Surprises along road to the Kentucky Derby

With the favorites largely established, it’s time to take a look back at the surprises that took place in New York on the way to Louisville.

Saturday marks the end of the Kentucky Derby prep race season with the running of the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

Both races have several entries that can have an impact on the field for the first race of the Triple Crown, but the large majority of the Derby spots are already locked up.

Aqueduct Park upset in the Gotham

On March 6, Aqueduct hosted the $300,000 Gotham Stakes with qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby on a 50-20-10-5 scale.

One horse would undoubtedly earn an invitation to the first race in the Triple Crown series with a victory.

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Highly Motivated was the clear favorite at even odds, with Freedom Fighter at 2/1 and Crowded Trade at 5/1.

There were a couple of other horses, including Capo Kane at 12/1, that were considered contenders, but there were also a number of longshots that were given little or no chance to get to Churchill Downs.

Going off at 42/1 odds and breaking from the outside in the eight-horse field, Weyburn battled in second place for most of the race and finally nosed out Crowded Trade for the victory. He ultimately paid out $95.50, $26.80 and $8.70, and the 8-5 exacta paid $277.50.

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The most interesting aspect of Weyburn's win was that he hadn't been nominated by his connections for the Triple Crown Series, so they had to fork over $6,000 as a late fee to make sure he could advance.

Even more fascinating is that after all of that, they've apparently decided to skip the first two races to focus on the Belmont Stakes in June.

Lightning strikes again in the Wood Memorial

Four weeks later on April 3, Crowded Trade was back at Aqueduct, looking to get enough points in the $750,000 100-40-20-10 Wood Memorial to get to Churchill Downs.

At 3/1 odds, he was just behind 2/1 Risk Taking at the start of the race, with Market Maven and Bourbonic going off as 70/1 longshots.

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Bourbonic languished at the back of the pack for most of the race, with Market Maven leading but at a record slow pace. Less than 10 lengths separated the field after ¾ mile, allowing Bourbonic to surge through the field down the stretch.

As Market Maven faded, Bourbonic kept coming and edged Dynamic One, a 15/1 odds shot, by a head at the finish.

Bourbonic had gone from longest shot to the Kentucky Derby in just a minute and 54 seconds, the slowest time ever for a Wood Memorial winner.

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Bourbonic paid $146.50, $40.40 and $11.40 for the victory, and the exacta paid $453.00.

Trainer Todd Pletcher took the top two spots, and along with Known Agenda and Sainthood, appears to have four horses qualified for the Kentucky Derby.

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