(WHAS11) -- The owners of Gemologist and I'll Have Another needed a big race to assure a spot in the Kentucky Derby field and they got it.
Both horses were on the graded earnings bubble with just one race left to make enough money to make the field. No problem.
WinStar rolled the dice and prepped Gemologist with a single allowance race and needed a first or second place in the Wood Memorial. Gemologist responded by remaining undefeated. He turned away Alpha in a stretch duel and won by a neck.
In California, there was another stretch duel with I'll Have Another beating Creative Cause by a nose. The time for the mile and an eighth at Santa Anita was 1:47:88. That was much faster then the New York race, but Aqueduct had been playing slow.
At the Santa Anita Derby, I'll Have Another, certainly marked himself as tough and fast. In New York, Gemologist got a Beyer speed figure of only 98, but he showed that Tiznow breeding that says "I'll run as fast as I have to, to win this race."
And speaking of speed, there was very little at the Illinois Derby.
Done Talking scored a mild upset at 12 to 1 but almost anybody in this race would have been an upset. Done Talking probably makes the Derby field with $300,000 in graded stakes money but with a winning time of 1:53.88, he seems more like a contender for last place than first.
So, the three weekend preps produced five starters for Derby 138, with two major prep races next weekend, the Arkansas Derby and the Bluegrass Stakes. There are still some very good horses on the fence. But not all of the horses in the graded earnings top twenty will try the Kentucky Derby.
Here's the Top Twenty with less than a month until they play my Old Kentucky Home.
1. Take Charge Indy
Took charge in the Florida Derby and his times hold up very nicely against the Santa Anita Derby. For trainers like Pat Byrne, it's hold your breath time, as they just try to get their horse to May 5th safely.
The big white horse gets his final prep in the Bluegrass Stakes on Saturday and all he needs is a solid race. The Bluegrass has become kind of quirky since the installation of Polytrack and upsets are common. Remember, Street Sense was nosed out at Keeneland but came back to win the Derby.
3. I'll Have Another
He now has two good races in a row and the son of Flower Alley may give the West Coast its best shot at a Kentucky Derby in years. And it's been a bit of a dry spell for Santa Anita and the Wood Memorial. Of 36 winners of the Wood and Santa Anita over the past 18 years only one has won the Derby. That winner was Fusaichi Pegasus.
4. Union Rags
With a third place in the Florida Derby, he went from everybody's favorite to under the radar. With trainer Michael Matz making adjustments and jockey Julien Leparoux determined to rebound from a bad trip, you might have a horse with a little bit of a price.
5. Creative Cause
He lost by a nose in the Santa Anita Derby and should only get better as the races get longer. Clearly a horse that could be wearing the roses.
He's undefeated. That's as good as it gets. When confronted by Alpha at the top of the stretch in the Wood, he simply dug in and won the race. He's a Tiznow, he's fresh and the Derby will be his third race off a winter of rest.
It's the Super Saver plan part two.
7. Secret Circle
Let's see what he does in the Arkansas Derby. If Secret Circle stretches out and wins again, you'll have to give him some serious consideration for the Derby. He is Bob Baffert's most accomplished horse. He won a Breeders' Cup Sprint. All he does is win.
8. Went The Day Well
Even with his Spiral Stakes win, he dropped seriously close to the bubble in grades stakes money. He now ranks 19th with $282,000 but there are several big money prep races still to come. He's not the only good horse on the bubble.
9. Daddy Nose Best
He may not be the best horse in the top ten but we know he's in the Derby field.
The Sunland Derby win gave him half a million dollars and his time at Sunland Park, 1:48:59, shows he can run with the best.
10. Daddy Long Legs
Which brings us to the age old question, can a horse run his last prep race in Dubai and win the Kentucky Derby? It's never worked before, but it looks like Tabor, Magnier and Smith will give it another shot. Aiden O'Brien trains a very good horse that will have to make a very long trip.
He showed enough in the Wood Memorial and won enough money to make the field. He was coming off a two month layoff and still finished second to Gemologist, so any improvement makes him a serious player.
It seems that Bob Baffert is sending his best Derby hopes to Arkansas this year. Bodemeister is the least experienced of the group but showed great potential in his last race. He almost needs to win the Arkansas Derby to make the trip to Louisville.
He was the second place horse in the Florida Derby, so that means he beat Union Rags and El Padrino. The Florida Derby might have been the best Derby prep this spring, but Reveron has just $220,000 in graded stakes money. That might not be enough this year.
14. Mark Valeski
Another horse on the earnings bubble is Mark Valeski, who had every chance to secure his spot, but stalled in second place at the Louisiana Derby. One thing that might encourage trainer Larry Jones, a number of horses who are higher on the money list might not run. We'll list those at the bottom of the story.
Optimizer also needs to hit the board in the Arkansas Derby to put D. Wayne Lukas back in the middle of the Derby paddock. The horse made a huge run in the Rebel Stakes to finish second, but he needs to do it again.
He was a surprise winner at Keeneland as a two year old and now hopes to repeat in the Bluegrass Stakes. He's made his money on grass and Polytrack but it's a similar trail that took Paddy O'Prado into the money at Churchill Downs.
He's in the field and already training at Churchill Downs. Check the entries this weekend to see if Mark Casse has decided to run Prospective in another prep race. The winner of the Tampa Bay Derby already has enough graded stakes money.
18. Done Talking
You win the Illinois Derby and it's a 5 hour van ride to Churchill Downs. But if your name isn't War Emblem, it might be a wasted trip. It appears that Done Talking beat a really pedestrian field of "last chance for the Derby" horses. He's a candidate for longest shot on the board.
19. El Padrino
I said last week, that this might be the best horse to miss the Derby. He's now 22nd on the graded stakes list and there are a lot of Derby hopefuls ready to take another swing at the money over the next two weeks. Of course, late defections and injuries can change everything.
20. Rousing Sermon
He's 20th on our list and 20th on the graded stakes list. I don't know if his third in the Louisiana Derby makes him competitive but it might get him in the field. He has $270,000 and Jerry Hollendorfer as his trainer. This is a long shot that might mix into the exotics.
Who among the top twenty on the graded stakes list might pass on the Derby, even though they qualify?
Number 5 on the list is Wrote, who was third in the UAE Derby. It's the same connections as Daddy Long Legs and more questions about the long trip.
Sabercat is number 8 and made most of his money in the Delta Jackpot last November. He's shown very little speed this spring but could get one more chance in the Arkansas Derby.
Liaison has been a big disappointment for Bob Baffert. The horse won almost $400,000 as a two year old, but has failed to hit the board in three year old stakes races.
Trinniberg, at number 16, has had a great spring, winning races of 7 furlongs but it appears he would be best kept to sprinting. He just won the Bay Shore Stakes and the trainer says a Derby shot is only about 15 percent.
Baffert's Drill is number 18 and he's another sprint or middle distance horse who will probably skip the Derby but might run in another race at Churchill.
That's five openings for bubble horses and you can be certain that those connections are already doing the math, trying to find a place in Derby 138 for their horse.
Wednesday I will be on Great Day Live! to talk Derby with Terry and Rachel. See you then.