Who's Most Likely To Make Kentucky Derby Starting Gate Among Current Top 20

TwinSpires Staff

March 21st, 2016


The Rebel Stakes has come and gone, and with it the conclusion of the second round of Kentucky Derby Preps (minus the Spiral Stakes on April 2 at Turfway Park).

Since we last visited the top 20 on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard, there have been several shakeups with half the list changing, including three of my top four and four of my top six (see chart at bottom).

As a reminder my list reflects the likelihood of a horse actually entering the Kentucky Derby and is not a ranking based on talent. Of the current top 20, I view Mohaymen as the most likely Kentucky Derby entrant and Sunny Ridge the least likely. Our first round list was pretty solid, as the 13th through 20th ranked horses have all dropped out of the top 20.

What is interesting about many of these new faces is the fact they have yet to win a stakes race. Zulu and Outwork have come painstakingly close, but are on the list on the merits of their 2nd-place finishes Kentucky Derby Championship Series races.

That isn’t to say they haven’t run well, Zulu ran into a colt that is unbeaten, and Outwork was beaten by a track record performance, so these colts have run well. However, it would seem their lack of foundation worked to their disadvantage in their last respective starts. It will be interesting to see if they can rebound off those placings, in their final Derby preps for trainer Todd Pletcher (who also trains Destin, the colt who beat Outwork in the Tampa Bay Derby).

Cupid is another new face who lacked foundation, however, he was able to overcome his lack of experience. His Rebel Stakes was nothing short of impressive. If he can do the same in his next race he will solidify, if not improve, his lofty ranking on this list.

Destin is arguable the most accomplished of the new additions to the top twenty point earners. He was narrowly missed the stakes record, in the Sam F. Davis, then ran back in the Tampa Bay Derby to set a new track record. Based on those efforts, he is obviously fast and has no trouble routing, but can he transfer his brilliant form outside of Tampa Bay? We’ll get to see in his final prep.

Of the horses who managed to stay on the list, the most talented is easily Mohaymen. He is unbeaten and has done nothing wrong. In each race he continues to impress, leaving us with the impression that he has plenty more in reserve.

In the coming weeks, there is potential for even more shifts. I don’t see nearly as many dropping off the list, by the time the third round is complete, but I expect to see a lot of positional movement.

The first will come Saturday, March 26, in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds (click for FREE Ultimate Past Performances). This race features Gun Runner, Mo Tom, and Greenpointcrucader. Then, the following week we will see a clash of unbeatens in the Florida Derby with the aforementioned Mohaymen taking on undefeated champion Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Nyquist with Kentucky Derby favoritism likely on the line.

Like I said, there is the potential for some major shifts with the beginning of the Championship Round. This is where we will get to see who is a contender and who is a pretender. Ladies and gentlemen, let the games begin!

First Round

Pugh’s Top 20 to make the Derby

Second Round

Pugh’s Top 20 (w/ rank & points)


1)Mohaymen (1st, 70)

2)Mor Spirit

2)Destin* (2nd, 51)


3)Cupid* (4th, 50)


4)Danzing Candy* (5th, 50)


5)Mor Spirit (7th, 44)


6)Gun Runner* (3rd, 51)

7)Mo Tom

7)Mo Tom (12th, 22)


8)Nyquist (8th, 30)

9)Brody’s Cause

9)Outwork* (16th, 20)

10)Sunny Ridge

10)Zulu* (15th, 20)


11)Whitmore* (10th, 24)


12)Exaggerator (9th, 26)


13)Greenpointcrusader (19th, 14)


14)Shagaf* (6th, 50)


15)Flexibility (17th, 15)


16)Forevamo* (14th, 20)

17)Cocked and Loaded

17)Laoban* (13th, 22)

18)Frank Conversation

18)Brody’s Cause (18th, 14)

19)Rated R Superstar

19)Swipe (20th, 12)


20)Sunny Ridge (11th, 23)

*- Denotes horses new to the list