©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us this Saturday to Louisiana, the Pelican State, where Mo Town will go to the starting gate as the lukewarm 7-2 morning-line favorite in what appears to be a wide open 45th running of the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds Race Course. Post time is 6:00 PM ET.
Mo Town has not raced since last November and he comes into this race for trainer Anthony Dutrow with a 2-1-0 record in three starts including a 2 ½ length win in the nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
MO TOWN raced three wide on the clubhouse bend, rapidly moved up to latch on to TAKAFUL as the tempo softened during the setting of the second split, was patiently ridden keeping an eye on that foe all throughout the run on the far turn, narrowed in after three-quarters had been reached, spun into the lane directly alongside the one to catch, challenged in earnest when switched over to a drive in the vicinity of the three-sixteenths marker, took charge during the ensuing sixteenth, steadily added to the margin, kept busy to the end.
Mo Town’s victory in this race established him as a top contender in last year’s herd of two year old runners and it remains to be seen if he can continue to improve as a three year old.
Uncle Mo, the sire of Mo Tom, was undefeated in three starts as a two year old with wins in the Champagne Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) and he was picked as the 2010 Eclipse Champion Two Year Old Colt.
As a three year old, Uncle Mo won the Timely Writer Stakes and finished third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1). The Friday before the Kentucky Derby, Uncle Mo was scratched from the race with a mysterious ailment which was later diagnosed as a liver disease called cholangiohepatitis.
Mo Town has not raced in three months but he has been training well. A couple of recent bullet works could have him ready to run a good race in his debut as a three year old.
Local Hero (4-1) comes into this race for trainer Steve Asmussen with a 1-2-0 record in three starts including a blowout maiden win by 7¼ lengths in his last race. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
LOCAL HERO bumped with a rival at the start, set the pace on the inside, responded well when set down in upper stretch, drew off under a moderate hand ride into the final sixteenth then was eased up while much the best.
Local Hero was geared down at the finish and his finish time of 1:42.49 is much the best of all the other horses in this race that have run at that distance.
Hard Spun, the sire of Local Hero, 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).
Local Hero is stepping in class and he has room to improve off of his maiden win victory. With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating, he has the breeding to be competitive in this race and potential to earn graded stakes honors in his second start as a three year old.
Untrapped (10-1) is also trained by Asmussen and he comes into this race with a 1-2-0 record in three starts including a second-place finish in the LeComte Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
UNTRAPPED raced in the two path on the first turn, settled towards the front, was urged along in the two path on the far turn, waited behind horses turning into the stretch, shifted out from behind rivals a the three-sixteenths, chased until the final sixteenth, drifted out late and finished with good courage to get the place.
Untrapped finished a respectable second in his debut as a three year old and with a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating, he has the breeding to be competitive in this race.
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. His best stakes victories were in the six furlong Waldoboro Stakes, True North Handicap (G2) and he did stretch out to win the 8½ furlong Long Branch Stakes. In other route races, Trappe Shote finished second in the nine-furlong Izod Haskell Invitational (G1) and ninth in the Travers Stakes (G1).
To date, Trappe Shot’s best runner on the Kentucky Derby Trail has been My Man Sam who finished second in the nine furlong 2016 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) stakes.
In the LeComte (G3), Untrapped was closing ground in the stretch but run out of running room. I look for him to improve in his second start of the season.
Guest Suite (6-1) comes into this race for trainer Neil Howard with a 3-0-2 record in five starts including a 1¼ length win in the LeComte Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
GUEST SUITE went three wide on the first turn, settled nicely in the middle of the field, was roused three wide then four wide on the far turn, rallied five wide into the stretch, closed strongly to get the lead at the three-sixteenths, inched clear inside the furlong marker and held under steady urging.
Guest Suite was able to score the win in his debut as a three year old and it remains to be seen if he can extend his winning streak in the Risen Star (G2).
Quality Road, the sire of Frank Conversation, easily won his maiden debut, and only race as a two year old, in November of 2008. In his debut as a three year old, he finished second in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in January. He followed that in February with a 4¼ length win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and in March, Quality Road ran to a 1¾ length win over Dunkirk in the Florida Derby (G1).
In late April, Quality Road developed a quarter crack on his right front foot and that prevented him from running in the Kentucky Derby. After a three month break, Quality Road returned to racing to win the Amsterdam Stakes (G2).
Quality Road completed his racing career with wins in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3), Donn Handicap (G1), Metropolitan Handicap (G1) and Woodward Stakes (G1). He finished third in the Travers Stakes (G1) and second in both the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) and Whitney Handiciap (G1).
With a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating Guest Suite has the breeding to be competitive and I look for him to run a good race.
Honorable mention goes to Horse Fly (30-1), Cool Arrow (15-1) and Arklow (15-1), and it would not be a surprise if any of these made it into the exotics. One horse I’m going to pay special attention to is Horse Fly who is the best bred horse in this race with an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating.
To date, Horse Fly has yet to live up to his breeding but he appears to be improving. Whether he can earn graded stakes honors remains to be seen. If he looks good in the post parade, Horse Fly may be worth a wager.
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 Southwest 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.
The pace on the Derby Trail really begins to quicken next weekend on February 25 with the Risen Star Stakes (G2) as the debut race of the Championship Series, which consists of 16 races. The winner of those races will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Halfway through this series beginning with the UAE Derby (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 25, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Classic Empire, 32, Mark Casse, $1,493,820
2. El Areeb, 20, Cathal Lynch, $300,000
3. McCraken, 20, Ian Wilkes, $285,048
4. Gormley, 20, John Sherriffs, $260,000
5. Gunnevera, 14, Antonio Sano, $807,200
6. Practical Joke, 14, Chad Brown, $690,000
7. Lookin At Lee, 12, Steve Asmussen, $325,600
8. Uncontested, 11, Wayne Catalano, $100,729
9. One Liner, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
10. Irish War Cry, 10, Graham Motion, $272,660
11. Mastery, 10, Bob Baffert, $240,000
12. Mo Town, 10, Tony Dutrow, $180,000
13. Guest Suite, 10, Neil Howard, $128,040
14. Royal Mo, 10, John Sherriffs, $90,000
15. Petrov, 8, Ron Moquett, $150,000
16. Irap, 8, Doug O’Neill, $90,000
17. Wild Shot, 7, Rusty Arnold, II, $97,200
18. True Timber, 6, Kiaran McLaughlin, $65,000
19. No Dozing, 5, Arnaud Delacour, $89,000
20. Bonus Points, 5, Todd Pletcher, $52,500
x-Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm.
In addition to the current top 20, 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. The horse with the most points from those races will receive an invitation to compete in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Here’s the video of the Cattleya Sho Stakes. Here’s the video of the Hayacinth Stakes.
2017 JAPAN ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Epicharis (JPN), 50, Kiyoshi Hagiwara, $450,374
2. Mont Saint Legame (JPN), 40, Koji Maki, $90,154
3. Adirato (JPN), 20, Naosuke Sugai, $154,951
4. Caucus (JPN), 16, Hideaki Fujiwara, $35,850
5. Foggy Night (JPN), 5, Noriyuki Hori, $23,801