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Road to Kentucky Derby 136 - vol. 10

After almost two and a half months of maneuvering, racing, and posturing, we are now in the home stretch of the prep race season.  Only 30 days until Kentucky Derby 136, and only an handful of Derby preps on the horizon, all of which are the "big ones" – the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, and Illinois Derby.  Any horse that wins one of these final prep races will find themself in the starting gate at Churchill Downs.

Prior to last weekend’s Kentucky Derby prep races I would have bet good money that the winner of the Louisiana Derby would have been more impressive than the winner of the Sunland Derby.  And I would have lost money on that bet as the little known race in New Mexico, featuring graded status for the first time in its short history, produced one of the top three year old performances of the spring.

Last Week’s Preps

 

 

Grade 2 Louisiana Derby (Race replay): Upon watching the replay again, the horse of this race for me was pacesetter, A Little Warm.  Making his first start around two turns and trying to get a mile and an eighth, A Little Warm did all the dirty work on the front end and didn’t give up the lead to the Mission Impazible until they were in the shadow of the wire…and he still hung on for second over Drosselmeyer.  Now Drosselmeyer had a much, much more difficult trip than A Little Warm, so perhaps the pacesetter was extremely lucky to hold onto second.  But at the same time, there were plenty of other horses in the field that had perfectly fine trips yet they weren’t able to pass A Little Warm - I think that’s got to count for something.

Don’t know what to say about the winner, Mission Impazible, or any of the other horses in this race.  I don’t think it was the deepest or most contentious Louisiana Derby we’ve seen.  And I have my doubts that any of these horses are going to be at their best going a mile and a quarter.  Mission Impazible shouldn’t have a problem but he doesn’t appear to have that quick turn of foot during the final part of a race that will separate him from the rest of the field.

Drosselmeyer, the recipient of truly adventurous trip around the track, was only able to nab the third spot and the $75,000 that goes with it.  He’s now on the outside looking in for the Derby.

Grade 3 Sunland Derby (Race replay): In retrospect, we should have seen this one coming: Robby Albarado travels to Sunland Park in New Mexico to ride a recent maiden winner in the Sunland Derby.  Throw in the fact that the race was on the same day as the Louisiana Derby (where there were plenty of good races and purses to be had) and it shouldn’t surprise us that Endorsement was a live horse.

Despite the appearance of several speed horses in the field, Conveyance once again was able to break well and secure a somewhat easy lead heading into the first turn and the backstretch.  However, unlike his performance in the Southwest Stakes, the mile and an eighth distance proved to be too much to ask for.  As the field moved on the turn, Endorsement and Robby Albarado easily moved by the leader and by the top of the stretch the Sunland Derby was over. 

If you watch the replay of this race you realize Conveyance is in a heap load of trouble when he’s moving onto the far turn; jockey Martin Garcia is asking for a lot of run from his horse while Robby Albarado is hardly moving at all on Endorsement.  It was clear at this point that Conveyance was done and Endorsement was going to roll.

Endorsement is going to face a much more difficult task in the Derby than he did last Saturday in terms of trip and traffic.  But this colt does appear to have a lot of upside. 

Grade 3 Lane’s End Stakes (Race replay): What do you do with this race?  That’s the question I was asking myself immediately after I watched turf horse Dean’s Kitten roll four-wide by the field on the far turn to win going away by two and a half lengths.  The winner has done nothing to speak of on dirt but certainly looks like he could be a decent turf/synthetic animal.  Initially, I thought "toss, toss, toss" as in I would throw this horse into the long shot bin.  After a little time to digest the results, I still think Dean’s Kitten is a long shot in the Derby, but I also think he’s a long shot that could factor into the deep exotics.

If he runs in the Derby it is highly likely that Dean’s Kitten will find himself far back of the field early on.  He stalked the Lane’s End pace, but that was with fractions of :48+ and 1:12+; take a second or two off of those splits and Dean’s Kitten will be mid-pack, at best.  And while Dean’s Kitten didn’t come home particularly fast in the Lane’s End (12.78 over final 1/16th) he did maintain his speed much better than the rest of the field.  In other words, he is pretty much a grinder, and a grinder that’s going to be well back in the Derby.

Dean’s Kitten will be ignored at the windows on May 1st and will probably go off at something like 50/1 or 60/1, but with a hot pace and his running style, I think he is worth a shot in any superfecta or trifecta plays.

This Week’s Preps

I’m going to go more in-depth as to the contenders for each race in tomorrow Derby Prep Preview post, but today I’m going to take a look at what’s at stake for some of the horses in each of these events.

Grade 1 Wood Memorial: Eskendereya has been at or near the top of everyone’s contender list following his brilliant performance in the Fountain of Youth, but he’s still got some work to do in order to secure a spot in the Derby.  The bottom of this post has a list of the top-60 three year olds ranked by their graded earnings.  I’ve taken the liberty to remove the names of several horses that we know for certain are not headed to the Derby (Winslow Homer, Vale of York, Buddy’s Saint, Blind Luck, etc.).  From the remaining names, we find Eskendereya currently sitting at #30 with $150,000 in earnings.  Winning the Wood would certainly get Eskendereya in the front door, while a second place finish probably nets him a healthy $150k or so.  Third place?  That will make things a little more interesting.

In all likelihood, Eskendereya is going to pick up the earnings he needs in the Wood partly due to the fact that he’s entered against only five other horses.  Only a complete flop will keep him out of the Derby starting gate.

Gotham winner Awesome Act currently sits a #19 with $210,000 in graded earnings; a third place finish or higher should have him securely in the Derby. 

Both Schoolyard Dreams and Jackson Bend would be on the fringe with a second place finish and need to win to make it.

Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby: Lookin At Lucky is easily in the field and can really use this race however trainer Bob Baffert sees fit. 

Sidney’s Candy currently sits at #23 on the earnings chart; a third place finish or better probably gets him enough to qualify, assuming nothing chaotic happens in the other preps.  A non-top 3 finish and it’s going to be tough to make the field.

A second place finish would put Caracortado at around $250k and, like a ton of other horses, put him squarely on the fringe.  Cardiff Giant, along with the rest of the field, needs to win to get in.

Grade 2 Illinois Derby: The purse for this race is $500,000, which makes it less of a "win and you’re in" type of prep when compared to the Wood and the SA Derby.  Morning line favorite Backtalk has the highest graded earnings of any in this field and currently sits at #26.  A third place finish or higher probably gets the job done for this colt.  As for the rest of the field, only American Lion has what we would call "significant" graded earnings at this time ($87,000, t40th), and all of these horses need the full winner’s share to have a shot at the Derby.

Top 10 Contenders

A little bit of a change up in the Top 10 after a very good performance from Endorsement in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby.  I dropped Conveyance from the Top 10 as his Sunland performance certainly indicated that he’ll have trouble negotiating a mile and a quarter in the Derby.  He’s replaced by the Sunland winner, Endorsement, a horse that is light on experience but big on talent.  I moved Dublin up a spot to #5, making him the biggest beneficiary of Conveyance’s removal.

I like what I’ve seen from Schoolyard Dreams in his races this spring but he’s down to his last bullet in the Wood Memorial.

Rank

Last

Horse

Notes

1

1

Lookin At Lucky

Final prep in Santa Anita Derby on Saturday.

2

2

Noble's Promise

Will finally be free of the #1 for his final prep in Arkansas.

3

3

Eskendereya

A solid performance in the Wood cements his status.

4

4

Awesome Act

He's got the earnings to get in; Wood is a true prep.

5

6

Dublin

Pointing towards Arkansas Derby

6

--

Endorsement

Proved he could run in the Sunland Derby.

7

7

Schoolyard Dreams

Last chance to grab earnings in the Wood this Saturday.

8

8

Odysseus

Tampa Bay Derby winner likely headed to Keeneland.

9

9

Rule

Probably the strongest of all the early speed types.

10

10

Ice Box

Had the perfect set-up but Zito has him in great form.

 

Prep Race Speed Figures

Grade 2 Louisiana Derby
94: Mission Impazible
93: A Little Warm
92: Drosselmeyer
92: Discreetly Mine
90: Stay Put
88: Ron the Greek
85: The Program
85: Mister Marti Gras
83: Fly Down
78: Wow Wow Wow
76: Hotep
75: Island Soul
0: Backtrack

Grade 2 Lane’s End
93: Dean’s Kitten
89: Northern Giant
83: Connemara
80: Chief Counsel
79: Vow to Wager
78: Letsgetitonmon
73: Outlaw Man
72: Doubles Partner
67: Ranger Heartley

Grade 3 Sunland Derby
101: Endorsement
96: Conveyance
91: Tempted to Tapit
88: Fog Alert
86: Nacho Friend
83: Storming Saint
58: McKenna’s Justice
36: Classical Slew
32: Guiltbyassociation

Top 60 Three Year Old Graded Earnings

Rank

Horse

GrStk Earnings

1

Lookin At Lucky

$1,390,000

2

Noble's Promise

708,000

3

Rule

645,000

4

Mission Impazible

473,434

5

Ice Box

457,500

6

D' Funnybone

420,000

7

Endorsement

400,000

8

Conveyance

386,000

9

Devil May Care

363,000

10

Beethoven (IRE)

342,616

11

Discreetly Mine

340,000

12

Dean's Kitten

326,475

13

Dublin

273,208

14

Interactif

270,450

15

Homeboykris

250,500

16

Crisp

225,000

17

Aikenite

218,000

18

Make Music for Me

215,000

19

Awesome Act

210,000

20

Mendip

200,000

21

Radiohead (GB)

196,332

22

Uh Oh Bango

187,952

23

Sidney's Candy

180,000

Odysseus

180,000

25

A Little Warm

180,000

26

Backtalk

172,566

27

Super Saver

163,832

28

Pleasant Prince

162,500

29

Tempted to Tapit

156,000

30

Eskendereya

150,000

31

Connemara

138,500

32

Northern Giant

127,000

33

Frozen Power (IRE)

110,000

34

Caracortado

108,000

35

Paddy O'Prado

100,950

36

Schoolyard Dreams

100,000

Aspire

100,000

38

Thiskyhasnolimit

99,064

39

Alphie's Bet

90,000

40

American Lion

87,000

Drosselmeyer

87,000

42

Pulsion

80,000

Jackson Bend

80,000

44

The Program

75,500

45

Ron the Greek

70,500

46

Ailalea

69,900

47

Nacho Friend

64,500

48

Who's Up

60,000

49

William's Kitten

58,901

50

Fly by Phil

58,280

51

Switch

58,000

52

Smiling Tiger

54,000

Cardiff Giant

54,000

54

Roman Invasion

50,000

55

Marcello

50,000

56

Ibboyee

45,000

57

Litigation Risk

45,000

58

Classical Slew

45,000

59

Peppi Knows

41,000

60

Lentenor

37,500