By John Pricci

Week after week in prep after prep, chaos reigned in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby. Who was the leader of this class of three year olds? Yesterday, finally, form prevailed.

Three huge races, whatever their grade, were renewed on the traditional ‘Super Saturday’ of preps, races that can stand proudly all by themselves now as well as then.

Favorites won the first two Derby auditions and the top two choices in the third, albeit inverted, completed an exacta that put both runners on the high road to Louisville.

However, instead of bringing some clarity to a topsy-turvy division, yesterday’s expected results did little to illuminate the Derby picture. If anything, it made the puzzle all the more complex.

Suddenly there are a lot more legitimate Derby contenders now, sophomores that finally stepped up, showing what they could do, and several more that without winning still were going in the right direction at the end of the day.

Putting potential winning form to the side momentarily; the place photo in the Blue Grass was significant, raising Win Win Win’s Derby points total to 50 while Signalman’s third raised his to 38, more than enough in most years. But this isn’t most years.

With the Japanese qualifier Master Fencer accepting his invitation this weekend, 19 spots remain. Signalman’s is current ranked 18th with the final European Road qualifier to be run in 48 hours. What that means is this:

If Omaha Beach and Improbable finish 1-2, either way, in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby, the final hundred-grander, or even the Lexington Stakes’ 20 and 8-point totals, respectfully, Signalman could be left on the outside looking in. Currently, Omaha Beach is 19th with 37.5 points.

Great Britain’s Cardinal Stakes at Chelmsford will go on Tuesday and its 30 points could enable one of seven European hopefuls also can leapfrog Signalman. And what has the Ken McPeek-trained runner accomplished?

At 2, he won Churchill’s Grade 2 Jockey Club Stakes after finishing third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and second in Keeneland’s G1 Breeders’ Futurity. How about those Derby credentials?

Continuing this tough-beats theme, the aforementioned races were all contested around two turns but as of right now, Signalman’s Derby participation is squarely on the bubble.

And therein lies the danger of a two-prep three-year-old campaign. Let the bitching begin.

With Roadster’s dramatic victory in the Santa Anita Derby, the HRI Derby Power 10’s bracket has been busted. Last week, Roadster was a member of the Also-Receiving Votes category. This week? See below: Roadster knocked last year’s champion Game Winner of his top perch, vaulting to #2.

Now, there’s a new sheriff in town!


1-Omaha Beach (48) Barring the unforeseen, it’s hard to envision this colt not among the top three betting choices in Louisville, and easily could go favored. (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 119/119)

2-Roadster (46) The observation that this colt has a turn of foot more reminiscent to that of a turf runner seems apt—at least it was in the Santa Anita Derby under supremely confident handling. Who will it be Money Mike? (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 113/113)

3-Game Winner (42)
For his fans, all that was lost yesterday was a horse race—narrowly. Considering the difference in their trips, who can say with certitude that he’s still not the boss hoss? (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 115/119)

4-Tacitus (36)
Any horse that can put two graded two-turners back to back in 2019 deserves all the accolades he can get, pace-aided or not pace-aided. Very nice horse and still learning. (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 120/120)

5-Vekoma (28)
Stalking a sensible Blue Grass pace throughout, and ridden as if he were the best horse, Vekoma made his winning move approaching headstretch and was lengthening stride at the finish despite racing greenly. (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 119/119)

6-Improbable (27)
It will be interesting to see who goes favorite in Hot Springs on Saturday. To make events more vexing, long range forecasts call for rain in late afternoon of Arkansas Derby day. And nobody wants that. (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 117/117)

7-Code of Honor (15) Given the Florida Derby’s dynamics, he has every right to move forward on May’s first Saturday, and will need to do just that against a much deeper group. (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 109/118)

8-Maximum Security (12) Stole the Florida Derby after setting laughably slow fractions but is unlikely to get away with that in the next town. Still, the way he finished off that mile and an eighth still deserves respect. (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 116/116)

9-Long Range Toddy (8) Given yesterday’s events, he moved down the list from #4 last week but still should not be dismissed lightly. Tactical speedster can finish and owns Derby style. (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 117/117)

10-TIE: By My Standard (5) (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 117/117), Cutting Humor (5) (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 112/112), Tax (5) (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 121/121), Win Win Win (5) (TimeformUS speed figures last/best 111/119).

ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Bourbon War (4), Que Plus Parfait (3), Haikal (2), Signalman (1)

Off Topic:
Saturday belonged to racing’s glamour division but we must admit that the stretch battle put on by Gift Box and McKinzie was an instant classic, one of the more compelling finishes in racing history. Good for Southern California racing, and good for the horses that made the 2019 Santa Anita Handicap the “Big Cap” once again.

©Horse Race Insider, April 7, 2019

Craig Milkowski's TimeforUS Derby Top Ten

The following list are the top 10 TimeformUS Speed Figures run so far by horses eligible for the 2019 Kentucky Derby on dirt or on a synthetic surface. Turf races are excluded as none offer points towards a spot in the gate in the first Saturday in May. I am now only considering races run at one mile and one eighth and only those run in March or April. Races earlier than that, even the scant few run at nine furlongs, have pretty much lost any real significance at this point.

Early favorite and two-year-old Eclipse champ Game Winner went down to defeat again in the Santa Anita Derby, while Vekoma confirmed his juvenile form with a win in the Blue Grass. Tacitus joined Game Winner, Long Range Toddy, and War of Will as the only horses to win multiple races that award points for the Kentucky Derby.

1) Tax 121 Confirmed his big race in the Withers back in February with a hard fought runner-up finish in the Wood, pressing a very fast pace. This is a talented horse with tactical speed and should be a big player in the division.

2) Tacitus 120 The winner of the Wood gets a slightly lower number due to the quick pace, but he was very impressive backing up his win in the Tampa Derby with this score. He is also versatile and has proven to run well in traffic which could be a factor in May.

3) Not That Brady 120 Rebounded well from his complete no-show in the Gotham last month while pressing a very fast pace, but this one doesn’t look like a horse that wants to go this far, let alone an additional furlong. He doesn’t have near enough points to get in the Derby even if the connections were tempted to try.

4) Vekoma 119 Improved off his return effort in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream with a fairly easy win against a somewhat lesser field than those seen in most of the other preps. He should be set for a big effort third off the layoff even if his running action isn’t very pleasing to the eye.

5) By My Standards 117 Shocked most everyone when winning the Louisiana Derby fresh off of breaking his maiden. Showed nice tactical speed but does exit a race with very little success at Churchill in recent years.

6) Spinoff 116 Runner-up behind By My Standards could arguably be considered best that day given the respective trips. He lost a lot of ground and was still beaten less than a length.

7) Maximum Security 116 Undefeated thus far and stretched out for the first time to take the Florida Derby rather handily. The pace was a farce that day and he had a clear lead. Obviously very talented but will be tested like never before next month.

8) Somelikeithotbrown 115 Set the pace in the Blue Grass before yielding late and dropping back to fourth in his first dirt start since his debut. Currently on the fence from a points standpoint; would add some speed to the mix if he happened to get into the Derby field.

9) Game Winner 115 The two-year-old champ was defeated for the second time in a row in the Santa Anita Derby but did earn the highest figure in the field at 115. He also lost plenty of ground despite it being just a six horse field.

10) Instagrand 114 Third in the same Santa Anita Derby, he set the pace before wilting late to finish third. He is another that is on the fence on Derby points. While he looks like a horse that could add some speed, he doesn’t look likely to want 10 furlongs.