Aqueduct’s Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) kicks off Saturday with the $150,000 Remsen Stakes (G2), which at 1 1/8 miles on the main track is the farthest that most of these horses will run for several months.
The Remsen offers the top four finishers points toward the Kentucky Derby on a 10-4-2-1 basis; not much in the grand scheme, but a good start nonetheless.
Get our picks for the entire Aqueduct card (including the Remsen) – the Inside Track to the Cigar Mile wagering guide!
The Remsen has produced an impressive 10 future Grade 1 winners since the Kentucky Derby points system began in the fall of 2012, but what impact have Remsen runners had on the Derby trail?
I’m a sucker for trends, so let’s see what we find!
Last year’s Remsen can be forgiven for not producing a single Kentucky Derby runner because the Covid pandemic threw everything off schedule – literally. The Kentucky Derby was pushed four months down the road, meaning any precocious types who would’ve peaked by the first Saturday in May weren’t likely to still be running strong in September.
The winner, Shotski, finished second in the Withers at Aqueduct and fourth in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, but he missed the rest of 2020 due to injuries (he’s expected to return in early 2021).
The runner-up Ajaaweed finished third in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in his next start but failed to do much else.
Chase Tracker, third in the Remsen, finished eighth in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park in his only other Derby trail try.
The 2018 winner Maximus Mischief was a highly-regarded prospect who finished third in the Holy Bull in his next and ultimately final start before injuries forced an early retirement to become a stallion.
Network Effect also struggled to stay healthy, missing the entire Derby trail after finishing second in the Remsen, but the next 2 horses behind him took care of business.
Tax parlayed his third-place Remsen finish into winning the Withers and running second in the Wood (though Saratoga Slim’s dad still believes Tax won). Though 14th in the Kentucky Derby, he was a much-improved fourth in the Belmont Stakes.
One of the most accomplished Remsen champions of the points era, Catholic Boy is the only dual-surface Grade 1 winner from that span, but his Derby trail impact wasn’t nearly as noteworthy. He was second in the Sam F. Davis and fourth in the Florida Derby but missed the rest of the trail.
Avery Island, second in the Remsen, won the Withers in his next start but also missed the rest of the trail, as did the third-place finisher Vouch.
Despite the hype surrounding him, Mo Town‘s Remsen victory didn’t equal future Derby trail success; he was fifth in the Risen Star and seventh in the Wood before missing the rest of the trail. He later won the Hollywood Derby (G1) on turf.
Mohaymen‘s victory came in the middle of a 5-race win streak to start his career. He shipped south to Gulfstream Park after the Remsen and won both the Holy Bull and the Fountain of Youth, but then he ran into the 2-year-old champion Nyquist for his next 2 starts, finishing fourth behind him in the Florida and Kentucky Derbies.
Flexibility‘s runner-up effort turned into a victory in the Jerome, but he failed to maintain his momentum and finished fourth in the Withers and seventh in the Wood.
Interestingly enough, Gift Box (third) and Hunter O’Riley (seventh) may have missed the Derby trail, but they each became Grade 1 winners in 2019: Gift Box took the Santa Anita Handicap on dirt and Hunter O’Riley took the United Nations on turf.
The winner, Leave the Light On, missed the Derby trail and only made 2 starts over a year later before retiring, but several others behind him made impacts both as 3-year-olds and beyond.
Frosted repeated his second-place finish in the Holy Bull and ran fourth in the Fountain of Youth before winning the Wood. He then finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont behind eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He also captured the Met Mile (G1) (in stakes record time) and the Whitney (G1) as a 4-year-old.
Speaking of American Pharoah, the Remsen third-place finisher Keen Ice would later play spoiler, but he racked up a lot of miles before that, finishing fifth in the Holy Bull, third in the Risen Star, fourth in the Louisiana Derby, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, and third in the Belmont. Keen Ice’s big day came in the Travers (G1) when he rallied past American Pharoah late to post the upset.
Classy Class (fourth in the Remsen) finished third in the Withers and Gotham and fourth in the Blue Grass.
The Truth Or Else (sixth in the Remsen) began his 3-year-old campaign at Oaklawn Park and finished second in the Southwest, fourth in the Rebel, and seventh in the Arkansas Derby.
Honor Code missed the Derby trail, but like Frosted, he won both the Met Mile and the Whitney as a 4-year-old.
Cairo Prince improved upon his runner-up Remsen effort to win the Holy Bull, then finished fourth in the Florida Derby before retiring due to injury.
Wicked Strong (third) was a disappointing ninth in the Holy Bull, but he rebounded to win the Wood (at the time, still a Grade 1), then finished fourth in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont.
Intense Holiday (fourth) was third in the Holy Bull and won the Risen Star before finishing second in the Louisiana Derby and 12th in the Kentucky Derby.
The first Remsen winner of the Derby points era, Overanalyze was later fifth in the Gotham before winning the Arkansas Derby. He was later 11th in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Belmont.
Normandy Invasion (second) was fifth in the Risen Star and second in the Wood before finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby.
Delhomme (third) was a DNF in the Rebel in his only other Derby trail try.
The overall trend seems to be that while top finishers in the Remsen often appear in further Derby trail preps (and can even occasionally win one), they’re more likely to have better success later down the road.
What do you think? Do any of this year’s contenders have a chance to upend the scale? Check out our Inside Track to the Cigar Mile wagering guide to see what we think of the Remsen!