The Kentucky Derby prep races can often tell us a lot about what we can expect in the actual race. Understanding the strength of these preps can be a big key in your handicapping. I’ve ranked the strength of the final Derby preps, and will discuss how I think they will affect the outcome of the race. To view the result charts of each race just click on the race and it will take you to them.
1. Santa Anita Derby – The Santa Anita Derby lands as my top choice because of the overall depth of the race. I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause both have decent chances of winning the Derby. Their long stretch battle was one for the ages, and both looked to be ready to run longer once the race was over. Liaison is another horse that exits this race as a potential starter in the Derby, although his chances of winning are pretty slim. Blueskiesandrainbows, Paynter, and, Midnight Transfer are three horses that won’t make the Derby, but still could have an impact on the triple crown. Any of three could be likely starters for the Preakness. The overall depth of this race is hard to ignore.
2. Florida Derby – At the time this race was being ran it was being called the biggest prep of the year. After the race it lost a little steam as the highly thought of Union Rags finished third, and El Padrino finished fourth. Both were beaten by Take Charge Indy, while Reveron finished second. Reveron has since been injured and is out of the Derby, but Take Charge Indy, Union Rags, and El Padrino will all be running. All three of those horses could have a big impact on the race. I felt all year the Florida 3 year olds were a little top-heavy though, so I don’t think this race had the depth that the Santa Anita Derby had. Once you got past the top four there was a tremendous gap in talent.
3. Arkansas Derby – We may have very well seen the Derby winner in this race, but the overall depth wasn’t the greatest. Bodemeister put on a show in this one, smashing the field by ten lengths and stamping himself as the Derby favorite. Once you get past Bodemeister, the field flattens out. Secret Circle finished second, but is now injured and out of the Derby picture. Third place finisher Sabercat is moving on to the Derby, but looks to be a long shot. Isn’t He Clever and Optimizer are pointed towards the Derby as well, but both need defections to get. With the Arkansas Derby it will be an all or nothing situation. Other than Bodemeister, none of the others exiting the race seem like logical win contenders. So it’s Bodemeister or bust for Oaklawn fans.
4. Wood Memorial – Even though this race only produced two starters in Gemologist and Alpha, they are both very dangerous. Gemologist is undefeated and probably under appreciated at this point. He’s done nothing wrong, and still looks to be maturing with each race. Alpha got a tricky trip in the race and probably learned a lot from it, but his status is up in the air because of a foot problem. Both of these guys are pretty talented and could probably be had at a decent price. The rest of the field wasn’t much, except for The Lumber Guy who came back to win the Jerome Stakes at a mile last Saturday. He’s now being pointed towards the Preakness.
5. Bluegrass Stakes – Dullahan, Hansen, and Prospective all will be running in the Derby after exiting this race. Dullahan probably has the best chance of the three to actually win the race. His pedigree suggests long distance races, and he looks to be getting better and better with every race. Can he run on dirt is the only question mark with him. Hansen will be among the front-runners in this one, but I think he has distance limitations. Prospective will be a big longshot as he has not done much lately. The Bluegrass also had some decent runners in Holy Candy and Howe Great that could be factors later on in the season. With the race being ran over a synthetic track it tends to muddy the water somewhat. Keeneland and Churchill Downs are two entirely different surfaces, and most times the best horse does not win the Bluegrass.
6. Sunland Derby – Two years ago this race produced the Derby winner in Mine That Bird, and this year Daddy Nose Best looks to follow in his foot steps. The deep closing colt won this race very nicely, and is training great as of right now. The Sunland Derby has produced a real sleeper this year in my opinion with Daddy Nose Best. Isn’t He Clever finished a close second in this race and could end up in the Derby as well. He sits 21st on the graded earnings list so just one defection will get him in. The others coming out of this race don’t look to be all that strong.
7. Louisiana Derby – This year was the weakest Louisiana Derby we’ve seen in some time. Hero of Order won the race at 99-1, and is not even nominated to the Derby so it is very unlikely we’ll see him in it. Runner-up Mark Valeski and third place finisher Rousing Sermon both plan on running in the Derby, but you have to wonder how realistic their chances are of winning. Cigar Street finished fourth in the race and could possibly be a factor later on in the year. He was a late bloomer, and still might have some growing up to do.
8. Spiral Stakes – Went The Day Well used the same prep race that Animal Kingdom did last year, so you have to keep an eye on him. The race looks fairly weak on paper however. Went The Day Well will be the only Derby starter out of this field, and a few of the others have come back and struggled in other races.
9. Illinois Derby – Done Talking will be the only Derby runner coming out of this field. The Illinois Derby was a wide open race when it was ran, and looks to be pretty weak now that we’ve seen some horses come back from that race and not run well. Done Talking will most likely be one of the longest shots on the board.