A pair of Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races took place last week, and the results couldn’t have been more different from a visual perspective. One produced a runaway winner, while the other ended with a dramatic photo finish.
Let’s look back on a busy week and review what transpired:
Changes on the Leaderboard
The Road to the Kentucky Derby action kicked off at Remington Park, where Senor Buscador made a great impression in the Remington Springboard Mile S. The stretch-running son of Mineshaft unleashed a powerful rally to win by 5 3/4 lengths, bringing his career record to a perfect 2-for-2.
Normally, Senor Buscador would have picked up 10 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. But under new rules put in place by Churchill Downs, the bay colt was ineligible to earn points since he competed with the benefit of race-day medication Lasix. These same rules also prevented Springboard Mile third-place and fourth-place runners Red N Wild and Saffa’s Day from earning 2 points and 1 point, respectively.
In the end, the only Springboard Mile participant to secure points was the distant runner-up Cowan. Previously second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), the Steve Asmussen trainee raced without Lasix and gained 4 points to debut in 10th place on the leaderboard.
In contrast, race-day Lasix was prohibited entirely in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) at Los Alamitos, allowing all available qualification points to be distributed. For a time, it appeared the unheralded maiden The Great One would steal the lion’s share of the prize, since the front-running 33-1 longshot held a two-length lead passing the eighth pole.
But in the final strides, the twice Grade 1-placed Spielberg managed to close the gap, prevailing by a nose to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his seventh consecutive victory in the 1 1/16-mile race. Having previously placed third in the American Pharoah (G1) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Spielberg now sits fourth on the leaderboard with 12 points.
The Great One, to his credit, outran all expectations to finish clearly second-best. The Doug O’Neill trainee debuted in 15th place on the leaderboard with 4 points, ahead of Los Alamitos Futurity superfecta finishers Petruchio (2 points, 18th place) and Red Flag (1 point, 21st place).
Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby Continues
The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby also took a twist last week with Wednesday’s running of the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki Racecourse. The undefeated Dualist entered the 1,600-meter race with a 3-for-3 resume and was favored to win, but he ultimately weakened to finish seventh as Alain Barows stole the show.
Although Alain Barows campaigns on Japan’s lower-level National Association of Racing (NAR) circuit, he was much the best while facing a handful of elite Japan Racing Association (JRA) rivals at Kawasaki. The exciting colt finished fast to score by five lengths, bringing his record to a perfect 5-for-5 while vaulting to the top of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 20 qualification points.
Zen Nippon Nisai Yushun runner-up Ranryo O slipped into third place on the leaderboard with 8 points, followed closely by third-place runner Luce d’Oro (4 points, fourth on the leaderboard) and fourth-place finisher Taisei Again (2 points, sixth place).
The next scheduled Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race is the Feb. 21 Hyacinth at Tokyo Racecourse, which will award 30 points to the winner.
Future Plans for Vequist
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Vequist looms as the early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and while the daughter of Nyquist is currently in the midst of a winter break, plans are already being formulated for her 2021 campaign.
Per the reporting of Bob Ehalt on Bloodhorse.com, trainer Butch Reid intends to point Vequist toward the Feb. 27 Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park, with the Mar. 27 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) slated to serve as her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks.
The Davona Dale awards 50 qualification points to the winner, while the Gulfstream Park Oaks doubles the prize to 100 points. Victory in either race would virtually guarantee Vequist a spot in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate.
The year is winding down, which means the Derby and Oaks trails will take a hiatus until January. The Road to the Kentucky Derby resumes on New Year’s Day with the running of the Jerome S. at Aqueduct, while the Road to the Kentucky Oaks returns with the Jan. 3 Santa Ynez (G2) at Santa Anita.
Enjoy the holidays! We’ll see you in 2021.