The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby will generate a high level of interest.
They follow another three 100-40-20-10 race day on March 27 with the UAE Derby in Dubai, the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. The prep season will conclude on April 10 with the 20-8-4-2 Lexington at Keeneland Park and the 100-40-20-10 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Given the history of the past five years, there are probably at least 10 horses that have already secured enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The average points needed over that time to gain an invitation to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May has been just over 33 points.
However, it has taken as few as 20 points and as many as 40 to qualify, so it's difficult to predict what happens near the cut-off point of the top 18 to 20 horses in the standings. Life Is Good, the winner of the 50-20-10-5 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 6, sustained an injury and has withdrawn from Kentucky Derby consideration.
That occurrence will undoubtedly benefit a horse on the bubble, but it remains to be seen how big the impact will be. There has only been one 100-40-20-10 race contested, with one of the favourites prevailing in last week's Louisiana Derby at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
Hot Rod Charlie locked up his entry into the Kentucky Derby, as did second-place finisher Midnight Bourbon and fourth-place finisher Proxy. The horse that crossed the finish line in third, O Besos, is still on the bubble with 25 points, and his team will nervously be eyeing the results of the next three weekends.
Who can make a move?
There are several quality racehorses that will be in action in the upcoming races and are lurking on the verge of qualification. Hidden Stash will be looking to build on his second-place finish in the 50-20-10-5 Tampa Bay Derby at the Blue Grass Stakes. With 22 points, any finish in the top four could punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby.
Bob Baffert's Hozier jumped into Kentucky Derby contention with a runner-up finish to another Baffert colt, Concert Tour, in the 50-20-10-5 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 13. Hozier will be back at Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby, looking for a top-three finish to earn an invitation to Churchill Downs.
Spielberg, also in Baffert's stable, has 17 points and needs a top-three outing in the Florida Derby to get into the Kentucky Derby. It will take a good run, especially if favourite Greatest Honour takes care of business at Gulfstream Park.
An interesting story would be Keepmeinmind contending at the Blue Grass Stakes after a dismal sixth-place finish at the Rebel Stakes. It came after a 3&12;-month layoff following a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 28. With 18 points, he'll need at least a third-place finish for his handlers to feel comfortable with his position in the standings.