With the completion of two more prep races over the weekend and with no more races until February 13, it's a good time to take a look at the standings on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Prep Series has two more races before it gives way to the Championship Series and a jump from a 10-4-2-1 points scale to 50-20-10-5.
The weekend saw two new Prep Series winners chalk up 10 Derby qualifying points. Risk Taking went off at 9/5 odds and fulfilled his status with a late-charging win in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.
With 3/2 favorite Known Agenda getting off to a slow start, 3/1 Candy Man Rocket took advantage and beat the rest of the field at the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Just 19 races to go
With 19 races left and seven of them awarding points according to a 100-40-20-10 scale, the current standings are largely irrelevant except to highlight horses that may be in contention in the later Grade 1 and Grade 2 races. It's too early to focus on the standings, with a focus on the early performances of the horses who have demonstrated the ability to win being wiser.
Essential Quality appears to be the class of the three-year-olds vying for a berth in the Kentucky Derby. After winning a maiden race at Churchill Downs on September 5, he went on to win the Breeders' Futurity on October 3 and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 6.
Both of those races took place at the Keeneland Race Course, with the Futurity awarding Essential Quality 10 points and the Juvenile handing out 20 points. The pair of first place finishes has the Godolphin owned colt on top of the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings with 30.
The next race for Essential Quality is likely to be the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on February 15. The decision to start the horse in a race awarding 10 points for a win means that he will definitely lose the lead in the standings.
The winner of the Risen Star, run two days prior to the Southwest at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, will receive 50 points, vaulting them to the top of the list. Expected to be in the field are current second place Keepmeinmind with 18 points and third place Midnight Bourbon with 16 points.
Medina Spirit is in fourth place with 14 points followed by Spielberg's 13 points to round out the top five. Both horses last competed in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on January 30. Medina Spirit won the race with Spielberg finishing fourth in an event that is not part of the Derby prep points series. Bob Baffert, trainer for both, has not announced where either horse will make their next start.