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Feb 14, 2014

Skipping Kentucky Derby preps could prove fatal

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

 Philadelphia, PA ( - Two years ago, I'll Have Another won the Robert B. Lewis in just his fourth start. The eventual Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner skipped the San Felipe Stakes and trained up to the Santa Anita Derby.

It was a bold move for the Doug O'Neill-trained 3-year-old considering a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby might have cost him a chance to compete in the Run for the Roses.

Back then, Kentucky Derby entrants needed to be in the top 20 in terms of graded-stakes earnings. The $450,000 that I'll Have Another earned as the Santa Anita Derby winner propelled him to the middle of the pack. For comparison purposes, El Padrino was 19th on the list with $250,000 in graded earnings. If for some reason I'll Have Another had a troubled trip in the Santa Anita Derby and wound up fourth, he would have earned just $45,000 (instead of $450,000) and that would have placed him on the bubble to even make the Kentucky Derby.

This is the second year the points system is in place to determine the 20 horses for the Derby. But for some of the top 2014 competitors, it might not matter which system is being used because three horses are expected to race just one more time before the Kentucky Derby. The aforementioned threesome is Cairo Prince (the Holy Bull winner), Candy Boy (the Robert B. Lewis victor) and Samraat (the Withers Stakes winner).

Last year, Golden Soul was 19th on the final points tally with 14 while Giant Finish closed out the field with 10 points. If similar numbers wind up in place this year, the above three colts will have nothing to worry about because Cairo Prince currently has 14 points while Candy Boy and Samraat each have 10.

However, nothing is ever set in stone and last season's numbers might not be relevant in 2014. It is important to note that Flashback, I've Struck a Nerve, Govenor Charlie and Hear the Ghost all missed the 2013 Derby for one reason or another. If all four had been able to reach the starting gate, then Oxbow, the eventual Preakness winner, would have been the final horse to get in with 36 points.

If 36 is the cutoff point this year, then Cairo Prince, Candy Boy and Samraat will have very little room for error in their lone race before the Kentucky Derby. In fact, they will have to finish either first or second in their final prep race just to get into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.


Speaking of Cairo Prince, the son of Pioneerof the Nile wound up the 13-1 second choice (behind Honor Code) among the 23 single entrants. The mutuel field was the heavy 3-2 favorite. In the seven times a field horse from Pool 1 won the Kentucky Derby, its odds were higher than 3-2 every time (note: 2014 is the first year Pool 1 has been run when the horses were 2-year-olds).

Additionally, a field horse in Pool 1 has won the Derby four of the last six years. Ironically, the only two years a single entrant crossed the wire first was when the field's odds were 3-2 - the same number it is this year.

It also is interesting to note that 2013 was the first time a horse won the Run for the Roses while being lumped in the field in Pool 1 but was a single entrant in Pools 2 and 3. The previous six field winners were in the field for at least the first two pools while Mine That Bird, War Emblem and Charismatic were field horses in all three pools.

Other than Honor Code and Cairo Prince, four other single entrants were bet down below 20-1. Top Billing ended at 13-1, Shared Belief at 14-1, Strong Mandate at 17-1 and Midnight Hawk at 19-1.

Last year, 10 of the 23 single entrants were 50-1 or higher. In 2012, seven were 50-1 or higher, while that number was nine in 2011. This year, there were only four: Intense Holiday, Kristo, Matterhorn and Uncle Sigh.


Candy Boy, the 2-1 second choice behind Midnight Hawk, won the Robert B. Lewis by one-half length over Chitu. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event was a decent 1:41 4/5, which holds up pretty well considering older stakes horses ran 1:47 4/5 for nine furlongs in the San Antonio earlier on the card.

The most impressive part of the race was Candy Boy's ability to rate, something that was not apparent in the CashCall Futurity. The 3-year-old also impressed onlookers with his intense gallop-out after the race. On the other hand, he barely beat a sprinter in Chitu, and will only have one more start before the Kentucky Derby.

What the Robert B. Lewis did show was how unfortunate the injury to Shared Belief is because the gelding dismantled Candy Boy by almost six lengths when they met in the CashCall back in December.


The "Dirty Dozen" is presented with final odds for Future Wager Pool 2:

1) Top Billing (13-1) - Probable favorite for Fountain of Youth

2) Shared Belief (14-1) - Still 50-50 for San Felipe in early March

3) Honor Code (12-1) - Worked out for first time (Feb. 12) since mid-January

4) Cairo Prince (13-1) - Doubtful to race until Florida Derby

5) Candy Boy (32-1) - Jumped from 12 to five with Robert B. Lewis win

6) Commissioner (22-1) - One of few 3-year-olds with two nine-furlong races

7) Strong Mandate (17-1) - Makes 3-year-old debut in Southwest at Oaklawn

8) Samraat (30-1) - Unbeaten New York bred still undecided for next race

9) Bourbonize (3-2, Field) - Gets first stern test in Southwest Stakes

10) Conquest Titan (28-1) - Fountain of Youth is next for son of Birdstone

11) Bayern (3-2, Field) - Entered in one-mile allowance race on Feb. 13

12) Havana (28-1) - Will only have one two-turn race as a 3-year-old

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