OffTrackBetting.com - The 2017 Road to the Kentucky Derby added to its list of serious contenders this past weekend as the best three year olds from around the world continued to seek a spot in North America's most prestigious race - the 143rd Kentucky Derby in May. The top 20 point getters from 35 designated races from around the world will get a chance to Run For the Roses.
Points are awarded for the first to fourth place finishers in these designated races - it all started with 19 races that made up the Kentucky Derby Prep Season which ended a month ago with the Southwest Derby at Oaklawn Park. Those races offered a 10-4-2-1 point scale except for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile that offered 20-8-4-1 points to the first through fourth place finishers. The next phase of qualifying - the Kentucky Derby Championship series is in full swing - five races have already been contested in this phase and have shaped the points race dramatically. Unfortunately the winner of the 2017 San Felipe Stakes this past weekend - Mastery suffered a bone chip and was taken off the "Road".
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The 15 races that make up the Derby Championship Series, starting with the Risen Star Stakes February 25 at Fair Grounds offer a 50-20-10-5 point scale for nine of the races (the latest two coming this past weekend when the Tampa Bay Derby and the San Felipe Stakes were contested) and 100-40-20-10 points for the biggest races including the UAE Derby, the Florida Derby, the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes, the Santa Anita Derby and the Arkansas Derby. This year introduced us to the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, which will consist of two races - the Cattleya Sho for 2-year-olds and the Hyacinth which is coming up on the schedule. The winner of this series will claim one of the 20 starting spots in May.
So, with 25 of the 35 races already in the books and the first five Championship Series contests behind us, who has an early line on one of the top 20 spots and beyond? Let's take a look.
Gunnevera, Antonio Sano, 64 points - gained 10 points with a win in the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot November 19 and four points February 4 with a second place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. A victory March 4 provided a 50 point haul in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Tapwrit, Todd Pletcher, 54 points - has become a name to watch on the Road. He won the Tampa Bay Derby March 17 and finished second in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on that track February 11. He has won three of his last four starts overall with that runner-up finish over that span.
J Boys Echo, Dale Romans, 53 points - has been competitive in New York Prep races but really made a name for himself March 4 with a good win in a tough field in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct - a 50 point bonanza.
Girvin, Joe Sharp, 50 points - was the winner in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds February 25 where he earned 50 points - his only podium finish in the qualifying period so far.
Practical Joke, Chad Brown, 34 points - won the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park October 8 and finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to gain his points. He gained 20 points on May 4 with a runner-up finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream.
Classic Empire, Mark Casse, 32 points - has wins in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in October and in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile - the 20 points he gained in that race are the biggest prize so far. His last race was a bit of a disappointment - a third in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.
El Areeb, Cathal Lynch, 30 points - prevailed in the 1 mile 70 yards Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct January 2, took the Withers Stakes February 4 also on that track and had a somewhat disappointing third on March 4 in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Gormley, John Shirreffs, 25 points - has two wins on the Road to the Derby so far - the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita and the Sham Stakes also on that track January 7. He was most recently a disappointing fourth in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita March 11
Untrapped, Steve Asmussen, 24 points - Finished second in the LeComte Stakes January 21 and most recently gained 20 points thanks to another runner-up in the Risen Star Stakes - at Fair Grounds February 25.
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State of Honor, John Shirreffs, 22 points - finished a good second in the Tampa Bay Stakes March 11 and also had a third in the Sam F Davis Stakes on that track in February.
McCraken, Ian Wilkes, 20 points - had a nice win in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs November 26 and most recently won the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs February 11. He is undefeated in four career starts and is a name to watch going forward.
Iliad, Doug O'Neill, 20 points - had a quality second on March 11 in the San Felipe Stakes to gain his 20 points. He now has two graded stakes wins and a second place finish in his four career starts.
Cloud Computing, Chad Brown, 20 points - Finished second in the G3 Gotham Stakes March 4 in his second career start to gain his 20 points.
Wild Shot, Rusty Arnold II, 17 points - was last seen running third in the Tampa Bay Stakes March 11 after a fourth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. He also hit the podium in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November and the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity in October.
Guest Suite, Neil Howard, 15 points - posted victory in the LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds and most recently gained five with a fourth place finish in the Risen Star Stakes - also at Fair Grounds.
Lookin at Lee, Steve Asmussen, 12 points - finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and posted runner-up finishes in both the Breeders' Futurity and Iroquois Stakes. He finished third February 20 in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park to gain two more points on the Road.
Term of Art, Doug O'Neill, 11 points - has been up and down in his eight race career but posted a third last time out in the San Felipe Stakes March 11. His other qualifying point came in a fourth place finish before that in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
Uncontested, Wayne Catalano, 11 points - put his name on the radar with a win in the one mile Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park January 16.
Zakaroff, Steven Specht, 10 points - won the El Camino Real Derby February 18 at Golden Gate in upset fashion - at 48-1 odds.
One Liner, Todd Pletcher, 10 points - won the last of the Derby Prep races February 20 - the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park which rewarded him his 10 points.
Irish War Cry, Graham Motion, 10 points won the Holy Bull Stakes February 4 over names like Gunnevera and Classic Empire to put his name on the radar. He was disappointing in finishing off-the-board on March 4 in the Fountain of Youth however.
Mo Town, Tony Dutrow, 10 - won the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct November 26.
Royal Mo, John Shirreffs, 10 - posted victory February 4 in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.
Three Rules, Jose Pinchin, 10 - has placed in seven of eight career starts but finally gained some Derby points with a third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes March 4 - a race he gained his 10 points.
Local Hero, Steve Asmussen, 10 - has placed in all four career starts. He got his 10 points with a third in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds February 25 - his GS debut.
Petrov, Ron Moquett, 8
Irap, Doug O'Neill, 8
True Timber, Kiaran McLaughlin, 6
Talk Logistics, Eddie Plesa, 6
Bonus Points, Todd Pletcher, 5
Action Everyday, Todd Pletcher, 5
Klimt, Art Sherman, 4
Hot Sean, Bob Baffert, 4
Dangerfield, Doug O'Neill, 4
Syndergaard, Todd Pletcher, 4
American Anthem, Bob Baffert, 4
There are a host other horses that have at least one point so far on the Road to the Kentucky Derby - expect some of those names to move up, especially with the points values for each race significantly increased. Stay tuned right here for previews for all of the pertinent Road to the Derby race previews and updates on the Standings that will determine which 20 will have a shot at one of the most prestigious races in the world.