The Smell of a Triple Crown is the Air

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Rich Bieglmeier is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Crazy to believe, but the 2021 Kentucky Derby is less than three-months away. It seems like the last one was just a few weeks ago; probably because it kind of was with its COVID-rescheduled September 5th date.

With just three Kentucky Derby Future Wagering Pools remaining, horseplayers will get value if they can pick tomorrow's winner today, so to speak. Pool number three opens on February 12th and closes on the 14th. Maybe we can find some Louisville love for this Valentine's Day?

Now could be a good time to take stock of the horses on the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby to separate the contenders from the pretenders and, more importantly, see if we can't find some future pool betting value.

ESSENTAIL QUALITY is perched atop the current standings with 30 qualifying points. The majestic grey with a black mane and tail has a pair of Grade I, qualifying wins on his three-race resume. He made easy work of a nine-horse field in the Breeders' Cup Futurity in his second start and followed it up with another trip to the winners' circle it the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, both at Keeneland.

KEEPMEINMIND is in a familiar position behind ESSENTIAL QUALITY and second in Derby points now with 18. The Cypress Creek colt finished behind the points' pacesetter in Keeneland's Futurity (2nd) and BC Juvenile (3rd). He finally hit the tape first in his last outing, the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill.

MIDNIGHT BOURBON is third with 16 points and shared the Churchill track with 2020 Horse of the Year and Kentucky Derby titleholder AUTHENTIC. He came home second to SITTIN ON GO in the Grade II, Iroquois Stakes, which was the first stop on the 2021 Road to the Derby. Since then, the well-traveled Steven Asmussen trainee has collected some points in Belmont's Champagne Stakes and in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.

MEDINA SPIRIT is number four with 14. He won his debut at Los Alamitos and then ran second to LIFE IS GOOD in the Grade II Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. He followed up his runner-up finish with another win of his own in Saturday's Robert B. Lewis Stakes (Grade III), also at Santa Anita. He nosed out ROMAN CENTURIAN and HOT ROD CHARLIE for the 10 Lewis' Derby points in a hard-fought grab of the checkered flag.

SPIELBERG is ranked number five with 13 un... lucky points. Trainer Bob Baffert's horse just got his butt whooped in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, fourth by a long, long way. Prior to that, he scored in the Los Alamitos Futurity in what looks like a weak field in hindsight.

At number six with a dozen points sits JACKIE'S WARRIOR who won his first four races, including the Champagne Stakes, and was the favorite to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Jockey Joel Rosario had him on the lead in the stretch, but his horse just didn't have the late legs to get it done, ending his day fourth behind ESSENTIAL QUALITY, HOT ROD CHARLIE and KEEPMEINMIND. He's been in the barn since November and probably needed a rest.

A pile of eight horses are tied for seventh on the Road to this year's Kentucky Derby with 10 points, a trio of them, for different reasons, have our eye.

CADDO RIVER is probably not a name at the top of the contenders' list for most. He's coming off a blowout win in the non-graded Smarty Jones Stakes, whacking fellow 10 pointer COWAN by 10 ΒΌ lengths. Ahh, but it's not the Oaklawn beatdown that puts CADDO RIVER on this list. It's the 104 Equibase speed figure he ran at Churchill Downs in his third crack at the maiden win. He just might be a horse for the course.

GREATEST HONOUR is another with that you won't find on most other lists. However, in handicapping the Holy Bull some numbers popped off the page. His late pace numbers are through the roof. If he's in contention coming out of the final turn on Derby day, the frontrunners better have plenty left in their legs; otherwise, he's going to blow right on by and straight into the history books. Right now, he's probably my top longshot pick because of those late numbers.

If the 2021 Kentucky Derby was today, LIFE IS GOOD might be the post time favorite. He's won twice, including the Sham stakes in his second go around on the track. He topped MEDINA SPIRIT who came back to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. His maiden and Sham Equibase Speed number were both triple digits, hitting 112 on the gun in his last. Just one of the last 12 to wear the roses ran a number that big. Triple Crown winner JUSTIFY tied LIFE IS GOOD's mark in 2018.

If he runs the same race the first Saturday in May, it will take something special to beat LIFE IS GOOD. The scary thing is jockey Mike Smith didn't ask for much from his horse in the SHAM. Odds are, he has more, maybe a lot more. Triple Crown Contender? Yes.


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