The Kentucky Derby is just around the corner on May 1 and the field, if it isn't totally set, is pretty close to being finalized. More than a dozen horses who had qualified for the Run for the Roses have been early scratches for a variety of reasons, but other entries have stepped up to keep the number of horses that will run at Churchill Downs totaling 20.
With the size of the field, there are always horses that probably have little or no chance to win, but the prestige of running in the event and the possibility of pulling a huge upset are still appealing. For others, there is an expectation of success with more pressure on owners, trainers and jockeys to have a strong showing.
As the Derby approaches, it's appropriate to take a look at the horses that are probably in the field, reviewing their accomplishments and assessing their chances. This continues the series on the Kentucky Derby field.
Highly Motivated could be a surprise
The Chris Brown trained horse is without a prep series race win, but he picked up points with a third-place finish in the 50-20-10-5 Gotham Stakes and was runner-up to Triple Crown favorite Essential Quality in the 100-40-20-10 Blue Grass Stakes. He led Essential Quality for almost the entire race before getting edged out down the stretch, losing by a neck at a fast pace, less than a second off the track record.
Highly Motivated was the even odds favorite in the Gotham but was off the pace from the start, never able to get to near the front, but a late kick got him into third place, almost five lengths behind winner Weyburn. He earned some measure of redemption in the Blue Grass, almost grabbing a victory over Essential Quality and outpacing the rest of the field by 5 1/2 lengths.
Although Highly Motivated is well down the list in the points standings, he could be a real factor in the Kentucky Derby if he can stay in touch with the early leaders. There were a lot of upset winners in the big races and only Essential Quality separated himself from the rest of the contenders.
Caddo River still not confirmed
After a win in the 10-4-2-1 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Caddo River appeared to be able to contend for the Triple Crown for trainer Brad Cox and was a slight favorite in the 50-20-10-5 Rebel Stakes at the same track almost two months later. He entered the stretch in second place but faded to fifth by the end of the race, won by Bob Baffert's Concert Tour.
Just like Highly Motivated, Caddo River was able to rebound in his final prep race at the 100-40-20-10 Arkansas Derby, finishing second to surprising Super Stock and ahead of Concert Tour, picking up enough points to earn an invitation to the Kentucky Derby. Caddo River was the third Brad Cox prospect to get to Churchill Downs, but his entry on the first Saturday in May is still not certain.