©2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to the Empire State Saturday where six young Thoroughbreds have been entered in the 144th running of the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. Post time is 4:29 p.m. ET.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send the 2-1 morning-line favorite, Daredevil, to the starting gate. He comes into the Champagne off of an impressive 6¼-length maiden debut win in the mud at Belmont on September 28. Leading from gate to wire, Daredevil set swift fractions and covered the 6-furlongs in a final time of 1:09.87.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has high hopes that Daredevil will be up to make the step up in class off of his maiden romp to win the Champagne. He used that same tactic with Uncle Mo (2010) and Havana (2013) who only had a maiden win to their credit coming into the Champagne Stakes (G1).
"We've had success a couple of times running horses out of a maiden race in the Champagne," said Pletcher in a Belmont Park news story by Jenny Kellner. "It's always an advantage to maybe have another start or two under your belt when you're going into these races, but hopefully what he lacks in experience he'll make up for in talent."
More Than Ready, the sire of Daredevil, was a multiple graded-stakes winner that compiled a 7-4-1 record in 17 starts with $1,026,229 in earnings. He won the WHAS-11 Stakes, Flash Stakes, Tremont Stakes (G3), Sanford Stakes (G2), Hutcheson Stakes (G2) and finished second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) in route to a fourth-place finish in the 2000 Kentucky Derby (G1).
More than Ready also sired the speedy Verrazano who compiled over $1.8 million in career earnings and was competitive in sprints and middle-distance races, winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), on the trail to the 2013 Kentucky Derby where he finished fourteenth.
I look for Daredevil to be competitive in the Champagne.
Zayat Stables’ El Kabeir (5-2) was brilliant in his last outing at Saratoga Race Couse on August 30 where he broke his maiden by an impressive 10 lengths. Setting blistering fast fractions, El Kabeir led from the start and covered the distance of 7-furlongs in a final time of 1:22.16.
"We knew he could run, and we knew he had talent," said John Terranova, the trainer of El Kabeir. "He ran a tremendous figure [93 Beyer Speed Figure] and it was visually impressive.”
Since El Kabeir’s maiden win, the Florida-bred son of Scat Daddy has been working out good at Belmont Park and he’s recently posted two back-to-back bullet work outs leading up to the Champagne.
Another move forward off of his maiden win will make El Kabeir competitive in the Champagne Stakes.
A long shot I like in this races is The Truth Or Else (10-1) who, on his fourth attempt, finally broke his maiden at Belmont Park on September 12 running a mile in 1:35.59. The final time is what I like to see in a colt that could be competitive on the Derby Trail.
Yes It’s True, the sire of The Truth Or Else, was an exceptional sprinter and multiple graded-stakes winner that compiled an 11-2-3 record in 22 starts with $1,080,700 in career earnings – 10 of his 11 wins were in sprint races.
Colonial Affair, the damsire of The Truth Or Else, did most of his best running at 9-furlongs and he also won the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes (G1) and the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1).
Another move forward off of his maiden win and The Truth Or Else could be competitive in the Champagne Stakes (G1).
Upstart (7-2) and I Spent It (6-1) look like they could be competitive. Of those two, I give a slight edge to Upstart who comes into this race undefeated in two starts including a win in the Funny Cide Stakes.
Under the tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine Kentucky Derby eligibility the winner of the Champagne Stakes (G1) will receive 10 points while the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and 1 point will be awarded to the fourth-place finisher.
2014/2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer
1. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen
1. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert
2. Bold Conquest, 4, Steve Asmussen
2. Calculator, 4, Peter Miller
3. Hashtag Bourbon, 2, Kellyn Gorder
3. Texas Red, 2, Keith Desormeaux
4. Danny Boy, 1, Dale Romans
4. Lord Nelson, 1, Bob Baffert