The Spiral (GIII)

The Kentucky Derby trail runs through Turfway Park today with Spiral, a 9 furlong test over the track’s artificial dirt surface. It provides the best, if only, route for an artificial surface/turf horse to qualify for the Derby without first showing dirt form. The winner today will receive 50 points — a lock to qualify. Many return from the El Camino Real Derby, including Metaboss, who won that race. The El Camino Real Derby is the other 2015 Kentucky Derby Points race run over an artificial surface.

Metaboss and Conquest Typhoon could both qualify for the Kentucky Derby with a top 2 finish today. Conquest Typhoon has never run on dirt and Metaboss hasn’t ever run well on it. Call this the Animal Kingdom route to the Kentucky Derby:

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It was here that Animal Kingdom got the graded earnings — under the old system — to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, without any previous performance on dirt.

Hard to knock the path when it produces a victory like in the Kentucky Derby.  Looking at today’s race, it begins with Royal Son, who had an impressive speed figure over this track defeating the Great War. It might say absolutely nothing about his chances in Louisville in May, but he very well may be the fastest in this field today. He could be a horse that prefers ultimately prefers turf — and its likely correlation with polytrack, but is only running on dirt because of the Derby trail.  The scratch of Imperia helps him as well. Imperia, his main rival, was second off the layoff and appeared likely to favor the artificial surface as well.

The rest of the field is interesting, especially Metaboss, who would need to improve to catch Royal Son, and certainly could over the added ground. But, even with that, it’s still Royal Son’s race to lose, and I’d rate him at 8/5. He dominates the field on speed and is proven over the track. Some risk with the pace and class test — and the always present sudden 3YO improvement, but he seems a very strong horse today in the Spiral.

Enjoy the race!

Image: Copyright Rob Ireton, 2006






Paths to Kentucky Derby: 2010 – 2012

How did the eventual winners of the Kentucky Derby get to Louisville?

This morning, I’m going to start the review by taking a look at the winners from 2010 – 2012 and the path that they took to reach the starting gate. This period was marked by three non-favorite winners:

2012: I’ll Have Another 14-1 (9th choice)

2011: Animal Kingdom 20-1 (10th choice)

2010: Super Saver 8-1 (2nd choice)

Note that the qualifying method changed from Graded Earnings to points in 2013, although these horses all would have qualified under either system.

2010: Super Saver had a solid 2YO campaign, losing on debut to a very solid sprinter (G1 winning — King’s Bishop) in Discreetly Mine and then winning in the slop by 7 lengths next out. A solid effort in the Champagne, no Breeders’ Cup, but then a strong win in the KY Jockey Club marked him as a solid Derby candidate.

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His Tampa Bay Derby was a disappointing 3rd as a favorite, but this is definitely a race worth watching as Odysseus somehow wins the photo. Race starts at 1:13.

His Arkansas Derby, where he ran well as the third choice, even though he was upset by wire-to-wire longshot Line of David (the sire of Firing Line, who Dortmund rallied past in the stretch a few weeks back in the Robert Lewis). It was his lifetime best speed figure and suggested good form for his winning performance over a favored wet-track at Churchill.

Super Saver’s Derby:

2011: Animal Kingdom broke his maiden at 2YO over the then-polytrack at Keeneland. He returned for a first-level allowance on the turf at Gulfstream, possibly for conditioning. He broke poorly, but rallied wide to finish second by a head.

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He then went off as second choice in the Spiral Stakes, which stood an unlucky 6 weeks out from the Derby — no horse since Needles in 1956 had won the Derby off a 6 week layoff.

Animal Kingdom made a sweeping move and then outgamed Decisive Moment. Going into the Derby, the biggest question was the dirt, which proved to be a non-factor as in the words of Larry Collmus, he came “roaring” down the stretch to victory.

2012: I’ll Have Another won on debut at 5.5f at Hollywood Park, finished second in the Best Pal, and then shipped to Saratoga for the Hopeful. A sloppy track — or other factors — led to a very disappointing effort.

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He returned 5 months later — dismissed as a 43-1 longshot in the Robert Lewis — and shocked Santa Anita with a then-career best performance.

It was no fluke as he essentially repeated the effort in the Santa Anita Derby 2 months later — this time at 4-1.

He then brought his scintillating form to Kentucky a month later, where he thrillingly caught Bodemeister in the stretch to win.

Coming next: Favorites rule —  Orb and California Chrome (2013 – 2014)