What the Kentucky Derby Picture Looks Like Entering Championship Season

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TwinSpires Staff

February 24th, 2017

What does the Kentucky Derby points picture look like as we enter the Championship Prep Season?

by Alastair Bull

The preps are all done. Now is when the serious championship qualification races for the Kentucky Derby begin.

Barring the last-chance Lexington Stakes April 15 at Keeneland, the 10-point win races on the main Road to the Kentucky Derby trail have finished. From now, there are eight races with 85 points up for grabs (with a 50-20-10-5 allocation for first to fourth respectively), and seven worth 170 points (the split is 100-40-20-10).

The four-year history of the trail suggests 40 points should be enough to earn a Derby start, meaning a win in an 85-point race or a first-two finish in the 170-point races should do the job.

Odds for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which runs Feb. 24-26, suggests the Derby looks open. The shortest price for any of the 23 individual horses with odds quoted is 8-1, available for Classic Empire and McCraken; the favorite is the “all others” option, at 4-1.

Classic Empire tops the leaderboard with 32 points, but there’s clearly a cloud over him after his distant Holy Bull Stakes third. He hasn’t recovered quickly enough from a hoof abscess to run in the Fountain of Youth March 4 as planned. Punters will watch news from the Mark Casse camp carefully before deciding whether to invest.

McCraken impressed when winning the Sam F. Davis, extending his unbeaten record to four. He is likely to return to the same track for the Tampa Bay Derby March 11, for a possible rematch with the fast-finishing Tapwrit.

The most impressive of the others in the early 3-year-old prep races were arguably Holy Bull winner Irish War Cry (12-1 on Future Wager odds), Withers Stakes victor El Areeb (20-1), and Southwest Stakes winner One Liner (15-1).

Irish War Cry is expected to return to Gulfstream Park for the Fountain of Youth March 4. El Areeb is likely for the Gotham at Aqueduct the same day, and One Liner could return to Oaklawn for the Rebel Stakes April 18.

Action begins in the Championship rounds with the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Feb. 25. Lecomte Stakes winner Guest Suite returns, and takes on Remsen Stakes victor Mo Town and impressive Fair Grounds maiden winner Local Hero. Mo Town is at 15-1 in the Future Odds market, though the form from the Remsen hasn’t worked out too well to date.

In California, Gormley and American Anthem fought out the finish of the Sham Jan. 7, and are likely to return to Santa Anita for the San Felipe March 11.

Two notable juveniles that haven’t begun their 3-year-old careers are Champagne Stakes victor Practical Joke, a possible runner in either the Gotham or the Fountain of Youth, and unbeaten Los Alamitos Futurity winner Mastery, who could head to the San Felipe.

The open nature of the Derby means the championship races will make for compelling viewing.