In the brave new world of the Derby point system, a horse becomes a Derby contender by winning a race in New Mexico. And another 3-year-old wins the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park as the owners rush to make an eleventh hour nomination to Derby 139.
Govenor Charlie, a colt that did not win a race until Feb. 17, won 50 points and a place in the starting gate by taking the Sunland Park Derby. Meanwhile, 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby needs to hit the board in the Florida Derby just to make the Derby field.
But let's don't overlook the Govenor. Charlie ran a track record 1:47:54 for the miles and an eighth. And his pedigree is speed on speed. He's a son of champion sprinter Midnight Lute out of Silverbulletway, a daughter of Silverbulletday.
I know what you're thinking? Can Midnight Lute, a champion at six furlongs, produce a Derby distance horse? The Dosage Index says yes, but Mike Pegram's horse is still very lightly races. It will be interesting to see what Bob Baffert does next.
Black Onyx, true to his name, is an almost black son of Rock Hard Ten. He surprised a lot of people by winning the Spiral Stakes at 15-1. Need I mention that this is the race that produced Animal Kingdom.
Last week, Black Onyx was a Gulfstream allowance race winner. Now, he could be Kelly Breen's fourth Derby starter. He's won on dirt, and now he's won on Polytrack, so anything seems possible.
But keep in mind, the Spiral was not a fast race. This mile and an eighth was covered in 1:51:98.
So, from literally out of nowhere, we have two Derby starters who were not even on the radar a week ago.
The two winners make the Derby Top Twenty because they will probably start if they stay sound. They join four other contenders with 50 Derby points. But now, the value of the prep races soars to 100 for the winner.
And that should change our Top Twenty next week but for now……
He's the final futures bet favorite at 7-1 and only "All Other Three Year Olds" was a shorter price. His final Derby prep will be the Wood Memorial where undefeated Vyjack is waiting.
We have your exacta in the Wood. If Vyjack can rundown Verrazano, he could be the favorite by the time he gets to Churchill.
The Florida Derby will be a showdown for Derby points. Orb is probably already in the Kentucky Derby field but Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby need to hit the board. If a longshot intrudes, there are going to be some unhappy owners.
After his second place finish in the Rebel Stakes, Oxbow could still use to some points to guarantee his trip to Louisville. He'll carry the flag for Calumet Farm in the Arkansas Derby.
5. Will Take Charge
D. Wayne Lukas will split his Derby contenders, sending Will Take Charge to Keeneland, while he keeps Oxbow in Arkansas. Will Take Charge has already won at Keeneland. Oxbow has won at Churchill. They could meet again in May.
6. Shanghai Bobby
It's last call time at Gulfstream Park. He's only had one race this year, the second place in the Holy Bull Stakes. They've been awfully cautious. Wonder what's up?
This is another Pletcher contender and the approach has also been very conservative since winning the Withers Stakes on February 2. Now, after two months off, he ships to New Orleans to face a big field on a strange race track.
Good horse, but a lot to overcome.
He'd better hope that March 30th is his lucky day. He's got some great speed numbers on his record, but with the Florida Derby, the competition gets better and the races get longer.
9. Hear the Ghost
Nobody heard or saw him coming in the San Felipe Stakes and he marked himself as perhaps the best contender on the West Coast. Of course, Bob Baffert may have something to say about that in the Santa Anita Derby.
10. Den's Legacy
Don't you wish you owned this horse? He's always around at the end of the race. He most recently chased the Lukas exacta home in the Rebel Stakes and he's got Derby exotic bet written all over him.
11. Govenor Charlie
Looks like we've entered the Bob Baffert portion of our rankings; this was an untested second stringer when shipped to New Mexico, but he turned out to be the favorite and then won with ease. It just shows you the power of the Baffert barn. I wonder if this horse is the Bodemeister of 2013.
His San Felipe was not a bad effort and he's certainly young enough to improve before the Santa Anita Derby. Baffert dumps Julian Leparoux for Garrett Gomez in the irons.
13. Super Ninety Nine
He gave Baffert another Oaklawn win in the Southwest Stakes but that was on a sloppy track. He was 5th in the Rebel on a dry track and now returns to California to re-group.
14. Black Onyx
Sometimes when you get those Rock Hard Ten colts running down the stretch they are hard to catch. They couldn't catch Black Onyx at Turfway and Kelly Breen may take him straight to Churchill and starting training for May.
He's very much back in the picture after running second to Black Onyx in the Spiral. He'd been off since winning the Jockey Club at Churchill in November. Uncaptured ran like a horse that needed a race. And he needs another stepping stone to Louisville.
I'm a little selfish but I hope this Street Sense colt makes it to Louisville just so we can get straight forward, intelligent assessments from trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He was third in the Gotham and might spring an upset in the Wood.
17. Palace Malice
The Streecar Named Desire takes Derby contenders to Fair Grounds Race Course on March 30, and Dogwood Stable is pinning its hopes on Palace Malice. It would be nice to see Cot Campbell and the green and gold make it to Louisville.
18. Code West
This is yet another runner from Bob Baffert and Code West may have the best distance pedigree of the bunch. He was second in the Risen Star and the Lemon Drop Kid pedigree is asking for more distance, maybe Belmont distance.
This horse is evidence of the trend to race horses on grass and then give them a shot on dirt if you sniff the Roses. Rydilluc, winner of the Palm Beach on grass needs to get some points in the Bluegrass as a stepping stone down I-64.
20. Ground Transport
Here's your horse for the Louisiana Derby.
He's an allowance winner at Fairgrounds, who has worked three bullets in a row. On March 16, he breezed five furlongs in 59:40, first out of 43 works. On March 23, six furlongs in 1:12:60. Mark Guidry rides for Michael Stidham.
There you are, set up for the most important prep races during the month of March.
It's a compact but quality field for the Florida Derby. The Louisiana Derby should be a free for all. And if you don't mind a little trip, they are running the UAE Derby in Dubai. All get the winner a 100 points.
By the way, a trainer once told me that a horse might, one day, ship from Dubai and win the Derby. But he added, with that long plane ride, a horse would have to be ten lengths better than the rest of the field to win the Derby.
Enjoy the races and as always, thanks for reading.