With the first of the 100-40-20-10 point races taking place at the Louisiana Derby on March 20, six horses have already been awarded enough points to earn an invitation to the Kentucky Derby. Two more are in the area where they still have a chance, even without picking up any more points in the next month.
There are two horses, Greatest Honour and Life Is Good, tied at the top of the standings with 60 points. Greatest Honour won the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 27. A week later at Santa Anita Park, Life Is Good finished at the top of the field in the San Felipe Stakes.
The next race for Greatest Honour will be the $1million Florida Derby at Gulfstream, where a win could dash some hopes for other horses not yet qualified for the Triple Crown opener on May 1. Life Is Good is expected to race in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, along with Medina Spirit, who at 34 points is very close to qualifying.
Mandaloun has 52 points, primarily on the heels of a win in the 50-20-10-5 Risen Star Stakes at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans on February 13. He'll be leading a stellar field at the same track in the Louisiana Derby, including two horses that have shared top three finishes with Mandaloun in the two previous prep races at The Fair Grounds.
Midnight Bourbon with 26 points and Proxy at 24 will most likely qualify with a repeat of their top three finishes, but Rombauer (14 points) and Hot Rod Charlie (10) will have something to say about the outcome. At this point, Mandaloun is the only entrant assured of a Kentucky Derby berth.
In this past weekend's $1million Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Concert Tour won in his first prep race attempt and picked up 50 points. The Bob Baffert-trained colt led virtually wire to wire and will see action at Oaklawn again on April 10 in the Arkansas Derby. The favorite in the Rebel was Caddo River, who faded to fifth in his first race of more than a mile.
Upsets earn trips to Churchill Downs
Two surprises round out the group that will definitely be running in the Kentucky Derby, and neither one of them were nominated for the Triple Crown races prior to winning on March 6.
Weyburn was a 46/1 longshot at the Gotham Stakes but ended up shocking the field and leaving Aqueduct Park with 50 qualifying points. His owners had to pay a late nomination fee of $6,000 but easily beat the March 29 deadline. Weyburn will stay at Aqueduct for his next race, the April 3 Wood Memorial.
The other big upset on March 6 occurred at the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, where Helium came in first at 15/1 odds. It appears that he will jump straight to the Kentucky Derby after also going through the late nomination process.
Maybe in, but not a sure thing
Essential Quality, the only horse to record four prep race wins, is sitting on 40 points. In most years, the total has been enough, but it's not yet a lock.
The undefeated colt trained by Brad Cox will finish his prep season on April 1 in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Any finish in the top four will assure Essential Quality entry into the Kentucky Derby.