Kentucky Derby and Oaks Roundup: Mar. 1, 2021

March 1st, 2021

A pair of exciting Kentucky Derby contenders delivered on expectations in major prep races last weekend, cementing their credentials as major players for the first Saturday in May.

But favorites didn’t fare quite so well on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, with a champion falling to defeat in her sophomore debut.

Let’s review all the latest news and notes from the Derby and Oaks trails:

Changes on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard

We have a new leader! On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Holy Bull (G3) winner Greatest Honour unleashed his trademark late rally to claim the Fountain of Youth (G2) by 1 1/2 lengths, in the process ascending to the top of the leaderboard with 60 qualification points.

RELATED: Greatest Honour, Mandaloun top Derby leaderboard as March preps loom

Greatest Honour didn’t seem to be making much progress around the far turn, but down the lane he kicked on resolutely, gaining five lengths in the final furlong alone to reel in pacesetter Drain the Clock. The latter picked up 20 points for his runner-up effort, but the speedy colt isn’t nominated to the Triple Crown and will return to sprinting rather than remain on the Derby trail.

Meanwhile, Papetu improved from fourth in the Holy Bull to third in the Fountain of Youth, sufficient to settle in 12th place on the leaderboard with 11 points.

The other eye-catching winner of the weekend was champion two-year-old Essential Quality, who capitalized on a perfect ride from Luis Saez to dominate Oaklawn Park’s Southwest (G3) in his sophomore debut. Breaking from the rail, Essential Quality dropped back early on, shifted to the outside over a sloppy track, and steadily advanced to reach contention on the final turn. From there, the race was over, as Essential Quality asserted his dominance to score by 4 1/4 lengths.

Trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality is now undefeated in four starts. With 40 qualification points, he ranks third on the leaderboard, well clear of distant Southwest runner-up Spielberg (seventh place, 17 points). Two-time Grade 1 winner Jackie’s Warrior set the pace in the Southwest before fading to finish third; he now sits with 14 points, good for eighth place in the rankings.

Sitting just outside the Top 20 is Hush of a Storm, who rallied to victory in the John Battaglia Memorial on Friday at Turfway Park. The Bill Morey trainee is now 3-for-3 over the Turfway Tapeta and looms as a major threat to win the Mar. 27 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), which will award qualification points to the top four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 basis.

One name unfortunately removed from Kentucky Derby consideration is Senor Buscador, stretch-running winner of the Remington Springboard Mile. He’ll be given time off after suffering a ligament strain during a Friday workout.

Recent Maiden and Allowance Winners

Greatest Honour is the early favorite for the Mar. 27 Florida Derby (G1), but he won’t be a lock to win the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park fixture. Collaboration was a stunning debut winner on Saturday at Gulfstream, winning a one-mile heat by 12 1/2 lengths, and trainer Saffie Joseph has indicated the Florida Derby could be next on the agenda.

RELATED: Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Collaborate joins the scene with blowout victory

The Florida Derby is also a possible target for Known Agenda, who crushed a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on Friday at Gulfstream by 11 lengths. Previously third in the Remsen (G2) and fifth in the Sam F. Davis (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Known Agenda took a huge step forward with the addition of blinkers and appears to be blossoming at just the right moment for two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

On the Work Tab

Brooklyn Strong: The Remsen (G2) winner turned in his first workout of the year on Friday at Parx, handily clocking three furlongs in:36.89.

Caddo River: Sped five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Candy Man Rocket: Wrapped up his preparations for the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) with a bullet half mile in :48.60 on Sunday at Payson Park.

Capo Kane: Went five furlongs in 1:00.21 on Friday at Parx.

Get Her Number: Clocked six furlongs in a sharp 1:13 on Thursday at the San Luis Rey Training Center.

Hidden Stash: Traveled five furlongs in 1:02.00 on Tuesday at Payson Park, the fastest of five morning workouts over the distance.

Hot Rod Charlie: Took a spin over the Santa Anita main track on Saturday, clocking five furlongs in 1:01.20.

Keepmeinmind: Returned to the work tab on Friday at Oaklawn after missing some training due to winter weather, traveling an easy five furlongs in 1:03.20 over a sloppy track.

Life Is Good: The early Derby favorite finalized his preparations for the San Felipe (G2) by clocking six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.20 on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Mandaloun: The Risen Star (G2) winner returned to the work tab with a half mile in :50 on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Medina Spirit: Blazed six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.20 on Saturday at Santa Anita, his final move before facing stablemate Life Is Good in the San Felipe (G2).

Midnight Bourbon: Breezed five furlongs in a snappy 1:00.60 on Monday at Fair Grounds.

Nova Rags: Clocked a deceptively quick half mile in :49.60 over the slow track at Payson Park on Sunday.

Overtook: The Withers (G3) runner-up has shipped south to Palm Beach Downs, where he cruised four furlongs in :50.09 on Friday.

Proxy: In his first workout since finishing second in the Risen Star (G2), Proxy blazed a bullet half mile in :47 on Friday at Fair Grounds.

Roman Centurian: Wrapped up his preparations for the San Felipe (G2) by working four furlongs in :48.20 on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Rombauer: Clocked a solid half mile in :48 on Friday at Santa Anita, his first timed exercise since winning the El Camino Real Derby.

Sittin On Go: Took a step toward the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) when working five furlongs in 1:01.69 on Saturday at Gulfstream.

Super Stock: Continues to train forwardly for his sophomore debut, traveling five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Monday at Fair Grounds.

The Great One: In his final move before contesting the San Felipe (G2), The Great One clocked six furlongs in 1:12.40 on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Road to the Kentucky Oaks

The Road to the Kentucky Oaks took a major twist on Saturday at Gulfstream when champion two-year-old filly Vequist was eased to a ninth-place finish in the Davona Dale (G2). In the meantime, Wholebodemeister sprung a 52-1 upset, leading most of the way to trounce her rivals by 6 1/2 lengths.

Previously third in the Forward Gal (G3), Wholebodemeister has ascended to second place on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 52 points. Distant Davona Dale runner-up Crazy Beautiful is up to fourth place with 28 points, but Davona Dale superfecta finishers Competitive Speed (10 points) and Pens Street (5 points) aren’t currently nominated to the Oaks and are thus ineligible for ranking.

The same goes for Wait for Nairobi (10 points), who rallied to a two-length score in the Cincinatti Trophy S. at Turfway Park on Friday. In fact, the top four finishers from the Cincinnati Trophy aren’t currently nominated to the Oaks, though it’s possible they could be supplemented later on.

Looking Ahead

No fewer than seven Kentucky Derby and Oaks preps are slated to take place around the world next week. Here’s a rundown of all the action:

Derby preps

  • Wednesday, Mar. 3: Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition S. (20-8-4-2): The European Road to the Kentucky Derby resumes with this one-mile event over the synthetic track at Kempton Park. Seven horses have been entered, led by Godolphin’s flashy Kempton maiden winner Highland Avenue.
  • Friday, Mar. 5: Patton S. (20-8-4-2): Dundalk will also get in on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby action with the running of the Patton. Final entries for this one-mile test have yet to be drawn, though Messidor—2-for-2 over the synthetic track at Dundalk—will be formidable if he runs.
  • Saturday, Mar. 6: San Felipe (G2, 50-20-10-5): Life Is Good, Medina Spirit, Roman Centurian, and The Great One are among the major names taking aim at Santa Anita’s penultimate Derby prep.
  • Saturday, Mar. 6: Gotham (G3, 50-20-10-5): Impressive Nyquist S. winner Highly Motivated will make his sophomore debut against Bob Baffert’s San Vicente (G2) runner-up Freedom Fighter in this one-turn mile at Aqueduct.
  • Saturday, Mar. 6: Tampa Bay Derby (G2, 50-20-10-5): Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Candy Man Rocket will attempt to maintain his supremacy at Tampa Bay Downs while squaring off against Iroquois (G3) winner Sittin On Go and a few promising maiden winners.

Oaks preps

  • Saturday, Mar. 6: Busher S. (50-20-10-5): Busanda S. winner The Grass Is Blue is the big name set to race one mile at Aqueduct, though up-and-coming Ruthless S. winner Miss Brazil could potentially give her a tussle.
  • Saturday, Mar. 6: Honeybee (G3, 50-20-10-5): Eight fillies have been entered to race 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn, including recent Martha Washington S. 1-2 finishers Will’s Secret and Coach.

Enjoy the racing!