February began on an exciting note as far as the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks are concerned. A bevy of new names joined the leaderboards with impressive prep race performances, while established stars continue to train forwardly for high-profile races later in the month.

Let’s catch up on all the latest news and notes:

Changes on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard

Two new names rose to prominence on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard last week. The stretch-running Risk Taking was the first to strike, rallying boldly to dominate the 1 1/8-mile Withers (G3) at Aqueduct by 3 3/4 lengths. A stoutly bred son of Medaglia d’Oro, Risk Taking is now 2-for-2 running long on dirt for trainer Chad Brown. By prevailing in his stakes debut, Risk Taking picked up 10 Kentucky Derby qualification points, debuting in 11th place on the leaderboard.

Candy Man Rocket also secured 10 points by virtue of a pace-tracking victory in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. The winner of two straight for Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, the son of Candy Ride flaunts excellent tactical speed and currently ranks 12th on the leaderboard.

Sam F. Davis runner-up Nova Rags also managed to crack the Top 20, slipping into 19th place with four points. Distant Withers runner-up Overtook likewise picked up four points, but a tiebreaking procedure based on earnings in non-restricted stakes races leaves the Todd Pletcher trainee in 22nd place.

Meanwhile, Capo Kane struggled a bit in the Withers. Previously a runaway winner of the Jerome S. on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Capo Kane employed his usual front-running tactics, but faded in the final furlong to finish a distant third. With 12 points to his credit, Capo Kane still ranks high on the leaderboard in seventh place, but he’ll need improvement to remain a player as the waters get deeper.

Recent Maiden Winners

Dream Shake turned heads with an impressive debut performance at Santa Anita on Sunday, but three maiden winners from the barn of Todd Pletcher also caught our attention last weekend. If you haven’t yet heard the names Democracy, Promise Keeper, and Unbridled Honor, then check out our latest Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch and get up to speed.

On the Work Tab

Caddo River: Took a step toward the Mar. 13 Rebel (G2) when breezing four furlongs in :50.60 on Friday at Oaklawn Park. It was his first timed workout since dominating the Jan. 22 Smarty Jones S.

Cowan: Aiming for a possible start in the Saudi Derby, Cowan swiftly breezed five furlongs in 1:00.00 on Sunday at Fair Grounds.

Essential Quality: In his final workout prior to the Southwest (G3), last year’s two-year-old champion traveled five furlongs in a quick 1:00.60 on Sunday at Fair Grounds.

Get Her Number: Cruised through an easy half mile in :50.40 on Wednesday at the San Luis Rey Training Center.

Jackie’s Warrior: Fired off a fast workout on Monday at Fair Grounds, clocking five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.80 to complete his preparations for the Southwest.

Keepmeinmind: Tackled a good track at Oaklawn Park on Monday and breezed a half-mile in :49.60, his final breeze prior to a start in the Risen Star (G2) or Southwest.

Life Is Good: The early Kentucky Derby favorite stepped up to six furlongs for his most recent workout, getting the distance in 1:12.00 on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Mandaloun: Took a serious step toward the Risen Star when blazing five furlongs in a bullet :59.80 over a good track at Fair Grounds on Saturday.

Midnight Bourbon: The possible favorite for the Risen Star breezed a modest half mile in :50.40 on Monday at Fair Grounds.

Proxy: Wrapped up his serious preparations for the Risen Star by speeding five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Friday at Fair Grounds.

Rombauer: Fired off a bullet workout on Saturday at Santa Anita, clocking five furlongs in a swift :59.40. The El Camino Real Derby is next on the agenda.

Senor Buscador: Worked a quick four furlongs in :48.20 on Thursday at Sam Houston, his final breeze prior to contesting the Risen Star.

Super Stock: Turned in his first workout of the year on Thursday at Fair Grounds, traveling half a mile in :52.80.

The Great One: Returned to the work tab with a half-mile in :49.40 on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Road to the Kentucky Oaks

One of the most visually impressive performances of the week came from Moonlight d’Oro, who unleashed a swift rally around the far turn of Santa Anita’s one-mile Las Virgenes (G3) to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths over Kalypso. A rapidly improving daughter of Medaglia d’Oro trained by Richard Mandella, Moonlight d’Oro is 2-for-2 since stretching out around two turns and has the pedigree to improve with maturity, stamping her as a major player on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

Moonlight d’Oro currently sits 10th on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 10 points, while Kalypso—previously victorious in the Santa Ynez (G2) and second in the Starlet (G1)—has advanced to third place with 18 points.

Also cracking the Top 14 cutoff was Mark Casse’s Curlin’s Catch, who brought her record on dirt to a perfect 2-for-2 with a decisive romp in the Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs. A daughter of Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare, Curlin’s Catch rallied professionally inside and between rivals to win the one-mile and 40-yard test by 4 1/2 lengths. Even longer distances should be well within reach for Curlin’s Catch, who sits exactly 14th on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 10 points.

Looking Ahead

If you thought last weekend was busy, check out the calendar for the upcoming three-day holiday weekend:

  • Saturday kicks off the Kentucky Derby Championship Series with the running of the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, a lucrative event awarding qualification points to the top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 basis. Entries for the 1 1/8-mile race have already been drawn, with Lecomte (G3) winner Midnight Bourbon and Remington Springboard Mile S. winner Senor Buscador leading the charge.
  • The Kentucky Oaks Championship Series will also begin on Saturday at Fair Grounds with the running of the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra (G2), which will award Kentucky Oaks qualification points on the same split as the Risen Star. Charlie’s Penny and Souper Sensational, who ran 1-2 in the Silverbulletday S. at Fair Grounds last month, are set to square off against the Golden Rod (G2) top two, Travel Column and Clairiere.
  • Meanwhile, there are still a few Kentucky Derby Prep Season races left to contest. First and foremost is the Southwest (G3) on Monday at Oaklawn Park, awarding points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 split. The 1 1/16-mile race will mark the seasonal debut for Essential Quality, the undefeated champion two-year-old male of 2020. He is likely to be joined in the entries by Champagne (G1) winner Jackie’s Warrior and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner Keepmeinmind, who is also cross-entered in the Risen Star.
  • Golden Gate Fields will also get in on the Road to the Kentucky Derby action with Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby. Held over 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic Tapeta course, the race offers points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the superfecta finishers. Last year’s American Pharoah (G1) runner-up Rombauer is among the expected starters.

Enjoy the racing!