The final Kentucky Derby preps are in the books now with the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes wrapping up last week exactly as expected. Magnum Moon won the Arkansas Derby over Quip, Solomini and Combatant. The Lexington went to My Boy Jack with Telekinisis second, Pony Up third and Greyvitos fourth.
None of those last three in the Lexington will have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, so they may show up as fresh horses at the Preakness. Those guys are always dangerous.
There are now just over three weeks until the main attraction in Louisville, so it's a lot of wait and worry for some trainers. Only 20 horses get into the field, and for those with 20-39 points it's pins and needles time. The only way some of those potential runners can get in is if someone with more points drops out due to injury or maybe just because a trainer decides that he doesn't think it's in the best interest of his charge to run the race. Sometimes owners and trainers have different views on the matter, and guess who wins that argument?
Since I have an unusual amount of space this week, it is possible to answer a few questions I get from the two or three people who read these reports.
The first question relates to the Derby — any Derby. The term began with Lord Derby in England, blah blah blah. The main thing to know is that any race that has Derby in its name means one thing — it is a race restricted to three-year-olds of any gender. If anybody tells you he remembers back when such and such a horse won back-to-back Kentucky Derbys, you can tell him he's full of what the horse dropped. A horse is only three-years-old once, and so gets just one shot at any Derby.
Another question I get once in awhile involves the process I use for handicapping. I know I've had a pretty good spring this year, but I can't go back and check our archives completely at this time. Regardless of whether I've actually had 90 percent winners in the preps or just a mere 80 or so, whatever process I've used has been pretty successful.
First, I try to find a list of the entrants for Saturday races before my Wednesday evening deadline. From there I can use the trainer names to find a free past performance chart (this can take a while). I highlight the following: all races run at the same track as the current one, speed figures above an arbitrary number which varies from race to race (usually around 90), all Grade 2 or higher races, winning finishes. After that it's easy to disregard something like half the field because they don't have enough highlights.
Look for trends of improvement or regression, check money won per race and how has the runner done at similar distances and ignore all the other numbers. You can just take the two most recent speed figures at a similar distance and average them, then take the horse with the highest average and bet him to win. It works that way a great deal of the time.
Right now I'd say any of the top 15 horses listed below could win the Kentucky Derby without really shocking many people. The top five seem to stand above the rest, but these are still young animals who are changing by the day.
Top 24 prospects for Ky Derby with points earned toward a place in the field in parentheses:
1. Mendelssohn (100) - demolished UAE Derby field
2. Justify (100) - won first two outings, then won Santa Anita Derby
3. Good Magic (134) - champ in 2017, won the Blue Grass Stakes
4. Audible (110) - won Holy Bull, won Florida Derby
5. Magnum Moon (150) - won Rebel Stakes, won Arkansas Derby
6. Bolt d'Oro (104) - won San Felipe, second Santa Anita Derby
7. Noble Indy (110) - third Risen Star, won Louisiana Derby
8. My Boy Jack (52) - won Lexington Stakes, third Louisiana Derby
9. Flameaway (70) - second Tampa Bay Derby, second Blue Grass
10. Quip (90) - won Tampa Bay Derby, second Arkansas Derby
11. Solomini (54) - second in Rebel, third Arkansas Derby
12. Enticed (103) - won Gotham Stakes, second Wood Memorial
13. Free Drop Billy (44) - hit the board in seven of eight races
14. Vino Rosso (107) - won the Wood Memorial
15. Hofburg (40) - second Florida Derby
16. Gronkowski (Euro) - qualified through European races
17. Lone Sailor (42) - big run to finish second in Louisiana Derby
18. Bravazo (54) - won Risen Star
19. Combatant (32) - third in Rebel, fourth Arkansas Derby
20. Promise Fulfilled (52) won Fountain of Youth, nothing Fla Derby
21. Blended Citizen (22) - won Jeff Ruby on artificial surface
22. Snapper Sinclair (22) - third Lecomte, second by nose in Risen Star
23. Dream Baby Dream (20) - second in Sunland Derby
24. Strike Power (20) - second in Fountain of Youth