Rating the First Round of 2019 Kentucky Derby Preps

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 17th, 2018

With the running of Sunday's Remington Springboard Mile, the last North American Kentucky Derby prep race of the year entered the history books, bringing to a close the first stage of qualification for the 2019 “Run for the Roses.”

From September through December, nine Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races were conducted across the country, and while the majority offered the same number of qualification points, some races naturally attracted stronger fields than others.

With this in mind, let’s go back through the Derby preps and rate them on a scale of 1-to-5. In chronological order, here’s how I rate the overall strength (and presumed future productivity) of the nine races….

Iroquois Stakes (gr. III)

Cairo Cat rallied to victory over Tight Ten in the first Kentucky Derby prep race of the season, but several of the top finishers have disappointed in subsequent starts, leaving questions about the overall quality of the field. The Iroquois was also the slowest prep race from a Beyer speed figure perspective, with Cairo Cat receiving an 80.

Rating: 1

American Pharoah Stakes (gr. I)

The field was small, but future Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner prevailed decisively with a 97 Beyer, one of the highest figures posted by any two-year-old this year. For good measure, runner-up Gunmetal Gray came back to finish a respectable fifth in the Juvenile.

Rating: 4

Champagne Stakes (gr. I)

Complexity had no difficulty romping to victory over Code of Honor in a fast race (95 Beyer), but Complexity faltered to finish tenth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Code of Honor hasn’t run since, so it’s a bit tricky to gauge the strength of the Champagne. But the field quality was viewed as fantastic beforehand, and since some of the also-rans have come back to run well against stakes company (with some other highly-regarded also-rans still waiting to run back), I’ll side with the clock and say that the Champagne will wind up being one of the more productive prep races of the season.

Rating: 4

Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I)

Knicks Go was an easy front-running winner over Signalman (who encountered traffic on the far turn), and they came right back to run second and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, after which Signalman won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II). It’s hard to knock that form, right? The only issue I see is that Knicks Go and Signalman have yet to run especially fast on the speed figure scales.

Rating: 3

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I)

Game Winner overcame a very wide trip to pick up his third Grade 1 of the season, defeating Knicks Go and the next-out Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner Signalman in determined fashion. Behind them were such well-regarded runners as Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) winner Mind Control, Champagne Stakes winner Complexity, and Iroquois Stakes runner-up Tight Ten. Talk about a quality field!

Rating: 5

Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II)

Signalman was a professional and gritty winner against a large field, but the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes essentially fell apart late after a fast early pace (Knicks Go was among the casualties while finishing eleventh), and the final time translated to a Beyer of just 84.

Rating: 2

Remsen Stakes (gr. II)

Maximus Mischief came into the Remsen unbeaten and kept his perfect record intact with an eye-catching victory over the graded stakes-placed Network Effect. Both colts had run fast speed figures prior to the Remsen, and their 1-2 finish resulted in Maximus Mischief receiving a 97 Beyer, tied with Game Winner for the highest of the season in a Derby prep race.

Rating: 3

Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I)

Improbable looked like a star in the making while roaring to a five-length score over his graded stakes-winning stablemate Mucho Gusto, with the promising maiden winner Extra Hope coming home third over the stakes-placed Savagery, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile sixth-place finisher Dueling, and the stakes winner King of Speed. This race exemplified the concept of quality over quantity.

Rating: 4

Remington Springboard Mile

The Clever Trevor Stakes winner Long Range Toddy held off the Sleepy Hollow Stakes winner Bankit to win by a head and record his third straight victory. Meanwhile, the Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes winner Dunph checked in third, and while the stakes-winning form of the top three finishers suggests that the Remington Springboard Mile was a strong race, the modest winning Beyer (82) argues the opposite.

Rating: 2

Which Kentucky Derby prep race do you think has been the strongest so far?