Kentucky Derby March Prep Races Recap

The month of March has been a busy one in terms of Kentucky Derby positioning. With the 2013 race having implemented a new points qualification system – races increase in point value as we draw closer to the May 4 run date – things have progressively gotten more and more intense as the 139th Run for the Roses draws near.

Let’s take a look at some of the big stakes and prep races from this past month.

Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, March 2

The big story from Gotham was the performance of Vyjack, who won his fourth-straight race thanks to a stunning late rally down the stretch. Perhaps even bigger than the win was Vyjack’s ability to overshadow pre-race favorite race horse Overanalyze – the Todd Pletcher-trained horse that many liked as a Derby contender heading into the race. Overanalyze finished fifth (in what was his debut race at the three-year-old level) which has since tempered expectations for both Pletcher and his horse heading into May.

As for Vyjack, he picked up a crucial 50 points to vault himself right near the top of the Derby leaderboard.

Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, March 9

This was the race in which Verrazano solidified his status as a major favorite for the ’13 Derby.

The betting favorite heading in (at 2/5), Verrazano passed Falling Sky at the half-mile mark and cruised to his third-straight victory.

Another of the prized horses from the Pletcher stable, Verrazano impressed many on the day, including Pletcher himself.

“He definitely showed us that he can overcome an early stumble and deal with a little dirt in his face,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We found out that he could travel well and handle two turns. All the things we were worried about he overcame them pretty well.”

Like Gotham, this too was a 50-point first-place finish for Derby seeding. As such, it was an important result for Verrazano, given there’s only a handful of 100-point firsts up for grabs in April. Verrazano’s in the driver’s seat for a good spot at the Derby.

Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, March 16

Oaklawn was the D. Wayne Lukas show.

The four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer captured the day as his horses finished first and second in the $600,000 race – Will Take Charge captured the crown, while Oxbow showed extremely well in a runner-up role.

The win put Will Take Charge atop the leaderboard with 60 points – he gained an additional 10 at the Smarty Jones back in January – though that status could change in the near future as some big April points stakes are still to be run.

Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, March 23

Black Onyx made his stakes debut a good one at Turfway, capturing the Spiral and earning 50 Derby points as a result.

It promises to be a brief debut, according to trainer Kelly Breen.

“He’s proven he’s a multi-talented horse,” Breen said immediately after the race. “He’s won on dirt, on turf, and now on Polytrack. The plan was – if he won – that we wouldn’t run again until the Derby. His next start will be the Derby.”

The 50 points should be more than enough to qualify Black Onyx for the Derby (as Breen alluded to), so it’ll be interesting to see what a limited body of stakes race work will do come May 4.

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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