The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” wraps up this weekend with the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral (Grade III) on Saturday and the $800,000 Sunland Derby (GIII) on Sunday.
As part of the First Leg of the Championship Series, the Top 4 finishers in the Spiral at Turfway Park and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park will be awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 scale. The Second Leg of the Championship Series, where points will be awarded on a 100-40-20-10 scale, begins March 30 with the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (GI), Louisiana Derby (GII) and UAE Derby (GII). Churchill Downs officials estimate that between 30 and 40 points will be needed to make the Kentucky Derby field, although it could be as low as 20. Earnings in non-restricted stakes races break all ties.
The Spiral, which drew a full field of 12, is headed by two colts that will be making their 3-year-old debuts: Uncaptured (ranked No. 19 in the Point Standings) and Balance the Books.
Uncaptured, who completed the Iroquois (GIII) – Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) double at Churchill Downs to conclude his 2-year-old campaign, races for John Oxley, who won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) in 2001 with Monarchos. A Canadian-bred son of Lion Heart, Uncaptured was the only American-based juvenile to record at least six wins in 2012.
Balance the Books won the With Anticipation (GII) and Bourbon (GIII) on the grass and then finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) at Santa Anita in his final 2-year-old start. The Spiral, which will be run at 1 1/8 miles on Turfway’s Polytrack, will be the first off-the-turf start for the Chad Brown-trained Balance the Books.
Other top contenders in the Spiral include multiple stakes winner Mac the Man, who has won his last three starts by a combined 14 ½ lengths, My Name is Michael (No. 41), beaten favorite in the Sam F. Davis (GIII) for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, and the Todd Pletcher-trained Capo Bastone (No. 31), third in last year’s Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and FrontRunner (GI).
The Spiral, which has produced Kentucky Derby winners Animal Kingdom (2011) and Lil E. Tee (1992), is scheduled as Race 10 with a post time of 5:50 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby, which produced 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, attracted a field of nine led by the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Shakin It Up and Govenor Charlie.
Shakin It Up, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, has not finished off the board in four career starts and enters the Sunland Derby off a one-length victory in the seven furlong San Vicente (GII). He will make his first start around two turns Sunday.
Govenor Charlie will be making his third career start in the Sunland Derby. In his last start, he broke his maiden in a one-mile maiden special at Santa Anita over Footbridge, who returned to win his next start and is now eyeing the Toyota Blue Grass (GI).
Both colts from the Baffert barn are dark bay or brown sons of Midnight Lute and were bred by Mike Pegram, who owns Govenor Charlie by himself and Shakin It Up in partnership with Dennis Cardoza.
The 4-1 second choice is Abraham, a maiden winner at Gulfstream Park who ships in from Florida for Pletcher and owners WinStar Farm LLC and Twin Creeks Racing Stable. Pletcher and WinStar Farm teamed to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. Bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Farms LLC, Abraham is a chestnut son of Distorted Humor, who sired 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.
The possible fields for Kentucky Derby Championship Series races are fluid as horsemen vie for points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com.”
Below are known horses mentioned to be under consideration for each race based on published news reports and other sources with their Road to the Kentucky Derby point totals in parenthesis. Again, the shape of these fields is fluid and some horses are considered “possible” in multiple races.
SPIRAL – Entered: Uncaptured (10 points), Fear the Kitten (6), Capo Bastone (4), My Name Is Michael (2), Channel Isle (1), Balance the Books (0), For Greater Glory (0), Mac the Man (0) and Taken by the Storm (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated (Early): Black Onyx (0) General Election (0) and Giant Finish (0).
SUNLAND DERBY – Entered: Dry Summer (1 point), Abraham (0), Govenor Charlie (0), Just Win Baby (0), Mudlfats (0), Saint Prado (0), Shakin It Up (0) and Stormdriver (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated (Early): Show Some Magic (0).
FLORIDA DERBY – Orb (50 points), Shanghai Bobby (24), Itsmyluckyday (10), Frac Daddy (4), Dewey Square (2), Joshua’s Comprise (1) and Merit Man (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated (Early): Pick of the Litter (0).
LOUISIANA DERBY – Code West (20), Palace Malice (10), Revolutionary (10), Golden Soul (4), Dewey Square (2), Mylute (2), Ground Transport (0), Proud Strike (0) and Titletown Five (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated (Early): Nina’s Dragon (4), Departing (0), Hip Four Sixtynine (0) and Sunbeam (0).
UAE DERBY – He’s Had Enough (6), Fortify (3) and Lines of Battle (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated (Early): Dice Flavor (10), Elleval-IRE (0), Keiai Leone-JPN (0), Law Enforcement-IRE (0), Now Spun (0), Secret Number-GB (0), f-Shuruq (0) and Snowboarder (0). Southern Hemisphere 3-year-olds (Ineligible): Emotif-ARG (0) and Zahee-NZ.
WOOD MEMORIAL – Verrazano (50), Vyjack (50), West Hills Giant (20), Speak Logistics (11), Elnaawi (10), Power Broker (10), Siete de Oros (7), Normandy Invasion (4), Always in a Tiz (2), Dewey Square (2), Mr Palmer (0), Tiz the Truth (0), Transparent (0) and War Academy (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated (Early): Go Get the Basil (0) and The Truth and K.G. (0).
SANTA ANITA DERBY – Hear the Ghost (50), Flashback (30), Goldencents (29), Power Broker (10), Super Ninety Nine (10), Tiz a Minister (10), Demonic (0), Tiz the Truth (0) and War Academy (0).
ARKANSAS DERBY – Oxbow (36), Den’s Legacy (20), Falling Sky (20), Overanalyze (10), Texas Bling (9), Dewey Square (2), Heaven’s Runaway (2) and War Academy (0).
BLUE GRASS – Will Take Charge (60), Java’s War (22), Dynamic Sky (13), Bambazonki (0), Charming Kitten (0), Footbridge (0), Noble Tune (0), Rydilluc (0) and War Academy (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated (Early): Up With the Birds (0).
10 THINGS TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND
1. Uncaptured, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs and one of the winter-book favorites for Kentucky Derby 139, makes his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Spiral at Turfway Park.
2. Balance the Books, a multiple graded-stakes winner on the turf as a juvenile, will attempt to prove he can run on another surface when he runs in the Spiral on Turfway’s Polytrack surface.
3. Mac the Man, a multiple-stakes winner at Turfway Park, will test graded-stakes company for the first time in the Spiral.
4. The Bob Baffert-trained duo of Shakin It Up and Govenor Charlie are two of the top contenders in Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Derby. Baffert currently trains five of the Top 21 in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” Point Standings.
5. Team Valor International could accomplish an interesting feat at Turfway Park on Saturday and present a winner’s trophy to themselves. They will start the Triple Crown-nominated Crop Report in the Team Valor Rushaway on the Spiral undercard.
6. Hollywood Starlet winner Pure Fun, a top contender for the Kentucky Oaks, will make her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Fathead Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) at Turfway Park on Saturday.
7. Midnight Lucky, who turned heads with a 7 ¼-length maiden special victory at Santa Anita in February, headlines a field of eight entered in the Sunland Park Oaks on Sunday.
8. The registration period for “Road to the Roses Presented by TwinSpires.com,” Churchill Downs’ free Kentucky Derby online fantasy game, begins Friday at noon runs through March 28 at 5 p.m. Players can sign-up online at www.KentuckyDerby.com.
9. Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, the final future wager pool of 2013, opens Friday at noon and closes Sunday at 6 p.m.
10. The late nomination period for the 2013 Triple Crown, which requires payment of a $6,000 fee with each nominee, ends Saturday at 11:59 p.m. For more information, visit www.TheTripleCrown.com.