After several months of highlighting Derby preps in this space, it’s time to start preparing as the 145th Kentucky Derby is two weeks away.
Next week we’ll unveil our Derby Degrees of Separation post, an yearly rite of Derby passage, ranking the 20 probable starters. Check out last year’s column to see how well I fared (self-rated at a B+ rating).
So what’s going on in the Space Station as we head full steam ahead into Triple Crown season?
- A field of 10 will attack the Charles Town bullring on Saturday in the $1.2 million Classic. The top two horses on the morning line are War Story (7-2) and Rally Cry (9-2). Two time winner Imperative (20-1) returns trying to regain the glory from 2014 and 2017.
- The New York Racing Association, Inc. will again host a Cross Country Pick 5 on Saturday, featuring five stakes events across five different tracks, to be completed within a one-hour time increment. Saturday's Cross Country Pick 5 will feature racing action from Aqueduct Racetrack, Oaklawn Park, Charles Town, Woodbine and Keeneland. The Pick-5 kicks off with the Whimsical on Woodbine’s opening day and concludes with the Charles Town Classic. Here’s a look at the wager.
Leg 1: Woodbine - Grade 3 $125,000 Whimsical (Race 7, 4:51 p.m.)
Leg 2: Oaklawn Park - $100K Rainbow (Race 7, 5:20 p.m.)
Leg 3: Keeneland - Grade 2 $250K Elkhorn (Race 9, 5:30 p.m.)
Leg 4: Charles Town - Grade 2 $1M Charles Town Classic (Race 11, 5:37 p.m.)
Leg 5: Aqueduct - $200K NYSSS Times Square division (Race 9, 5:48 p.m.)
- In the last seven Run for the Roses we’ve had three Florida, three Santa Anita and a lone Arkansas Derby winner to win the first leg of racing’s Triple Crown. You have to go back to 2010 (Super Saver) for the last Derby winner not to win his prep race coming into the Derby.
- The only future wager I made was during Pool 3 when I boxed Bourbon War, Code of Honor, Improbable and the field in an exacta. The field (9 horses that weren’t listed in Pool 3) would consist of Tacitus, Omaha Beach, Plus Que Parfait, By My Standards, Haikal, Long Range Toddy, Cutting Humor, Gray Magician and Magic Fencer as the field now stands.
- As a CPA by day, you know there will be a hunch bet on Tax, come Derby day.
- Interesting selection by Mike Smith to choose Omaha Beach over Roadster, who is trained by Bob Baffert who he rode Justify for last year in capturing the 13th Triple Crown. He definitely has that master of the herd gene warding off Improbable in the stretch. How used up was he in the process, that’s the big question in my mind.
- So how many defections from this point on. There’s usually a couple in the last two weeks. Only 29 points (Instilled Regard) got you in last year. The No. 19 horse (Spinoff) sits with 40, with Bodexpress (40) and Anothertwistafate (39) hoping for some last minute dropouts.
- Will Tacitus break the Wood Memorial drought that started when Fusaichi Pegasus won the 2000 Derby? We’re starting to approach 20 years for that prep race.
- Next week’s print column will look at who I think could be potential longshots to use on Derby day. Stay tuned as Derby fever warms up over the next two weeks.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.