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Kentucky Derby 2013: The Road to Louisville - Part IV

We've rolled into March as the slate of contenders for the 2013 Kentucky Derby begins to crystallize.

Jayme Price

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.

Road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby - Prep Results

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.

Rank Horse Pts Note
1 Ive Struck a Nerve 51 Out
2 Hear the Ghost 50
Orb 50
Verrazano 50
Vyjack 50
6 Flashback 30
Violence 30 Out
8 Goldencents 29
9 Shanghai Bobby 24
10 Java's War 22
11 Code West 20
Falling Sky 20
West Hills Giant 20
14 Oxbow 16
15 Dynamic Sky 13
16 Speak Logistics 11
17 Den's Legacy 10
Dice Flavor 10
Elnaawi 10
Itsmyluckyday 10
Joha 10 Out
Overanalyze 10
Palace Malice 10
Power Broker 10
Revolutionary 10
River Seven 10
Steeler (IRE) 10 Euro
Super Ninety Nine 10
Tiz a Minister 10
Uncaptured 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.

Segment Date Race Dist Surf Track Location 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
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 4/20/2013 Lexington 8.5 Synth KEE Kentucky 20 8 4 2
Wild Card 4/27/2013 The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial 8.0 Dirt CD Kentucky 20 8 4 2