Carpe Diem and Dortmund continued their winning ways on April 4, recording impressive scores in the Blue Grass Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, respectively, and Frosted rebounded from a disappointing setback to capture the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial.
Those performances marked the second of three weekends of major final Kentucky Derby prep races, with the April 11 Arkansas Derby serving as the last of seven races awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.
The April 11 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is also part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, offering a total of 17 points (10-4-2-1).
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.
Dortmund figures to be either the favorite or second choice in the Kentucky Derby following his 4 ¼-length Santa Anita Derby romp. By 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, the massive chestnut colt registered an excellent 106 BRIS Speed rating while leading all the way and moved to second on the Leaderboard with 170 points, only one point back of Louisiana Derby hero International Star.
Now six-for-six overall for three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, Dortmund will attempt to become the fourth horse to capture the Kentucky Derby undefeated in the last 35 years, joining Big Brown, Barbaro (2006) and Smarty Jones (2004).
One Lucky Dane was no threat to his stablemate but will get the opportunity to try and turn the tables four weeks later at Churchill Downs, garnering 40 points for his runner-up effort. The Baffert trainee made a belated three-year-old bow in a March 19 allowance and the Santa Anita Derby was his lone chance to qualify this year.
Bolo came next in third, increasing his ledger to 30 points, and could wind up safely within the 20-horse capacity if his connections decide to pursue the first leg of the Triple Crown. However, they are reportedly considering a switch back to turf racing. Fourth-placer Prospect Park also increased his total to 30 points and will be in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if that number proves sufficient.
Carpe Diem confirmed his top contender status, scoring comfortably by a three-length margin in the Blue Grass at Keeneland. An easy five-length winner of his 2015 debut, the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby, the well-bred son of Giant’s Causeway raced up close in second until drawing away at the top of the stretch and earned a career-best 102 BRIS Speed rating in his final prep.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is seeking his second Kentucky Derby victory, capturing the 2010 edition with Super Saver, and Carpe Diem will bring a sterling four-for-five record into the 1 ¼-mile classic, the lone setback being a respectable second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a third on the Leaderboard with 164 points.
Danzig Moon possessed only four points entering the Blue Grass but stamped his Kentucky Derby ticket with a rallying second. Ocho Ocho Ocho moved inside the top 20 finishing third, increasing his total to 30, and will bring speed to the Kentucky Derby field if connections elect to ship from California. Frammento failed to guarantee a berth in fourth, moving to 28th on the Leaderboard with a 20-point balance, and will need defections in the coming weeks to make it.
Frosted was well-regarded entering the year but his Kentucky Derby stock had dropped precipitously following a disappointing fourth in the February 21 Fountain of Youth in which he suddenly stopped trying in the stretch with the lead, retreating to be a distant fourth. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt underwent a minor throat surgery afterward and came back a career-best performance in the Wood at Aqueduct, winning by a convincing two-length margin.
The gray son of leading sire Tapit settled in sixth during the early stages and overcame a slow pace up front, and Frosted’s 107 BRIS Speed is the top last-race figure among Kentucky Derby contenders, pending the result of the Arkansas Derby.
Tencendur recorded a surprising second at 21-1 odds and third-placer El Kabeir is also Kentucky Derby-bound – the latter already had 75 points to his credit and is ranked seventh on the Leaderboard presently. Daredevil is outside the proverbial bubble following his fourth, 25th for now with a 20-point total.
Only one more weekend of prep races to recap before turning our focus toward handicapping the Kentucky Derby.
For further details on the Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby and Wood, please check out my Kentucky Derby Report at brisnet.com.