It's not a graded stakes race, or any kind of stakes race, for that matter, but 2012 Kentucky Derby hopefuls Gemologist and Currency Swap will make their three-year-old debuts in a one mile $80k Optional Claimer/Allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Friday afternoon (Race 3; Post time: 2:05pm Eastern). Gemologist is undefeated in three lifetime starts and won the G2-Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs back on November 26th. Currency Swap, undefeated in two lifetimes starts, won the G1-Hopeful at Saratoga on September 5th, and is making his first start at a mile or longer.
The decision by both connections to begin their three-year-old season in an optional claimer instead of a graded stakes race suggests that neither camp is completely sold on the idea of these colts as Derby prospects. Given the race to accumulate the oh-so-valuable graded stakes earnings, Gemologist and Currency Swap are a bit behind their rivals. Currency Swap sits 17th in graded earnings among 2012 Derby contenders (according to the Thoroughbred Times rankings), while Gemologist is 29th. As a result, if the connections of either of these colts are serious about running in the Derby on the first Saturday in May, they'll need a good race today and a minimum of a top three finish (perhaps even better for Gemologist) in their final prep race to ensure a spot in the starting gate in Louisville.