Instant Coffee fighting Two Phil’s for the win in the G3 Lecomte at the Fair Grounds. (Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.)
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Update: 15 Weeks To Go
By Maribeth Kalinich
The Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard shook up slightly from last week with Saturday’s Lecomte winner Gold Square LLC’s Instant Coffee garnering 20 points for his win and moving into the No. 2 spot with 32 total points. Patricia’s Hope LLC & Phillip Sagan’s Two Phil’s scored 8 points for second place. Don’t Tell My Wife Stables’ Confidence Game picked up 6 (No. 14, 7 pts). Fern Circle Stables LLC & Magdalena Racing’s homebred Denington (No. 12, 8 pts.) collected 4 points and OXO Equine LLC’s Bromley (No. 33, 2 pts), 2.
Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable’s Forte remains in the No. 1 spot. The Violence colt had a work for trainer Todd Pletcher on Saturday at Palm Beach Downs breezing three furlongs in 38.38. Forte’s next start is likely the G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park at 1 1/16 miles on February 4 but there is a slight chance he may go in the G3 Withers at Aqueduct at a 1 1/8 miles. The dark bay’s last start was his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4, 2022, at 1 1/16 miles.
At No. 3 through 10 are Curley Jack (17 points), Blazing Sevens (16), Jace’s Road (13), Victory Formation (10), Dubyuhnell (10), Practical Move (10), Lugan Night (10) and Two Phil’s (8).
Next weekend Oaklawn Park hosts the $750,000 Southwest (G3) Bourbon Bash and Saturday morning the Oaklawn racing department listed eight expected entrants. Lightly raced Protege will make his stakes and 2023 debut for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The other seven are: Corona Bolt (Brad Cox), El Tomate (Miguel Angel Silva), Frosted Departure (Kenny McPeek), Hit Show (Cox), Jace’s Road (Cox) and Sun Thunder (McPeek).
A Kentucky Derby prep race, the same points structure is in place—20 to the winner with 8, 6, 4 and 2 to the next four finishers, respectively. Post positions for the Southwest, Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races, will be drawn Monday.
February is a boon of points and exciting races with three on February 4th all with 20-8-6-4-2 points: the G3 Withers at Aqueduct, G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park and G3 Robert B. News at Santa Anita. February 11 is the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs (20-8-6-4-2) and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields (10-4-3-2-1).
The month wraps up with big points in the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds (50-20-15-10-5) on Feb. 18, the Hyacinth (30-12-9-6-3) on the Japan Road at Tokyo Racecourse on the 19th and the G2 Rebel (50-20-15-10-5) at Oaklawn Park.
European and Japan Roads
On the European Road, The Derby Condition Stakes will be held at Kempton in Great Britain March 1st for 20-8-6-4-2 points. March 3rd will be the Patton at Dundalk in Ireland for the same points system. In Chelmsford City in Great Britain March 30 is the Cardinal Conditions Stakes for 30-12-9-6-3 points.
The Fukuryu will wrap up the Japan Road at Nakayama on March 25th for 40-16-12-8-4 points.
How the Southwest will affect the Leaderboard and who has the best chance
With the formidable 2021 Belmont winner, Essential Quality, Brad Cox won the 2021 Southwest and sits on the Leaderboard with Instant Coffee, Jace’s Road, Victory Formation, and also, No. 16 Loggins, No. 17 Verifying and No. 19 Angel of Empire
Unbeaten Corona Bolt, among maybe a dozen Kentucky Derby prospects for Cox, will be making his two-turn debut in the Southwest. After breaking his maiden Nov. 19 at Churchill Downs, Corona Bolt scored a front-running 6 ¾-length victory in the $100,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at 6 furlongs Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds in his last start.
Jace’s Road was a front-running 5 ½-length winner of the $100,000 Gun Runner Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds in his last start. Frosted Departure won the inaugural $150,000 Renaissance Stakes at 6 furlongs Dec. 31 at Oaklawn to conclude a nine-race 2-year-old campaign. Sun Thunder, in his two-turn debut, broke his maiden by 6 ½ lengths Dec. 31 at Oaklawn.
Steve Asmussen, who has Gulfport sitting at No. 21 on the Leaderboard and Echo Again at No. 24, won the Southwest in 2002 with Private Emblem when it was split into two divisions and, again in 2014 with Tapiture and in 2020 with Silver Prospector. The event has been held in split divisions in 1972, 2002, and 2012.
Keith Desormeaux won the Southwest in 2018 with My Boy Jack with brother Kent Desormeaux in the irons. Keith is in No. 14 with Confidence Game.
Bob Baffert won his first Southwest in 2010 with Conveyance. Baffert won both divisions in 2012 with Secret Circle and Castaway. He won the following year with Super Ninety Nine. He also won last year with Newgrange but collected no points. If one of Baffert’s horses wins the Southwest this Saturday, there will again be no points collected due to the trainer’s two-year ban by CDI.
In fact, Baffert has had two horses win Derby Preps—Cave Rock the American Pharaoh and Reincarnate the Sham. Newgate, was second in the Sham. His stablemate National Treasure was third.
In the American Pharaoh, National Treasure was second followed by Baffert trainees Héjazi and Gandolfini. Instead of points behind each horse’s name there is a zero with an asterisk before.
With three more Derby preps at Baffert’s home track of Santa Anita and the Arkansas Derby coming up at Oaklawn it’s likely there will be at least one more Baffert horse not being awarded points they and their owners earned. Baffert won the Arkansas Derby four times with Bodemeister (2012), American Pharoah (2015), and the two divisions in 2020 where he won with Charlatan and Nadal.
There are also two horses that received zeros for running on Lasix—Wildatlanticstorm, first in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park, and Giant Mischief who finished second.
Other notable Southwest winners are:
• Secret Circle won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, the 2012 Southwest, and the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Dubai Golden Shaheen.
• Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones in 2004
• Great Notion in 2003, who has become an excellent stallion in Maryland (we’re pretty proud of that here.)
• Bold Ego who also won the Arkansas Derby in 1981 and finished second in the Preakness.