©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
This Saturday, we’ll log a lot of miles on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” which will take us to Florida, Louisiana and the nation of the United Arab Emirates where the winners of those three races will each receive 100 qualifying points and a guaranteed spot in Derby starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
At Gulfstream Park in Florida, Upstart, ranked 9th in Kentucky Derby point standings, has been tabbed as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the 68th running of the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1). Post time is 6:48 p.m. ET.
In six starts, Upstart has never been out of the money and he comes into this race with a 3-2-1 record for trainer Rick Violette. However, despite Upstart’s record, his last start in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), where he was disqualified from the win and placed second, was a strangely run race.
The final time of 1:46.28 was the slowest ever posted for that race when run at the distance of 8½-furlongs. Daily Racing Form turf writer Jay Privman attributed the slow time to a “dry and tiring” track. And when you look at the fractional splits the race was slow at the beginning and end but internal fractions show the race was run in decent time.
Nevertheless, I look for Upstart to be competitive Saturday. However, if he’s going to secure the win he’ll need to return to his racing form in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) which he won by 5½ lengths in the time of 1:43.61.
Materiality (7-2) did not race as a two year old and he comes into this race undefeated in two starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. In his last start, the lightly-raced Materiality looked professional storming to the lead in the stretch of the Islamorada Handicap to win by an impressive 5¾ lengths.
The time of 1:49.32 for the nine furlongs is decent and a repeat of that form will make him competitive in the Florida Derby (G1).
Itsaknockout (2-1), ranked 8th in point standings, is another lightly-raced colt, trained by Pletcher, and he comes into this race with a 3-0-0 record in three starts. In his last race, Itsaknockout was a 2¾-length runner up to Upstart in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). But, in what some consider a controversial call by the stewards, Itsaknockout was moved up to first place when Upstart was disqualified and placed second.
In his second start, Itsaknockout showed good speed winning his debut as a three year old, running a mile at Gulfstream Park, in the time of 1:35.04. That’s what I like to see in a young colt on the Derby Trail and return to that form will make Itsaknockout competitive in the Florida Derby (G1).
Ami’s Flatter (8-1), ranked 14th in point standings, has yet to win a stakes race and he comes into the Florida Derby (G1) with 1-2-0 record in four starts for trainer Josie Carroll.
In his last start, Ami’s Flatter was a five length runner-up to Carpe Diem in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He ran that race in the time zone of about 1:44 and change and he’ll need to improve on that in order win the Florida Derby (G1).
Honorable mention goes to Quimet (20-1) who has one of the best pedigrees in this race but he’s yet to live up to his breeding. He comes into this race with a 1-1-1 record in five starts for trainer Nick Zito and he’s yet to win a stakes race.
Television coverage of the Florida Derby (G1) can be seen on the NBC Sports Network from 6-7 p.m. ET. In addition, NBC Sports group has expanded this year’s allotted broadcast coverage for Kentucky Derby 141 to a record 15.5 hours which will begin on April 30 at 4 p.m. ET.
This weekend with the running of the Florida Derby (G1), Louisiana Derby (G2) and UAE Derby (G2), the winner of these races will receive 100 points, second-place finishers will receive 40 points, third-place finishers will get 20 points and fourth-place finishers will get 10 points.
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. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red had returned to training but was recently taken off of the Derby Trail due to a lingering issue with a foot abscess.
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, 75, John Terranova II, $620,792
2. International Star, 71, Mike Maker, $490,979
3. Dortmund, 70, Bob Baffert, $630,000
4. Carpe Diem, 64, Todd Pletcher, $870,000
5. American Pharoah, 60, Bob Baffert, $810,000
6. Firing Line, 58, Simon Callaghan, $530,000
7. *Dubai Sky, 50, Bill Mott, $371,780
8. Itsaknockout, 50, Todd Pletcher, $240,500
9. Upstart, 36, Rick Violette Jr., $615,680
10. Conquest Typhoon, 26, Mark Casse, $430,827
11. War Story, 24, Tom Amoss, $120,000
12. Far Right, 22, Ron Moquett, $385,906
13. Madefromlucky, 20, Todd Pletcher, $150,000
14. Ami’s Flatter, 20, Josie Carroll, $99,200
15. Prospect Park, 20, Cliff Sise, Jr., $80,000
16. *Tiz Shea D, 20, Bill Mott, $80,000
17. Bold Conquest, 17, Steve Asmussen, $162,176
18. Mr. Z, 14, D. Wayne Lukas, $518,326
19. Frosted, 13, Kiaran McLaughlin, $176,200
20. Classy Class, 13, Kiaran McLaughlin, $85,000
* Late nominations to the Kentucky Derby.