The Kentucky Derby Championship Series – Part 3

Now that we’ve got those 50-point Kentucky Derby prep races out of the way, it’s time for the big horses to come out and play. The second leg of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series gets underway March 30; each of these races is worth 100 points for the victor, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth. Derby dreams will be realized and crushed by the time May rolls around.

It’s not just the points that increase on the second leg of the Championship Series. It’s also the money and the prestige. These seven races are among the most important events in thoroughbred racing, not just in North America, but anywhere in the world. The purses range from $750,000 to $2 million. That’ll buy a whole lot of curry combs.

If you want to bet on the Kentucky Derby, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to these seven races. With a little information, that’s money you could be putting into your pocket with a sharp bet.

March 30: Florida Derby (1 1/8 Mile, Dirt, Gulfstream Park)

Let’s start the bidding at $1 million. That’s the purse for the Grade 1 Florida Derby, the most important race of the season at Gulfstream Park. This race is held every year on the Saturday closest to the end of March/beginning of April. Historians, take note: this is not to be confused with the Florida Derby that ran from 1926 to 1937 before changing its name to the Flamingo Stakes. The new Florida Derby started in 1952 and has seen 12 winners go on to take first place at the Kentucky Derby. Here’s the list:

2008: Big Brown
2006: Barbaro
2001: Monarchos
1995: Thunder Gulch
1990: Unbridled
1984: Swale
1979: Spectacular Bid
1968: Forward Pass
1964: Northern Dancer
1961: Carry Back
1958: Tim Tam
1956: Needles

That’s a pretty impressive collection. However, the past four years haven’t been quite as kind to Florida Derby winners. Last year was particularly bad, as Take Charge Indy suffered a bone chip in his left front ankle during the Kentucky Derby and finished 19th. He was stalking in fourth place at the time of the injury, so who knows what might have happened otherwise.

There’s a very good chance we’ll see yet another horse win the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby this year. Trainer Todd Pletcher has the undefeated Shanghai Bobby penciled in for all three Kentucky Derby prep races at Gulfstream Park, starting with the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on January 26 and moving on to the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 23. Bern Identity and Tulira Castle might join Shanghai Bobby at the Florida Derby.

March 30: UAE Derby (1 3/16 Mile, Synthetic, Meydan Racecourse)

What the UAE Derby lacks in tradition, it more than makes up for in money. The United Arab Emirates are one of the richest countries in the world, awash in oil revenues and populated mostly by foreign workers and assorted Western expats. Horses willing to make the trip to the beautiful Meydan Racecourse will be competing for a purse of $2 million.

They’ll also have to deal with the Tapeta Footing surface – jockeys refer to it as “sticky,” leaving the less powerful horses sapped of energy as the finish line approaches. That line takes a while to reach; the UAE Derby is the only 1 3/16 mile race (9.5 furlongs) on the entire Road to the Kentucky Derby. That’s just half a furlong shorter than the Run for the Roses. We’ll soon see who has the stamina to compete at these distances.

The first UAE Derby was held in 2000 at the old Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, which was rebuilt and reopened in 2010 as Meydan Racecourse. The race earned Grade 2 status in 2002 and has been run at various distances over the years, settling on its current distance when Meydan first opened. We have yet to see a UAE Derby champion go on to win the Kentucky Derby; it’s only been very recently that the Emirates were considered a viable destination for Kentucky Derby contenders. Daddy Long Legs won the 2012 UAE Derby before pulling up and finishing last at the Run for the Roses.

We suspect the 2013 field will be much stronger. UAE-based Godolphin Racing, which has produced seven of the 13 UAE Derby champions, is expected to return this year with Fortify. Among the reported possible entrants joining him, in alphabetical order, are Artigiano, Ayaar, Battle Of Marengo, First Cornerstone, Lines Of Battle and Snowboarder.

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