Recent Winners of Derby Prep Races – Part 1

As we mentioned in our guide on how to bet on the Kentucky Derby, the best predictor we have available is how the horses performed in their races leading up to the big one – preferably races that are also on dirt, and as close to 1 1/4 miles as possible.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the key races that our contenders have run. We’ll start with their juvenile performances; the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old was Apollo back in 1882, so these results are important. Keep in mind as well that juveniles usually start their careers at much shorter distances, building up from around five furlongs for a Maiden Special Weight victory to maybe seven furlongs, then a mile, and then a little bit longer.

We’ll also simplify things by looking specifically at the races that make up the Road to the Kentucky Derby – not including the first event, the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse in England. That race is one mile on turf and doesn’t really belong with the others.

September 29, 2012: Grade 1 $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes (1 1/16 Mile, Dirt, Santa Anita)

Power Broker was the first horse to pick up 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby – and earn automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November. In this race, formerly known as the Norfolk Stakes, Power Broker was the third favorite at 5-1 behind Know More (9-5) and Carving (9-2). Those two horses set the pace while Power Broker stalked in third; going into the stretch, Power Broker went past on the outside and won by a comfortable 6.5 lengths. Know More took second and Capo Bastone took third.

October 6, 2012: Grade 1 $400,000 Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (1 1/16 Mile, Synthetic, Keeneland)

This was another “Win and You’re In” prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and it was Joha taking that spot with a wire-to-wire victory as the 17-2 fifth choice. The pre-race favorite was Tizracer at 3-1, coming off an impressive 10-length victory at his maiden. Tizracer tried to keep up with Joha, but faded going into the stretch and finished 12th. Dynamic, the fourth choice going into this race at 15-2, put in a late rally but finished a length behind Joha in second. Java’s War took third place. The synthetic surface in this case was Polytrack.

October 6, 2012: Grade 1 $400,000 Champagne Stakes (1 Mile, Dirt, Belmont)

The next horse to qualify for the Juvenile was Shanghai Bobby, who extended his winning streak to 4-0 with a strong performance in a six-horse field that was dripping with quality. Shanghai Bobby went off as the 8-5 favorite; Archwarrior was the second choice at 3-1, followed by Goldencents at 7-2. All three horses had won their previous races before entering the Champagne Stakes. It was Goldencents taking the early lead, pressed by Shanghai Bobby until the stretch drive, when Shanghai Bobby eased into first and then took off to win by five lengths. Goldencents was second; Fortify was another length behind in third.

October 7, 2012: Grade 1 $200,000 Grey Stakes (1 1/16 Mile, Synthetic, Woodbine, Ontario)

Once again running on the Polytrack, the Grey Stakes produced the first major upset on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Uncaptured was the heavy 2-5 favorite in a field of only five horses, but it was River Seven taking the victory at 7-1 odds. Uncaptured’s jockey, Patrick Husbands, claimed a foul occurred during the race, but the result was upheld. This was Uncaptured’s first attempt at running anything longer than seven furlongs.

River Seven stalked behind the pace-setting Five Iron, then squeezed between Five Iron and Tesseron to win by 3/4 of a length. Tesseron came in second, followed by Indiano Jones and Five Iron, with Uncaptured bringing up the rear. It’s expected the Ontario-bred River Seven will be pointed at the Queen’s Plate rather than the Kentucky Derby.

November 3, 2012: Grade 1 $2-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (1 1/16 Mile, Dirt, Santa Anita)

This is easily the most important thoroughbred race on the calendar for 2-year-olds. Winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will vault you into the top tier of contenders for the Kentucky Derby, and that’s exactly what happened when Shanghai Bobby, the 6-5 pre-race favorite, picked up the victory in an epic battle with 20-1 long shot He’s Had Enough.

The early pace was set by Title Contender; Shanghai Bobby pressed, and then took the lead on the far turn. He’s Had Enough moved up from seventh and caught up to Shanghai Bobby at the eighth pole, but it was Shanghai Bobby holding off the challenge and winning by a head. Capo Bastone took third place in the field of nine horses. Power Broker, the second favorite at 5-2 after his win at the FrontRunner Stakes, had to settle for fifth place. Joha raced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Stakes instead and finished eighth.

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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