With just one race left on the Road to the Kentucky Derby that can impact the field for the Triple Crown opener on May 1, there are still a handful of horses that find themselves on the qualifying bubble. The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 horses and based on qualifying points, with non-restricted stakes earnings serving as a tiebreaker.
Forty points should be enough, right?
The horse currently 20th in the standings with 40 points is Sainthood, the second-place finisher in the 100-40-20-10 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway. The purse was the smallest for a prep race with that point award, so his $47,000 in winnings puts him last among the horses that have collected 40 points.
Gotham Stakes winner Weyburn, who also added a fourth-place finish in the Wood Memorial, has 60 points but is likely to skip the Kentucky Derby. If that happens, it would have positive implications for some of the horses below him in the standings.
Rombauer, with 34 points, has connections that are probably the most interested in whether Weyburn races at Churchill Downs or not. He is in 21st place and is tied with Proxy on points but has a big edge in earnings, $260,500 to $160,000.
Regardless of the decision around Weyburn, all three horses could be affected by what happens in Saturday's 100-40-20-10 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and its $1million purse. There is only one entry in the race that has locked up a Kentucky Derby invitation, with four others that have at least nine qualifying points.
Horses that could head to the Kentucky Derby
Concert Tour won the 50-20-10-5 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 13 and, with the victory, punched his ticket to Churchill Downs. The Bob Baffert-trained colt is the odds-on favorite at 3/5 in the Arkansas Derby, but there are several other quality challengers in the race.
Another Baffert entry, Hozier, was second to Concert Tour in the Rebel and has 20 qualifying points. It could be more important that he has $200,000 in earnings and even a third-place finish at Oaklawn would give him a total of 40 points and another $100,000 in earnings.
That would potentially put him as high as 16th in the standings and push Sainthood, Rombauer and Proxy down a spot. Three other entries - Caddo River with 10 points, Get Her Number also with 10, and Super Stock with nine - can all advance to the Kentucky Derby with a win or second-place finish on Saturday.
If Concert Tour doesn't deliver, and he wouldn't be the first favorite to underperform once they were already qualified for the Churchill Downs showpiece, it's possible for as many as three more horses to move up to qualifying positions.
That would be the worst-case scenario for the bubble horses with 40 points in the 18th and 19th positions, Dynamic One and Crowded Trade, respectively. It is therefore certain that the Arkansas Derby results will be closely followed by the horse racing world.