Kentucky Derby February Prep Races

The month of February is a big one with regards to the Running of the Roses. Each year, a series of important stakes races happens across America as horses and trainers fight for a spot in the Kentucky Derby – and this year, with Churchill Downs revamping its point qualification system, the prep races have more value than ever.

With that said, let’s take a look at which horses are making noise as we count down to the 2013 Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4.

Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes, Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The big story here was Orb, a Shug McGaughey-trained colt that has now won his last three starts after a stellar victory at Hallandale Beach. Orb knocked off one of Todd Pletcher’s prized Derby contenders – Violence – in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, and instantly became a favorite for Churchill Downs in the process.

“If he keeps improving, maybe he’ll be something,” McGaughey said of Orb following the race, clearly trying to keep a low-profile heading into the Florida Derby on March 30.”He’s come so far over the winter. My people have done a great job with him.”
The Associated Press, which keeps a running ‘power rankings’ of Top 10 Derby Contenders, now has Orb in the No. 5 slot.

Grade II Risen Star Stakes, New Orleans, LA.

In a result that stunned the horse racing community, 99-1 longshot I’ve Struck a Nerve edged Code West at the wire to wow the New Orleans audience. Trained by J. Keith Desormeaux and ridden by James Graham, I’ve Struck A Nerve was something of an afterthought heading into this race, especially since pre-Derby favorite Normandy Invasion (trained by Chad Brown) was in the field.

Unfortunately for Brown, Normandy Invasion broke poorly and was never a factor in the Risen Star. But that set the stage for I’ve Struck a Nerve, the Louisiana-bred horse, to pull off a stunning upset that even took his trainer by surprise.

‘I can’t believe it,” Desormeaux said. ”We’ve always thought highly of the horse. The expectations were we would finally get a clean trip at that distance. He’s never had a clean trip around two turns.”

I’ve Struck a Nerve earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, which should be enough to earn him a spot in the field.

Withers Stakes at the Aqueduct, New York, NY.

While it was a race that happened earlier in February, it was still an important one because of who emerged the winner – Revolutionary, another horse from the Pletcher stable that’s expected to factor heavily at May’s Kentucky Derby.

Revolutionary split apart from Escapefromreality down the stretch to capture the Aqueduct crown, giving him 10 qualifying points to the Derby (which it looks like he’ll have no trouble qualifying for now.)

Revolutionary now joins the likes of Shanghai Bobby, Violence, Verrazano and Overanalyze as Pletcher horses that you can expect to see in May.

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.

Post Navigation