TRIPLE CROWN UPDATE: WHAT’S ON TAP
And then there were four. Four 100-point races remaining on the road to the Kentucky Derby, that is, and three of them will take place Saturday.
Those three – the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland, and Santa Anita Derby – will go a long way towards rounding out the Derby field. Then, on April 10, the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park will complete the roster of the biggest Derby preps.
These biggest races offer points to the top four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 basis.
Here’s what’s happening this week:
- Unbeaten Prevalence and Grade 3 Withers-winner Risk Taking highlight a strong field for Saturday’s 96th running of the Wood Memorial. Godolphin, whose royal blue colors saw the winner’s circle in the 2015 Wood Memorial with Frosted, will seek their second Wood triumph with the highly regarded Prevalence. The Brendan Walsh-trained son of Medaglia d’Oro is 2-for-2 at Gulfstream Park to start and his career will see two turns for the first time. Also in the mix are Gotham Stakes winner Weyburn, who’ll have Trevor McCarthy in the irons, and the Parx-based Brooklyn Strong for trainer Daniel Velazquez.
- Laurel Park cancels weekend racingWith problems with the racing surface ongoing, Laurel Park will not race its scheduled cards this weekend, and racing will shift to Pimlico April 22.
- Godolphin’s undefeated homebred Essential Quality, the champion 2-year-old male of 2020, is the 3-5 morning line choice in a field of nine 3-year-olds entered for the 97th running of the Blue Grass Stakes going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality debuted September 5 at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day and followed that triumph with victories in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to sew up the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. In his lone start of 2021, Essential Quality won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park by 4¼ lengths on February 27.
- Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will send out likely favorite Medina Spirit in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, a race that he’s won a record nine times. Medina Spirit, who was second, beaten eight lengths by his recently sidelined stablemate Life Is Good in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, was a gate to wire winner of the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes two starts back on January 30. A first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos December 11, Medina Spirit then flew to be second, beaten three quarters of a length by Life Is Good going a flat mile in the Sham Stakes.
Last weekend also saw three 100-point races, with upsets the order of the day. Here’s what happened:
- The Todd Pletcher-trained Known Agenda ($12.80) was a dominant winner of the Florida Derby, scoring by nearly three lengths. Greatest Honour, the 4-5 favorite, struggled home a well-beaten third, with Soup and Sandwich in between. All three likely have enough points to head to Louisville.
- Hello Hot Rod to return home for Tesio StakesMaryland-bred Hello Hot Rod — training in Kentucky for Arizona-based owner George Sharp — will return home for a hoped-for Tesio-Preakness double.
- Like the King ($16.00) rallied from towards the rear of the field on the outside to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park for trainer Wesley Ward, a length ahead of Sainthood. Both likely have the points to be Derby-bound. Tarantino, the post time favorite, broke in a tangle and was not persevered with.
- Rebel’s Romance, who opened in British betting at 11-1, rallied strongly to win the UAE Derby for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby. The 100 points he earned give him a spot in Louisville if his connections decide to head that way.