Following multi-length victories in the Wood Memorial and Illinois Derby, Eskendereya (pronounced “ess-ken-DRAY-uh”) and American Lion are now safety positioned on the Top 20 Graded Stakes Earnings list that determines the prospective field for Kentucky Derby 136 on Saturday, May 1 at Churchill Downs.

The $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) has been restricted to 20 starters since 1975. Graded stakes earnings accumulated in major races on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” have determined the field for the 1 ¼-mile classic since 1986.

Eskendereya ($600,000) entered Saturday’s Wood Memorial at No. 24 on the list of horses who were still vying for a Derby berth and exited the Aqueduct winner’s circle at No. 5, thanks to the $450,000 first prize. American Lion ($378,000) was No. 31 but jumped to No. 10 for his Illinois Derby victory worth $291,000. Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney’s Candy ($630,000) was already in the Top 20 in a tie for 17th, but the $450,000 first prize vaulted him to No. 4.

Jackson Bend ($230,000) needed to finish second to possibly crack the Kentucky Derby field and he held off Awesome Act ($285,000) by a neck for the place, while earning $150,000 to move from No. 33 to No. 17. Awesome Act, who received $75,000 for the show, jumped from No. 19 into a safe No. 13 spot.

In other Top 20 movement, Backtalk ($225,916) picked up $53,350 for his third-place finish in the Illinois Derby and moved up from No. 20 to No. 18.

Here’s the Top 20 through April 3, which is based on known intentions or a consideration to run in the Kentucky Derby (with last week’s ranking on the Graded Stakes Earnings List):


1.    (1.)    Lookin At Lucky ($1,480,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (trained by Bob Baffert)

2.    (2.)    Noble’s Promise ($708,000) – April 10 Arkansas Derby (Ken McPeek)

3.    (3.)    Rule ($645,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Todd Pletcher)

4.    (t-17.)    Sidney’s Candy ($630,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (John Sadler)

5.    (24.)    Eskendereya ($600,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Todd Pletcher)

6.    (4.)    Mission Impazible ($473,434) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Todd Pletcher)

7.    (5.)    Ice Box ($457,500) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Nick Zito)

8.    (6.)    Endorsement ($400,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Shannon Ritter)

9.    (7.)    Conveyance ($386,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Bob Baffert)

10.    (31.)    American Lion ($378,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Eoin Harty)

11.    (8.)    Discreetly Mine ($340,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Todd Pletcher)

12.    (9.)    Dean’s Kitten ($326,475) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Mike Maker)

13.    (19.)    Awesome Act ($285,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Jeremy Noseda)

14.    (10.)    Dublin ($273,208) – April 10 Arkansas Derby (D. Wayne Lukas)

15.    (11.)    Interactif ($270,450) – April 10 Toyota Blue Grass (Todd Pletcher)

16.    (12.)    Homeboykris ($250,500) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Rick Dutrow Jr.)

17.    (33.)    Jackson Bend ($230,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Nick Zito)

18.    (20.)    Backtalk ($225,916) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Tom Amoss)?

19.    (13.)    Aikenite ($218,000) – April 10 Toyota Blue Grass (Todd Pletcher)

20.    (14.)    Make Music for Me ($215,000) – April 10 Toyota Blue Grass (Alexis Barba)

Positions 20-40 look like this:


21.    (16.)    Uh Oh Bango ($187,952) – April 10 Arkansas Derby (Kory Owens)

22.    (t-17)    A Little Warm ($180,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Tony Dutrow)?

22.    (t-17)    Odysseus ($180,000) – April 10 Toyota Blue Grass or April 10 Arkansas Derby (Tom Albertrani)

22.    (t-17)    Setsuko ($180,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby (Richard Mandella)?

25.    (21.)    Super Saver ($163,832) – April 10 Arkansas Derby (Todd Pletcher)

26.    (22.)    Pleasant Prince ($162,500) – April 10 Toyota Blue Grass (Wesley Ward)

27.    (23.)    Tempted to Tapit ($156,000) – Unknown (Steve Klesaris)

28.    (27.)    Caracortado ($153,000) – May 1 Kentucky Derby or May 15 Preakness (Mike Machowsky)

29.    (New)    Yawanna Twist ($147,000) – Unknown (Rick Dutrow Jr.)

30.    (25.)    Connemara ($138,500) – April 17 Coolmore Lexington (Todd Pletcher)

31.    (29.)    Schoolyard Dreams ($137,500) – Unknown (Derek Ryan)

32.    (26.)    Northern Giant ($127,000) – April 17 Coolmore Lexington (D. Wayne Lukas)

33.    (New)    Eightyfiveinafifty ($120,000) – April 24 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial or April 24 Withers (Gary Contessa)

34.    (28.)    Paddy O’Prado ($100,950) – April 10 Toyota Blue Grass (Dale Romans)

35.    (30.)    Alphie’s Bet ($90,000) – Unknown (Alexis Barba)

36.    (32.)    Drosselmeyer ($87,000) – April 10 Toyota Blue Grass or April 17 Coolmore Lexington (Bill Mott)

37.    (34.)    Pulsion ($80,000) – April 10 Arkansas Derby (Patrick Biancone)

38.    (35.)    The Program ($75,500) – Unknown (Bob Baffert)

39.    (36.)    Ron the Greek ($70,500) – Unknown (Tom Amoss)

40.    (37.)    Nacho Friend ($64,500) – Unknown (Kelly Breen)
 

Uh Oh Bango ($187,952) fell from No. 16 to No. 21. A Little Warm ($180,000) and Odysseus ($180,000), who were tied for 17th, dropped to a tie for 22nd with Setsuko ($180,000), who jumped into the picture with a second place finish in the Santa Anita Derby.

It may seem hard to believe, but the connections of horses with graded stakes earnings of $230,000 or less might not be safe: Jackson Bend, Backtalk, No. 19 Aikenite ($218,000) and No. 20 Make Music for Me ($215,000). The “bubble” to get in has varied year to year. Last year, it took only $55,500 for Nowhere to Hide to complete the 20-horse field. Two years ago, the last horse in was Denis of Cork who had $165,000 – the highest total ever for the last spot in the field.

Aikenite and Make Music for Me will attempt to safely pad their bankrolls with a top five finish in Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland. The 1 1/8-mile race over Polytrack is also expected to attract No. 15 Interactif ($270,450) as well as No. 22 Odysseus ($180,000) and No. 26 Pleasant Prince ($162,500), who need top three finishes to safely make the Derby line. No. 34 Paddy O’Prado ($100,950) and possible starter No. 36 Drosselmeyer ($87,000) need to finish first or second. Other possible starters who must win to be considered for the Derby include Codoy ($25,000), First Dude ($22,500), Fearless Cowboy ($15,000), Giant’s Tomb ($0) and Line of David ($0). Saint Eligius, mentioned as a possible starter, is not Triple Crown nominated. First place is worth $450,000; second is $150,000; third is $75,000; fourth is $37,500; fifth is $22,500; and $15,000 will be divided between the sixth through last place finishers.

The $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park has lured No. 2 Noble’s Promise ($708,000) and No. 14 Dublin ($273,208), who are firmly placed within the prospective Kentucky Derby field. Arizona-bred Uh Oh Bango looks like he’ll need a top four finish to safely get back into the Derby field, while No. 25 Super Saver ($163,832) needs to finish in the top three. No. 37 Pulsion ($80,000) and First Dude ($22,500) could break into the Derby lineup with a first or second place finish. Line of David ($0), New Madrid ($0) and Tiz the One ($0) must win. Possible starter A Student is not Triple Crown nominated. First place is worth $600,000; second is $200,000; third is $100,000; fourth is $50,000; fifth is $30,000; and $20,000 will be divided between the sixth through last place finishers.

Last ditch efforts to make the Kentucky Derby field can also be made in the Grade II, $300,000 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland (April 17); Grade III, $200,000 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial at Churchill Downs (April 24); and Grade III, $150,000 Withers at Aqueduct (April 24).

Early possible starters for the Lexington include Pleasant Prince ($162,500), who could make the Derby lineup by finishing in the exacta. Connemara ($138,500), Northern Giant ($127,000) and Drosselmeyer ($87,000) look like they would have to win. Meanwhile, Chief Counsel ($24,250), Exhi ($358), Distorted Dave ($0) and Quiet All American ($0) would have to win and might need defections because they may fall short of the cutline. Lonesome Street and Nordic Truce, who are also under consideration, are not Triple Crown nominated.

Some spots could open; late defections due to illness, injury or a change of direction are common. Final decisions on No. 9 Conveyance ($386,000) and Interactif might not be made until their trainers – Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, respectively – watch their horses train over the Churchill Downs main track. Pletcher also said that may choose not to run Connemara in the Derby regardless of the Lexington outcome.

Who’s Out?

Fillies She Be Wild ($1,292,100), Blind Luck ($1,041,150), Devil May Care ($364,000) and Crisp ($225,000) appear more likely for the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks on Friday, April 30, although trainer Todd Pletcher said on March 27 that the connections of Bonnie Miss winner Devil May Care haven’t entirely ruled out the Derby just yet.

Godolphin’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Vale of York-IRE ($1,114,784) is sidelined by colic and UAE Derby third Mendip ($200,000) appears likely to remain overseas, along with Coolmore’s Beethoven-IRE ($342,616).

Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has said that D’ Funnybone ($420,000) “will not run in the Derby” but could be aimed at the Preakness. Also, his Radiohead-GB ($196,332) will target the Grade II, $175,000 American Turf at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Oaks Day. In mid-March, Buddy’s Saint ($210,000) was sidelined by a right front ankle chip following a workout at Gulfstream Park.