This Saturday, from coast-to-coast, the Road to the Kentucky Derby enters the stretch drive with three marquee races on tap at New York, Kentucky and California. Winners of those races will each receive 100 qualifying points and a guaranteed spot in the Derby starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
At Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, VEKOMA has been tabbed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the 95th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2). Post Time is 6:23 p.m. ET.
Vekoma comes into this race with a 2-0-1 record in three starts for trainer George Weaver including a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
VEKOMA rated off the clear trio through early stages then picked up the pace at half mile marker, quickly advance on three wide run in final turn then drifted in upper stretch, switched out when urged left handed, appeared all out but continued to try and lasted for a share.
Vekoma is a talented colt and he finished a respectable third in his first start of the season.
Candy Ride, the sire of Vekoma, was bred in Argentina and during his racing career he was undefeated in six starts.
In his maiden debut as a three year old, Candy Ride won the Premio El Quimico, a six furlong sprint, by 12 lengths. He went on to finish the season with a win in the one mile Gran Premio San Isidro (G1) by eight lengths and another win by eight lengths in the one mile Joaquin S de Anchorena (G1).
As a four year old, Candy Ride was shipped to America where won his U.S. debut in an 8 ½ furlong Allowance Optional Claiming race at Hollywood Park on June 7, 2003. A month later, he ran on the turf winning the 9 furlong American Handicap (G2) and in August, Candy Ride was able to carry his speed to a 3¼-length victory in the 10 furlong Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) in a record time of 1:59.11.
As a stallion, Candy Ride’s top ten lifetime performers include Gun Runner, Shared Belief, Game Winner, Misremembered, Sidney’s Candy, Leofric, Twirling Candy, Ascend and Capt. Candyman Can.
Vekoma has a D Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® but his Behavior Index indicates that he could potentially be competitive in this race. However, he was all out in his last race and the stretch out to nine furlongs may not be to his liking.
A long shot I like is SO ALIVE (15-1). He’s a colt we profiled as a yearling (Hip 543) at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and he comes into this race with a 2-0-1 record in four starts for trainer Todd Pletcher including a third-place finish in the Same F. Davis Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
SO ALIVE was off a bit slow and bumped at the start, outrun early, advanced midway on the far turn, swung wide for the drive, rallied outside and was along for the show spot.
So Alive came from the back of the herd and made up a lot of ground in the stretch to get up for a respectable third-place finish in his second start of the season.
Super Saver, the sire of So Alive, was a multiple graded stakes winner and Classic Champion Thoroughbred that compiled a 3-2-1 record in 10 starts with $1,889,766 in career earnings. In addition, he was my pick to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
As a two year old, Super Saver was 2-1-0 in four starts and finished his racing season with a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) making him, along with Street Sense and Nyquist, among a select group of two year olds to win a major end-of-year prep race that went on to victory in the Derby.
As a three year old, Super Saver compiled a 1-1-1 record in six starts with a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and a gutsy second-place finish to Line of David in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in route to victory in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
As a stallion, Super Saver’s top-five, leading runners include Runhappy, Inside Straight, Competitive Edge, Embellish the Lace and Hedge Fund.
So Alive has an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and he’s a half-brother to Vino Rosso who we also profiled at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale as a young horse (Hip 528) with stakes potential.
So Alive has been training well and a recent bullet work out could have him ready to take another step forward in his third start of the season.
AQUADINI (30-1) is another long shot I like, and he comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in four starts for trainer Dallas Steward including a second-place finish last out. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
AQUADINI set the clear pace in the two path, was asked near the five-sixteenths, came under a drive in upper stretch, led until the sixteenth pole but was overtaken while well clear for the place.
Aquadini led from the start but he could not hold off a fast-closing Courtyard to finish just three quarters of a length shy of victory.
Bernardini did not race as a 2-year-old but at the age of three, he was a fast colt that won races from a mile to 10-furlongs.
He broke his maiden on his second start running a mile at Gulfstream Park in 1:35.57. That’s the kind of time I like to see a young colt run in a mile. Bernardini went on to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred, compiling a 6-1-0 record in eight starts with $3,060,480 in career earnings.
Notable races won by Bernardini in route to becoming the 2006 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male include: Withers Stakes (G3, 8-furlongs), Preakness Stakes (G1, 9½-furlongs), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2, 8½ furlongs), Travers Stakes (G1, 10 furlongs), Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1, 10 furlongs) and he finished second, a length behind Invasor, winner of the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1, 10 furlongs).
As a stallion, Bernardini’s top ten lifetime performers include Boban (AUS), Cavorting, Stay Thirsty, Alpha, To Honor and Serve, Dame Dorothy, Rachel’s Valentina, Capezzano, Ruud Awakening (AUS) and Angela Renee.
Aquadini did not race as a two-year-old until December but with an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® he’s the best-bred colt in this race. He’s been training well at Churchill Downs and, in his short racing span, he appears to be an improving colt with the potential to upset at a nice price.
SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN (10-1) come into this race with a 3-2-1 record in seven starts for trainer Michael Maker including a win in the Jeff Ruby Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN vied for the lead early on, took over command, was on the inside to the lane then drew clear in the stretch while drifting in and out but was geared down in the final stages.
Somelikeithotbrown soon took the lead and pulled away at the end to win his second graded-stakes race by 3¼ lengths.
Big Brown, the sire of Somelikeithotbrown, was a multiple graded-stakes winner and a dual classic winner of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) that compiled a 7-0-0 record in eight starts with $3,614,500 in career earnings.
As a three year old, Big Brown won the Florida Derby (G1) by an impressive five lengths en route to a 4¾-length win in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He followed that victory with a 5¾ length win in the Preakness Stakes (G1) but did not finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1), ending his contention as a Triple Crown winner.
Big Brown finished the season with wins in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) and Monmouth Stakes.
In addition to Somelikeithotbrown, other leading top performers of Big Brown include Dortmund, Kiss to Remember, Coach Inge and Send It In.
Somelikeithotbrown has a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® but his Behavior Index makes him potentially competitive in this race. Since his off-the-board finish as a two year old, Somelikeithotbrown has never finished worse than third and I look for him to run a good race.
A total of 35 prep races comprise the USA Road to the Kentucky Derby. In addition, there are seven races on the European road and four races on the Japan road to Derby glory.
2019 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Plus Que Parfait, 104, Brendan Walsh, $1,540,400
2. By My Standards, 100, Bret Calhoun, $600,000
3. Maximum Security, 100, Jason Servis, $582,800
4. Code of Honor, 74, Shug McGaughey, $432,070
5. War of Will, 60, Mark Casse, $440,840
6. Long Range Toddy, 53.5, Steve Asmussen, $830,000
7. Cutting Humor, $50, Todd Pletcher, $462,467
8. Haikal, 50, Kiaran McLaughlin, $247,500
9. Tacitus, 50, Bill Mott, $210,000
10. Game Winner, 43, Bob Baffert, $1,610,000
11. Gray Magician, 41, Peter Miller, $526,000
12. Spinoff, 40, Todd Pletcher, $224,000
13. Bodexpress, 40, Gustavo Delgado, $188,000
14. Omaha Beach, 37.5, Richard Mandella, $450,000
15. Bourbon War, 31, Mark Henning, $137,200
16. Anothertwistafate, 30, Blaine Wright, $228,960
17. ++Country House, 30, Bill Mott, $120,000
18. Sueno, 28, Keith Desormeaux, $265,000
19. Improbable, 25, Bob Baffert, $389,520
20. Mucho Gusto, 24, Bob Baffert, $286,800
++ = Profiled as a B yearling at the 2017 Keeneland September sale.
EUROPEAN ROAD LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Royal Marine (IRE), 10, Saeed bin Suroor, $264,968
2. Magna Grecia (IRE), 10, Aidan O’Brien, $185,000
3. Mohawk (IRE), 10, Aidan O’Brien, $128,702
4. Japan (GB), 10, Aidan O’Brien, $75,316
5. Phoenix of Spain (IRE), 4, Charlie Hill, $157,944
6. Broome (IRE), 4, Aidan O’Brien, $140,871
7. Sydney Opera House (GB), 4, Aidan O’Brien, $40,956
8. Mount Everest (IRE), 4, Aidan O’Brien, $24,254
9. Anodor (FR), 2, Freddie Head, $99,215
10. Western Australian (IRE), 2, Aidan O’Brien, $43,084
11. Cape of Good Hope (IRE), 2, Aidan O’Brien, $41,515
12. Power of Now (IRE), 2, Michael O’Callaghan, $11,489
13. Boitron (FR), 1, Richard Hannon, $44,917
14. Victory Command, (IRE), 1, Mark Johnston, $35,108
15. Circus Maximus (IRE), 1, Aidan O’Brien, $24,368
16. Sovereign (IRE), 1, Aiden O’Brien, $5,106
JAPAN ROAD LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Earnings
1. Nova Lenda (JPN), 20, Takashi Saito, $446,285
2. f-Make Happy, 12, Koichi Shinkai, $184,181
3. Derma Louvre (JPN), 8, Hirofumi Toda, $447,672
4. Gal Vihara, 4, Kiyoshi Hagiwara, $216,271
2. Kingen (JPN), 4, Kunihide Matsuda, $97,867
3. Johaan (JPN), 2, Yasuyuki Takahashi, $72,900
4. Romantico (JPN), 1, Kazuo Fujisawa, $91,245