Kentucky Derby Bubble Watch – 5 horses waiting for a defection

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 18th, 2015

No horses stepped back from the brink last week, leaving the status of five Kentucky Derby hopefuls in limbo as their connections anxiously await any future defections from the prospective 20-horse field.

A points system determines eligibility for the Kentucky Derby and Madefromlucky (30 points), Keen Ice (22), Frammento (20), Bold Conquest (17) and The Truth or Else (11) are presently on the outside looking in as the 21st-25th ranked three-year-olds.

The field will be determined April 29 when entries are taken and post positions drawn for the 141st running of the American classic. If more than 20 are entered, up to two also-eligibles will remain on the waiting list until Friday (May 1) morning’s scratch deadline.

Bolo and Ocho Ocho Ocho removed the “on-the-fence” label when being confirmed by connections last week, effectively ending the possibility that any runners will be removed out of concern for the horse’s best interests. Any further attrition will be dictated by a health issue, whether injury or sickness.

Bolo qualified via placings in the March 7 San Felipe and April 4 Santa Anita Derby, but his Kentucky Derby status appeared doubtful after the latter when trainer Carla Gaines told the Daily Racing Form, “(Bolo) is actually better on grass. He has a different way of going on grass.”

Ocho Ocho Ocho recorded a troubled eighth when opening 2015 in the San Felipe but came back to add the necessary points in the April 4 Blue Grass, weakening to be a well-beaten third after setting the pace at Keeneland.

When contacted after Arkansas Derby a week later, trainer Jim Cassidy didn’t sound too optimistic about the possibility of taking on the smashing winner and probable Kentucky Derby favorite American Pharoah.

"If there ever was a year there shouldn't be 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby, it's this year,” Cassidy told the Santa Anita notes team days after the Arkansas Derby.

Bolo and Ocho Ocho Ocho will ship in from California and both figure to be massive longshots on May 2.

A brief look at the outsiders:

Madefromlucky was sold to new owners and transferred to Todd Pletcher after breaking his maiden in late December. After an allowance win in early February, he finished second in the March 14 Rebel and a disappointing fourth in the Arkansas Derby. The son of Lookin at Lucky could still develop into an accomplished performer, and his presence in the Derby field would provide Pletcher with five runners, but Madefromlucky probably isn’t fast enough to make an impact with his stalking style.

Keen ice is by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and entered this season with classic aspirations after concluding 2014 with a late-running third in the Remsen Stakes, but didn’t fire when fifth in the January 24 Holy Bull and made up minimal ground in his following outings, clunking up belatedly for third in the February 21 Risen Star and fourth in the March 28 Louisiana Derby. Given the possibility of a fast and pressured pace, and the fact that Keen Ice broke his maiden at Churchill and trainer Dale Romans has placed in two of the last five Derbys, he’ll offer some exotics appeal with his deep-closing style if he makes the field.

Frammento shares the same profile as Keen Ice – no early speed or ability to make a serious impact in prep races, but he managed to get up for third in the February 21 Fountain of Youth and fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes. Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Nick Zito remains high on the confirmed late runner, noting that Frammento is a rapidly improving colt who could make a Derby impact with the right set-up, but Frammento has yet to show enough on track to warrant much enthusiasm.

Bold Conquest concluded last year with a pair stakes placings, finishing second in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs and third in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, but his form did not improve like supporters hoped at age three, recording a fourth in the February 22 Southwest, a well-beaten third in the Rebel and a fifth in the Arkansas Derby. The latter really stung as Bold Conquest probably cost himself a realistic chance finishing outside the top four.

The Truth or Else is only a maiden winner and his form has been going the wrong way since he opened this year with a rallying second in the Southwest, beaten less than a length. The late runner came back with an even fourth in the Rebel and then faded badly to seventh in the Arkansas Derby. He’s been ridden by Hall of Famer Calvin Borel, but the three-time Derby winner won’t be able to make him competitive if he surprisingly qualifies.