thrilling photo finish.
Joining him in the Santa Anita Derby lineup is Roadster, who was beaten only two lengths by Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity (GI) last September. In his only interim appearance, the son of Quality Road defeated Nolo Contesto by 2 ½ lengths in a one-mile allowance on March 1.
One of the more precocious juveniles of last season, Instagrand makes his two-turn debut in the Santa Anita Derby. Winner of his first two starts by a combined margin of more than 20 lengths, including the Best Pal (GII), the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee was perhaps in need of a race when an even-money third in the March 9 Gotham (GIII) at Aqueduct following a seven-month absence.
More Ice and Synthesis, both of whom are stakes-placed, are a longshot duo that complete the compact field. – Vance Hanson/Brisnet.com
VEKOMA THE TOP DRAW AS 14 CHASE KENTUCKY DERBY POINTS IN BLUE GRASS – Kentucky Derby implications abound in Saturday’s $1 million Blue Grass (Grade II). A full field of 14 has been entered for the 1 1/8-mile test at Keeneland, one of seven major qualifiers in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, and all need points to qualify for the first leg of the American Triple Crown. A total of 170 points is in the offering for the first four finishers (100-40-20-10 scale).
Vekoma has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite following a third in the Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park. Winner of the Nashua (GIII) at Aqueduct, the George Weaver-trained colt was beaten only 2 ¾ lengths while sustaining his first career setback last out. Vekoma gets a new rider in Javier Castellano.
Win Win Win, third as the favorite when making his first Kentucky Derby qualifying attempt in the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby (GII), comes next at 7-2 on the morning line. Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the mount for Mike Trombetta.
Signalman has shown an affinity for Churchill Downs, recording a fast-closing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) under the Twin Spires, and the Kenny McPeek pupil also finished second in the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland last fall. But after opening 2019 with a seventh in the Fountain of Youth, Signalman currently sits only 23rd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 18 points. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. will be up.
Winner of the Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) on Turfway Park’s Polytrack, Somelikeitbrown tops all Blue Grass entrants with 20 points (21st on the leaderboard). He’ll try to gain ground in the standings while making his first dirt start for Mike Maker and Tyler Gaffalione has the assignment.
Todd Pletcher, a two-time Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner, has Sam F. Davis (GIII) third-placer So Alive in the mix. Churchill Downs-based trainers Mark Casse and Dallas Stewart both have a pair, with Casse sending out Dream Maker and Sir Winston and Stewart represented by Aquadini and Chess Chief.
Rounding out the field are Admire, Lucky Lee, Market King, Moonster and Parsimony. – James Scully/TwinSpires.com
TACITUS LEADS COMPETATIVE RENEWAL OF THE WOOD MEMORIAL – Fifteen years after his sire Tapit won the race, Tacitus will attempt to keep Saturday’s $750,000 Wood Memorial (GII) somewhat of a family affair in the 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep at Aqueduct.
A winner in two of three starts, including a maiden score at the Big A and a 1 ¼-length triumph over Outshine in last month’s Tampa Bay Derby (GII), Tacitus will seek to become the second son of Tapit to win the Wood following Frosted in 2015.
Todd Pletcher will rely on Outshine and stakes-placed Overdeliver to win his sixth Wood Memorial since 2010. Compared to the more seasoned Outshine, Overdeliver has raced just twice, finishing a distant second last out in the $75,000 Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs.
“We’re excited about stretching him out to a mile and an eighth,” said Pletcher of Outshine. “We’ve been pointing to the Wood since the Tampa Bay Derby and we’re optimistic from what we’re seeing.
“We didn’t really have a firm plan (for Overdeliver) after the Pasco,” Pletcher said. “It’s really just been based on his last three works that he’s trained exceptionally well that we decided to take a shot at the Wood. I think his last couple works he’s shown some really strong gallop outs and indicates that he’s capable of stretching out.”
The competitive renewal also features Tax, a $50,000 claim three starts back who improved to win the Feb. 2 Withers (GIII) by a head over Not That Brady.
“He’s training tremendous; he looks good. We’re just hoping we get a clean trip,” trainer Danny Gargan said. “He’s a nice horse and we’re just hoping we can run top-three, so we can go to the (Kentucky) Derby (GI).
Tax earned 10 Derby qualifying points winning the Withers, while points of 100-40-20-10 will be up for grabs for whomever finishes among the top four in the Wood.
Haikal faces no such pressure having earned 50 points in winning the one-mile Gotham (GIII) with a final-furlong blitz aided by a fast pace, but the son of Daaher has yet to race around two turns.
“The only question is the two turns, but we feel like it’ll be no problem. Hopefully he won’t be as far back as he was last time,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He could be in the middle of the pack or last, but he won’t be 15 lengths off the pace like last time.”
A wild card in the field is Hoffa’s Union, who debuts for new connections after being privately acquired following a 15 ½-length debut victory at Laurel in late February. Meanwhile, owners Gary and Mary West look to earn a third Kentucky Derby slot with two-time winner Final Jeopardy. The Wests currently have champion juvenile Game Winner and Florida Derby (GI) hero Maximum Security among their confirmed Derby hopefuls.
LOUISIANA DERBY WINNER BY MY STANDARDS BREEZES HALF-MILE IN :48.40 AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (Grade II) winner By My Standards, currently the only Kentucky Derby contender based at Churchill Downs that is mathematically confirmed in the starting gate for the first Saturday in May, worked a half-mile in :48.40 Thursday morning at Churchill Downs with jockey Gabriel Saez in the irons.
“He’s just a naturally talented colt,” Saez said. “I just have to keep my fingers crossed for the next four weeks but I’m very confident he can take us there. He is just naturally gifted. In the work this morning he did everything so effortlessly – he’s one of the smartest horses I’ve ever been on.”
Owned by Allied Racing’s Chester Thomas, a native of Madisonville, Ky., and trained by locally-based Bret Calhoun, By My Standards pulled off a 22-1 upset score in the Louisiana Derby under Saez. The colt entered the Louisiana Derby after breaking his maiden in mid-February.
“I think it was good to get this breeze in while things are still quiet back here,” Calhoun said. “Four weeks to go. Let’s get it done.”
By My Standards is stabled on Barn 23 on the backstretch of Churchill Downs.
Betting in the last pool of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools is scheduled to open at noon (all times Eastern) Friday and will close on Sunday at 6 p.m. Wagering is available at www.twinspires.com or simulcast outlets throughout the country.
KDFW POOL 4 FIELD
# Horse Trainer ML
1. Anothertwistafate Blaine Wright 30-1
2. Bodexpress Gustavo Delgado 20-1
3. Bourbon War Mark Hennig 15-1
4. By My Standards Bret Calhoun 12-1
5. Code of Honor Shug McGaughey III 12-1
6. Cutting Humor Todd Pletcher 15-1
7. Galilean Jerry Hollendorfer 30-1
8. Game Winner Bob Baffert 8-1
9. Haikal Kiaran McLaughlin 30-1
10. Improbable Bob Baffert 10-1
11. Instagrand Jerry Hollendorfer 15-1
12. Long Range Toddy Steve Asmussen 15-1
13. Maximum Security Jason Servis 8-1
14. Omaha Beach Richard Mandella 10-1
15. Outshine Todd Pletcher 15-1
16. Plus Que Parfait Brendan Walsh 30-1
17. Roadster Bob Baffert 15-1
18. Signalman Kenny McPeek 50-1
19. Spinoff Todd Pletcher 30-1
20. Tacitus Bill Mott 30-1
21. Vekoma George Weaver 20-1
22. War of Will Mark Casse 15-1
23. Win Win Win Mike Trombetta 50-1
24. All Other 3-Year-Olds 15-1
Date Race Track Top 4 Points
April 11 Cardinal Condition* Chelmsford 30-12-6-3
April 13 Arkansas Derby OP 100-40-20-10
April 13 Lexington Kee 20-8-4-2
# Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby
* European Road to the Kentucky Derby
Brinset.com Kentucky Derby Contenders Past Performances
Blue Grass Stakes History
Santa Anita Derby Stakes History
Wood Memorial Stakes History
Blue Grass Past Performances
Santa Anita Derby Past Performances
Wood Memorial Past Performances
# Horse Trainer Points
1. Plus Que Parfait Brendan Walsh 104
2. By My Standards Bret Calhoun 100
3. Maximum Security Jason Servis 100
4. Code of Honor Shug McGaughey III 74
5. War of Will Mark Casse 60
6. Long Range Toddy Steve Asmussen 53.5
7. Cutting Humor Todd Pletcher 50
8. Haikal Kiaran McLaughlin 50
9. Tacitus Bill Mott 50
10. Game Winner Bob Baffert 45
11. Gray Magician Peter Miller 41
12. Spinoff Todd Pletcher 40
13. Bodexpress Gustavo Delgado 40
14. Omaha Beach Richard Mandella 37.5
15. Bourbon War Mark Hennig 31
16. Anothertwistafate Blaine Wright 30
17. Country House Bill Mott 30
18. Sueno Keith Desormeaux 28
19. Improbable Bob Baffert 25
20. Mucho Gusto Bob Baffert 24
21. Somelikeithotbrown Mike Maker 20
22. Outshine Todd Pletcher 20
23. Signalman Kenny McPeek 18
24. Tax Danny Gargan 12
25. Derma Louvre (JPN) Hirofumi Toda 10
MAIDENS IN THE DERBY – Florida Derby (Grade I) runner-up Bodexpress will attempt to become only the fourth horse in Kentucky Derby history to win the race as a maiden.
Buchanan (1884), Sir Barton (1919) and Brokers Tip (1933) are the only maidens to win the Kentucky Derby. Sir Barton would go on to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner.
Eleven maidens have run in the Kentucky Derby since 1937: Sonneteer (2017, 16th); Trojan Nation (2016, 16th); Nationalore (1998, 9th); Pendleton Ridge (1990, 13th); Great Redeemer (1979, 10th); Fourulla (1971, 19th); The Chosen One (1959, 14th); Flamingo (1958, 13th); On the Mark (1950, 8th); Senecas Coin (1949, 14th); Bert G. (1945, 14th).
TRIPLE CROWN NEWS AND NOTES – Trainer Richard Mandella confirmed Rebel Stakes fourth-place finisher Extra Hope did not enter Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (GI) and underwent a precautionary physical exam. Owner Samantha Siegel said on Twitter, “We’re taking our time (with Extra Hope).” … Four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas arrived back to Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning and was one of the first on the track at 6 a.m. with pony Starbuck. “It’s the greatest time of the year,” said Lukas, who will attempt to qualify Market King to the Derby in Saturday’s Blue Grass.
WOOD MEMORIAL (GII)
Saturday, April 6, $750,000, 3yo, 1 1/8 M, Aqueduct (R10), Post time: 6 p.m. EDT. Queens, N.Y., Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10. TV: NBCSN, TVG.
# Horse (Points) Jockey Trainer ML
1. Tax (12) Junior Alvarado Danny Gargan 9-2
2. Tacitus (50) Jose Ortiz Bill Mott 5-2
3. $-Hoffa’s Union (0) Dylan Davis Mark Casse 6-1
4. Haikal (50) Rajiv Maragh Kiaran McLaughlin 7-2
5. Final Jeopardy (0) Manny Franco Jason Servis 8-1
6. Overdeliver (0) Kendrick Caramouche Todd Pletcher 20-1
7. Not That Brady (4) Reylu Gutierrez Rudy Rodriguez 20-1
8. $-Grumps Little Tots (0) Jose Lezcano Jason Servis 30-1
9. +Math Wizard (0) Eric Cancel Saffie Joseph Jr. 30-1
10. Outshine (20) John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 6-1
11. $-Joevia (0) Nik Juarez Gregg Sacco 30-1
BLUE GRASS (GII)
Saturday, April 6, $1 million, 3yo, 1 1/8 M, Keeneland (R10), Post time: 6:23 p.m. EDT, Lexington, Ky, Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10. TV: NBCSN, TVG
# Horse (Points) Jockey Trainer ODDS
1. Somelikeithotbrown (20) Tyler Gaffalione Mike Maker 10-1
2. Vekoma (10) Javier Castellano George Weaver 9-5
3. Signalman (18) Brian Hernandez Jr. Kenny McPeek 8-1
4. Market King (7.5) Jon Court D. Wayne Lukas 20-1
5. Chess Chief (0) Paco Lopez Dallas Stewart 30-1
6. Dream Maker (0) Florent Geroux Mark Casse 10-1
7. Admire (0) Robby Albarado Dale Romans 15-1
8. Win Win Win (10) Irad Ortiz Jr. Mike Trombetta 7-2
9. Sir Winston (1) Julien Leparoux Mark Casse 15-1
10. Lucky Lee (0) Chris Landeros John Servis 20-1
11. So Alive (2) Luis Saez Todd Pletcher 15-1
12. +Parsimony (0) Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neill 20-1
13. Moonster (4) John McKee Dale Romans 30-1
14. Aquadini (0) Corey Lanerie Dallas Stewart 30-1
SANTA ANITA DERBY (GI)
Saturday, April 6, $1 million 3yo, 1 1/8 M, Santa Anita (R8), Post time: 7:18 p.m. EDT. Arcadia, Calif., Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10. TV: NBCSN, TVG.
# Horse (Points) Jockey Trainer ML
1. Roadster (0) Mike Smith Bob Baffert 5-2
2. More Ice (0) Geovanni Franco Jerry Hollendorfer 30-1
3. Nolo Contesto (0) Joe Talamo John Sadler 6-1
4. Synthesis (0) Rafael Bejarano George Papaprodromou 30-1
5. Instagrand (10) Flavien Prat Jerry Hollendorfer 3-1
6. Game Winner (45) Joel Rosario Bob Baffert 4-5
+Not Triple Crown Nominated
$-Late Nomination to Triple Crown
SANTA ANITA OAKS (GI)
Saturday, April 6, $400,000, 3yo fillies, 1 1/16 M, Santa Anita (R3), Post time: 4 p.m. EDT. Arcadia, Calif., Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10. TV: TVG
# Horse (Points) Jockey Trainer ML
1. Flor de La Mar (0) Joel Rosario Bob Baffert 5-1
2. Chasing Yesterday (60) Mike Smith Bob Baffert 3-1
3. ++Stirred (0) Drayden Van Dyke Michael McCarthy 15-1
4. Slewgoodtobetrue (0) Geovanni Franco Peter Eurton 12-1
5. Bellafina (32) Flavien Prat Simon Callaghan 2-5
Saturday, April 6, $300,000, 3yo fillies, 1 1/8 M, Aqueduct (R8), Post time: 4:47 p.m. EDT. Queens, N.Y., Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10. TV: TVG
# Horse (Points) Jockey Trainer ML
1. Afleet Destiny (6) Anthony Salgado Uriah St. Lewis 15-1
2. Espresso Shot (50) Eric Cancel Jorge Abreu 9-5
3. Off Topic (0) John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 5-1
4. Positive Spirit (10) Jose Ortiz Rodolphe Brisset 5-2
5. Always Shopping (10) Manny Franco Todd Pletcher 3-1
6. ++Proud Emma (0) Junior Alvarado Peter Miller 6-1
Saturday, April 6, $500,000, 3yo fillies, 1 1/16 M, Keeneland (R9), Post time: 5:45 p.m. EDT. Lexington, Ky., Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10. TV: TVG
# Horse (Points) Jockey Trainer ML
1. Bizwhacks (10) Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neill 15-1
2. Chocolate Kisses (51) Tyler Gaffalione Mark Casse 5-1
3. Lady Kate (4) Corey Lanerie Eddie Kenneally 15-1
4. Jaywalk (35) Javier Castellano John Servis 8-5
5. Feedback (10) Irad Ortiz Jr. Chad Brown 3-1
6. Restless Rider (22) Brian Hernandez Jr. Kenny McPeek 5-2
7. Bell’s the One (0) Florent Geroux Neil Pessin 15-1
8. Out for a Spin (0) Paco Lopez Dallas Stewart 20-1
Sunday, April 7, $150,000, 3yo fillies, 7 F, Keeneland (R7), Post time: 4:24 p.m. EDT. Lexington, Ky., Top 4 Points: 10-4-2-1. TV: TVG
# Horse (Points) Jockey Trainer
1. ++Shanghai Rain (0) Gabriel Saez Bret Calhoun
2. Mother Mother (7) Florent Geroux Bob Baffert
3. Queens of Beas (0) Jose Ortiz Jorge Abreu
4. Another Time (0) Paco Lopez Barbara Minshall
5. Fancy Dress Party (0) Luis Saez Ben Colebrook
6. Power Gal (Jpn) (10) Tyler Gaffalione Mark Casse
7. ++Iva (0) John Velazquez Wesley Ward
8. Feedback (10) Irad Ortiz Jr. Chad Brown
++Not Kentucky Oaks Nominated
· Episode 7: A Big Race for an Intimate Track
· Episode 6: A Potential Super Star
· Episode 5: Follow Trainer Kelly Breen as he Trains Son of Orb
· Episode 4 :Kenny McPeek – The Underdog Trainer
· Episode 3: Breeders’ Cup Battle Produces Early Derby Favorite
· Episode 2: A Twist in the Road at Keeneland
· Episode 1: Neuroscience to the Iroquois Stakes
· Florida Derby (GI) winner Maximum Security could have been purchased just a few months ago for $16,000. Now, the Jason Servis-trained colt is Kentucky Derby bound for longtime owners Gary and Mary West.
· Owner information: Gary and Mary West are one of the most iconic couples in horse racing. The Wests have been married for 50 years and live in San Diego, Calif. The couple started the telecommunications company West Corp. in 1986. The company, which was founded in Omaha, Neb., eventually became public in 2013 and had a valuation of $5.2 billion. The Wests began their involvement in horse racing in 1980 with trainer Ben Glass. The Wests’ stable began to expand in the early 1990s and they had their first Kentucky Derby starter, Rockamundo, in 1993. The Wests have campaigned multiple Grade I winners including Book Review, New Year’s Day, Power Broker and West Coast.
· Trainer information: Servis originally worked as an exercise rider and jockey’s valet prior to becoming a trainer in 2001. Servis is no stranger to hard-knocking claiming horses. While Maximum Security debuted for a $16,000 claiming tag, a former $16,000 claimer, My Every Wish, helped vault Servis into the 2018 Kentucky Derby with Firenze Fire. After claiming My Every Wish in 2012, Servis and partner Ron Lombardi bred the mare to Poseidon’s Warrior and produced Firenze Fire. Servis’ brother, John, is a fellow trainer based on the east coast, and he won the Kentucky Derby in 2004 with Smarty Jones. – Kevin Kerstein
WIDE OPEN WITH FOUR PREPS REMAINING
Favorites aren’t winning Kentucky Derby prep races and a former $16,000 claimer, Maximum Security, continued to muddle the picture with a convincing wire-to-wire win in the $1 million Florida Derby (Grade I) at Gulfstream Park.
Maximum Security brought solid BRIS Speed ratings into his stakes debut and the unbeaten colt wasn’t a big surprise as the 9-2 fourth choice in the wagering. But the same can’t be said for Bodexpress, who finished a clear second at 71-1 odds despite being winless from four previous outings.
Plus Que Parfait, a well-beaten 13th in the Feb. 16 Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds, added to the mayhem when rebounding in Saturday’s $2.5 million UAE Derby (GII) at Meydan. U.S. shippers had been 0-for-17 in the major qualifier (points on a 100-40-20-10 scale) and Plus Que Parfait outfinished Gray Magician, who was unplaced in a Santa Anita Park allowance two starts back. The top two shipped overseas to gain Kentucky Derby berths.
Up-and-coming types have thrived in the build-up to the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Horses with back class can’t be dismissed, with juvenile Grade I winners Game Winner and Improbable remaining prominent, but the first three major qualifiers (Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby and UAE Derby), and 10 of the last 16 races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, have been captured by first-time stakes victors. Four of the last eight winners were making their initial stakes appearance. Favorites have dropped 10 straight, with War of Will being the last short-priced winner in mid-February, and it’s shaping up to be an extremely competitive Run for the Roses on May 4.
The final four major qualifiers will be offered over the two weekends and Game Winner can make a case for Kentucky Derby favoritism by winning the Santa Anita Derby (GI), one of three Saturday along with the Blue Grass (GII) at Keeneland and Wood Memorial (GII) at Aqueduct.
The fourth and final Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) begins this Friday at noon (EDT) and concludes Sunday at 6 p.m. Bettors will take the results of Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial into account but if you fancy a horse in the April 13 Arkansas Derby (GI), the potential exists for a decent price in the KDFW. Improbable is among those scheduled to compete at Oaklawn Park and I will give serious consideration to Rebel (GII) division winners Long Range Toddy and Omaha Beach in pool 4.
Three of the last six Kentucky Derby winners captured the Florida Derby and Maximum Security will bring commendable BRIS Speed ratings to Churchill Downs, netting a 102 for a facile 3 ½-length decision last Saturday. That’s tied for the highest number in this year’s qualifiers. The Gary and Mary West homebred has proven tractable for trainer Jason Servis, rating kindly in a previous start before romping by 6 ½ lengths, and his other three wins came wire to wire.
Luis Saez hustled his mount from post No. 7 and Maximum Security easily made a short lead, dictating a slow fractions in :24.42, :48.98 and 1:12.90 while unopposed. He drew off sharply into the stretch and finished fast to complete 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.86, generating an enormous 123 BRIS Late Pace rating after recording the final three-eighths of a mile in 35:96 seconds.
From the second crop of New Year’s Day, who is by Street Cry and never raced again after winning the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), Maximum Security made his first appearance in a $16,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream on Dec. 20 and connections were fortunate not to lose the 9 ¾-length debut winner. He captured his next two starts over starter claiming foes by a combined 24 ¾ lengths and brought the top last-out BRIS Speed rating (100) into the Florida Derby, which represented not only a gigantic class test but the first two-turn attempt for the bay colt.
Maximum Security dismissed any class concerns but the manner of victory does give pause because he’s unlikely to have everything his own way on slow fractions in the Kentucky Derby. I’m less concerned when a front-runner controls a slow pace and finishes fast, with Always Dreaming being a prime example. The 2017 Kentucky Derby winner could have run quicker early when posting a five-length score in his penultimate prep but took advantage of fortuitous circumstances, registering 58 E1 and 54 E2 Pace ratings as he crawled through the opening stages. His 112 Late Pace rating that afternoon came as no surprise.
Horses with an off-the-pace run style are at the mercy of front-runners, making huge Late Pace numbers much more dubious if the tempo is on the slow side. The 129 and 110 Late Pace ratings garnered by Pyro for wins in the 2008 Risen Star and Louisiana Derby behind slow paces didn’t hold up weeks later.
Maximum Security’s pedigree appears well-suited to the 1 ¼-mile trip, with his dam being a half-sister to two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) winner Flat Out, but the 3-year-old was born on May 14, 2016. A late foaling date has not proven advantageous, with upset winners Mine That Bird (50-1) and Thunder Gulch (24-1) being the only May foals to win the Kentucky Derby in the last 30+ years. Exterminator, who was born on May 30, 1915, is the latest known foal to win the Kentucky Derby.
Bodexpress did have the second-best last-out Speed rating entering the Florida Derby, earning a 97 for a neck second in a Feb. 16 maiden special weight at seven furlongs, but had never been two turns and acted terribly in the post parade, dumping jockey Nik Juarez as he became agitated by the crowd noise. The Gustavo Delgado-trained colt tracked in second from the start and came under a heavy ride while losing ground on the far turn, but Bodexpress was always safe in second and finished 3 ¼ lengths clear of third on the wire.
He’ll need to be better composed to handle the walk-over, paddock scene and post parade on Kentucky Derby Day and Bodexpress’ female line isn’t encouraging for 1 ¼ miles, with his first dam being by City Zip and the second by Meadowlake.
Fountain of Youth (GII) upsetter Code of Honor wound up a non-threatening third after weaving in and out through the stretch and his BRIS Speed ratings this year (95-95-91) are on the low side. Bourbon War disappointed mightily as the 5-2 second choice, finishing about another length back in fourth. From three starts this year, the Fountain of Youth runner-up has failed to improve upon the 96 BRIS Speed rating registered in his juvenile finale last December.
The bubble burst for Hidden Scroll, who dropped from Kentucky Derby consideration after weakening to sixth as the 9-5 favorite. After recording a spectacular 14-length debut win in late January, the late-starting colt took a step back in a pair of qualifiers.
Plus Que Parfait was based at Churchill Downs last year and his best showing prior to the UAE Derby came in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) under the Twin Spires, a neck second to Signalman in late November. He opened his sophomore season as the second betting choice in the Jan. 19 Lecomte (GIII) at Fair Grounds and rallied for fifth after a disastrous start, but regressed when beating only one rival without incidence in the aforementioned Risen Star.
Adding blinkers for the about 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby, Plus Que Parfait saved ground until the stretch and rallied late up the inside to deny Gray Magician by three-quarters of a length.
He didn’t appear to beat much but Plus Que Parfait’s improving form and affinity for Churchill offers some appeal. Imperial Racing campaigns the Point of Entry colt and Brendan Walsh trains.
It was a tough beat for supporters of Gray Magician, who appeared to launching a winning move when charging to the fore in the stretch. The son of Greydar recorded his second consecutive runner-up finish for Peter Miller and Gray Magician flattered Preakness-bound Alwaysmining, who defeated him by 4 ¼ lengths in the Feb. 16 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park.
Scully’s Kentucky Derby Top 10
1 OMAHA BEACH: Arkansas Derby next for winner of Rebel 2nd division
2 GAME WINNER: Santa Anita Derby favorite exits nose second to Omaha Beach
3 LONG RANGE TODDY: Arkansas Derby next for winner of Rebel 1st division
4 MAXIMUM SECURITY: Had everything his own way but still impressed in Florida Derby
5 IMPROBABLE: Seeks to rebound from first loss in Arkansas Derby
6 TACITUS: Will try to back up Tampa Bay Derby upset in Wood Memorial
7 BY MY STANDARDS: Late-developing colt sprung Louisiana Derby upset
8 ANOTHERTWISTAFATE: May need points after just missing in Sunland Derby
9 SPINOFF: Louisiana Derby runner-up could be Pletcher’s best hope
10 CODE OF HONOR: Fountain of Youth winner came up short in Florida Derby
Bellafina, widely considered the current favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (GI), will have her final tune-up for that May 3 event on Saturday in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (GI).
The 1 1/16-mile event is one of three Road to the Kentucky Oaks series preps that will take place on Saturday across the country, the others being the $500,000 Ashland (GI) at Keeneland over 1 1/16 miles and the $300,000 Gazelle (GII) at Aqueduct over 1 1/8 miles. Oaks qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 will be distributed to the top four finishers in each race.
A multiple Grade I winner last year before a surprising but excusable fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) when she was determined to be in season, Bellafina was a facile winner of the seven-furlong Santa Ynez (GII) in early January, but a much narrower scorer of the one-mile Las Virgenes (GII) two months ago when setting a pressured pace.
Trainer Bob Baffert will provide the chief opposition. Starlet (GI) winner Chasing Yesterday, a half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, enters off a popular win in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks in which she started as the 1-20 favorite. Baffert also saddles Flor de La Mar, a daughter of Tiznow who won on debut in January before disappointing in an allowance as an odds-on choice.
The Ashland features a rematch of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies one-two Jaywalk and Restless Rider. Voted champion of the division after the Breeders' Cup score, Jaywalk was a stunning disappointment in last month’s Davona Dale (GII) at Gulfstream when she weakened to fourth as the 1-5 favorite.
Restless Rider, who won the Alcibiades (GI) over the Ashland track and trip in October, was also upset at odds-on when last seen in the Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill on Thanksgiving weekend. The gray by Distorted Humor has been in steady training for Kenny McPeek all winter at Gulfstream.
Feedback stretches out beyond seven furlongs for the first time after winning the Forward Gal (GIII) in early February for Chad Brown. She also won her debut at Saratoga last August.
Chocolate Kisses stands to benefit if the pace is fast, as was the case in last month’s Honeybee (GIII) at Oaklawn when she made up a 12-length deficit to win by one length.
The Gazelle has a similarly short field of six. Positive Spirit, who dominated the track-and-distance Demoiselle (GII) in November, looks to rebound from a poor showing in the Feb. 16 Rachel Alexandra (GII) at Fair Grounds.
Also in the lineup are Espresso Shot, winner of the $250,000 Busher; Always Shopping, who landed the $100,000 Busanda in early February; and California-based allowance winner Proud Emma. – Vance Hanson/Brisnet.com
# Horse Trainer Points
1. Champagne Anyone Ian Wilkes 113
2. Street Band Larry Jones 105
3. Liora Wayne Catalano 71
4. Chasing Yesterday Bob Baffert 60
5. Serengeti Empress Tom Amoss 60
6. Chocolate Kisses Mark Casse 51
7. Jeltrin Alexis Delgado 51
8. Espresso Shot Jorge Abreu 50
9. $-Cookie Dough Stan Gold 40
10. $-Dunbar Road Chad Brown 40
11. Jaywalk John Servis 35
12. Bellafina Simon Callaghan 32
13. Eres Tu Steve Asmussen 24
14. Restless Rider Kenny McPeek 22
15. Sweet Diane Mike Stidham 22
16. Oxy Lady Jack Sisterson 21
17. Point of Honor George Weaver 20
18. Naughty Joker Wesley Ward 20
19. Motion Emotion Tom Van Berg 20
20. Positive Spirit Rodolphe Brissett 20
$ Notified Churchill Downs officials that they will late nominate to the Kentucky Oaks
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 mentioned to be under consideration for each race based on published news reports and other sources:
ARKANSAS DERBY (GI)
Saturday, April 13, $1 million, 3yo, 1 1/8 M, Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Ark., Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10.
Horse (Points) Trainer Prime Power Style
Known Likely Starters:
Improbable (25) Bob Baffert 146.3 E/P 6
Galilean (7.5) Jerry Hollendorfer 141.1 E 8
Omaha Beach (37.5) Richard Mandella 139.4 E/P 8
Long Range Toddy (57.5) Steve Asmussen 137.8 E/P 6
Gray Attempt (10) Jinks Fires 132.9 E 8
Known Possible Starters:
Country House (30) Bill Mott 139.2 S 0
Last Judgment (0) Todd Pletcher 132.1 E/P 6
Saturday, April 13, $200,000, 3yo, 1 1/16 M, Keeneland, Lexington, Ky., Top 4 Points: 20-8-4-2.
Horse (Points) Trainer Prime Power Style
Known Possible Starters:
Sueno (28) Keith Desormeaux 139.8 E/P 6