©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
This Saturday, with three marquee races on tap, the Road to the Kentucky Derby enters the stretch drive taking us to Kentucky, New York and California where winners of those races will each receive 100 qualifying points and a guaranteed spot in Derby starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
At Aqueduct Racecourse in New York, Battalion Runner will head a field of eight young Thoroughbreds as the 2-1 morning line favorite in the 93rd running of the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes (G2). Post Time is 5:52 p.m. ET. Live television coverage of the race will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Battalion Runner has yet to win a stakes race and he comes into this Wood Memorial for trainer Todd Pletcher with a 2-1-0 record in three starts including a win in an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on February 3. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
BATTALION RUNNER got brushed between at the start then raced just off BEASLEY, quickly moved up to apply outside pressure to rival, dueled for the lead into the lane, took slight edge over aforementioned rival then found more in reserve and moved away.
Like many young colts in Pletcher’s charge, Battalion Runner is lightly raced and he has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking. However, his Behavior Index could make him competitive in the stretch out to nine furlongs.
Unbridled’s Song, the sire of Battalion Runner, was a competitive 2-year-old winning two out of three starts including a narrow win by a neck over Hennessy in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1).
As a three year old, Unbridled’s Song finished second in the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). He went on to win the Florida Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), and finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby (G1). And, at stud, Unbridled’s Song sired the 2008 Eclipse Champion Two Year Old Colt and Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) winner, Midshipman.
Battalion Runner has been training well since his last race firing two bullet work outs. Whether he is talented enough to step up in class and earn graded-stakes honors remains to be seen.
Cloud Computing (5-2) comes into this race for trainer Chad Brown with a 1-1-0 record in two starts including a very nice second-place finish in the Gotham Stakes (G3) in his last start. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
CLOUD COMPUTING tracked the pace from the two path in range of the top pair, came under coaxing tipped three wide seven-sixteenths from home and advanced to issue a challenge through the latter portion of the far turn, spun just off the inside into upper stretch heads apart for command, got displaced by the top one straightened away, drifted in slightly putting EL AREEB in tight three sixteenths out, then ran on to chase the winner home while well clear of the rest and second best.
I liked Cloud Computing in my blog about the Gotham and his performance did not disappoint. With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Cloud Computing is the best bred colt in this race and I look for him to get better with each start.
Maclean’s Music, the sire of Cloud Computing, was an exceptionally fast colt that, in his one and only career start, recorded a 114 Beyer Speed Figure – “The highest debut Beyer since the advent of Beyer Speed Figures.” To see his debut race, click here.
Currently, Maclean’s Music stands stud for $8,500 at Hill ‘n Dale farm and his leading runners are California Music (G2W), Wicked Lick (G2PL), Cloud Computing (G3PL), Rockshaw, Swing and Sway, and Made Me Shiver.
It remains to be seen if Cloud Computing, in just his third start, can step up to earn graded-stakes honors in the Wood Memorial. I’m looking for him to run a good race.
Irish War Cry (7-2) comes into this race for trainer Graham Motion with a 3-0-0 record in four starts including wins in the Marylander Stakes, the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
IRISH WAR CRY pressed the pace outside THREE RULES well out in the track, could not stay with that one despite being put to pressure with three furlongs remaining, and dropped back steadily through the lane.
Irish War Cry was undefeated in three starts coming into this race and his poor performance is still a mystery. One curious thing I noticed in the video replay is that when Irish War Cry pulled even with Three Rules he backed off into second and seemed to quit racing at that point.
Curlin, the sire of Irish War Cry, was an outstanding racehorse that compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts with $10,501,800 in career earnings.
Curlin did not start as a two year old. But, at the age of three, Curlin was 6-1-2 in nine starts with $5,102,800 in earnings including wins in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2) en route to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1). He went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) and he finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Other important stakes wins include the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), twice, Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1), and the UAE Jaguar Trophy Handicap.
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® Irish War Cry has the breeding to be competitive in this race and it remains to be seen if he can redeem his poor showing in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).
Trainer Tony Dutrow gives Mo Town (6-1) a chance to redeem his off-the-board finish in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) by returning to the track where he was victorious last fall as a two year old in the Remsen Stakes (G2). With a 2-1-0 record in four starts, Mo Town comes into this race off of a fifth-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
MO TOWN went four then three wide on the first turn, settled behind the runaway leader, was ridden along in the three path on the far turn, came four wide into the stretch and tired.
Mo Town raced free and clear while tracking the leader, Local Hero, to the far turn and had no response and no excuse when Girvin, Untrapped and Guest Suite passed by him in the stretch.
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’s victory in the Remsen last fall established him as a top contender on the Derby trail but he has yet to show that same competitiveness as a three year old. With a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® Mo Town could be competitive in this race but there are other colts I like better.
Let’s take a look at the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® for the horses entered in this race:
1. Cloud Computing A
2. Bonus Points A
3. True Timber B
4. Irish War Cry B
5. Mo Town C
6. Glennrichment D
7. Battalion Runner D
8. Stretch’s Stone G
As you can see in the model above, horses like Mo Town and favored Battalion Runner have a low profile ranking. However, the Behavior Index can move some horses up or down and here’s a look at the ranking of the Wood Memorial (G2) entries when you factor in the behavior variable.
Classic Champion Thoroughbred
Profile® & Behavior Index
1. Cloud Computing
2. Irish War Cry
3. Battalion Runner
4 Mo Town
5. True Timber
6. Bonus Points
8. Stretch’s Stone
As you can see in the Behavior Index Model, Irish War Cry, Battalion Runner and Mo Town can potentially move up in the ranking, while Bonus Points could move down in the ranking.
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 Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) 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. Thunder Snow, 100, Saeed bin Suroor, $1,621,063
3. Always Dreaming, 100, Todd Pletcher, $$589,000
4. Gunnevera, 84, Antonio Sano, $1,137,800
5. State of Honor, 62, Mark Casse, $309,564
6. Tapwrit, 54, Todd Pletcher, $295,570
7. J Boys Echo, 53, Dale Romans, $255,000
8. Malagacy, 50, Todd Pletcher, $540,000
9. Hence, 50, Steve Asmussen, $$481,129
10. **Fast and Accurate, 50, $320,712
11. Patch, 40, Todd Pletcher, $200,000
12. Practical Joke, 34, Chad Brown, $766,000
13. Untrapped, 34, Steve Asmussen, $210,000
14. Classic Empire, 32, Mark Casse, $1,493,820
15. Local Hero, 30, Steve Asmussen, $140,000
16. Gormley, 20, John Sherriffs, $284,000
17. McCraken, 20, Ian Wilkes, $285,048
18. Master Plan, 20, Todd Pletcher, $214,700
19. Iliad, 20, Doug O’Neill, $200,000
20. Sonneteer, 20, Keith Desormeaux, $186,000
**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).