The Kentucky Derby is just over a month away and the top contenders list is coming together. However that could change precipitously as the best three year olds enter in to their final–and most challenging–prep races. The next two weeks feature the four toughest of the Derby Prep race schedule–the Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby this Saturday and the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby next Saturday.
At the top of the list is likely the Santa Anita Derby. Two of the consensus top ten horses including Robert B. Lewis winner Candy Boy and California Chrome will face off in the biggest horse race in California. Candy Boy is considered the current Derby favorite by some horse racing experts while others point to his less than impressive resume of prep races and suggest that he’s overrated.
With the new Kentucky Derby qualification format participating and performing well in these races takes on a much higher priority than in the past. Previously, the Kentucky Derby qualification was based on money earned in graded stakes races. That’s not a bad criteria but the problem is that there are some graded stakes races out there of very dubious competitive quality. The new qualification format isn’t perfect but on balance will result in a higher quality field racing in the Kentucky Derby.
Other prep race assignments for the next couple of weeks: Cairo Prince, Wildcat Heir and General a Rod are all set for the Florida Derby. Hoppertunity and Tapiture could race in the Arkansas Derby or possibly the Santa Anita Derby. Social Inclusion, Samraat and Uncle Sigh are likely for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5th.
After these races of the next few weeks the Derby field will start to come together in earnest. Trainers and owners will evaluate how their horses performed on the prep trail and determine if they want to race them in the Kentucky Derby or whether one of the races later in the summer offer greater competitive potential.