Kentucky Derby Watch
Volume 20 – Number 2
Jim Hurley – Mon. 2/27


After a steady diet of February, March and April Kentucky Derby Prep results in 2022 in which only two of the final 18 races paid double digits to win, the results of the past two Saturdays are more like it. 

In the Risen Star Stakes from Fair Grounds on February 18, Angel Of Empire, by far the longest price of trainer Brad Cox’s triple entry, came flying from deep in the field to capture the Grade II test and return $29.40 and gain the 50 winner’s share qualifying points, which if the history of the number of points needed is any indication, gives Angel Of Empire a significant leg up for one of the 20 Kentucky Derby spots. 

Interestingly, the other two Cox entrants struggled, Victory Formation went off the 9-5 favorite and finished 9th while Tapit’s Conquest was the 3rd favorite at 5.8-1 and sustained a late bid to finish 4th, beaten 3 lengths while 7 wide on the far turn. 

Of further interest going forward is that the top 5 finishers in a race that was not particularly fast on the front end were in 9th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 11th place at the 7/8 furlong marker. 

This past Saturday, in the 50 Point Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park the type of mile speed horses who have prevailed in recent years, also struggled as longshot winner Confidence Game, $39.00, was in 6th as the field approached the first call marker with runner up Red Route One in 11th and third place finisher Reincarnate in 9th

The public once again showered money on trainer Brad Cox, as his two entrants were the two favorites, Verifying at 3-2 finished 4th and Giant Mischief at 2.2-1 slogged home 6th over the sloppy Oaklawn Park going. 

(Quartet Of Qualifiers Set For Saturday, 3/4, On Biggest Prep Day Of Season) 

On Saturday, the winners of the 4 Derby Preps scheduled will each garner the 50 qualifying points for the Run for the Roses on Saturday, May 6. As mentioned earlier, 50 points likely assures a spot in Louisville the first Saturday in May. 

The 4 qualifying Stakes are… 

Fountain Of Youth Stakes – Gulfstream Park – 1 1/16th Miles
Gotham Stake – Aqueduct – 1 Mile
John Battaglia Memorial Stakes – Turfway Park – 1 1/16th Miles
San Felipe Stakes – Santa Anita – 1 1/16th Miles 

A field of 10 has been drawn and is expected for the Fountain Of Youth with the 2023 debut of BC Juvenile Champ and early Kentucky Derby favorite Forte. Much is expected of the 7-5 ML favorite. Although the Todd Pletcher trainee has prepared forwardly and has the credentials, that has not shortened the field, which also finds Blazing Sevens, who won the Champagne Stakes last year and was a troubled start 4th behind Forte in the BC Juvenile. 

In addition, Holy Bull winner Rocket Can returns for the FOY as do runner up Shadow Dragon, fourth place finisher Legacy Isle and seventh place finisher Cyclone Mischief.  

In the Gotham, we could see as many as 10 as West Coat Shipper Caramel Road, second in the Los Alamitos Futurity to conclude his juvenile campaign ships east for his 2023 debut. The ever present Brad Cox has a pair of potables in the undefeated Eyeing Clover (2-for-2) after a sprint allowance win at Fairgrounds and Slip Mahoney, who broke his maiden here at one mile 6 weeks back. Fort Warren also ships east after a third in the San Vicente at Santa Anita, while the most formidable might be the undefeated (4-for-4) PARX shipper, Recruiter, a Cathal Lynch Army Mule colt. 

At Turfway Park, the entrants for the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes are still taking shape. I will have more on this when I preview these races on these pages Friday. 

At Santa Anita, in the San Felipe, there is hope for a bigger than usual Stakes field for Saturday as the probable and possible list numbers 11 possibilities. 

The field will have some heavy hitters as trainer Tim Yakteen is projected to send out two colts who were just transferred to his barn from Bob Baffert’s They are National Treasure, third in the BC Juvenile in 2022 and third here in the Sham in his 3-year old debut as well as Los Alamitos Futurity winner Practical Move, who makes his 3-year old debut. Also looking strong is Chase The Chaos, who travels south after winning the El Camino Real at Golden gate in his last. 

(Big Day Of Derby Preps – Lots Of Value – Lots Of Opportunity) 

Everything looks advantageous for a big day this Saturday. And I pan on grabbing as much of the profit as is available. 

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