With just over two weeks remaining until Kentucky Derby 139, the major races on the new â€œRoad to the Kentucky Derbyâ€ points systemÂ have been run and the prospective field for the great race on May 4 at Churchill Downs is taking shape.
Two â€œwild cardâ€ races remain: Saturdayâ€™s Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland and the Derby Trial on Opening Night, which is April 27 at Churchill Downs. Both offer 20 first-place points and the potential to make the difference for a horse or two that have yet to earn a spot in the 2013 Run for the Roses.
The Kentucky Derby jockey shuffle was underway during the first two days of this week, with three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel landing the mount on Revolutionary, the winner of the Arkansas Derby and a horse likely to be among the top five betting choices on Derby Day. The colt is owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, and both partnered with Borel to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver.
Revolutionary is a colt who is unbeaten at two-turn distances, but he has had to overcome trouble in a couple of races.Â No one rides with more confidence and courage in the Kentucky Derby than Borel, whose three Derby wins in four years from 2007-2010 was a first in the history of the race, and the presence of the Louisiana native in the saddle aboard Revolutionary would appear to enhance his chances.
The mount on Revolutionary became open when Javier Castellano chose to ride Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion.
Rosie Napravnik, who became the first woman to win the Kentucky Oaks when she guided the victorious Believe You Can to the finish line, secured a Derby mount on Tuesday when she was named by trainer Tom Amoss to ride Mylute, runner-up in the Louisiana Derby. Napravnikâ€™s first Derby ride came a year ago when she finished ninth in Derby 138 aboard Pants On Fire.
That was the best finish in Derby history for a female jockey.
Napravnik was the regular rider aboard 2012 2-year-old champion and Breedersâ€™ Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby, but he was knocked out of contention for the Derby by an injury suffered in a fifth-place finish in the Florida Derby.
Mike Smith, who won the 2005 Derby aboard longshot Giacamo, landed a Derby 139 ride aboard Toyota Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Palace Malice.Â Garrett Gomez had ridden Palace Malice in the Blue Grass, but was committed to Gotham winner Vyjack on Derby Day.
With those shifts and a solidified look at the likely field of 20 horses for Derby 139, hereâ€™s an updated look at under-the-radar horses that could make a difference on Kentucky Derby Day.
Oxbow â€“ The Calumet Farm runner opened the season for four-time Kentucky Derby winner with a romp in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, but has been unlucky in three subsequent starts.Â His run in last weekâ€™s Arkansas Derby was the worst of those unlucky runs as the colt and jockey Gary Stevens were shuffled far back and was running last on the run down the backstretch.Â He rallied mildly in the stretch and
missed finishing fourth by a nose.Â Oxbow has natural speed in a Kentucky Derby that appears to lack its regular potential for a sizzling early pace and a good break and good early position could allow Oxbow to be on or near the lead when the Derby field turns for home.Â His chances would be good for there at likely odds in the range of 30-1 or 40-1.
Will Take Charge â€“ Also trained by Lukas, this colt edged stablemate Oxbow in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.Â Ridden by Churchill Downs regular Jon Court, Will Take Charge bypassed the final round of major prep races and is being trained-up to the Derby by the 77-year-old Lukas, whose last visit to the Derby Winnerâ€™s Circle came with Charismatic in 1999.
Frac Daddy â€“ One of two Derby 139 hopes trained by Lexington native Ken McPeek, Frac Daddy earned a spot in the race with a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby.Â The McPeek colt has been behind schedule for most of the spring after a disappointing run in his 2013 debut in the Holy Bull, but he ran a pair of spectacular races last fall at Churchill Downs and the return to what appears to be his favorite surface makes him a threat at a hefty price â€“ say, 50-1 or so â€“ on Derby Day.
Charming Kitten â€“ He earned his way into the Kentucky Derby field with a solid late run behind Javaâ€™s War in the Blue Grass, but has run well over the Churchill Downs surface and seems to be a colt that could hit the board at a big price to flesh out a trifecta or superfecta wager.
Golden Soul â€“ Heâ€™s a longshot to get in, but has a chance.Â Trainer Dallas Stewart scored the biggest upset in Kentucky Oaks history when he saddled Lemons Forever to win that race in 2006.Â A lot of good things would have to happen to get him in the Derby starting gate, but this is a colt with a future that will do his best running deep stretch at odds that will likely be 75-1 or-higher in a 20-horse field.Â He ran very well in a maiden race last fall at Churchill Downs and has a chance to run well at odds of 70-1 or so should he make his way into the Derby starting gate.
Unbeaten Verrazano continues to head the Power Rankings on www.KentuckyDerby.com.Â Hereâ€™s one voterâ€™s look with just over two weeks remaining before the Run for the Roses:
- Normandy Invasion
- Will Take Charge
- Javaâ€™s War
Photo by AMBER CHALFIN | Contributing Photographer