Kentucky Derby Countdown: 3-18-16

Kentucky Derby Countdown: 3-18-16

Breeders’ Cup Photo ©

Today marks a milestone–it’s just 50 days until the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby! Here’s the latest news on the road to the Derby…

Fields Coming Together for Derby Prep Races

With just over seven weeks remaining until the Kentucky Derby, the fields for the major prep races are starting to come together. Entries for the March 26th Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds will be drawn tomorrow, and a talented field is expected to be entered, led by Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) 1-2-3-4 finishers Gun RunnerForevamoMo Tom, and Candy My Boy. Also expected to run are Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Greenpointcrusader, recent allowance winners JansenConquest Windycity, and Dazzling Gem, and the maiden winner Majesto.

The April 9th Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) at Santa Anita is expected to drawer a smaller, but just as talented field. Leading the way are Danzing CandyMor Spirit, and Exaggerator–the 1-2-3 finishers in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II)–as well Uncle Lino and Smokey Image, who finished fourth and fifth in the San Felipe.

One prominent California-based colt that will not run in the Santa Anita Derby is Nyquist, the unbeaten champion two-year-old of 2015. Trained by Doug O’Neill, Nyquist is set for a showdown with the unbeaten Mohaymen in the April 2nd Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park, a race that could be among the most exciting Derby preps in recent memory. Fellowship, third to Mohaymen in both the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), is also expected to run, while a possible starter is With Anticipation Stakes (gr. II) winner Azar, who made a successful transition to dirt in a February 28th allowance race at Gulfstream.

Cocked and Loaded, winner of the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) but unraced since finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), is expected to make his return in the April 9th Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). Although he will enter the race off a long layoff, he has trained well for his return, most recently breezing five furlongs in :59.80 at Tampa Bay Downs on March 17th. Other possible starters for the Blue Grass include Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) winner Brody’s Cause and Jerome Stakes (gr. III) winner Flexibility, and Gotham Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Laoban. It is also expected that trainer Todd Pletcher will start one or two colts, with Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Zulu and Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) 1-2 finishers Destin and Outwork being among the possibilities.

The April 9th Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct is expected to feature a matchup between the unbeaten Gotham Stakes (gr. III) winner Shagaf and the once-beaten Matt King Coal, who won an allowance race at Aqueduct earlier this month with a Beyer speed figure of 97. The complete field remains in flux, but the race is a possible target for Zulu, Destin, or Outwork, and Withers Stakes (gr. III) winner Sunny Ridge and the twice graded stakes-placed Adventist being other logical starters.

Lastly, early entries have already been drawn for the March 26th UAE Derby (UAE-II) at Meydan in Dubai. A field of nine is expected to enter the starting gate, led by the U.S.-based El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner Frank Conversation and the talented UAE Oaks (UAE-III) winner Polar River, who will seek to become only the second filly to win the UAE Derby. Market Rally, winner of the UAE 2,000 Guineas (UAE-III) and Al Bastakiya Stakes, is another prominent contender, while UAE Oaks runner-up Vale Dori, Al Bastakiya Stakes runner-up Lazzam, the British-based three-time winner Hawkbill, and the Japanese-based trio of Yu ChangeOn the Rocks, and Lani complete the field.

Nyquist, Mohaymen Record Workouts

In anticipation of their showdown in the Florida Derby, both Nyquist and Mohaymen recorded timed workouts today. Mohaymen’s workout was strong–five furlongs in a bullet 1:01 flat at Palm Meadows–but Nyquist’s workout really drew attention since he breezed a full mile, starting slowly before finishing fast. Officially, he breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40, but in the Santa Anita Stable Notes for March 18th, trainer Doug O’Neill was quoted as saying “I got him in 1:46 and change and the last eighth in 11 and three.”

Greenpointcrusader likely completed his serious preparations for the Louisiana Derby by breezing five furlongs in 1:02.30 at Palm Meadows, while Zulu went four furlongs in :50.98 at Palm Beach Downs, his first workout since the Fountain of Youth. At Fair Grounds, Candy My Boy went a half-mile in :47.80 at galloped-out five furlongs in 1:00 flat, while on March 17th, Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) winner Airoforce breezed five furlongs in a bullet :58.80 over the synthetic track at the Ocala Training Center. That was his first workout since a disappointing effort in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds last month, and there’s talk that Airoforce could potentially run in the April 2nd Spiral Stakes (gr. III) over the synthetic track at Turfway Park. A victory in that race could possibly launch Airoforce back on to the Kentucky Derby trail.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board! Also, if you’re a fan of horse racing history, please check out my upcoming book Lost to the Ages: 10 Forgotten Champions of U.S. Horse Racingscheduled for release later this year!

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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Casper Gutman

I noticed Brody’s Cause only dropped to 21-one in the future book after getting beat12/13 lengths at Tampa Bay. What’s up with that?