Is it too early to start thinking about the 2021 Kentucky Derby? Um, no.
After posing for pictures in Keeneland's winners' circle and collecting the champion's check for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Friday, ESSENTIAL QUALITY sits atop the 2021 Derby leaderboard with 30 qualifying points.
The beautiful grey horse came from the back to beat 94-1 shot HOT ROD CHARLIE to score the Juvenile's 20 points after earning 10 in winning the Breeders' Futurity. In a lot of years, 30 points would put ESSENTAIL QUALITY on the cusp of a guaranteed spot in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. However, the 20th ranked hose PNEUMATIC amassed 45 points in this year's detour to Churchill.
The next opportunity to get some KD points will be the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 28, 2020. Horse Racing Radar will follow the horses on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby, hopefully to run in its normal first Saturday of May slot.
A few Kentucky Derby hopefuls could be running the Grade III, Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct today. Dean Reeves of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing told Horse Racing Radar that he intends to nominate ISOLATE (PP: 5 ML 5-1) for this year's Triple Crown.
The two-year-old is undefeated in two starts and improved sharply in his second race compared to his debut. He on his last by 10 in a $60k Optionable Claiming romp with the highest, last race speed figure. The two-year-old just posted 5-furlong, bullet workout at Gulfstream Park. ISOLATE should be ready to show his Kentucky Derby potential in New York today.
He'll have some serious competition from morning line favorite TEN FOR TEN (PP: 1 ML 6/5) and semi-co-favorite NOVA RAGS (PP: 2 ML 2-1). TEN FOR TEN broke his maiden in his last race, in his second attempt. He took the lead on a sloppy Belmont track, took the lead and never looked back. The fractions in his W were a touch slower than we'd like in win and training sessions since have been OK. He's the most expensive horse in this group by a wide margin but looks like a vulnerable favorite, nonetheless.
NOVA RAGS scored in first try, taking the checkered flag in a $63k Maiden Special Weight race at Belmont. His speed figure was the highest number achieved by this crew for their debuts. Many times, good horses will take a step forward in their second career starts.
ISOLATE, TEN FOR TEN and NOVA RAGS look like the top horses in the Nashua Stakes. The fine people at Guaranteed Tip Sheet agree. They see ISOLATE as a good value at 5-1 and put him on top of their selections, followed by NOVA RAGS and TEN FOR TEN with PICKIN' TIME (PP: 4 ML 9/2) as the best of the rest.
A big story will be told in the months to come on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby. While the Nashua Stakes is not a qualifying race, we are sure to see a few of the horses emerge as early contenders for the next run for the roses.