Owner Willis Horton and trainer D. Wayne Lukas are considering entering filly champion Take Charge Brandi in the March 14 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, the same race American Pharoah is expected to make his first start in since last September. Lukas told Mary Rampellini that the Kentucky Oaks is still Brandi’s goal, but Horton likes the idea of keeping her options open: “If we win the Rebel we get the 50 points for it, and it puts us in a position where we can either go to the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby.” And if she finishes second, she’ll get 20 points, which would likely put her on the bubble for a Kentucky Derby entry. The returning 2-year-old male champion looks formidable; he’s also been out with a foot injury. Add in the larger purse and that, aside from Pharoah, the Rebel is expected to draw “names that shouldn’t strike fear into the hearts of anyone,” starting Brandi in this race, instead of the Honeybee, looks like a pretty good (and sporting) move.
From what I’ve witnessed from my seat on the backbenches, Take Charge Brandi would seem better served going for the Honeybee rather than the more difficult Rebel hornets’ nest. If her connections ultimately choose the latter, though, it would probably be no less useful a prep for the Fantasy …
She has 40 points towards the Oaks — there’s really nothing for her to lose.
Mr. Z, another Lukas trainee, is one of the defectors from the Rebel Stakes after finishing third in the Southwest. He’ll start next instead in the March 28 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds. He’s also getting an equipment change:
— Justin Zayat (@JustinZayat) February 24, 2015
3/3/15 Update: She’s going in the Rebel, says Lukas.
Kentucky Derby preps moved into the 50-point round with the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and Risen Star at the Fair Grounds yesterday, and Itsaknockout and International Star both essentially secured places in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May with their respective wins. Charts, replays, speed figures, and the updated leaderboard are all available via the big Kentucky Derby prep schedule.
Itsaknockout was given a Beyer speed figure of 90 for the Fountain of Youth; he technically remains undefeated. Upstart, first to the wire, but disqualified and placed second for interfering in the stretch with the official winner, earned a Beyer of 95. Trainer Rick Violette called the stewards’ decision “very, very questionable,” and is considering sending Upstart to the Wood Memorial for his final prep, instead of starting him in the Florida Derby as planned.
For the Risen Star, International Star was given a 93 Beyer. He’s owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, yet not one of their many Kittens, being by 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. (A little note for Suffolk Downs players: He’s also a half-brother to a familiar name in the 2013-2014 entries — Jet Pack.)
Next weekend’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is the last race on the points schedule, but the 2014 Kentucky Derby prep season is essentially over. Dance With Fate, reportedly unlikely for the Derby, won the Blue Grass on Saturday with a Beyer speed figure of 97. The little-regarded Danza upset the Arkansas Derby, earning a Beyer of 102. At 41-1, the colt is now the highest-price winner from trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn in the past five years, according to DRF Formulator, taking over that distinction from last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner at 38-1, Princess of Sylmar. [I called Danza the highest-price Pletcher winner ever earlier, but that’s wrong: Forty Ninth Street, a 50-1 MSW winner at Belmont in 1997 (PDF), is. Thanks for the tip/correction to @o_crunk.]
Charts, replays, and Beyer speed figures for all the winners are in the big prep spreadsheet. Here are top 25 contenders by points:
For comparison, I included the top 25 by non-restricted graded stakes earnings, or, the pre-points scale for Kentucky Derby entry, in the chart above. There aren’t too many differences: Strong Mandate and Casiguapo (#30 and #37 in points) would be securely in on earnings, General a Rod and Medal Count would be on the bubble/AE list instead of Uncle Sigh and Vinceremos.
4/14/14 Addendum: Churchill Downs’ audited leaderboard (PDF).
Go back six years. Other than the experience factor (it’s hard to believe that California Chrome has run 10 times …), I see Big Brown all over again, a really good horse against a far less talented and inconsistent group.
The same thought has crossed my mind. For a refresher, here’s how the 2008 Kentucky Derby field stacked up, Beyer speed figure-wise, in their final two preps and then in the Derby (listed below in order of finish):
Big Brown’s double 106-106 stood out then, and stands out now, much as California Chrome’s 107-108 Beyers do this year:
For comparison, I included the TimeformUS figures for the last two races of the top eight Kentucky Derby points leaders. On that scale, California Chrome is not the topper to date, but his figures are both consistent and easily put him within range of the “typical” TimeformUS winning Derby figure of 115. If you were only handicapping the Derby with ratings, California Chrome looks like a worthy favorite whichever numbers you use. But Brian Nadeau has a few reasons for why you might want to consider some other factors.
Noble Moon gets 10 points towards the Kentucky Derby gate, moving him to #7 in the official standings, and a Beyer speed figure of 85 for winning the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday. The Malibu Moon colt may start next in the Withers on February 1. View the updated leaderboard, chart, and replay via the big 2014 Kentucky Derby prep schedule and results spreadsheet.