by Jon White
April 8, 2021
This Saturday’s Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park is the final race offering 170 points toward a spot in the starting gate at this year’s 147th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 1.
Also Saturday, Keeneland’s Grade II Lexington Stakes has 34 Kentucky Derby points up for grabs to the first four finishers.
The 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby (100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers) and 1 1/16-mile Lexington (20-8-4-2) are the only two races still left to be run this year in which precious points toward Churchill Downs’ coveted Run for the Roses can be earned.
Before passing along my selections for the Arkansas Derby and Lexington, let’s take a look back at my selections for last Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Grade II Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Medina Spirit was my top pick in the Santa Anita Derby. He finished second as the 9-10 favorite. I picked Dream Shake second and Rock Your World third. The horse I picked fourth, Roman Centurian, scratched.
Rock Your World led past every pole and prevailed by 4 1/4 lengths. Dream Shake finished third in the field of nine.
Boxing my top three picks in the 50-cent trifecta cost $3 and returned $30.25.
Essential Quality came through as my top pick in the Blue Grass, but it was far from easy. He won by just a neck as the 1-2 favorite to remain undefeated in five lifetime starts. Highly Motivated ran a heckuva race, but he had to settle for second in the field of nine.
This was what I wrote last week when looking ahead to the Wood Memorial:
“I honestly don’t like my chances of picking the winner in the Wood Memorial. I see it as a wide-open affair.
“I am not particularly bullish on Prevalence. Sure, he might win. Prevalence is two for two and a definite contender. Who knows? Maybe he will go out there and win big.
“But until I am proven otherwise, I think Prevalence is somewhat overrated.”
How did Prevalence do? He finished sixth at odds of 3-1. Risk Taking, the 2-1 favorite, ran even worse and wound up seventh in the field of nine.
My top pick in the Wood was Crowded Trade. He finished third at odds of 5-2.
The winner turned out to be Bourbonic, who rallied from last to win by a head in a shocker. He paid $146.50 for each $2 win wager. Dynamic One finished second at odds of 15-1.
Daily Racing Form’s David Grening noted that $146.50 was the highest win mutuel in the 96-year history of the Wood Memorial, eclipsing the $129.50 Manassa Mauler paid in 1959.
Obviously, hardly anyone picked Bourbonic to win the Wood.
For Xpressbet.com in late January, I began making selections in the U.S. races offering points toward the Kentucky Derby.
Of the 19 such races to date, I have picked the winner in nine of them, as noted below:
Date Race (Selection) Finish, $2 win payoff if applicable
01-30-21 Holy Bull (Greatest Honour) WON, $7.60
01-30-21 Robert B. Lewis (Medina Spirit), WON, $4.00
02-06-21 Sam F. Davis (Candy Man Rocket), WON, $8.20
02-06-21 Withers (Donegal Bay), finished 7th
02-13-21 Risen Star (Senor Buscador), finished 5th
02-13-21 El Camino Real Derby (Rombauer), WON, $4.40
02-26-21 Battaglia Memorial (Gretzky the Great), finished 3rd
02-27-21 Southwest (Essential Quality), WON, $3.80
02-27-21 Fountain of Youth (Greatest Honor), WON, $4.00
03-06-21 Gotham (Freedom Fighter), finished 4th
03-06-21 Tampa Bay Derby (Hidden Stash), finished 2nd
03-06-21 San Felipe Stakes, Life Is Good, WON, $3.00
03-13-21 Rebel Stakes, Concert Tour, WON, $5.40
03-20-21 Louisiana Derby, Proxy, finished 4th
03-27-21 Jeff Ruby Steaks, Hockey Dad, finished 3rd
03-27-21 Florida Derby, Spielberg, finished 8th
04-03-21 Wood Memorial, Crowded Trade, finished 3rd
04-03-21 Blue Grass Stakes, Essential Quality, WON, $3.00
04-03-21 Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit, finished 2nd
CONCERT TOUR SEEKS TO REMAIN UNDEFEATED
Concert Tour, who has yet to lose in three career starts, heads the $1 million Arkansas Derby, which has attracted a field of six.
Five of the six Arkansas Derby entrants exit Oaklawn Park’s Grade II Rebel Stakes on March 13. Concert Tour won the 1 1/16-mile Rebel by 4 1/4 lengths at odds of 8-5 when racing farther than seven furlongs for the first time. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert trains the Kentucky-bred colt by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.
Hozier, also trained by Baffert, finished second in the Rebel as an 18-1 longshot while making his stakes debut.
Among those scheduled to face the Baffert duo in the Arkansas Derby are Rebel also-rans Super Stock, Caddo River and Get Her Number. The only Arkansas Derby entrant who did not run in the Rebel is Last Samurai.
Super Stock ran fourth in the Rebel at 40-1. He was followed across the finish line by Caddo River in fifth as the 6-5 favorite and Get Her Number in seventh at 14-1.
When last seen under silks, Last Samurai competed on a sloppy track in Oaklawn’s Grade III Southwest Stakes on Feb. 27. Dismissed at 56-1 by the bettors, he finished fifth, 13 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Essential Quality, who was voted the 2020 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.
Caddo River went into the Rebel off back-to-back big wins accomplished in front-running fashion. He registered a 9 1/2-length victory in a one-mile maiden race at Churchill on Nov. 15. At the end of Oaklawn’s one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 22, Caddo River was 10 1/4 lengths in front.
With Florent Geroux in the saddle, Caddo River broke from the rail in the Rebel. Most people expected that Caddo River again would go right to the front. But seizing the lead at once were Concert Tour and jockey Joel Rosario.
When Concert Tour drew clear going into the clubhouse turn, Geroux moved Caddo River off the rail and to the outside of Concert Tour.
While Caddo River pressed the pace outside Concert Tour, Caddo River was difficult to handle due to being quite headstrong. Meanwhile, Concert Tour was rolling smoothly and comfortably along on the lead through the early stages while rating kindly for Rosario.
Turning for home, it became clear that Caddo River was in deep water. Rosario was still sitting like a statue on Concert Tour. While Geroux was busily pumping his arms, he was not getting the needed response from Caddo River.
In upper stretch, while Caddo River was retreating, Concert Tour was drawing away without being asked. Concert Tour passed the eighth pole with a four-length advantage. While Rosario repeatedly looked back in the final furlong, Concert Tour sauntered home to win by a little more than four lengths.
After Concert Tour completed the opening quarter in :23.42, the methodical manner in which he kept clicking off quarters in :24 and change was impressive. After the first quarter, he steppped the ensuing quarters in :24.11, :24.47 and :24.65, followed by a final sixteenth in 6.53 seconds for a final time of 1:43.18.
Up to this point, Concert Tour’s initial three races have been quite similar to the first three starts of Nadal’s career.
Concert Tour and Nadal both did not race at 2. They both won a Santa Anita maiden sprint at first asking in January at 3, followed by a seven-furlong victory in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes by less than one length in February, followed by a Rebel triumph in March. Nadal’s Rebel was contested on a sloppy track.
After Nadal’s Rebel victory, he won a division of the Grade I Arkansas Derby on May 2. It turned out to be the final start of his career. It was announced on May 28 that Nadal had been retired from racing as a result of a condylar fracture in his left front leg following a four-furlong workout in :48.80 that morning at Santa Anita.
Baffert had high praise for Concert Tour’s Rebel performance, calling it “kind of an American Pharoah-type run.”
American Pharoah kicked off his 3-year-old campaign by splashing home to a 6 1/4-length victory on a sloppy track in the Rebel. He would go on to win the Arkansas Derby before sweeping the Triple Crown to end a 37-year drought.
Again, when Concert Tour won the Rebel, these were his fractions and final time:
:23.42, :24.11, :24.47, :24.65, :06.53, 1:43.18
When Nadal won the Rebel on a sloppy track, these were his fractions and final time:
:22.89, :23.11, :25.38, :27.06, :06.53, 1:44.97
When American Pharoah won the Rebel on a sloppy track, these were his fractions and final time:
:24.41, :25.22, :25.59, :24.54, :06.02, 1:45.78
It’s interesting to see how Rock Your World’s fractional times in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby compare with those above in 1 1/16-mile races:
:22.42, :23.69, :24.53, :25.63, :12.90, 1:49.17
CADDO RIVER LIKELY TO BE SENT THIS TIME
Trainer Brad Cox and owner John Ed Anthony (Shortleaf Stables) have stated publicly that they intend to have Geroux send Caddo River away from the gate and go as hard as they can to hopefully get the early lead this time, rather than let Concert Tour “call the tune,” like he did in the Rebel.
The feeling expressed by Caddo River’s connections is that when it was attempted to rate him, that was a big boo-boo. They have expressed the notion that the Kentucky-bred Hard Spun colt had his best weapon, his speed, taken away from him by trying to rate him instead of letting him roll early. They know sitting off Concert Tour did not work last time. That’s why they want to see what happens in the rematch if Caddo River is the early leader this time.
Caddo River drew post 2 for the Rebel. Concert Tour again begins outside that rival, this time leaving from post 5.
If Caddo River goes like a bat out of hell early, I do not anticipate Rosario getting into a crazy speed duel that could cook both Caddo River and Concert Tour. When Concert Tour won Santa Anita’s San Vicente, he sat nicely in third early while close up behind the pacesetting Freedom Fighter (also trained by Baffert).
Assuming Caddo River does show the way early this time, I look for Rosario to put Concert Tour into a stalking position. But even if Rosario does concede the early lead to Caddo River, I fully expect Rosario to keep a very close eye on that opponent.
If Caddo River sets the early pace, I expect Rosario to ask Concert Tour to go after him at some point. Then we will find out if Caddo River turns the tables on Concert Tour or if Concert Tour is able to keep his unblemished record intact.
My belief is that Concert Tour again will be victorious.
My selections for the Arkansas Derby are below:
1. Concert Tour
3. Caddo River
4. Get Her Number
LEXINGTON HAS A FIELD OF 10
Proxy was my top pick in the Louisiana Derby on March 20. The Kentucky-bred Tapit colt finished fourth, but he still managed to record a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. Prior to that, Proxy had been credited with a 91 Beyer when second in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 26, then a 97 Beyer when second in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 13.
From a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, Proxy is a standout in the Lexington. No other horse in this race has ever recorded a Beyer higher than an 89.
Michael Stidham, who recently won the Group I, $12 million Dubai World Cup with Mystic Guide, trains Proxy.
Swiftsure, Bezos and Hockey Dad also belong on the list of contenders in the Lexington.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Swiftsure is two for two and makes his stakes debut in the Lexington. The Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo colt takes Beyer Speed Figures of 86 and 87 into this Saturday’s race.
Bezos is a wild card. Trained by Baffert, the Kentucky-bred Empire Maker colt was hyped to the moon when he made his career debut Feb. 7 at Santa Anita. Pounded down to 3-5 favoritism, he ran a clunker. But keep in mind that was an especially strong 6 1/2-furlong maiden contest, as evidenced by the victorious Dream Shake subsequently finishing third in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes and Grade I Santa Anita Derby.
After Bezos’ disappointing first race in which he received only a 64 Beyer Speed Figure, he showed improvement to win a one-mile maiden race by 4 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita on March 26. His maiden victory, in which he received a 76 Beyer, certainly was a step in the right direction.
Hockey Dad was my top pick in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park on March 27. Off at odds of 7-1, he finished third. Like the King won by one length. Sainthood edged Hockey Dad by a head for the place.
Trained by Doug O’Neill, Hockey Dad returns to dirt in the Lexington after competing on a synthetic surface last time out at Turfway. Prior to his March 27 start in Kentucky, the California-bred colt by 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist had reeled off three straight wins at Santa Anita. One of those three victories came on dirt, the other two on turf.
My selections for the Lexington Stakes are below:
4. Hockey Dad
ROCK YOUR WORLD SPARKLES IN DIRT DEBUT
Rock Your World took his Santa Anita Derby opponents on a merry chase at the odds of 5-1 when racing on dirt for the first time in his third career start. He previously had won a pair of grass races.
After the Santa Anita Derby, trainer John Sadler quipped that they had been lying in the weeds with Rock Your World going into the Santa Anita Derby.
Rock Your World kicked off his racing career by winning a six-furlong grass dash by 1 3/4 lengths at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day. As I watched him that day, I was impressed enough to think that he could be someone to keep an eye on vis-a-vis dirt races such as the Santa Anita Derby and/or Kentucky Derby.
Next, Rock Your World won Santa Anita’s one-mile Pasadena Stakes on turf Feb. 27. Exhibiting marvelous acceleration during the stretch run that day, he quickly kicked clear to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths, then kept on going strongly when he galloped out far in front of those left in his wake.
To be sure, Rock Your World’s back-to-back 82 Beyer Speed Figures were nothing to rave about. But I also thought those figures did not come anywhere close to being a true reflection of Rock Your World’s ability. In both races, it appeared to me that he had much potential.
I also thought there was a very good chance that Rock Your World would do just fine when racing on dirt. I wrote this on March 24:
“Look out for Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby. The $650,000 auction purchase is two for two. The Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt will be switching to the dirt following back-to-back victories on the grass. Most recently, he generated a powerful stretch kick to win Santa Anita’s one-mile Pasadena Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths on Feb. 27.
“Candy Ride in 2003 broke the track record when he won Del Mar’s 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic on the dirt in 1:59.11. The mark still stands all these years later. In the Pacific Classic, Candy Ride drilled Prevalence’s sire, Medaglia d’Oro, who had to settle for second.
“Empire Maker, who is the sire of Rock Your World’s dam, won the Belmont Stakes on the dirt the same year that Candy Ride was victorious in the Pacific Classic.”
In Rock Your World’s final workout before the Santa Anita Derby, he had a bullet workout on the dirt March 28, five furlongs in :59.20. Not only was it the fastest of 76 works at the distance that morning, it was two full seconds faster than the average time that day of 1:01.20.
Something else that got my attention was when Sadler said after the Pasadena Stakes that Rock Your World would be running next in the Santa Anita Derby. There was no hemming or hawing on the trainer’s part despite the fact that, at the time, running in the Santa Anita Derby meant having to face the brilliant Life Is Good.
On the morning of March 29, the Santa Anita Derby suddenly became much more winnable for everyone except Life Is Good. On March 29, Life Is Good emerged from a bullet six-furlong workout in 1:11.40 with a left-hind ankle issue that required surgery and knocked him out of this year’s Triple Crown races.
Even with Life Is Good out of the Santa Anita Derby, Baffert still sent out the odds-on favorite in Medina Spirit, winner of Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Jan. 30.
Going into the Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit had won two of four career starts. He would have been undefeated if not for finishing second twice to Life Is Good.
Medina Spirit raced close up through the early stages of the Santa Anita Derby, but he was no match for Rock Your World when the real test came. Medina Spirit had to settle for second while finishing 2 1/4 lengths clear of Dream Shake in third.
As was the case in the Pasadena, Rock Your World galloped out far in front of everyone after crossing the finish line in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby. This would seem to bode well for Rock Your World in terms of being asked to race a furlong further in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby.
Baffert was seeking his 10th Santa Anita Derby victory last Saturday, but he didn’t get it when Medina Spirit and Defunded lost. Defunded ended up fourth in only the third start of his career and his stakes debut.
Rock Your World was the second Santa Anita Derby winner for Sadler, who also won the race in 2010 with Sidney’s Candy, another son of Candy Ride. The Santa Anita Derby that year was run on a synthetic surface. Sidney’s Candy went on to finish 17th in the Kentucky Derby, which was won that year by Super Saver.
GO WITH BAFFERT OR A TRAINER NAMED JOHN
Plonk of Countdown to the Crown recently pointed out that Baffert has won almost all of Santa Anita’s 3-year-old graded stakes races going back to the 2019 Santa Anita Derby. The only two exceptions to a Baffert victory in these races during this period were wins by trainers John Sadler and John Shirreffs:
Trainer, Race, Winner
--John Sadler, 2021 Santa Anita Derby, Rock Your World
--Bob Baffert, 2021 San Felipe Stakes, Life Is Good
--Bob Baffert, 2021 San Vicente Stakes, Concert Tour
--Bob Baffert, 2021 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Medina Spirit
--Bob Baffert, 2021 Sham Stakes, Life Is Good
--John Shirreffs, 2020 Santa Anita Derby, Honor A.P.
--Bob Baffert, 2020 San Felipe Stakes, Authentic
--Bob Baffert, 2020 San Vicente Stakes, Nadal
--Bob Baffert, 2020 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Thousand Words
--Bob Baffert, 2020 Sham Stakes, Authentic
--Bob Baffert, 2019 Santa Anita Derby, Roadster
GREATEST HONOUR OUT OF KENTUCKY DERBY
Greatest Honour currently is on a farm and will not be running in any of this year’s Triple Crown events.
“The potholes that can be found on the road to the Kentucky Derby knocked out one of the top contenders Wednesday, when Greatest Honour was ruled out of the race,” Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman wrote.
Greatest Honour won Gulfstream Park’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes and Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes earlier this year. He then finished third as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 27 for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
“McGaughey, in a telephone call Wednesday, said he wasn’t satisfied with Greatest Honour exiting the Florida Derby and had him examined ‘the other day’ in Kentucky by noted equine veterinarian Larry Bramlage,” Privman wrote. “The decision was made to give him 60 days off, with the first 30 days turned out at the farm.”
MY UPDATED KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10
While Essential Quality holds on to the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week, there are four newcomers: Rock Your World, Highly Motivated, Mandaloun and Helium.
Rock Your World debuts on my Top 10 this way all the way up at No. 3 following his Santa Anita Derby triumph. Highly Motivated is new this week at No. 6 after being narrowly defeated by Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes. Mandaloun, who seems to be training well after finishing sixth as the 2-1 favorite in the Louisiana Derby, makes it back onto the Top 10 at No. 9. Tampa Bay Derby winner Helium also is new on the Top 10 this week at No. 10.
Exiting the Top 10 this week are Greatest Honour, Keepmeinmind (who finished fifth in the Blue Grass), Risk Taking (who finished seventh in the Wood) and Dream Shake (who finished third in the Santa Anita Derby).
My Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week is below:
1. Essential Quality
2. Concert Tour
3. Rock Your World
4. Hot Rod Charlie
5. Known Agenda
6. Highly Motivated
7. Medina Spirit
8. Midnight Bourbon
REMEMBERING A COUPLE OF BIRTHDAYS
Secretariat, who swept the Triple Crown in 1973 to end a 25-year drought, was foaled on March 30, 1970. He ranks No. 2, behind only No. 1 Man o’ War, on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America: No. 3 is Citation, followed by No. 4 Kelso, No. 5 Spectacular Bid, No. 6 Native Dancer, No. 7 Dr. Fager, No. 8 Seattle Slew, No. 9 Count Fleet and No. 10 Affirmed. Ruffian is the leader among females at No. 11.
Turbulator, a one-time world-record holder and one of the best Thoroughbreds to ever race in the Pacific Northwest, was foaled on April 6, 1965.
UPDATED STRIKES SITUATION
My Derby Strikes System (DSS) consists of eight categories developed to try and determine a horse’s chances to win the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May from both tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the categories, the horse gets a strike. The eight categories are listed at the end of this column/blog/article.
A number of the categories in the DSS are linked to the Kentucky Derby being run in May. Consequently, when the race was switched from May 2 to Sept. 5 last year due to the pandemic, it rendered the DSS unworkable.
The DSS is back now that the Kentucky Derby is returning to its traditional spot on the calendar in 2021.
According to the DSS, going back to 1973 and excluding the Kentucky Derby of 2020 when the race was run in September, the vast majority of Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or one strike.
Since 1973 (again excluding 2020), 39 out of the Kentucky Derby winners (81%) have had zero strikes or one strike, while just seven have had two strikes.
The seven Kentucky Derby winners with two strikes were:
Cannonade (1974) Categories 3 and 4
Ferdinand (1986) Categories 2 and 4
Sea Hero (1993) Categories 3 and 5
Funny Cide (2003) Categories 2 and 8
Giacomo (2015) Categories 2 and 5
Justify (2018) Categories 1 and 8
Country House (2019) Categories 2 and 3
The only Kentucky Derby winner with more than two strikes was:
Mine That Bird (2009) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 8
In the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security had zero strikes and finished first by 1 1/4 lengths. However, the stewards disqualified Maximum Security and placed him 17th when ruling that he had committed a foul by veering out sharply nearing the five-sixteenths marker to cause interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy.
It is not until a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby that a horse’s number of strikes can be determined.
These are the strikes for horses with 10 or more points on the leaderboard listed by Churchill Downs as possibilities (as of April 7) to start in the Kentucky Derby:
Points Horse (Strikes)
140 Essential Quality (0)
110 Hot Rod Charlie (1) Category 4
104 Like the King (0)
102 Known Agenda (0)
100 Rock Your World (2) Categories 1 and 7
100 Bourbonic (2) Categories 1 and 3
74 Medina Spirit (0)
66 Midnight Bourbon (1) Category 4
60 Weyburn (2) Categories 4 and 5
52 Mandaloun (1) Category 4
50 Concert Tour (TBD)
50 Highly Motivated (2) Categories 2 and 4
50 Helium (1) Category 5
40 Panadol (2) Categories 2 and 7
40 Soup and Sandwich (2) Categories 2 and 7
40 Dynamic One (3) Categories 1, 2 and 4
40 Crowded Trade (3) Categories 2, 4 and 7
40 Sainthood (2) Categories 2 and 7
34 Rombauer (3) Categories 1, 2 and 3
34 Proxy (TBD)
32 Hidden Stash (2) Categories 2 and 5
30 Dream Shake (3) Categories 2, 4 and 7
25 O Besos (2) Categories 2 and 3
20 Hozier (TBD)
20 Hockey Dad (TBD)
18 Keepmeinmind (2) Categories 3 and 5
17 Spielberg (1) Category 5
14 Nova Rags (3) Categories 2, 4 and 5
10 Get Her Number (TBD)
10 Caddo River (TBD)
THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS
Gamine moved up to No. 8 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll following a facile five-length win as a 1-20 favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade III Las Flores Stakes last Sunday in her first 2021 start. Gamine had been No. 10 last week.
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 346 Mystic Guide (24)
2. 320 Charlatan (7)
3. 306 Monomoy Girl (6)
4. 248 Swiss Skydiver (1)
5. 225 Knicks Go
6. 188 Colonel Liam
7. 113 Idol
8. 93 Gamine
9. 57 Maxfield
10. 37 Shedaresthedevil
After Rock Your World won the Santa Anita Derby, he debuts at No. 4 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll.
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 371 Essential Quality (31)
2. 319 Concert Tour (5)
3. 239 Hot Rod Charlie (1)
4. 238 Rock Your World
5. 233 Known Agenda
6. 160 Greatest Honour
7. 151 Highly Motivated
8. 96 Medina Spirit
9. 69 Life Is Good (1)
10. 35 Midnight Bourbon
MY DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES
What are the eight categories in my Derby Strikes System? They are listed below:
1. THE GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Always Dreaming in 2017 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 2 or early at 3 before March 31.)
2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.)
3. THE EIGHTH POLE CATEGORY. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 52 of the last 55 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
4. THE GAMENESS CATEGORY. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION CATEGORY. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.)
6. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS CATEGORY. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.)
7. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD CATEGORY. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to finish second or third in the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2 were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; and Battle of Midway, third in 2017.)
8. THE NOT A GELDING CATEGORY. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)