Las Vegas, NV - The Road to the Kentucky Derby is in full swing as two and three year olds from around the world try to qualify for arguably the biggest race on the planet - the first Saturday in May 2016 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Right now we are in the middle of a series of 19 races held between September and February. Those races award the top four finishers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale - the Kentucky Derby Prep Season as it is known. As we get closer to the Run for the Roses things become a little bit more interesting in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. The first leg includes eight races with a 50-20-10-5 scale. Races in this leg include the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, the Gotham at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, the San Felipe at Santa Anita, the Rebel at Oaklawn, the Spiral at Turfway, and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park. The second leg includes seven races with a 100-40-20-10 scale including the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita, the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, and the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the UAE Derby in Dubai.
There are two races in the weeks preceding the Kentucky Derby in which contenders can earn points on a 20-8-4-2 scale - this is the "Wild Card Round".
So, with that in mind, who are the early contenders for the 2016 Kentucky Derby? Let's take a peek at the top 30 point getters so far with the realization that only the top 20 will earn a spot in the Run for the Roses.
Nyquist, Doug O'Neill, 30 points - has been the most impressive horse on the Road so far with wins in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile ,the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes September 26 and the Del Mar Futurity September 7. He is undefeated in his five race career and is expected to be at or near the top until the Big Race in May.
Exaggerator, Keith Desormeaux, 16 points - was at his best in last time out when he win the Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot November 21. He also had a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity October 3 and a win in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in August.
Brody's Cause, Dale Romans, 14 points - earned his points with a third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and a win in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland October 3.
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Mor Spirit, Bob Baffert, 14 points - won the Los Alamitos Futurity December 19 and posted a second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes November 28.
Flexibility, Chad Brown, 14 points - started 2016 with a good win in the Grade 3 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct January 2 and also had second place finishes in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes November 28 and the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes November 4 - also at Aqueduct.
Swipe, Keith Desormeaux, 12 - earned his points with a couple of respectable runner-up finishes in the Breeders' Cup and the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita September 26.
Airoforce, Mark Casse, 10 - has three wins and a second place finish in four career starts including a win in the Grade 1 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last time out at Churchill Downs November 28 and a runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Greenpointcrusader, Dominick Schettino, 10 - got his 10 points thanks to a win in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park October 3 but was a somewhat disappointing seventh last time out in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile against many of his future competitors.
Mohaymen, Kiaran McLaughlin, 10 - has won all three career starts (two graded stakes including the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct November 28 and the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes on that same track November 4.
Cocked and Loaded, Larry Rivelli, 10 - won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs September 12 but finished fifth last time out in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He has placed in just one of four graded stakes tries however.
Riker, Nick Gonzalez, 10 - has won four of five career starts including the 10 point Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine October 4 but was sixth in his biggest step up in competition - the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last time out.
Collected, Bob Baffert, 10 - has two wins and a second place finish in three career starts including the Grade 3 Sham Stakes in his dirt debut last weekend as overwhelming favorite.
The rest of the top 30:
- Sunny Ridge, Jason Servis, 8
- Rated R Superstar, Kenny McPeek, 6
- Toews on Ice, Bob Baffert, 4
- Vorticity, James Lawrence II, 4
- Kasseopia-GB, Charles Fellowes, 4
- Let's Me in Rio, Bob Baffert, 4
- Harlan Punch, Tom Amoss, 2
- Found Money, Doug O'Neill, 2
- Hollywood Don, Peter Miller, 2
- I'malreadythere, Jerry Hollendorfer, 2
- Mo Tom, Tom Amoss, 2
- Sail Ahoy, Shug McGaughey III, 2
- Portfolio Manager, Chad Brown, 2
- Tizzarunner, Mark Casse, 2
- Gift Box, Chad Brown, 2
- In Equality, Leah Gyarmati, 2
- Unbridled Outlaw, Dale Romans, 2
- Laoban, Eric Guillot, 2