©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The call to the post this Saturday on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to Aqueduct Racetrack where El Kabeir, who is ranked number one on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 21 points, heads a field of seven young Thoroughbreds as the prohibitive 8-5 morning-line favorite in the 135th running of the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3). Post time for the race is 4:13 ET.
In his last race, El Kabeir was victorious in his three-year-old debut, for trainer John Terranova, with a 4¾-length win in the Jerome Stakes (G3), and, he comes into the Withers with a 3-1-1 record in six starts.
And Terranova is pleased with how the young son of Scat Daddy is progressing on the Derby Trail.
"Physically he's getting stronger, but he's also maturing mentally," said Terranova in an Aqueduct news story. "He rated off the pace [in the Jerome] and he relaxed beautifully. Earlier in his career, he wouldn't do that, but he just needed to grow up. Based on his performance to date and the way he's gone forward, I expect a big effort from him. He's a determined racehorse, both mentally and physically focused."
Jockey Charles Lopez rode El Kabeir to victory in the Jerome and he retains the mount in the Withers. I look for El Kabeir to run a good race.
A long shot I like is Tencendur (12-1) who’s making his stakes debut in the Withers and his second start this year as a three year old. Tencendur is lightly raced with 1-0-1 record in two starts, and, since finishing third in his maiden debut last December at Aqueduct, he showed a lot of improvement breaking his maiden last month by three quarters of a length. Here’s the chart call and video:
TENCENDUR procured a forward position after the start, briefly ventured into the two path at the top of the backstretch but mostly saving ground to the quarter pole, slipped back into the two path at the head of the stretch, responded positively when given its cue, slithered his way between rivals in the vicinity of the sixteenth pole, split them, wore down the runner up in the final seventy yards.
Tencendur was more forwardly placed in that race and I liked the way he split horses in the stretch to get up for the win. The final time of 1:43.45 for one mile and 70 yard race was a full second faster than the time he ran in his maiden debut last December. And the time also is competitive with that of several other horses in this race, including El Kabeir, at the same distance.
Another move forward off of his last race could make Tencendur competitive in the Withers Stakes (G3) at a nice price.
March (6-1) also is making his stakes debut in the Withers and his second start this year as a three year old. March broke his maiden by a narrow neck last month and he appears to be improving since his runner-up finish in his maiden debut last November.
A recent bullet work out on January 30 could have March ready for the Withers and I look for him to run a good race.
Honorable mention goes to Far From Over who comes into this race off a maiden win last December for trainer Todd Pletcher. He has one of the best pedigrees in this race and, if he lives up to his breeding, he could be competitive in this race.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive one point.
Calculator, ranked 5th in the January 24 Kentucky Derby point standings, is sidelined with an injury for six months and he’s off the Derby trail. Leave the Light On, ranked 13th, is also off the trail.
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. El Kabeir, 21, John Terranova II, $330,792
2. International Star, 21, Mike Maker, $250,979
3. Upstart, 16, Rick Violette Jr., $538,080
4. Carpe Diem, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
5. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,176,000
6. Mr. Z, 12, D. Wayne Lukas, $488,326
7. Far Right, 12, Ron Moquett, $205,906
8. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,000
9. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert, $360,000
10. Daredevil, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
10. Dortmund, 10, Bob Baffert, $300,000
12. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen, $97,231
13. Frosted, 8, Kiaran McLaughlin, $156,800
14. Bold Conquest, 6, Steve Asmussen, $72,176
15. Conquest Typhoon, 4, Mark Casse, $221,827
16. Bayerd, 4, Steve Asmussen, $245,000
17. Imperia, 4, Kiaran McLaughlin, $163,804
18. Firing Line, 4, Simon Callaghan, $100,000
19. Nasa, John Servis, $40,000
19. War Story, Tom Amoss, $40,000