LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- This is my first article on the Kentucky Derby for 2013.
So ignore anything I write.
Picking the Derby winner or starters in January is like trying to predict what you will get for Christmas in August.
With that warning, the leader for Derby 139 is Goldencents with 24 points.
I know, that seems to make no sense or cents.
But Derby 139 is about points. So decrees Churchill Downs.
In the past the Derby field was decided by dollars, graded stakes dollars, accumulated any time prior to the first week in May.
But this year, Churchill decided to create a point system, giving various values, like 10, 50, or 100 points to Derby prep races.
Whether this is good or bad, or just confusing is unknown. It certainly is different and will affect the strategy of trainers and owners this spring.
For instance, in the past, if you won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, you were (in) the Derby. The million dollar purse made you a lock. It was just a matter of getting your horse safely to the starting gate.
This year, the Breeders' Cup was worth ten points. It will take a lot more running and points to qualify for Derby 139.
So, the current rankings have Goldencents in first place, thanks to wins at Delta Downs and Santa Anita, and Shanghai Bobby in second place with 20 points after his Breeders' Cup win. After that we have seven horses tied with ten points. I can feel the tension rising.
To put this in perspective, the new system rewards a horse with 20 points for running second in the Sunland Park Derby. And a hundred points is at stake in the big Derby preps like the Florida Derby, the Bluegrass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby.
The new system seems to beg trainers to ignore the early Derby preps and run in March and April. But what if you're horse throws in a clunker and you miss the points, what then.
And if you're Derby contender is a filly, you better get ready to run in open company. You'll have to face the boys to qualify and probably more than once.
So what about the January front runners for Derby 139. First keep in mind that most winners of Derby preps in January and February are usually forgotten by the first of April.
Goldencents seems to be a perfect candidate to fade from the scene. His sire, Into Mischief, made his mark as a two year old, and never raced beyond seven furlongs. The Dosage Index seems to indicate that Goldencents can go farther, but he'll be a stretch for a mile and a quarter, a real stretch.
Shanghai Bobby is perhaps the best known of the early Derby contenders because of his victory in the Breeders' Cup. And Bobby showed some real determination in the Cup when he fell behind in the stretch and re-rallied for the win. He's from the same family as Goldencents. Harlan's Holiday is his sire and he's also the sire of Into Mischief.
Shanghai Bobby has some pedigree issues because his female family includes Orientate and Carson City who made their reputations as sprinters. His Dosage number is 3.80.
The first horse in the bunch with ten points is Violence and this might be the real deal. Todd Pletcher is the trainer and Medaglia D'Oro is the sire. It's a crazy good pedigree with a Gone West mare. Violence won a maiden, a Grade Two in New York and the Cash Call Futurity at Santa Anita. This is a serious contender.
Next is Joha, who won the big two year old race at Keeneland last fall. He's by Johar, a pedigree that screams turf. After that promising win on Polytrack, Joha ran 8th in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf and was 9th in the Jockey Club on dirt at Churchill. But he loves that Keeneland track, and there's a 100 point race on that same track in April. See, I'm getting into this point system.
Overanalyze has won two graded stakes races and also finished third in the Iroquois Stakes last fall at Churchill. His final win of 2012 was the Grade Two Remsen Stakes and that's always been a pretty good predictor of Derby starters. Overanalyze is by Dixie Union which is not the greatest Derby pedigree but Union Rags did win the Belmont last year.
Uncaptured is a horse who might have a real complaint about the points system. The Lion Heart colt won three stakes races in Canada, swept the two year old fall stakes at Churchill Downs and has won half a million dollars.
And of course, he has ten points. But Mark Casse's horse has won six races for John Oxley. Could this be Monarchos 2?.
Power Broker is another ten pointer, with a nice resume. He has a Grade One Stakes win, Bob Baffert as trainer and Pulpit as his sire. And with a Wild Again mare on the bottom of his pedigree, he should love Polytrack. With Santa Anita's shift back to dirt, Baffert might want to ship east.
Next on the points list is Steeler, who picked up his ten points in a race at Newmarket in England. It's an English trainer with a turf horse, who is likely to stay in Europe.
The Gray Stakes at Woodbine was another ten pointer that produced River Seven trained by Nick Gonzalez. The son of Johannesburg has only raced on Polytrack and I'm not sure if that translates at all to the Derby trail.
And that's the gaggle of ten pointers. Tenth on the list with six points is Den's Legacy trained by Baffert for Westrock Stable. Den's Legacy was third in the CashCall and second in the Sham, so he has yet to run his best race.
He's a Medaglia D'Oro but his War Chant mare may indicate that his best races could be on grass.
And that's the top ten point earners as listed by Churchill Downs and I'd be surprised if more than one Derby starter came from that list. In fact, you can expect a shake-up in the weeks ahead.
January will see the Lecomte Stakes at the Fairgrounds, the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn and the Holy Bull at Gulfstream. But don't get too excited yet. They're ten pointers. It seems that one part of this is easier. For figuring graded stakes money we needed a calculator. The points system is second grade math.