Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks roundup: April 5, 2021

April 5th, 2021

Did you know the Kentucky Derby (G1) is just 26 days away? Given the way time flies when we’re having fun, the “Run for the Roses” will be here before we know it.

Our proximity to the first Saturday in May is evident by the red-hot action on the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks (G1) trails. A total of nine qualifying races took place last week, which produced a ton of news and notes. We’ll endeavor to recount all the developments with something resembling brevity.

Changes on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard

Three major Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races took place last week, with the results ranging from expected to shocking. Here’s what transpired from coast to coast.

  • Essential Quality (140 points, first place) cemented his status as the Kentucky Derby favorite with a gritty victory in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2). After he tracked a slow pace, the undefeated champion two year old wore down Highly Motivated (50 points, 14th) to prevail by a neck. Rombauer (34 points, 21st) finished another 5 1/2 lengths back, in third position, followed distantly by Hidden Stash (32 points, 23rd).
  • In the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Rock Your World (100 points, sixth place) led all the way to dominate in his graded stakes debut. The switch from turf to the Santa Anita dirt proved to be no obstacle for the undefeated son of Candy Ride, who defeated Medina Spirit (74 points, ninth) by 4 1/4 lengths.
  • The Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct produced a stunning upset, as Todd Pletcher’s Bourbonic (100 points, seventh place) came flying from out of the clouds to defeat stablemate Dynamic One (40 points, 18th) by a head at odds of 72-1. Crowded Trade (40 points, 19th) and Weyburn (60 points, 11th) completed the superfecta, but neither could match strides with the top pair down the lane.

The cutoff for qualifying stands at 40 points, which is the total accumulated by No. 20-ranked Sainthood. But two prep races are still to be run, and several horses ranked in the top 20 are doubtful to start in the Run for the Roses, which opens the door for bubble horses to sneak into the field.

European Road to the Kentucky Derby

The European Road to the Kentucky Derby wrapped up with a tenacious score by Fundamental in the Cardinal Condition S. at Chelmsford City, which vaulted him to the top of the local leaderboard, with 30 qualification points. But Fundamental is not a Triple Crown nominee, and Churchill Downs has indicated no horses from the European Road to the Kentucky Derby will take aim at the Kentucky Derby.

On the work tab

Caddo River

He wrapped up his preparations for the Arkansas Derby (G1) with a  five-furlong work in 1:00.20 Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

Concert Tour

The Arkansas Derby favorite sped six furlongs in a snappy 1:12.80 Saturday at Santa Anita.


He cruised five furlongs in 1:01.40 Saturday at Palm Meadows Training Center.

Hot Rod Charlie

The Louisiana Derby (G2) winner got back on the work tab with a modest half-mile in :49.40 Saturday at Santa Anita.


He blazed four furlongs in a bullet :46.60 Saturday at Santa Anita, his final move before the Arkansas Derby.


He arrived at Churchill Downs and breezed a half-mile in :49.80 Saturday, his first workout since a sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby.

Midnight Bourbon

He turned in his first pre-Derby workout at Churchill Downs, where he traveled five furlongs in 1:01.20 Sunday.

O Besos

He breezed a half-mile in :49 Monday at Churchill Downs.


After he disappeared from the Palm Beach Downs work tab for a month, the Withers (G3) runner-up returned to training with an easy half mile in :50.05 Saturday.


He rocketed a bullet half-mile in :46.80 Sunday at Keeneland.

Road to the Kentucky Oaks

The Kentucky Oaks trail wrapped up with a flurry of prep races last week. Five qualifying events were held from April 2-3, which had a significant impact on the leaderboard rankings.

Here’s where things stand with less than four weeks until the Oaks.

  • Search Results (150 points) sits atop the leaderboard, after she kept her unbeaten record intact with a confident 2 3/4-length victory in the Gazelle (G3) at Aqueduct. Runner-up Maracuja (40 points) is not nominated to the Kentucky Oaks and sits on the bubble for qualifying purposes, along with Gazelle superfecta finishers Army Wife (20 points, 20th) and The Grass Is Blue (30 points, 14th).
  • Pauline’s Pearl (120 points) has ascended to fourth place, after she battled to victory in the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn. Her one-length score over Ava’s Grace (40 points, 12th) has cemented her status as a key player for the Oaks. Coach (26 points, 16th) was beaten less than two lengths in third, but may lack the points to qualify.
  • Demoiselle (G2) winner Malathaat (110 points, fifth place) returned from a long layoff to win Keeneland’s Ashland (G1) with a spectacular late rally. The beautifully bred daughter of Curlin gained two lengths through the final furlong to catch Pass the Champagne (40 points, 13th) by a head, with Honeybee (G3) winner Will’s Secret (80 points, eighth) 5 1/4 lengths back in third.
  • A perfect ground-saving ride from Flavien Prat carried Soothsay (100 points) to an upset victory in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2). Soothsay defeated Santa Ysabel (G3) winner Beautiful Gift (90 points, seventh place) by a half-length, but she is not nominated to the Oaks. Moraz (42 points, 11th) settled for third place, 5 1/4 lengths behind Beautiful Gift.
  • Lastly, Twenty Carat (10 points) joined the Kentucky Oaks picture with a sharp victory in the Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland, though she is not an Oaks nominee and would need a large number of qualifiers to withdraw to compete.

Looking ahead

Only two Kentucky Derby prep races remain, and both will take place Saturday.

At Oaklawn Park, the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby is the final top-tier qualifier on the agenda, and it will award qualification points on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the top four finishers. Runaway Rebel (G2) winner Concert Tour is the expected favorite, with American Pharoah (G1) winner Get Her Number, Rebel runner-up Hozier, and Smarty Jones S. winner Caddo River among the other expected starters.

At Keeneland, the 1 1/16-mile Lexington (G3) awards 34 qualification points, on a 20-8-4-2 split, to the top four finishers. The prospective field includes Street Sense S. winner King Fury, Turf Paradise Derby victor It’s My House, and Swale (G3) third-place finisher Ultimate Badger.

Enjoy the racing!