The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” concluded last weekend and now it’s on to the Second Leg, which is composed of the seven most meaningful springboard events in advance of America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby.
Three Championship Series races are on tap for Saturday: the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (Grade I) at Gulfstream Park, the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds and the $2 million UAE Derby (GII) at Meydan. The Top 4 finishers in each race will be awarded points on a scale of 100 for first, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
The Florida Derby, a race that has produced 21 winners of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), is headlined by the trio of Holy Bull (GIII) winner Itsmyluckyday (ranked No. 20 on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” Leaderboard), juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby (No. 12) and Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Orb (No. 5).
Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby will be making their first starts since running 1-2 in the Holy Bull, the fastest 1 1/16-mile prep on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” with a final time of 1:41.81. The Holy Bull also is notable for being the first graded stakes victory for Itsmyluckyday and the first loss for Shanghai Bobby, who entered the race a perfect 5-for-5.
Should Shanghai Bobby make it to Louisville and win the Kentucky Derby, he would become the first juvenile champion to wear the roses on the First Saturday in May since Street Sense in 2007. A total of 19 juvenile champions have won the Derby; however, they have a record of just 1-2-2 from 17 starters since 1980.
The leading contender to knock off the top two morning-line favorites is Orb, who will be seeking his fourth straight win on Saturday. Orb, who likely already has enough points to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate with 50, is trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who is seeking his first Derby victory. McGaughey, who has not had a Derby starter since 2002, finished second behind Sunday Silence in the 1989 Derby with Easy Goer.
The full field of 14 entered in the Louisiana Derby is headed by Withers (GIII) winner Revolutionary (No. 24). Revolutionary is out of the A.P. Indy mare Runup the Colors, winner of the 1997 Alabama (GI) and three races at Churchill Downs. The Alabama at Saratoga is run at 1 ¼ miles, the same distance Revolutionary will run should he earn his way to the Kentucky Derby.
Revolutionary is owned by WinStar Farm LLC, who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. WinStar is ranked seventh in all-time Kentucky Derby starters with 13 and has started a horse in the “Run for the Roses” in six of the last seven years.
Code West, trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, finished a nose behind Ive Struck a Nerve in the Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds last month. Code West is a full-brother to multiple Grade II winner Charitable Man.
Palace Malice also exits the Risen Star and finished a half-length back of the Top 2. A bay son of Curlin, Palace Malice is trained by 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher, who also trains Revolutionary.
Departing, a late Triple Crown nominee who is owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, enters the Louisiana Derby with a perfect 3-for-3 record. Claiborne Farm, who won the 1984 Kentucky Derby with Swale, bred Kentucky Derby winners Johnstown (1939), Jet Pilot (1947) and Swale and a record 38 Derby starters overall.
Titletown Five, co-owned by football legends Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, scored a nine-length victory in a maiden special at Churchill Downs in October. After missing some time due to surgery to remove a chip from his left knee, Titletown Five returned in the Gazebo at Oaklawn Park and finished second. The Louisiana Derby will be the first graded stakes race for Titletown Five, who is trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas.
The field of 12 entered for the UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup undercard includes two Triple Crown nominees: He’s Had Enough and Lines of Battle.
He’s Had Enough comes from the same connections as 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another: Reddam Racing LLC and trainer Doug O’Neill. The last owner to win back-to-back runnings of the Derby is Meadow Stable, who achieved Derby glory with Riva Ridge and Secretariat in 1972-73.
In his most recent start, He’s Had Enough finished fifth in the Fountain of Youth. In his best race to date, He’s Had Enough finished just a head behind Shanghai Bobby in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI).
Lines of Battle, co-owned by 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Michael Tabor, was bred in Kentucky by Joseph Allen, but has raced the majority of his career in England and Ireland. A half-brother to Group II winner Homebound, Lines of Battle is trained by Aidan O’Brien, who has a record of 0-0-0 from four Derby starters.
The Second Leg of the Championship Series also includes the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on April 6 and the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 13.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” will conclude with two Wild Card races: the Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland on April 20 and the Derby Trial on “Opening Night” at Churchill Downs on April 27. Points in Wild Card races will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers on a 20-8-4-2 scale.
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:
UAE DERBY – Entered: He’s Had Enough (6) and Lines of Battle (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated: 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.
FLORIDA DERBY – Entered: Orb (50), Shanghai Bobby (24), Itsmyluckyday (10), Frac Daddy (4), Are You Kidding Me (0), Indy’s Illusion (0), Merit Man (0) and Narvaez (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated: Pick of the Litter (0) and Pontiff (0).
LOUISIANA DERBY – Entered: Code West (20), Palace Malice (10), Revolutionary (10), Golden Soul (4), Mylute (2), Brazilian Court (0), Departing (0), Ground Transport (0), Hip Four Sixtynine (0), Proud Strike (0), Sunbean (0), Titletown Five (0) and Whiskey Bravo (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated: Nina’s Dragon (4).
BLUE GRASS – Will Take Charge (60), Uncaptured (30), Java’s War (22), West Hills Giant (20), Dynamic Sky (13), Speak Logistics (11), Tiz a Minister (10), Taken by the Storm (5), Dewey Square (2), Balance the Books (0), Bambazonki (0), Charming Kitten (0), Crop Report (0), Demonic (0), Footbridge (0), Noble Tune (0), Rydilluc (0) and Undrafted (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated: Up With the Birds (0).
10 Things to Know This Weekend
1. The Second Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” begins Saturday. Points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby and UAE Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale.
2. Itsmyluckyday, who has not raced since winning the Holy Bull in January, will make his return in Saturday’s Besilu Stables Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. A Top 3 finish could put him in the Derby (a third-place finish would give him 30 series points and a lofty $493,600 in non-restricted stakes earnings, which breaks all ties).
3. Juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby, who suffered his first defeat in the Holy Bull, looks to bounce back in the Florida Derby. The last juvenile champion to win the Kentucky Derby is Street Sense in 2007. Shanghai Bobby likely needs a Top 4 finish to crack the Derby lineup.
4. Orb, No. 5 on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Leaderboard, will seek to complete the Fountain of Youth – Florida Derby double for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who is seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory.
5. Revolutionary, from the connections of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, makes his first start since overcoming traffic to win the Withers in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
6. The full field of 14 entered in the Louisiana Derby also includes Risen Star runner-up Code West, undefeated late Triple Crown nominee Departing and Titletown Five, who is co-owned by football legends Paul Hornung and Willie Davis.
7. He’s Had Enough, from the connections of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, will seek to earn his way to Louisville on the First Saturday in May in Saturday’s UAE Derby at Meydan in Dubai.
8. Flashy Gray, the favorite in the lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool, faces undefeated Unlimited Budget in Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks. Five of the last eight winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks went on to win the Kentucky Oaks.
10. The registration period for “Road to the Roses Presented by TwinSpires.com,” Churchill Downs’ free Kentucky Derby online fantasy game, concludes Thursday (today) at 5 p.m. and scoring will begin Saturday. Players can sign-up online at www.KentuckyDerby.com/Game.