ANDRESS | 20 Things to Know About the Kentucky Derby Top 20
LOUISVILLE, Ky (WDRB) --- The 140th Kentucky Derby is three Saturdays away. The major Derby prep races are finished, which means the Derby point standings likely won't change between now and the first Saturday in May (unless horses drop out).
So here is a nugget or two on each horse in the top 20 of the Road to the Kentucky Derby point standings, who will fill the starting gate if entered:
1. California Chrome (150 points) - The winner of the Santa Anita Derby by an impressive 5-6 lengths over Hoppertunity will likely be the Derby favorite when the morning line odds come out race week, but his trainer will be the bigger media story. 77-year-old Art Sherman could become to oldest trainer to win the Derby. The last time he was around the Twin Spires? With 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps as an exercise rider. Sherman became a full time jockey shortly after Swaps won the Derby for the next 23 years before becoming a trainer.
2. Vicar's in Trouble (120 points) - The Louisiana Derby winner over Intense Holiday will get more attention because of his jockey, Rosie Napravnik. Napravnik became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks two years ago and gets another shot to accomplish the same feet in this Derby. She finished 9th on Pants on Fire in the 2011 Derby and 5th on Mylute in last year's Run for the Roses.
3. Dance With Fate (108 points) - The winner of the Blue Grass Stakes may not enter the Kentucky Derby. His trainer Peter Eurton says Dance With Fate likes Keeneland's Polytrack surface better and isn't sure he'd run well on the dirt at Churchill Downs. We'll see if the owners get Derby fever, but the Preakness might be the play for Dance With Fate.
4. Wicked Strong (102 points) - Wicked Strong won the Wood Memorial. His name will be the story. Centennial Farms and its President Don Little Jr. are from the Boston area and hoped to rename the horse Boston Strong, in honor of victims from the Boston Marathon bombing. The name was taken. So, Little's wife and her friends came up with the name Wicked Strong at a Boston Bruins game a few days after the bombing. To date, 1% of Wicked Strong's earnings have gone to the One Fund, to support those affected by the bombings (about $7,000 so far). Little said those donations will go up to 5% of earnings for Triple Crown races (and $100,000 of the $2 million prize for a Derby win).
5. Samraat (100 points) - Pronounced sam-rot, he saw his unbeaten record end with a 2nd place finish in the Wood Memorial. Samraat had won his five previous races before that, including the Grade-III Gotham and Withers Stakes over Uncle Sigh. He is a New York bred horse. Jockey Jose Ortiz is just 20-years-old and will ride in his first Derby.
6. Danza (100 points) - Danza is the first of 4 Todd Pletcher trained horses in the Derby top 20 and the most unlikely to be there. Danza won the Arkansas Derby sneaking through on the rail at 41-1 odds. The horse is named for actor Tony Danza. Who's the Boss? Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, but Pletcher was non-committal though initially after the Arkansas Derby if Danza was definitely going to the Derby.
7. Constitution (100 points) - Constitution is the 2nd Pletcher horse and won the Florida Derby March 29th. But will the curse of Apollo strike again? No horse that went unraced as a 2-year-old has won the Derby since Apollo in the 1882 Kentucky Derby. Not 1982...1882! Constitution is in that category but has won all three races he has run in 2014.
8. Hoppertunity (95 points) - Meet trainer Bob Baffert's first of three potential Derby entries. Hoppertunity came in a distant second to California Chrome at Santa Anita, as Baffert tries to win the Derby for a 4th time but the first time since War Emblem in 2002.
9. Intense Holiday (90 points) - The 3rd Pletcher horse in the standings finished 2nd in the Louisiana Derby but won the Risen Star Stakes before that over Vicar's in Trouble. Intense Holiday certainly has experience too. The Kentucky Derby would be his 7th stakes race.
10. Wildcat Red (90 points) - It's not exactly a name that will get Louisville or Kentucky fans excited, bordering on blasphemy, but his trainer is a good story. Jose Garaffolo started training in Venezuela, after earning two degrees in conditioning racehorses and law. Law may have been the safer career path, but horse was his passion. He had his first race on North American soil in 1999. And he's confident. "I think the most competitive horses raced at Gulfstream. Other than (Santa Anita Derby winner) California Chrome in California, I think the best three-year-olds raced here. Look at the Wood Memorial last week, the winner (Wicked Strong) raced here and he didn't do anything here."
11. We Miss Artie (60 points) - The 4th and final Pletcher horse won the Spiral Stakes in a photo finish but has been inconsistent. His finishes: 1st, 8th, 2nd, 7th, 1st, 6th, 1st, 2nd. What do his last two wins have in common? They came on Polytrack, not dirt. Ken and Sarah Ramsey own the colt, which is named for Sarah's cousin's husband Artie, who recently died.
12. Ride on Curlin (55 points) - Sired by 2007 Preakness and Breeder's Cup Classic winner Curlin, Ride on Curlin last came in 3rd in the Arkansas Derby. He is owned by Louisville furniture dealer Daniel Dougherty, who bought Ride on Curlin for $25,000. Dougherty then turned down a $1 million offer after the horse set a track record at Ellis Park. To date, Ride on Curlin has earned $354,387, but the Louisville businessman has a horse in his hometown race and a chance at the $2 million first place prize. It's quite the Louisville connection with trainer Billy "Bronco" Gowan, who is based at Churchill Downs, and Derby fan favorite jockey...Calvin Borel now aboard. Borel has three Derby wins and rode Ride on Curlin to both of his two wins.
13. Chitu (54 points) - Chitu is another Bob Baffert trained horse and finished 1st in the Sunland Derby. The Kentucky Derby would only be his 5th career race. Owner Susan Chu is involved in international show jumping and partners with top equestrian professionals including World #1 Show Jumping Champion and 2008 Olympic gold medal winner Eric Lamaze. Chu and her family fell in love with horse racing after watching Super Saver and I'll Have Another at their respective Kentucky Derbies.
14. Tapiture (52 points) - Trainer Steve Asmussen has a chance at the Oaks-Derby double with Tapiture and Oaks points leader Untapable, but Asmussen has a huge controversy surrounding him leading up to both races. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals conducted an undercover investigation and has accused Asmussen and top assistant Scott Blasi of subjecting their horses to cruel treatments, administering nontherapeutic drugs, and having one of their jockeys use a "buzzer" to electrically shock horses into running faster. The New York Times has the full story here.
15. Midnight Hawk (52 points) - The third Bob Baffert trained horse in the top 20, Midnight Hawk finished 2nd in the Sunland Derby behind fellow Baffert horse Chitu. He won the Sham Stakes in January but in three races since couldn't beat Candy Boy, California Chrome, or Chitu. The owners are notable too. Mike Pegram (owner of previous Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet), Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen, and former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator and current Altanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice. Suffice it to say horse racing fans in Chicago have found their Derby favorite.
16. Ring Weekend (50 points) - Horses on the Derby bubble are watching Ring Weekend closely. He may not enter. Trainer Graham Motion (who won the 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom) said he wants to see how he trains after Motion was disappointed with a 2nd place finish in his latest race, the Calder Derby April 5th.
17. General a Rod (40 points) - Trainer Mike Maker's 2nd horse in the Derby Standings, along with Vicar's in Trouble. General a Rod came in 3rd in the Florida Derby and 2nd in the Fountain of Youth (both at Gulfstream).
18. Medal Count (40 points) - The Ride on Curlin contingent from Louisville will have competition for hometown support from Medal Count's trainer and Butler High School alumnus Dale Romans. Medal Count came off a short 8-day layover between races to capture 2nd in the Blue Grass Stakes. Romans is still looking for his first Derby win, last finishing 3rd with Dullahan in 2012.
19. Candy Boy (30 points) - Candy Boy may have come in 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby but finished 1st or 2nd in his previous 4 races. Don't right off the jockey either. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens won the Preakness and Breeder's Cup Classic in 2013.
20. Cairo Prince (24 points) - Cairo Prince has the same number of points in the Derby standings as Uncle Sigh, but has the tiebreaker due to earnings in non-restricted stakes races. Don't write off this horse either, just because he's at the bottom of the standings. Cairo Prince was considered the Derby favorite for a long time, before his latest disappointing 4th place finish in the Florida Derby as the 6-5 favorite. Before the Florida Derby, Cairo Prince won three of his four races and finished 2nd in the other. Cairo Prince's great-grandsire Unbridled won the Derby in 1990. His grandsire Empire Maker (2003) and sire Pioneer of the Nile (2009) were each runner-up in the Kentucky Derby.
On the Bubble - Uncle Sigh (24 points), Vinceremos, Harry's Holiday, Commanding Curve, Pablo Del Monte, Social Inclusion, and Bayern (20 points each)