The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” runs coast-to-coast this Saturday with the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in Florida and the San Felipe Stakes (G2) in California. Trainer Todd Pletcher hopes to add two more colts to his stable of Derby qualifiers when he sends the prohibitive 4-5 morning line favorite Verrazano and Park City (12-1) to the starting gate in the 33rd running of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs racetrack.
Pletcher currently has four horses in the Churchill Downs top 20 leaderboard compared to Bob Baffert who leads with five horses in the top twenty. Under the new scoring system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility for horses to enter the Derby starting gate, the winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) will receive 50 points while second-place will yield 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Undefeated Verrazano has been impressive in his previous two starts, winning by a combined 24 lengths, and he’s the deserving favorite. His time 1:34.80 in his last race is in the time zone of what I look for in colts that may have classic potential.
If Verrazano continues to move forward, he’ll be tough to beat in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Park City is an intriguing long shot and I like him in this race. He’s stepping up in class and he’s never run in a route race. However, Park City is undefeated in two starts and, after a five-month layoff, he successfully won his debut as a 3-year-old.
His sire, Harlan’s Holiday, was a precocious colt and good middle-distance runner that was 4-2-0 in six starts as a two year old winning the Iroquois Stakes (G3), Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes, Cleveland Kindergarten Stakes and the Hoover Stakes.
As a 3-year-old, Harlan’s Holiday finished second in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (G1). He followed up with a win in the Florida Derby (G1) and Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and went into the 2002 Kentucky Derby as the 6-1 favorite but finished seventh in a field of 18.
The tail-female line of Park City traces back to Turk Mare (Family 23-b) and that line produced the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds I’ll Have Another (2012), Mine That Bird (2009), Lil E. Tee (1992), Winning Colors (1988), Affirmed (1978), Tim Tam (1958), Zev (1923). Byrn Mawr (1904) and Kingman (1891).
Park City’s fourth dam, Patelin, is the fifth dam of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. And the tail-female line is reinforced by the outstanding champion Alydar and the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Pleasant Colony and Northern Dancer.
The Purple Egg (10-1) and Falling Sky (10-1) are two Lion Heart colts I wrote about my 2013 Kentucky Derby Outlook and I’m anxious to see how they perform in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
Purple Egg is undefeated in three starts and he’s yet to race as a 3-year-old. But, his form is very similar to that of his sire Lion Heart who also was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old.
Lion Heart was a tough competitor and good middle-distance horse that won the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (G3) and Hollywood Futurity (G1) as a 2-year-old. As a 3-year-old, Lion Heart finished second in the San Rafael Stakes (G2) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) en route to a second-place finish to Smarty Jones in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
A recent bullet workout could have Purple Egg ready to run a good race. If he continues to improve as 3-year-old, he’ll be tough in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Falling Sky comes into this race with a 3-0-0 record in four starts and his most recent victory was a win by a neck over Dynamic Sky (4-1) in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) on February 2. Falling Sky has room to improve in his second start of the season and another move forward would make him competitive in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
Honorable mention goes to Java’s War (12-1). He hasn’t raced since last November, but, I like his breeding and if he looks good in the post parade, he may be worthy of a small wager.
Here’s a look at the current top 20 list:
Kentucky Derby 2013 Leaderboard
(Updated March 2, 2013)
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1 = Ive Struck a Nerve, 51, Keith Desormeaux, $268,000
2 = Vyjack, 50, Rudy Rodriguez, $405,000
3 = Orb, 50, Shug McGaughey III, $240,000
4 = Shanghai Bobby, 24, Todd Pletcher, $1,731,000
5 = Goldencents, 24, Doug O’Neill, $740,000
6 = West Hills Giant, 20, John Terranova II, $89,000
7 = Code West, 20, Bob Baffert, $80,000
8 = Oxbow, 16, D. Wayne Lukas, $196,000
9 = Speak Logistics, 11, Eddie Pleasa, Jr., $52,500
10 = Itsmyluckyday, 10, Eddie Plesa, Jr., $393,600
11 = Overanalyze, 10, Todd Pletcher, $308,381
12 = Uncaptured, 10, Mark Casse, $292,374
13 = Den’s Legacy, 10, Bob Baffert, $265,000
14 = Power Broker, 10, Bob Baffert, $210,000
15 = Super Ninety Nine, 10, Bob Baffert, $200,000
16 = Will Take Charge, 10, D. Wayne Lukas, $152,971
17 = Falling Sky, 10, John Terranova II, $122,500
18 = Flashback, 10, Bob Baffert, $120,000
18 = Revolutionary, 10, Todd Pletcher, $120,000
20 = Elnaawi, 10, Kiaran McLaughlin, $40,000
20 = Palace Malice, 10, Todd Pletcher, $40,000
For Derby fans that like statistics, here’s a look at current list of Kentucky Derby qualifiers, their sire line and damsire line.
Mr. Prospector Sire Line, Damsire Line
Elnaawi, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer
Will Take Charge, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer
Palace Malice, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer
Code West, Mr. Prospector/Royal Charger
Since 1990, the Mr. Prospector sire line has produced the most Derby winners with a total of 11. Of those 11, the Fappiano branch has produced the most with a total of 4 winners. The Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer nick has been the most successful with 3 winners. The Mr. Prospector/Royal Charger nick produced one Derby winner. Of the current qualifiers, Will Take Charge is the only descendant of Fappiano.
Northern Dancer Sire Line, Damsire Line
Itsmyluckyday, Northern Dancer/Bold Ruler
Shanghai Bobby, Northern Dancer/Nasrullah
Speak Logistics, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Falling Sky, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Vyjack, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Den’s Legacy, Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer
Goldencents, Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector
Ive Struck a Nerve, Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector
Uncaptured, Northern Dancer/Royal Charger
West Hills Giant, Northern Dancer/Royal Charger
Oxbow, Northern Dancer/Man O’ War
Overanalyze, Northern Dancer/Damascus
Since 1990, the Northern Dancer sire line has produced 3 Derby winners with the damsire line of those winners descending from Northern Dancer, Royal Charger and Ribot. Broodmare descendants of Northern Dancer have produced 5 Derby winners.
Bold Ruler Sire Line, Damsire Line
Dynamic Sky, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Orb, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Super Ninety Nine, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Flashback, Bold Ruler/Mr. Prospector
Since 1990, the Bold Ruler sire line has produced no Derby winners.
Nasrullah Sire Line, Damsire Line
Revolutionary, Nasrullah/Bold Ruler
Since 1990, the Blushing Groom, Nasrullah sire line has produced one Derby winner and that was Animal Kingdom in 2011.
Since 1990, 413 horses have entered the Derby starting gate.
Of those 413, 111 (27 %) were descendants of the Mr. Prospector sire line. Of those 111, 29 (26%) finished in the top four.
Of those 413, 104 (25%) were descendants of the Northern Dancer sire line. Of those 104, 21 (20%) finished in the top four.
Of those 413, 75 (18%) were descendants of the Nasrullah sire line. Of those 75, 15 (20%) finished in the top four.
Of those 413, 37 (9%) were descendants of the Royal Charger sire line. Of those 37, 12 (32%) finished in the top four.
Royal Charger sire line descendants have a better percentage of finishing in the top four and the colt on this year’s trail that is a descendant of Royal Charger is Verrazano.