Prep Races Could Clear Up 2020 Kentucky Derby Field – Or Not

March 6, 2020

So far, this year’s Kentucky Derby contenders have been a little disappointing. It seems no horse wants to step up and take command of the situation. We’re about two months away from the Run for the Roses, and aside from Tiz the Law and the recent rout by Ete Indien in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, no one seems to be consistently outperforming the field in their respective races.

We’ve seen Dennis’ Moment, Independence Hall, Storm the Court and Gouverneur Morris all falter along the way, and although there’s nothing stopping them from regaining their earlier form and riding a wave to victory in May, we all want to be wowed by a colt who takes command in every race – the way Justify and Barbaro did it.

But even the best ones fail sometimes. Secretariat lost the Wood Memorial to Angle Light, finishing third, raising doubts about his chances to win the Derby. We all know what happened after that.  This weekend, three Derby prep races will be run – the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, and the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. And we should know a little more about the Kentucky Derby Field. Or not.

Let’s take the Gotham Stakes. The last Derby winner to take this race was…Secretariat. Since then, we’ve seen the likes of J Boys Echo, Cowtown Cat and Smokin Mel win the Gotham. 
Yes, Easy Goer won the race, but he ran into a brick wall in Sunday Silence and was granted immortality only because of the fierce rivalry with his foe. Hansen and I Want Revenge were standout colts, but not when it came to the first Saturday in May.

There’s the Tampa Bay Derby. Ete Indian’s stablemate, Sole Volante, is expected to run in this race, and it may solidify him as a Derby favorite.
Street Sense won the Gotham in 2007, but the rest of the time the winner’s circle has been filled with the likes of Ring Weekend, Musket Man and Big Truck. Another notable colt to win the Tampa Bay Derby is Tapwrit, who won the 2017 Belmont Stakes.
Horses have fared better by running in the San Felipe Stakes, which will feature two Baffert trainees: Authentic and Thousand Words. 
Derby winners here include California Chrome, Fusaichi Pegasus, Sunday Silence, Affirmed and Determine. But you may have already forgotten such Derby hopefuls as Bolt d’Oro, Dortmund and A.P. Warrior.

All this is to say that a Derby hopeful may emerge this weekend, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t. There are still a few races to go, including the Florida Derby March 28 (won by Maximum Security and Nyquist, but also Hal’s Hope and Croeso) and the Wood Memorial April 4, won by Gallant Fox, Damascus and Seattle Slew (but also Bob and John, and Nobiz like Shobiz). Relax. We’ll know something May 2.

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