After months of highlighting Derby preps in this space, it’s time to take a deep breath and return to our weekly racing notes for a week. Next week we’ll unveil our Derby Degrees of Separation post, an annual rite of Derby passage, ranking the 20 probable Derby starters.
So let’s see what’s cooking in my cobwebs as we head full steam ahead into Triple Crown season.
- Is there anyone on the Derby trail right now that you’d put stock into winning the Triple Crown? Nyquist, is probably the only one that you could even think about at this point, but is 11-1 really even worth it at this point?
— TwinSpires.com (@TwinSpires) April 20, 2016
- How lucky was I to throw a deuce down on Terra Promessa at 27-1 in the Oaks future on March 13? Pretty good chance she will be a top 3 choice on the First Friday in May, no?
- On that note, it’s a bummer that we won’t be able to see Songbird do her stuff on Derby weekend, hopefully we’ll see a sound recovery and see her later in the year. Alabama slammer at the Spa?
- My Derby spreadsheet went live last night. It’s the first draft based on the current top 24 on the leader board. Something I’ve put together since 2008 to help dissect the field with different statistics and information on each of the probable starters. Time to get to work.
- Hard to believe it’s been a year since I trekked down to Charles Town for my initial visit to see the Charles Town Classic and the great Shared Belief. Little did I know it would be his last race in a surreal scene where he was pulled up on the backstretch and did not finish the race.
- A full field of 10 will attack the CT bullring on Saturday in the $1.25 million Classic. Some familiar faces from last year’s Derby trail in Stanford (9-2) and International Star (8-1), both scratches in the days leading up to last year’s Run for the Roses are entered.
- Last year’s second and third-place finishers return looking to cash the big check. Imperative (7-2) who finished fourth behind Melatonin and Effinex in the Santa Anita Handicap will look to finally enter the winner’s circle for this race. Those two remained in good form finishing 1-2 in last weekend’s Oaklawn Handicap. Laurel shipper Page McKenney (6-1) has not missed the board in nine races since last year’s Classic and comes in on a four-race winning streak. Mike Smith, who jumped off Shared Belief last year when he noticed something wasn't right, returns to ride Imperative.
- Next weekend’s print column will focus on who I think could shock the world at big balloons in the most wide open Derby field in years.
- Which prep races have had the most success in the Derby? This tweet tells an interesting story:
Historically, Louisiana Derby runners haven't done well in the Kentucky Derby... so they say. pic.twitter.com/1XnU0xbMhh
— Joe T. (@JoeT_OnTheSide) April 21, 2016
- On the other hand, the last Louisiana Derby winner to win the Derby was Grindstone in 1996….so moral of the story: bet the Louisiana Derby horses to place and show. Or just key the Dallas Stewart horse in second.
- How hot is trainer Steve Asmussen, with two Derby horses and four probable Oaks horses? Talk about loaded for Derby weekend. I had the pleasure of standing next to him as his filly finished second in last year’s Oaks. I know where I plan on standing on Oaks day for the big race.
- Listened to Canterbury Park racing representative Eric Halstrom about what is going on at the Minnesota track on satellite radio yesterday and came away very impressed at the initiatives that this B-level track has taken over the past few years. They should be commended for how they are attracting a younger demographic and at the same time lowering takeout to entice off-track horseplayers to consider the midwestern oval.
- My Derby future bets are making nice kindling this spring. Sometimes you win, sometimes Zulu’z.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.