Kentucky Derby contender profile: Field Pass

March 17th, 2020

Field Pass has come a long way since he sold for a mere $37,000 as a yearling, but the biggest hurdle still awaits, should his connections choose to target the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1).

Bred in Maryland by Mark Brown Grier, Field Pass wasn’t in great demand as a youngster. As a son of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Lemon Drop Kid, out of the Florida-bred turf sprinter Only Me (a daughter of Canadian champion Runaway Groom), Field Pass boasts a solid pedigree, though not one with great commercial appeal — hence his modest purchase price.

But under the care of trainer Mike Maker, Field Pass has proven to be a major success for owner Three Diamonds Farm. As a juvenile Field Pass showed plenty of promise on turf, where he broke his maiden against future Grade 1 winner Decorated Invader, before he hit the board in the With Anticipation (G3), Laurel Futurity, and Bourbon (G3).

Field Pass returned better than ever in his 3-year-old debut, when he rallied tenaciously between rivals to secure a narrow victory in the Dania Beach S. going a mile on grass at Gulfstream Park. This set the stage for a switch to Polytrack for the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), a 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race that awards 20 qualification points to the winner.

Bettors didn’t exactly rush to the windows to wager on Field Pass. Instead they favored the locally based stakes winner Invader. But despite racing wide every step of the way, Field Pass produced an unwavering challenge in the final furlong to wear down the favorite and prevail by a neck in 1:49.34.

We know Field Pass has talent, and we know he has the determination to fight for victory in close battles. But if he’s going to contest the Kentucky Derby, he’ll have to transfer his abilities to dirt, and that could be a big question mark.

Although Field Pass has the pedigree to excel on dirt, his lone start over the surface yielded a disappointing sixth-place finish in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs last fall. His connections didn’t press the issue and promptly returned Field Pass to grass. They also didn't nominate the gray colt to the Triple Crown.

But with his victory in the Jeff Ruby, Field Pass has emerged as an unexpected player on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Should his connections reevaluate, supplement him to the Triple Crown, and take aim at the Kentucky Derby, handicappers will have to ponder whether Field Pass’ no-show at Churchill Downs last year was a fluke or a sign of disdain for dirt.

The answer will be the key to his Derby fate.