The Weekend Before the Storm
After this weekend, the third and final portion of the Derby Championship series will kick off with the Florida, Louisiana, and UAE Derby’s on March 30th. The points go from a mere 50 per win to 100. It’s been looked at as a near certainty that any horse getting to 50 points will make the Kentucky Derby, making the points jump for the final leg of the series seem a bit out of step with how things are currently going in the chase for a spot in Louisville. A valid criticism in the system is that a couple of the big early Derby preps, such as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile or Cash Call Futurity are worth only 10 points while less races can almost guarantee a horse a place in the starting gate on May 4th in the “Run for the Rose”. As they say though, “it is what it is” and “you play the hand you are dealt” and that’s just what is happening this weekend as the Spiral Stakes will take place at Turfway Park in Kentucky, while the Sunland Derby will go off in New Mexico.
The favorite in the Spiral Stakes will be Uncaptured. Uncaptured is trained by Mark Casse and has had a tremendous start to his career with six victories in seven starts. He is rated the third top Derby Contender in the DerbyDeals.com Top 5, behind Verrazano and Shanghai Bobby. Uncaptured’s biggest wins have come in his last two contests, but he hasn’t raced since the end of November. On October 28th at Churchill Downs he took the Grade III Iroquois Stakes, running the mile in just over 1:37. A month later he was back on the dirt at Churchill Downs and won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and becoming a legitimate Derby contender. The Spiral Stakes promises to be competitive as some of the country’s top trainers have their Derby hopefuls lined up. Chad Brown brings in Balance The Books who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and is rated at 16 on the Horse Racing Nation Derby contenders list. Capo Bastone has been a great competitor, finishing in the top four (without a win) in three grade I races, while book ending those contests with wins in a maiden and allowance race. If you need a horse that has been reliable to put in your trifecta box, this may be your colt.
The Sunland Derby doesn’t quite have the experienced horses that we have seen in the last few Derby preps, but the winner of this race will be thrust into the spotlight and get plenty of attention from those who are always on the lookout for a Derby “sleeper”. Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, Doug O’Neill and Steve Assmussen all have entrants as they continue to sort out their Derby contending colts.
While this weekend has two important preps, most fans are anxious to see the competition greatly increase and that will happen at months’ end as we move towards higher stakes for the thoroughbreds and their trainers. Don’t forget that NBC Sports will be televising many of the remaining prep races. You can check your local listings to find out the exact channels and times.
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D. Wayne Lukas has to feel pretty good a. D. Wayne Lukas Pair Finishes 1st & 2nd In Rebel Stakes