Things begin to get serious this weekend on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with points jumping up to 100-40-20-10 with Saturday's Louisiana Derby at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The race offers a purse of $1million and the field features several horses looking to advance to a berth in the Kentucky Derby on May 1.
The Louisiana Derby will be the 14th and final race on Saturday's card, which offers purses totaling at least $3million. Big stakes race days are special, with the hype and excitement culminating in the highlighted race.
We were in attendance this past Saturday at Oaklawn Park, where over $2.8million in prize money was awarded, and the atmosphere, even with reduced attendance, was electric.
Saturday's final Kentucky Derby prep race to be run at The Fair Grounds will be a rematch for the top three finishers in the first two point contests. On January 16, Midnight Bourbon outlasted Proxy and Mandaloun in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes. The race of just over a mile awarded points on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
On February 13, monies were doubled for the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star Stakes. The horses were competing for their share of a $400,000 purse and points that were awarded at 50-20-10-5.
It was the first of the higher point races in the Championship Series and the winner would be a virtual lock for a Kentucky Derby entry.
In the Risen Star, Mandaloun came out on top, with Proxy duplicating his second-place finish in the Lecomte with Midnight Bourbon finishing in third. With the 50 points for the win, Mandaloun punched his ticket to Churchill Downs for trainer Brad Cox.
Midnight Bourbon left The Fair Grounds with 26 points and Proxy had a total of 24. O Besos, who hadn't been entered in the Lecomte, finished in fourth, good for five points.
Triple Crown contenders in the field
All four horses are entered in the Louisiana Derby, but they'll also be joined by Hot Rod Charlie, who finished second to Essential Quality at the 20-8-4-2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland on November 6. In the 10-4-2-1 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on January 30, he was nosed out of second place by Roman Centurian in a race won by Medina Spirit.
While Mandaloun's qualifying status is certain, none of the others, based on past history, have enough points to qualify for the Triple Crown opener. The current system has been in place since 2013 and it generally takes between 35 and 40 points to qualify. A second-place finish for any of the contenders mentioned here would most likely assure entry.
However, for Hot Rod Charlie and O Besos, anything worse than that will extinguish their hopes of running in the Kentucky Derby. Midnight Bourbon and Proxy would probably punch their tickets by finishing at least third, but crossing the line in fourth would put their qualification in serious doubt.
The last of the prep races aren't until April 10, with the 100-40-20-10 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the 20-8-4-2 Lexington at Keeneland. The list of qualifiers will likely not be finalized until those race results are made official.