We've rolled into March as the slate of contenders for the 2013 Kentucky Derby begins to crystallize.
As of the date of this post, we are just seven and a half weeks from the first Saturday in May and the running of the 2013 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The next three weeks will contain the biggest and most important prep races in the country as the top contenders look to firmly establish their Derby credentials, as well as hoping to enter the starting gate in peak form.
I've update the Google Drive spreadsheet with all of the recent Derby prep data (finally!); you can access that document via the link below.
Okay, let's start with a look at the current point standings and then take a look at the horses in good shape to make the starting gate, and those that need to pick it up in the next three to four weeks. First, here are the standings.
Note: There are horses that have less than 10 points but I just included the ones with 10 or more at this point. The full list is on the Google Drive spreadsheet.
|1||Ive Struck a Nerve||51||Out|
|2||Hear the Ghost||50|
|West Hills Giant||20|
|Super Ninety Nine||10|
|Tiz a Minister||10|
|Will Take Charge||10|
We've got two horses on the above list that we know are off the Derby trail: Ive Struck a Nerve and Violence. Currently, four horses are tied at the top of the list with 50 points to their name: Verrazano, Hear the Ghost, Orb and Vyjack. Those four look pretty good in terms of making the gate as I'd be surprised if the 20th horse on the list come Derby week has more than 50 points (however, until we really see how the new points systems plays out, it's a bit difficult to really predict).
What we do know is that there are two more races worth 50-20-10-5 points, two Wild Card races worth 20-8-4-2 points, and seven final preps worth the big 100-40-20-10 points. So, let's just theorize a bit on what could happen.
First, let's say that none of the horses with 50 points earns anything in their final prep, and that new horses pick up the top points in the two 50 points races and the seven 100 points races. That alone would bump the top four down to somewhere around spots 9 through 13, but they'd still be firmly in the field. If all new horses (horses without any points, so far) also finish second in those seven races, that wouldn't be enough to jump the current top four, but the 40 points from the big six races would be enough to jump Flashback's 30 points. But even in that scenario, Flashback would still likely be in the mid-teens in terms of point standings.
So, in the worst case scenario where the top four (or five) don't earn a single point the rest of the prep season, and completely new horses earn all of the win-place points, the current top 5 would still seems pretty safe.
Another scenario is the top four failing to earn any more points and a mix of new horses and horses with some points taking the top two spots in all of the remaining races. Obviously that scenario is a lot more complicated but it still seems unlikely that the top four would find themselves all the way out of the top 20. They might be in the mid-to-high teens, but I think they'd likely stay in the starting gate.
The most likely scenario is that the top four are going to pick up at least some points in their last start and have little to worry about in terms of actually qualifying for the Derby. The horses that need to worry just a bit are those sitting right at 20 points or less, that's because there are 27 finishing spots over the next few weeks that are worth at least 20 points, and 16 of those are worth over 40. Colts like Java's War, Code West, West Hills Giant, Falling Sky and Oxbow can't afford to come up with a complete clunker in their final start or else they could find themselves on the outside looking in. Additionally, Shanghai Bobby also can't afford a major flop as his 24 points have him currently in the middle of the Top 20 but vulnerable if he's unable to pick up any more points.
Of course, many of the above scenarios involve chaos in the final preps -- long shots winning races, favorites completely tanking, and so on and so forth. And while that's unlikely to occur, we are talking about horse racing where sometimes strange things happen.
Horse with just 10 points to their name at this points (and just one prep left) -- like Revolutionary and Itsmyluckyday -- have zero room for error. Those colts need to finish at least second in their final major preps in order to safely get into the field. And as good as all three of those colts looked this spring, if I was the connections I'd feel a whole lot better if they each had two instead of one more prep left this spring. If the jock falls off at the gate, like Fort Larned last weekend, Derby dreams could go down the drain in a blink of an eye.
Remaining Derby Preps
There are a total of 1,513 points still remaining in the coming weeks, with the major preps all carrying a 100-40-20-10 designation. Below is the remaining prep schedule.
|1st Leg - Champ||3/16/2013||Rebel||8.5||Dirt||OP||Arkansas||50||20||10||5|
|1st Leg - Champ||3/23/2013||Spiral||9.0||Synth.||TP||Kentucky||50||20||10||5|
|1st Leg - Champ||3/24/2013||Sunland Derby||9.0||Dirt||SUN||New Mexico||50||20||10||5|
|2nd Leg- Champ||3/30/2013||Florida Derby||9.0||Dirt||GP||Florida||100||40||20||10|
|2nd Leg- Champ||3/30/2013||Louisiana Derby||9.0||Dirt||FG||Louisiana||100||40||20||10|
|2nd Leg- Champ||3/30/2013||UAE Derby||9.5||Synth.||MEY||UAE||100||40||20||10|
|2nd Leg- Champ||4/6/2013||Santa Anita Derby||9.0||Dirt||SA||California||100||40||20||10|
|2nd Leg- Champ||4/6/2013||Wood Memorial||9.0||Dirt||AQU||New York||100||40||20||10|
|2nd Leg- Champ||4/13/2013||Arkansas Derby||9.0||Dirt||OP||Arkansas||100||40||20||10|
|2nd Leg- Champ||4/13/2013||Blue Grass||9.0||Synth||KEE||Kentucky||100||40||20||10|
|Wild Card||4/27/2013||The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial||8.0||Dirt||CD||Kentucky||20||8||4||2|