Derby points update: What’s missing here?

In this strangest of Triple Crown prep seasons – and, no, we’re really not kidding (more on that in a moment) – two horses are atop the Derby points leaderboard with 14 each, with a clutch of 10 more just behind with 10.

Pappacap hasn’t won any of the three points races he’s entered, but he’s run well enough in all of them to grab a point here and a point there. Trained by Mark Casse, the Gun Runner colt was the beaten favorite last out when third in the Grade 3 Lecomte at the Fair Grounds.

That netted him two points, and adding that to the eight he earned for being runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and four he got for another runner-up effort, in the Grade 1 American Pharoah, puts him atop the leaderboard with 14.

[Click here for our Triple Crown Video page with video of every North American points race.]

He’s joined there by Epicenter. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the son of Not This Time was second in the Lecomte but previously had won the ungraded Gun Runner Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

That there’s a Derby points race named for Gun Runner – decent but forgettable as a three-year-old before becoming the beast everyone remembers at the very end of his sophomore season and especially in the second half of his four-year-old campaign – isn’t the oddest feature of the current Derby trail.

[Click here for our Triple Crown page with the latest news and info.]

Nor is it that the race named for Gun Runner is a points race though it’s in its very first year of existence and is just a $100,000 contest. You figured that Churchill Downs Inc. would take care of its own, and the Fair Grounds is, of course, one of its own.

No, the strangest thing about the current Derby trail is, well, the number of points that have not been awarded.

By unofficial count, so far 40 points up for grabs have not been awarded.

That’s in large measure – though not entirely – because of racing’s Bob Baffert problem. Baffert, the seven-time Kentucky Derby winner (unless the somnambulant Kentucky Horse Racing Commission gets around to disqualifying Medina Spirt sometime this century), is prohibited from entering horses in the Derby (or running at any Churchill tracks) this year and next.

And his horses may not earn Derby points.

Thus, the Baffert-trained Corniche, winner of the 20-point Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 10-point American Pharoah Stakes, has zero points.

Three other Baffert trainees who also would have earned points have zippy, as well. Those include Los Alamitos Futurity runner-up Messier (would have been four points) and show horse Barossa (two), as well as American Pharoah fourth-place finisher Rockefeller (one).

In addition to the Baffert horses, two other runners are pointsless despite finishing in the top four in a points race. Concept and Classic Moment ran third and fourth, respectively, in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park December 17. But because both ran with Lasix, they are ineligible to receive points.

None of this is a particularly sensible way to handle the points system, of course. Maybe it’s just a hiccup on the way to something better and more logical. But then again, this is horse racing, so perhaps it’s best not to get our hopes up.

Kentucky Derby points

1Pappacap (FL) / T: Mark Casse / O: Buttonwood Farm Inc.14
2Epicenter (KY) / T: Steve Asmussen / O: Westwind Farms14
3Smile Happy (KY) / T: Kenny McPeek / O: Lucky Seven Stable10
4Slow Down Andy (CA) / T: Doug O’Neill / O: Reddam Racing LLC10
5Rattle N Roll (KY) / T: Kenny McPeek / O: Lucky Seven Stable10
6Mo Donegal (KY) / T: Todd Pletcher / O: Donegal Racing10
7Make It Big (FL) / T: Saffie Joseph Jr. / O: Red Oak Stable10
8Major General (KY) / T: Todd Pletcher / O: WinStar Farm LLC and CHC Inc10
9Jack Christopher (KY) / T: Chad Brown / O: Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud & Peter Brant10
10Dash Attack (KY) / T: Kenny McPeek / O: Catalyst Stable, Magdalena Racing, Kevin Pollard & Patty Slevin10
11Courvoisier (KY) / T: Kelly Breen / O: Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings & James Spry10
12Call Me Midnight (KY) / T: Keith Desormeaux / O: Peter Cantrell10
13Commandperformance (KY) / T: Todd Pletcher / O: Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable6
14Classic Causeway (KY) / T: Brian Lynch / O: Kentucky West Racing LLC & Clarke Cooper6
15Zandon (KY) / T: Chad Brown / O: Jeff Drown4
16Tough to Tame (KY) / T: Christopher Davis / O: Rittdiculous Gazmanian Stables4
17Tejano Twist (KY) / T: Bret Calhoun / O: Tom Durant4
18Smarten Up (FL) / T: Alfredo Velazquez / O: Happy Tenth Stable4
19Oviatt Class (VA) / T: Keith Desormeaux / O: James Downey4
20Osbourne (KY) / T: Ron Moquett / O: Southern Springs Stables (Ron Moquett), The Estate of Floyd Sagely, Mark Tauber & KeithJohnston4
21Giant Game (KY) / T: Dale Romans / O: West Point Thoroughbreds and William Sandbrook4
22Double Thunder (KY) / T: Todd Pletcher / O: Phoenix Thoroughbred III4
23Barber Road (KY) / T: John Ortiz / O: WSS Racing LLC4