©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to Keeneland Race Course Saturday where, in what appears to be a wide-open horse race, Classic Empire heads a herd of 12 young Thoroughbreds as the 5-2 lukewarm morning-line favorite in the 103rd running of the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) stakes.
Altogether, there are seven horses in this herd that are stepping up from sprint races to a route of ground including the favorite, Classic Empire, who comes into this race with a 2-0-0 record in three starts for trainer Mark Casse.
In his last race, Classic Empire veered out of the Hopeful (G1) stakes starting gate and threw his jockey, Irad Ortiz, Jr. Here’s the video of that race. In July, he won the Bashford Manor (G3) stakes by three quarters of a length. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
CLASSIC EMPIRE ducked in a bit at the start and was back early, shifted into the three path entering the lane, rallied down the lane and rolled by the leader in the final stages while full of run.
Classic Empire narrowly beat Recruiting Ready who went on to finish third in the Iroquois (G3) stakes. With C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Classic Empire could be competitive in this race but he’ll need to make a big step forward.
Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Gettysburg, was a pretty good middle-distance runner and multiple graded-stakes winner that compiled a 2-0-1 record as a two year old including a win in the CashCall Futurity (G1) and a third-place finish in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1).
As a three year old, Pioneerof the Nile was 3-0-1 in five starts with wins in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2), San Felipe Stakes (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) in route to a second-place finish in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Jockey Julien Leparoux rode Classic Empire in his previous two wins and he picks up the mount in this race. If Classic Empire returns to his previous form he should be competitive.
Singing Bullet (8-1) looks like a nice, long shot, colt and he comes into this race off of a two length maiden win for trainer Dale Romans. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
SINGING BULLET vied for the lead in hand, took over entering the turn, rebuffed the bid of TEXAS SKY a furlong out and cleared.
I like the way Singing Bullet pulled away with authority when challenged in the stretch drive. With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® he’s one of the best bred colts in this herd.
Hard Spun, the sire of Singing Bullet, was undefeated in three starts as a two year old, including wins in the Port Penn Stakes and Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes. As a three year old on the Derby trail, Hard spun was 2-0-0 in three starts including wins in the Le Comte Stakes (G3) and Lane’s End Stakes (G2).
Hard Spun went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby (G1), third in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and rounded out his classic campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Singing Bullet has room to improve in his second start of the season and if he lives up to his breeding he should be competitive in the Futurity.
No Dozing (12-1) comes into this race with two back-to-back wins for trainer Arnaud Delacour. Here’s the video and chart call of his last race.
NO DOZING rated kindly while saving ground into the turn, edged up inside rivals nearing the quarter pole, eased out and lodged a bid between foes soon into the lane, spurted clear after being shaken up past the three sixteenths, edged away past the final furlong marker and proved best under a mild drive.
Union Rags, the sire of No Dozing, was a competitive colt on the trail to the 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1), compiling an overall 5-1-1 record in eight career starts with $1,798,800 in earnings.
As a two year old, he won the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special (G2) and Champagne (G1) stakes and finished second in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) stakes.
At the age of three, Union Rags won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) stakes and finished third in the Florida Derby (G1) en route to a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He finished his career with a narrow win by a neck over Paynter in the Belmont (G1) stakes.
No Dozing has room to improve in his third start of the season and I look for him to be competitive.
Wild Shot (15-1) comes into his race with a 1-1-0 record in two starts including a maiden win at Churchill Downs for trainer George Arnold. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
WILD SHOT set the pressured pace, shook clear entering the stretch and held safely.
Trappe Shot, the sire of Wild Shot, raced mostly in sprints from the age of two to four, compiling a 6-2-0 record in 12 starts with $703,884 in career earnings. However, he did stretch out to route racing winning the 8½ furlong Long Branch Stakes and finishing second in the nine furlong Izod Haskell Invitational (G1).
Trappe Shot’s best runner to date on the Kentucky Derby Trail has been My Man Sam who finished second in the nine furlong 2016 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) stakes.
Wild Shot also has an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and if he can step up in class he could be competitive in this race.
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Bitumen is the best bred horse in this herd but he has yet to live up to his breeding. However, if Bitumen can recover from his last race, he could be very competitive.
This is the fifth consecutive year for Churchill Downs to use a point system to determine eligibility to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. A total of 35 races comprise the Road to the Kentucky Derby and a significant change to the schedule is that the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) will replace the Grey Stakes (G3) as a qualifying race.
In addition, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Under the tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine Kentucky Derby eligibility, the winner of the Frontrunner 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.