(WHAS11) -- The long dirt trail to the Kentucky Derby is getting longer, point by difficult point.
Two-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby ran the race of his life at Gulfstream Park in the Holy Bull Stakes and finished second to Itsmyluckyday. Bobby now has won the Breeders' Cup, and finished second in a graded stakes race, while breaking the track record. For his trouble he got a 100 Beyer speed figure and four points on the road to Derby 139.
The trainers of Shanghai Bobby and Itsmyluckyday are planning one more prep race prior to May 4, the Florida Derby. Under the points system that's a gamble.
The Florida Derby carries a 100 point award for the winner, but if you don't hit the board, you may be done. It could be no points, no Derby.
Itsmyluckyday is also a very accomplished and fast three-year-old. He's won five of nine races, but he's by Lawyer Ron, and that's a pedigree that could be challenged to go a mile and a quarter.
In fact, for both of the Holy Bull front runners, the question of distance limitations might be more relevant than points. One thing is certain, they are both fast, but so was Hansen. Hansen was last year's two year old wonder horse, who was passed in the stretch as the races got longer.
A lot of Derby hopes were dented in the Holy Bull Stakes. Second place Shanghai Bobby was eleven lengths in front of third place, Clearly Now. The fourth place horse, Joshua's Comprise, was 132 to 1. Derby hopefuls Bern Identity and Frac Daddy were an irrelevant fifth and sixth. Meanwhile, down on the Bayou, D. Wayne Lukas was making a statement that he might be very relevant as a Derby contender this year.
Brad Kelley's Oxbow won the Lecomte Stakes by eleven lengths and marked himself as a serious Derby horse. He also has a serious Derby pedigree. The by colt is by Awesome Again out of a Cee's Tizzy mare.
And what century is this? Lukas, who won four Derbys in the 20th century, took another three year old stakes race at Oaklawn when Will Take Charge got his nose up to win the Smarty Jones Stakes. He's a half brother to last year's Derby starter Take Charge Indy. However, the sire is Unbridled's Song and they tend to be a little injury prone.
He needs more races, more points to make the Derby.
But let's throw out the points for a moment and look at top horses for Derby 139. And this early in the year, it's difficult to find 10 legitimate contenders.
Todd Pletcher has trained this horse to a Grade Two win in New York and a Grade One win in California. He has a crazy good pedigree, Medaglia D'Oro out of a Gone West mare. Violence is now in Florida training for the Fountain of Youth Stakes and if he moves on to the Florida Derby, the opponents may start looking for a softer spot.
The Lecomte has never been a great predictor of Derby success but a wire to wire eleven length win will catch some attention. Lukas has two stakes winners in his barn and Oxbow will run again at the Fairgrounds or Oaklawn.
3. He's Had Enough
Sometimes trainers just get on a roll and it looks like Doug O'Neill will continue to be a factor in the Triple Crown. He's Had Enough was a head short of Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders' Cup and more distance should only help.
It's hard to estimate how far he can run, but he can run fast. You might remember that his sire, Lawyer Ron, had a tendency to almost run out from under jockey John McKee. The next test will be a mile and an eighth, but that was Lawyer Ron's best distance.
5. Shanghai Bobby
He's already won an Eclipse Award and returned as a three year old to run a terrific race in the Holy Bull Stakes. Starlight Racing is on course to try the Florida Derby and then Kentucky. But the Derby at Gulfstream could be tough and fast.
You just know Bob Baffert is going to bring a horse to the Derby and this looks like a good bet. Flashback has only a maiden win to his credit but the Bob Lewis Stakes might be a good way to catch up. Remember, both Bodemeister and Paynter were lightly raced when they made a lot of noise last spring.
7. Normandy Invasion
The Remsen Stakes is one of those autumn events that always seems to produce some Derby trail horses. This Tapit colt may get emerging trainer Chad Brown on the Derby trail. He was second in the Remsen and is training in Florida.
He's the leader in Kentucky Derby points, actually tied with Shanghai Bobby, and has won two major stakes. In fact, he won the million dollar Delta Jackpot, which was an automatic Derby ticket last year. But the sire is Into Mischief, highly successful this year and highly suspect for distance. We'll see if Doug O'Neill has the golden touch with this one.
This is the Remsen winner, who was also third in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs. Overanalyze will likely lead the Pletcher Derby effort in New York. Mike Repole owns the son of Dixie Union and you know how much he wants to run in the Derby.
He left a lot of people at Churchill Downs with good memories when he won the Jockey Club at the end of the fall meet. This son of Lion Heart has won 6 of 7 races and if he can overcome a bruised foot, he could be a real factor by late spring. But any injury on the Derby trail is a real setback.
Of course, we know more contenders will emerge in the weeks ahead and the 10 horses listed above may not include the Derby winner. Let's see, where was I'll Have Another about this time last year?
By February 1, 2012, I'll Have Another had won a maiden race and after a five month layoff was preparing to run in the Bob Lewis Stakes. Then, he won four in a row, including some big ones. But a year ago at this time, we had no clue.