In the weeks since the final prep races there have been several developments along the Kentucky Derby trail. With the post position draw right around the corner, here are some of the key narratives surrounding the top horses in the field.
Kentucky Derby Defections
Defections are a part of the Derby every year. Many of these horses may have come out of their final preps with minor ailments or in need of a freshening. This requires connections to skip the Kentucky Derby in order to ensure the well-being of the equine athlete.
The other reason for defections is that reality starts to set in for connections who caught a case of “Derby Fever.”
Horses tend to be specialists and often the mile and a quarter on dirt turns out to be the wrong distance or surface for a lot of these horses. Early in the horse’s career, trainers and owners are hoping that their distance preferences are trumped by brilliance and they can win the most prestigious race in America.
However, after a grueling prep season, many of the connections now realize that their horse just isn’t a Derby horse and they start looking to races that better fit the horse’s natural preference.
Horses Out of the Derby
- Concert Tour: trained by Bob Baffert will not go to the Kentucky Derby. Baffert will instead train him up to the Preakness.
- Panadol: ran 2nd in the UAE Derby and was eligible for the starting gate at Churchill. His connections are citing insufficient travel resources for the defection.
- Weyburn: winner of the Gotham Stakes, will stay at home in New York and point to the Belmont Stakes.
- Crowded Trade: for trainer Chad Brown is pointing to the Preakness.
- Proxy: was underwhelming in the Lexington Stakes and his connections have ruled him out for the Derby.
- Rombauer: is another one choosing to head straight to the Preakness out of his final prep race.
New Additions to the Kentucky Derby
With a number of new defections some of the horses previously on the outside looking in, have a shot to get into the starting gate.
Horses Now Eligible for the Derby
- Hidden Stash: has had a solid prep season. He earned top 3 finishes in 2 of 3 prep races. In his last race, he was 4th behind Essential Quality, the likely Derby favorite. One advantage for this runner is that he won over the Churchill dirt.
- Dream Shake: comes out of the California circuit where he finished 3rd in two consecutive prep races. In both of those preps, Medina Spirit was 2nd.
- O Besos: ran behind several Derby contenders in the Louisiana preps. His late-running style makes him an interesting long shot if the pace gets really hot in the early parts of the race.
- Get Her Number: would have to take some big steps forward in order to win the Kentucky Derby. He has finished behind many of the probable runners on the Oaklawn trail to the Derby. However, horses at this age are capable of big jumps in ability from race to race.
Kentucky Derby Jockey Changes
A handicapping angle that people like to use is jockey preference. Jockeys and Trainers make money when their horses win. For this reason, Trainers are constantly seeking out the jockey they think gives them the best chance to win.
Jockeys are also constantly trying to get on the horses that give them the best chance to cash a check. This often means there can be a jockey musical chairs when it comes to these big races.
Horses with New Jockeys Since Their Last Start
- Joel Rosario: will be riding Rock Your World instead of Umberto Rispoli.
- Flavien Prat: will ride Hot Rod Charlie instead of Joel Rosario who is choosing Rock Your World.
- Julien Leparoux: will ride Helium instead of Jose Ferrer. Leparoux is a local jockey at Churchill and generally considered an upgrade from the previous rider.
- Tyler Gafflione: will ride Soup and Sandwich as John Velazquez sticks with Medina Spirit.
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