©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
This Saturday, the Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the final prep race worth 100 points to the victor will be ran at Oaklawn Park. A field of 12 has been drawn for the 81st running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) with Classic Empire tagged as the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Post time is 7:18 ET.
Classic Empire has had training issues and he’s not raced since February. Ranked 21st in Kentucky Derby point standings, he’s on the bubble and comes into this race with a 4-0-1 record in six starts for trainer Mark Casse including wins in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3), the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1), the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and a third-place finish in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
CLASSIC EMPIRE was washy behind the gate and briefly balked at loading, raced between horses into the first turn and wound up five wide outside IRISH WAR CRY and TALK LOGISTICS into the backstretch, had little response when put to pressure a quarter-mile out and gave way.
Classic Empire has a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and his Behavior Index helped to make him competitive as a two year old. But, so far as a three year old, he’s yet to show the same competitiveness.
Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Classic Empire, 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).
Regular jockey Julien Leparoux retains the mount on Classic Empire and how far his Behavior Index will take him remains to be seen.
A long shot I like is Conquest Mo Money (15-1) who comes into this race with a 3-1-0 record in four starts for trainer Miguel Hernandez including a second-place finish in the Sunland Derby (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
CONQUEST MO MONEY was allowed to settle early, went three wide into the second turn, made a bid at the quarter pole, took a short lead, couldn’t hold off the winner and finished a game second.
Conquest Mo Money was clearly second best and only lost by three and three quarters of a length. The mile split of 1:35.71 and final time of 1:48.10 is what I like to see in the final prep race for the Derby.
Uncle Mo, the sire of Conquest Mo Money, 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.
Conquest Mo Money has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking. But, so far his Behavior Index has helped make him competitive and I’ll be watching to see if he can step up to earn graded stakes honors.
Undefeated in three starts, Malagacy (2-1) comes into this race off of a two length win in the Rebel Stakes (G2) for trainer Todd Pletcher. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
MALAGACY closest to the leader off the inside, asked along late in the final turn, took over soon after, kicked clear the final furlong under firm right handed urging and while drifting in a bit late.
Malagacy took the lead at the top of the stretch and continued to move forward, winning by two lengths at the wire.
Shackleford, the sire of Malagacy, was a multiple graded-stakes winner and Classic Champion Thoroughbred that compiled a 6-5-1 record in 20 starts with $3,090,101 in career earnings.
Shackleford made two starts as a two year old and in his second start he won a seven furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs.
As a three year old, Shackleford won his debut race and went on to finish fifth in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). He recovered from that race and finished second in the Florida Derby (G1) en route to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
His best race as a three year old was in the Preakness Stakes (G1) where he defeated Animal Kingdom by half of a length. Shackleford’s next best was a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1), Indiana Derby (G2) and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
As a four year old, Shackleford won the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2), Metropolitan Handicap (G1) and Clark Handicap (G1). He finished second in the Kelso Handicap (G2) and third in the Carter Handicap (G1).
With a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking Malagacy’s Behavior Index has made him competitive but it remains to be seen how far his Behavior Index will take him. I’ll be watching to see how well he handles the stretch out to nine furlongs.
Untrapped (6-1), ranked 20th in point standings, is also on the bubble and he comes into this race with a 1-3-1 record in five starts for trainer Steve Asmussen including a second-place finish in both the LeComte Stakes (G3) and Risen Star Stakes (G2) and a third-place finish in the Rebel Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
UNTRAPPED in some early traffic off the inside, settled the middle half, three out to four wide in the lane, slight drift, missed the place.
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating Untrapped is a solid competitor and he’s never finished out of the money in five starts.
Trappe Shot, the sire of Untrapped, 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.
Jockey Mike Smith picks up the mount on Untrapped who will be wearing blinkers for the Arkansas Derby (G1). Whether Untrapped is talented enough to earn graded stakes honors remains to be seen.
Another long shot I like is Sonneteer (15-1) who is still a maiden and comes into this race for trainer Keith Desormeaux with a 0-4-2 record in nine starts including a second-place finish in the Rebel Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
SONNETEER shuffled back at the start, raced well back early as a result, began a steady advance after five furlongs off the inside, dropped to the rail late in the final turn and rallied up the inside up the inside to gain the nod for place, no real threat to the winner.
Sonneteer looked good in his step up to graded stakes company and beat the locals to finish a respectable second.
Midnight Lute, the sire of Sonneteer, was an Eclipse champion male sprinter and two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). During his career, Midnight Lute compiled a 6-3-1 record with $2,690,600 in earnings.
Because of breathing problems, Midnight Lute ran mostly in sprint races and it is unknown if he could have had any classic potential.
As a three year old, Midnight Lute won the Perryville Stakes (G3) and finished third in the Malibu Stakes (G1).
At the age of four, Midnight Lute won the TVG Breeders’ Cup (G1) and Forego Stakes (G1). He finished second in the Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) and San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes.
Midnight Lute raced twice as a five year old and his most notable win was in the Sentient Flight Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Jockey Kent Desormeaux picks up the mount on Sonneteer who appears to be improving at the right time of year and could, perhaps, make another big move forward.
Let’s take a look at the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® for the horses entered in this race:
1. Silver Dust B
2. Untrapped B
3. Grandpa’s Dream B
4. Lookin at Lee C
5. Malagacy C
6. Classic Empire C
7. Petrov D
8. Sonneteer D
9. Conquest Mo Money E
10. Rowdy the Warrior F
11. One Dreamy Dude F
12. Rockin Rudy F
As you can see in the model above, horses like Malagacy, Classic Empire and Conquest Mo Money have a low profile ranking. However, the Behavior Index can, perhaps, move some horses up or down and here’s a look at the potential ranking of the Arkansas Derby (G1) entries when you factor in the Behavior Index variable.
Silver Dust is a young colt I’ve liked in previous races. He’s the best bred horse in this race and an honorable mention, but, so far he’s yet to live up to his breeding.
He’s been working well since the Rebel. A recent bullet work out and addition of blinkers could have him ready to run a good race.
Classic Champion Thoroughbred
Profile® & Behavior Index
1. Conquest Mo Money
2. Classic Empire
6. Silver Dust
7. Lookin at Lee
9. Rockin Rudy
10. Grandpa’s Dream
11. Rowdy the Warrior
12. One Dreamy Dude
As you can see in the Behavior Index Model, Conquest Mo Money, Classic Empire, Malagacy, Sonneteer and Rockin Rudy can potentially move up in the ranking while Silver Dust and Grandpa’s Dream could perhaps drop in ranking.
A lot will depend on if Classic Empire returns to his previous form as a two year old that made him so successful. If he doesn’t run well then Sonneteer could perhaps crack the top four and be a factor in the exotics and, perhaps, even an exacta play.
Time will tell if it was justifiable applying the Behavior Index to those horses.
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 Arkansas Derby (G1) will receive 100 points, the second-place finisher will receive 40 points, the third-place finisher will receive 20 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 10 points.
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Girvin, 150, Joe Sharp, $849,800
2. Gormley, 125, John Sherriffs, $884,000
3. Irap, 113, Doug O’Neill, $744,000
4. Irish War Cry, 110, Graham Motion, $672,660
5. Thunder Snow, 100, Saeed bin Suroor, $1,621,063
6. Always Dreaming, 100, Todd Pletcher, $$589,000
7. Gunnevera, 84, Antonio Sano, $1,137,800
8. Practical Joke,74, Chad Brown, $966,000
9. J Boys Echo, 63, Dale Romans, $305,000
10. State of Honor, 62, Mark Casse, $309,564
11. Tapwrit, 54, Todd Pletcher, $295,570
12. Malagacy, 50, Todd Pletcher, $540,000
13. Hence, 50, Steve Asmussen, $$481,129
14. **Fast and Accurate, 50, $320,712
15. McCraken, 40, Ian Wilkes, $385,048
16. Battle of Midway, 40, $224,000
17. Patch, 40, Todd Pletcher, $200,000
18. Battalion Runner, 40, Todd Pletcher $140,000
19. Cloud Computing, 40, Chad Brown, $115,000
20. Untrapped, 34, Steve Asmussen, $210,000
**Owner Kendall Hansen has indicated that the late supplemental nomination fee of $200,000 will be paid. Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm. Mastery is off the trail with a condylar fracture. El Areeb is off the trail with an injury to his right knee.
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
The connections of Epicharis have stated that they will skip the Kentucky Derby (G1) and may go to the Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1).