Hit Show to Top 5, Forte Still First

February 14, 2023

Hit Show winning the Withers at Aqueduct. (NYRA/Adam Coglianese)

Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Update

By Maribeth Kalinich

With the Withers scheduled at Aqueduct postponed until Feb. 11 due to extreme cold in New York, there was just a little movement on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard over the weekend of Feb. 4th and 5th. The following weekend things shook up a bit more with several contenders moving into the Top 5.

Who’s New?

With a big win in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park worth 20 qualifying points, Frank Fletcher’s Rocket Can shot to No. 3 on the leaderboard for trainer Bill Mott. 

Peach Tree Stables’ Shadow Dragon, who finished second in the Holy Bull moved into No. 17 with eight points. 

Gentry Farms’ West Coast Cowboy sauntered on up into No. 23 with his six points for third in the Holy Bull and Legacy Isle, owned by Daniel L. Walters, Dennis G. Smith, Anthony Smith and Rohan Crichton, took his four points to No. 29.

Contested this past Saturday, the Withers kicked several horses up with points as Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show earned 10 points and moved up to the No. 4 spot.

With a second in the Withers and 8 points, Chester Broman and Mary Browman’s Arctic Arrogance moved into No. 8. With a total of 16 points the colt collected 4 points each placing second in the Jerome and second the Remsen. 

Seacoast Thoroughbreds of N. E.’s General Banker, by top New York sire Central Banker, received 6 points for third in the Withers moving him up to No. 15 with 9 total points, three from a previous third in the Jerome. 

In fourth in the Withers Mr. Amore Stables’ Andiamo a Firenze with 4 points moved up to No. 20 while Prove Right earned 2 points for his fifth but is not an early Triple Crown nominee.

On the other coast, the California Derby prep at Santa Anita saw a short field and one trainer. Bob Baffert’s Newgate, who is actually out due to injury, Hard To FigureWorcester and Arabian Lion finished first through fourth with no additional challengers in the GIII Robert B. Lewis. However, this race had no impact on the Leaderboard due to the Hall of Fame trainer’s two-year ban from participating in the Derby. 

Centennial Farms’ Litigate jumped to No. 5 with 20 points scoring a win in the Sam F. Davis. The 3-year-old bay sired by Blame out of Mineshaft mare Salsa Diavola has two wins and a second from three starts.

Collecting 8 points for a second in the Sam F. Davis, Godolphin’s Groveland is wedged between Nos. 18 and 19 but not currently Triple Crown nominated so not officially on the Derby leaderboard. 

With a third and a fourth, respectively, Gary Barber’s Classic Car Wash scored 6 points and the No. 24 spot with Bruce Lumsford’s Classic Legacy hitting No. 32 with 4 points. Zydeceaux earned 2 points for fifth place but is not an early Triple Crown nominee. 

Tucked in between Nos. 14 and 15 Adam Ference and Bill Dory’s Chase The Chaos was the victor in the El Camino Real Derby scoring 10 Derby qualifying points and an automatic berth in the Preakness Stakes. However, he is not Triple Crown nominated at this point and will need to be supplemented in. 

Gilmore took second in the El Camino Real Derby and earned 4 points which would put him at No. 32 with $20,000 on non-restricted stakes earnings. However, the colt is currently trained by Bob Baffert who is banned from competing in the 2023 Kentucky Derby. 

Completing the order of finish in the El Camino Derby Jerome S. Moss’ Harcyn earned 3 points and Larry D. Williams and Marianne Williams’ Passarando 2 points, but neither are Triple Crown nominated. Nullarbor earned 1 point and is a Triple Crown nominee but not in the Leaderboard top 40. 

Currently there are 14 horses that have earned qualifying Derby points but are not Triple Crown nominated.

Forte Winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

Who’s There and Where’re They Going? The Top 25

Forte, No. 1 on the Leaderboard for some time with 40 points, had an unhurried work Saturday for trainer Todd Pletcher. The Violence colt breeze five furlongs in 1:03.48 at Palm Beach Downs. My best guess is Pletcher is tuning him up for a start in the G2 Rebel at Oaklawn on Feb. 25 at 1 1/16 miles. 

Having won his last three starts in Hopeful, Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and BC Juvenile, all Grade 1’s, the latter two were at 1 1/6 miles.

With the exception of missing third in the Sanford by a head to Andiamo a Firenze, Forte is unbeaten.

Pletcher also has Litigate standing at No. 5 with 20 points. 

Two-time Eclipse-winning trainer Brad Cox has three in the top ten with No. 2 Gold Square LLC’s Instant Coffee (32 points), newcomer No. 4 Hit Show and No. 9 West Point Thoroughbred’s Jace’s Road (15 points). All have raced recently for their points. 

Cox does have a notable starter in the upcoming Risen Star. Spendthrift Farms and Frank Fletcher’s Victory Formation is unbeaten in there starts his last win was in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Jan. 1 that put him at No. 11 with 10 points on the leaderboard.

The Tapwrit colt had two February works, the last Saturday. He breezed five furlongs and did both in 1:00.40. Consistent.

Out of the Smart Strike mare Smart N Soft, the bay colt will break from post position 13 under Flavien Prat. 

Cox has two additional entries in the Risen Star in Angel of Empire and Tapit’s Conquest

Albaugh Family Stables’ Angel of Empire finished second in the Smarty Jones and is No. 28 on the leaderboard with 4 points. A win in the Risen Star would shoot him to the top. 

The Empire Maker colt breaks from post 6 with Luis Saez getting the leg up.

Don’t discount this colt. His last works in February were impressive including Sunday. He breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 for both. Again, consistent.  

Robert LaPenta, e Five Racing and Madaket Stables’ Tapit’s Conquest will be stepping way up not only into stakes company but unrestricted graded stakes company. In his last start at the Fair Grounds Jan. 21, he lost in an AOC by a neck to Determinedly, who he meets again next Saturday. He also faced Silver Heist who placed third in the same race. 

Winning his second outing by 3 1/2 lengths he missed his debut start by 1/2 a length. This colt is willing. Tapit’s Conquest breaks from post 8 under Florent Geroux.

Curly Jack had a work for trainer Tom Amos at the Fair Grounds Saturday. He breezed four furlongs in 48.60. The Good Magic colt worked a bullet on Feb. 2 breezing five furlongs in 59.80.

Out of Roman Ruler mare Connie and Michael, Curly Jack is entered in the Risen Star Feb. 18 at the Fair Grounds. He breaks from post 9 under Edgar Morales. 

Winner on debut, a second the Ellis Park Juvenile and victory in the G3 Iroquois, Curly Jack was a close second in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 26, 2022. 

Patricia’s Hope LLC and Phillip Sagan’s homebred Two Phil’s is also entered in the Risen Star and sits at No. 16 on the leaderboard with 8 points. 

The Hard Spun colt earned Black Type in the Shakopee Juvenile Stakes and won the G3 Street Sense at Churchill Downs Oct. 30, 2022. Two Phil’s was second in his last start in the Lecomte at the Fair Grounds. 

Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard 

Bold = Update from previously published Leaderboard. … + = Not an early Triple Crown nominee. 

What’s Next

Next weekend we begin the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series of all graded stakes offering the BIG points. Although, February will go out like a lamb with only one prep race per weekend. But they’re good ones and the current leaders on the board should be coming up to the barrier.

Feb. 18 is the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds named for Secretariat’s double classic winning son. At 1 1/8 miles the race offers $400,000 and a 50-20-15-10-5 point structure. 

The following weekend, Feb. 25, is the $1 million G2 Rebel at Oaklawn. A touch shorter at 1 1/16 miles the race also offers the same point structure with 50 points going to the victor. 

Kicking off March 4 is the G3 Gotham, G2 San Filipe and G2 Fountain of Youth, and on March 11, the G2 Tampa Bay Derby; the Gotham with a $300,000 purse, the others $400,000 purses and the same 50-20-15-10-5 point structure for all. This is when we will start to see the stronger contenders emerge on the leaderboard.

The Field for the G2 Risen Star

Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series by Date, Race, Racetrack, Grade and Purse Distance

= Race dates and distances to be announced by host track; date based on recent historical placement. … Schedule subject to change. … (AW) = Synthetic. 

On the European Road …

On the Japan Road …

Very well done piece by The King, John Stettin twitter.com/jonathanstetti…

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