Thanksgiving week was a busy one on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. While the most significant action took place on track at Churchill Downs, the closing of future wager pools and updates to prep race schedules were other noteworthy developments.
Let’s recap all the news in our latest Kentucky Derby and Oaks roundup:
Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Changes
After placing in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Keepmeinmind secured a breakthrough victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs last Saturday. Producing a big rally from off the pace, Keepmeinmind prevailed by three-quarters of a length in the 1 1/16-mile fixture, earning 10 Kentucky Derby qualification points.
With 22 points total, Keepmeinmind heads into winter ranked second on the leaderboard behind Essential Quality (30 points). Debuting on the leaderboard were Kentucky Jockey Club 2-3-4 four finishers Smiley Sobotka (4 points, 11th place), Arabian Prince (2 points, 13th place), and Swill (1 point, 18th place).
Churchill Downs also played host to the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod (G2), a Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep race worth 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers. Travel Column (12 points, 5th place), Clairiere (4 points, 9th place), and Coach (2 points, 10th place) swept the top three spots while Alcibiades (G1) winner Simply Ravishing (13 points, 4th place) weakened to finish fourth as the 7-10 favorite.
Updates to the Road to the Kentucky Derby Schedule
The complete Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race schedule was released on Sunday, and a few notable changes are on the horizon. The 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial S. at Turfway Park has been added to the agenda, awarding points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers. The Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway has also received a boost, with its valuation quintupling from 20-8-4-2 in 2020 to 100-40-20-10 for 2021.
In another departure from previous years, race day medication will play a role in the distribution of qualification points. According to a press release from Churchill Downs, “The 2021 Kentucky Derby will mark the first year the classic race will be run without the permitted use of Furosemide (often referred to by the brand name, Lasix). In a change this year, points will only be awarded to horses who compete on race day without Lasix in Road to the Kentucky Derby races.”
The same rules will apply to the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, which likewise gained a new race this year. The 6 1/2-furlong Cincinnati Trophy at Turfway Park will distribute points on a 10-4-2-1 basis.
Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pools Close
Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 closed on Sunday with the “All Other 3-Year-Old Males” option unsurprisingly favored at 6-5. A more unexpected development was the emergence of dominant Del Mar debut winner Life Is Good as the 5-1 individual favorite, beating out the undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Essential Quality (8-1).
Although Life Is Good has only run once, bettors were clearly keen to support the talented bay colt, who is conditioned by six-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. They were equally keen to back Life Is Good’s sire Into Mischief in the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager, favoring the 15-year-old stallion at 4-1. Considering Into Mischief’s progeny (led by 2020 Kentucky Derby winner Authentic) have earned a record $21 million+ this season, it’s easy to understand his popularity.
Looking Ahead on the Road to the Kentucky Derby
The Road to the Kentucky Derby heads to Aqueduct this Saturday for the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2), in which Nashua (G3) 1-2 finishers Pickin’ Time and Ten for Ten are expected to vie for the winner’s share of 17 qualification points (split 10-4-2-1 among the top four finishers).
Also on the Aqueduct agenda is the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle (G2), a Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep race worth 10-4-2-1 to the superfecta players. Meanwhile, across the country, Los Alamitos will join the Road to the Kentucky Oaks fray with the Starlet (G1), a 1 1/16-mile event sharing the same valuation as the Demoiselle. The Starlet is expected to draw an exciting field highlighted by Del Mar Debutante (G1) winner Princess Noor and unbeaten Desi Arnaz S. winner Astute.