According to numerous reports, Gotham Stakes winner Weyburn will not race in the Kentucky Derby, opening a spot in the first Triple Crown race to a horse outside of the top 20 in qualifying points. Neither the European nor Japanese Roads to the Kentucky Derby provided a nominated horse, while UAE Derby winner Rebel's Romance will join Weyburn in shifting his focus to the Belmont Stakes.
That leaves only horses from the domestic Road to the Kentucky Derby in the running for a spot at Churchill Downs on May 1. Weyburn's withdrawal extends the top 20 beyond the five horses tied for 16th with 40 points, the last of which is Sainthood, who falls behind the rest due to his meager $47,000 in stakes earnings.
Proxy is 21st in the standings, but according to his connections, it's unlikely that he will enter the Kentucky Derby. His 36 points place him just ahead of Rombauer's 34 points by virtue of a disappointing fourth-place finish in Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.
More horses to withdraw
That leaves Rombauer in the field, and with almost three weeks until the Kentucky Derby, other qualifiers may opt-out for a variety of reasons. Other than injury, many racing teams have to consider the size of the field and what a poor showing could do to a horse's future worth, especially if they struggled in the later prep races.
It wouldn't be surprising to see more horses look at the later Triple Crown races since Essential Quality, the leader in the standings, is the only entry with multiple prep race victories. His four wins, with the last one coming in the Blue Grass Stakes, were consistently strong, but no other Triple Crown hopeful could generate any momentum.
Traditionally, the Kentucky Derby winner comes from the group of horses that win the 100-40-20-10 points races that come at the end of the prep season. However, outside of Essential Quality, none of them in 2021 brought much prior success to the table prior to their victories.
In particular, Bourbonic was a 72/1 longshot in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and shocked the thoroughbred racing world with his stunning victory. He was the beneficiary of a slow pace and was able to defeat a field that was devoid of a dominant favorite.
Arkansas Derby winner Super Stock was at 12/1 while Rebel Stakes winner Concert Tour went off at 1/9, clearly a reaction to the cache of trainer Bob Baffert and his horse's domination of a good field in his prior race. Instead of Concert Tour heading to Churchill Downs as the leader in qualifying points, he finished third while Super Stock gave Steve Asmussen his second Kentucky Derby entrant, and Brad Cox qualified his third with runner-up Caddo River.
To further the point, none of the 100-40-20-10 race winners had more than 10 points entering their final prep race, so some owners may see that as a sign that the Kentucky Derby could end up being wide open. That is if Essential Quality somehow stumbles and does something he has yet to do in his career, and that is to lose a race.