Kentucky Derby Contenders March Update

With the first week of March having come and gone, we’re drawing closer and closer to the annual Run for the Roses – yes, the 2013 Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs, to be held on Saturday, May 4.

Today, we’re going to do things differently with our Kentucky Derby contenders update. As you may know, the Derby has instituted a new points system this year – points are awarded in stakes races leading up to May 4, with the point value increasing on a weekly basis.

Essentially, the closer we get to the Derby, the higher the stakes become (no pun intended. Okay, slightly intended.)

As such, we’ll take a look today at the top of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard (currently available for viewing at and review some of the most notable names on the list.

I’ve Struck a Nerve (51 points)

The big news out of the racing community this week was that a ‘minority’ share of I’ve Struck a Nerve – the sophomore son of Yankee Gentleman – has been sold, according to trainer Keith Desormeaux.

“I don’t know too much about it, and I don’t know how the word got out so fast,” Desormeaux said in a press release. “The only thing I do know is that I’m still the horse’s trainer, and that’s nice.”

Desormeaux said he’s “very appreciative” of the fact he was kept on to train I’ve Struck a Nerve, who shot to the top of the Derby Leaderboard following his upset win at the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on February 23.

Next up for Desormeaux and I’ve Struck a Nerve? The $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 30.

“The horse is doing fine,” Desormeaux said. “He’s getting very fit and we are looking forward to running him.”

Vyjack (50 points)

Vyjack basically punched his ticket to the Derby with last Saturday’s win at the Gotham Stakes. The 2-year-old gelding is being trained by former jockey Rudy Rodriguez and looks to be a major player on May 4.

When asked how good Vyjack might be, owner David Wilkenfeld offered up some serious enthusiasm.

“He’s shown he has unlimited potential,” Wilkenfeld told the Kentucky Courier-Journal. “According to Rudy and his brother, he can run all day.

“I think if he stays sound, there’s a lot more untapped potential.”

Orb (50 points)

Orb sits tied with Vyjack on points thanks in large part to an outstanding showing at the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream on February 23.

It marked the third-straight race in which Orb came from way back to claim victory, making a great charge and holding off pre-race favorite Violence to win by a half a length.

Trained by longtime horse-man Shug McGaughey, Orb has emerged as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby – even though McGaughey tried to play it cool after wining Gulfstream, telling reporters “not to worry about the Kentucky Derby” given he’s never won one.

Orb’s jockey, however, was singing a different tune.

“He was going along nice and smooth,” John Velasquez told the Associated Press following the Gulfstream victory. ”I actually had to ride him pretty hard from the half-mile to the quarter pole to keep position and I hoped it wouldn’t take anything out of him for the stretch.

“But it actually worked out great.”

About Tennessee Leduc

Born in Summersville Kentucky, Tennessee is an impassioned fan of horse racing, women, civilized debauchery, and... mint juleps. He writes, he reads, he listens, but above all he experiences the world he lives in.

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