Kentucky Derby and Oaks Roundup: March 8, 2021

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 8th, 2021

In 2020, Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert tied the record for most Kentucky Derby wins by a trainer, saddling Authentic to secure his sixth victory in the “Run for the Roses.”

Can Baffert pick up a record-extending seventh Derby win in 2021? Based on the results of last week’s Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers, it’s well within the realm of possibility.

Let’s recap all the action that unfolded on the Derby and Oaks trails during the first week of March:

Changes on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard

A huge Saturday of racing saw three major qualifiers take place across the country, each awarding qualification points to the top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 basis. As a result, the current leaderboard is unrecognizable compared to last week.

By far the flashiest winner of the week was Life Is Good (60 points, second place), who cemented his status as the Kentucky Derby favorite with a rousing eight-length romp in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita. The undefeated Baffert trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile race in a snappy 1:42.18 to essentially lock up his spot in the Derby starting gate. Stablemate and distant runner-up Medina Spirit (34 points, fifth place) is also in a strong position to qualify.

Helium (50 points) and Weyburn (50) were the other weekend winners, battling to respective victories in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs and the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct. Neither has been nominated to the Triple Crown. But they’re expected to be supplemented later this month, which would place them fourth and fifth on the current leaderboard.

In the meantime, Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Hidden Stash (22 point, eighth place) and narrow Gotham second-place finisher Crowded Trade (20 points, ninth place) have squeezed into the Top 10, while distant Tampa Bay Derby third-place runner Moonlite Strike (11 points, 15th place) has entered the Top 20.

European Road to the Kentucky Derby

The European Road to the Kentucky Derby emerged from its winter hibernation with a pair of one-mile prep races worth 20-8-4-2 to the top four finishers.

The Godolphin homebred Highland Avenue was the first to strike, rallying smartly up the rail to post a comfortable victory in Wednesday’s Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition S. at Kempton Then on Friday, the Joseph O’Brien-trained filly My Generation conquered males in the Patton S. at Dundalk, drawing away with authority to break her maiden by five lengths.

My Generation and Highland Avenue currently rank 1-2 on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. However, neither runner has been nominated to the Triple Crown, so forays to Churchill Downs seem unlikely at this point.

The European Road to the Kentucky Derby concludes with the one-mile Cardinal Condition S. (worth 30-12-6-3) on April 1 at Chelmsford City.

Recent Maiden Winners

A bevy of Triple Crown nominees secured their maiden victories last week, including the flashy winners Dynamic One and Untreated from the barn of Todd Pletcher. The former was a rallying victor racing 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct, while the latter crushed a one-mile and 40-yard event at Tampa Bay Downs by 8 3/4 lengths.

You can catch up on all the latest winners in this week’s Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch update.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4

Life Is Good’s sensational triumph in the San Felipe had a definite impact on his odds in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4. Bettors pounded the son of Into Mischief all the way down to 2-1, leaving champion Essential Quality (5-1) (still unbeaten after his Southwest [G3] comeback) and Fountain of Youth (G2) hero Greatest Honour (6-1) as the distant second and third choices.

The complete list of betting interests and odds can be viewed here.

On the Work Tab

Brooklyn Strong: Took another step toward the Wood Memorial (G2) when handily traveling a half mile in :49.28 on Saturday at Parx.

Caddo River: Wrapped up his preparations for the Rebel (G2) with a five-furlong workout in 1:00.20 on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Keepmeinmind: Continued his preparations for the Rebel by working five furlongs in 1:02.20 on Friday at Oaklawn Park.

Get Her Number: Clocked six furlongs in a snappy 1:12.40 at the San Luis Rey Training Center last Tuesday, then came back with a half mile in :49.80 on Monday.

Hot Rod Charlie: Stepped up over six furlongs on Saturday at Santa Anita, getting the distance in 1:14.00.

Mandaloun: Fired off a bullet five-furlong workout on Saturday at Fair Grounds, getting the distance in :59.20.

Midnight Bourbon: Turned in a fast breeze on Monday at Fair Grounds, clocking five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.60.

Nova Rags: Traveled five furlongs in 1:03.40 on Sunday Payson Park, a deceptively quick move over the slow surface.

Overtook: Cruised through four furlongs in :50.75 on Saturday at Palm Beach Downs.

Proxy: Took to the Fair Grounds main track on Saturday to work five furlongs in 1:00.60.

Rombauer: Sped five furlongs in a quick 1:00.00 on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Risk Taking: Continues to breeze over the training track at Belmont Park, clocking four furlongs in :49.00 on Saturday.

Smiley Sobotka: Worked five furlongs in 1:01.46 on Monday at Gulfstream Park.

Super Stock: Breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Monday at Fair Grounds, his final move before returning to action in the Rebel.

Road to the Kentucky Oaks

Three Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifiers worth 50-20-10-5 to the top finishers were contested across the country last weekend. Suffice to say, the results shook up the leaderboard.

Search Results (50 points, fourth place) was the first to strike, battling gamely to defeat Miss Brazil (20 points, 11th place) in Saturday’s one-mile Busher S. at Aqueduct. Busanda S. winner The Grass Is Blue (20 points, 12th place) came home third, sufficient to retain a spot in the Top 14.

Later in the afternoon, Martha Washington S. winner Will’s Secret (60 points, first place) finished fast off a slow pace to win the Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn in determined fashion over Pauline’s Pearl (20 points, 13th place). As the first filly to win multiple 2020-21 Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep races, Will’s Secret has naturally ascended to the top of the leaderboard.

The action wrapped up on Sunday with the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita, in which Baffert’s Beautiful Gift (50 points, fifth place) returned from a lengthy layoff to rally and win by a head over Moraz (22 points, 10th place). Santa Ynez (G2) winner and heavy favorite Kalypso (28 points, seventh place) weakened to finish third.

Looking Ahead

Racing fans will get to catch a breather next week. Saturday’s $1 million Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn is the only Derby or Oaks qualifier on the agenda, though it’s a good one. Flashy Smarty Jones S. winner Caddo River, gritty San Vicente (G2) hero Concert Tour, and stretch-running Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner Keepmeinmind are among the expected starters.

Enjoy the racing!