The final round of major prep races began on March 28 with the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby and U.A.E. Derby all offering points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.
Four 170-point races remain, with the Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby and TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial up this weekend and the Arkansas Derby on April 11.
The 141st Kentucky Derby on May 2 is limited to 20 three-year-old Thoroughbreds and a points system determines eligibility. The complete schedule and explanation of scoring races, along with the updated standings of the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, can be found here.
Materiality improved to three-for-three while making his first attempt in a qualifying race, recording a front-running victory in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, and the son of Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex registered an excellent 105 BRIS Speed rating for the 1 ½-length decision.
He’s part of a strong Todd Pletcher contingent – the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner co-holds the record for the most Kentucky Derby starters in a single year (five in 2007 and 2013) – and the leading trainer has at least six prospects under serious consideration, with Carpe Diem, Daredevil, Itsaknockout, Madefromlucky and Stanford also on the roster.
Materiality will be looking to overcome a remarkable trend – no Kentucky Derby has been unraced at age two since Apollo in 1882. That's 132 years and counting. Materiality made his career debut on January 11, winning a six-furlong maiden test in the slop, and has raced at Gulfstream exclusively in his brief career.
Upstart was in position but could not get past Materiality in the Florida Derby stretch, winding up 12 lengths clear of second in what turned out to be a two-horse race. Upstart brought 36 points into the Florida Derby and jumped to fourth on the Leaderboard (76 total points).
Ami’s Flatter doubled his total to 40 with a Florida Derby third (14th in the standings) and trainer Josie Carroll hopes the late runner can capitalize upon an expected hot pace on Derby Day. Itsaknockout finished another seven lengths back in a disappointing fourth-place showing, but he was already safely within the 20-horse field after earning 50 points for a DQ win in the February 21 Fountain of Youth.
International Star became the points’ leader (171) when rallying gamely to capture the Louisiana Derby by a neck. The late runner swept all three qualifying races at Fair Grounds, taking January’s Lecomte Stakes and February’s Risen Star, and he’ll attempt to give leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, as well as trainer Mike Maker and jockey Miguel Mena, their first Kentucky Derby winner.
Stanford ran well in defeat, picking up his first 40 points for the Louisiana Derby second, and will bring good speed to Kentucky Derby 141. War Story wound up a non-threatening third, increasing his total to a safe 46 points, and Keen Ice clunked up for fourth, garnering 10 desperately points. Keen Ice could wind up on the bubble with a 22-point total.
The U.A.E. Derby was held on Meydan’s new dirt track in Dubai and Mubtaahij proved to be a smashing eight-length winner. He will head stateside for all-world conditioner Michael De Kock and rates as an interesting contender, especially if Mubtaahij trains forwardly at Churchill Downs in the mornings leading up to the first Saturday in May.
Runner-up Maftool is the only other prospect from the U.A.E. Derby, but he hasn’t been confirmed by connections yet.
For further details on the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby and U.A.E. Derby, please check out my Kentucky Derby Report at brisnet.com.