2014 Kentucky Derby: Contender Watch List

In this edition of the ongoing series, Trending vs. Descending we take another look at the 2014 Kentucky Derby contenders and analyze their chances of winning the Kentucky Derby or missing the field all together.

As the prep season heats up there are a whole slew of horses trending in the right direction and, that’s the best place to start

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The Morning Line: 2014 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

Not even the best thoroughbred trainers in the world are guaranteed an entry into the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Such was the case for Bob Baffert in 2013. After War Academy was eased up and did not finish in the Arkansas Derby, the misfortunes for Baffert’s barn continued. At the end of April three Baffert horses had qualified for the Derby, yet their status was still uncertain. Then on the Sunday before the Run for the Roses, Power Broker was ruled out. On the next day a final decision on Code West and Govenor Charlie was also made.

For the first time since 2008, there would be no horse running in the Kentucky Derby for the legendary trainer. But, that’s just horse racing and the result of a very challenging prep season. However, as with any Hall of Famer you can’t count them out for too long.

This weekend,Bob Baffert features two strong contenders in a Santa Anita Derby prep when Midnight Hawk and Chitu continue their pursuit of qualifying for the 2014 Kentucky Derby in the G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, worth a total of 17 points (10-4-2-1).

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Cairo Prince Wins the Holy Bull (Race Replay)

There’s a lot to talk about after the 2014 Holy Bull. There’s always just one true winner but the other story lines behind entries that scored some points versus those that did not still remain. While I would love to dive into the respectable finish of Conquest Titan and Intense Holiday along with the questions surrounding Wicked Strong and Coup De Grace, I can’t resist the opportunity to talk more about Cairo Prince.

With a win today and 10 points added to the 4 that he earned when he finished a nose behind Honor Code in the G2 Remsen Stakes, Cairo Prince is now tied for the points lead with 14. So, going into February and final 3 months of the Derby Prep season this contender has earned the attention I’m about to give him.

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Second Generation Kentucky Derby Winners

Breeding has since changed. Racing in general has altered its course with updated factors that now play into training a champion as well. Even as the majority of exceptional horses that were gifted 3-yr-olds, as well as sires, are not so common, the chances of it occurring again are here.

This weekend the Road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby takes us to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana for the G3 LeComte Stakes. Here you’ll find Smarty’s Echo, by 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, racing for the chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and a shot at becoming the next Father, Son team to accomplish the rare but thrilling achievement.

Since the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875 a total of 13 winners reached the pinnacle of racing just like their sire had done before. The last time the son of Kentucky Derby winner also wore the roses was in 1996. It wasGrindstone, by Unbridled, that stuck his nose in front of a hard charging Cavonnier and rode off into the sunset. The Kentucky Derby would be Grindstone’s final race as he was retired shortly thereafter. However, the champion owned and bred by Overbrook Farm will always be remembered for joining this elusive club.

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The Morning Line: 2014 Jerome Stakes

It’s been thirty three days since Honor Code turned heads in the Remsen and Tapitureprevailed in the Kentucky Jockey Club. It may seem longer ago than that but keep calm the scoring resumes on Saturday.

We begin the New Year at a familiar yet once forgotten place. The good news is that it only took Churchill Downs one year before they recognized that the Jerome Stakes deserves to be an official qualification race. And so now it is and eight derby hopefuls are ready to go.

We begin with the heavy favorite that will be breaking from post position 1, Noble Moon. The son of Malibu Moon and Mambo Bell returns to Aqueduct after he finished 3rd last time out in the G2 Nashua Stakes on 11/3. Trained by Leah Gyarmati, Noble Moon gets most of his attention on the morning line with pretty good reason.

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Have You Seen the Next Kentucky Derby Winner?

The Juvenile racing season is coming to a close. As with any other year at this time there should be much speculation regarding which of our freshman will make it to the first Saturday in May and which of our hopefuls will prove to be pretenders.

However, instead of ranking our Kentucky Derby contenders let’s conclude the Juvenile season by asking if any of you are certain that you’ve seen the next winner yet. And by that I’m referring to whether or not you have actually watched him (or her) race thus far.

Now, that’s a pretty broad question so let’s break it down a little bit further. Where to begin. How about we start in the most obvious place; is our next Kentucky Derby winner a Juvenile that has already won a Graded Stakes?

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Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Post Position Draw

Barring any last minute scratches it will be a full house in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. For the first time since 2006, 14 young and talented contenders are ready to load into the starting gate.

As in every big race, the bigger the field, the more obstacles there will be. For our two favorites one particular challenge is already in play. Winning from the far outside is never easy. If Havana or Strong Mandate, who will be starting next to each other from post 13 and 14, want to win on Saturday, they and their jockey’s must be prepared to race from a position they would not have chosen otherwise.

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Todd Pletcher Goes For the Juvenile Repeat

With 29 years in the books, you would think that a repeat win by a trainer has happened on more than one occasion. On the contrary, D. Wayne Lukas is still the only one who has scored consecutive victories in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. (1986-1988)

Since, it’s been a rotating door year in and year out. While it may not be surprising due to the unpredictable nature of Juvenile racing, it may be unexpected to some. In particular, the fact that no jockey has been able to score in this division two years in a row since the early 1980’s is astonishing.

As for the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, unless Todd Pletcher tabs Rosie Napravnik, the only repeat chance will belong to him.

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Champagne Stakes Versus the Breeders’ Futurity

There’s a reason certain stakes races are chosen for the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Challenge. When it comes to the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park and the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland there’s only one reason that if you win, you’re in; they produce Juvenile champions.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Breeders’ Cup this November, it’s important that we recognize just how significant these races have been to the Juvenile division. Specifically, let’s permit the stats to do the talking; 13 of the previous 29 winners stopped here last.

Now that’s what I call a serious Juvenile prep. And since the Champagne and Futurity deserve the credit, and by all means our attention on Saturday, let me ask the Nation a very important question. Which do you prefer or favor?

Need some help? No problem, let’s compare!

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The Morning Line: 2013 FrontRunner Stakes

The 2013 Breeders’ Cup Challenge ‘Win & You’re In’ Series has begun. While Cleburne became a leading contender in the East, the front runner out west will be determined this weekend.

In the first of four automatic qualifier races Cleburne was game enough to hold off his eager stablemate, Smart Cover, by a neck in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Dale Romans and Donegal Racing teamed up for the brilliant 1-2 finish and have put themselves in a beautiful position leading up to the Juvenile.

But, the Breeders’ Cup will be a Santa Anita again this fall. Therefore, a smooth and powerful win on Saturday can lead to a lot of buzz surrounding the home track advantage.  Much has to be done to earn it, yet the field in this year’s addition of the FrontRunner Stakes has me thinking that a live favorite for the Juvenile could emerge.

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