One-hundred years ago, Herbert J. Thompson won the Kentucky Derby with Behave Yourself.
That 1921 triumph was just the beginning for Thompson, who went on to also win the Run for the Roses with Bubbling Over in 1926, Burgoo King in 1932 and Brokers Tip in 1933.
Those four victories earned Thompson the nickname “Derby Dick.”
In the Kentucky Derby media guide, he actually is listed as Herbert J. “Derby Dick” Thompson.
Thompson’s record of four Kentucky Derby wins was broken when “Plain Ben” Jones, as he was known, won it six times. Jones’ winners were Lawrin in 1938, Whirlaway in 1941, Pensive in 1944, Citation in 1948, Ponder in 1949 and Hill Gail in 1952.
Last Saturday, Jones’ longstanding record fell when Medina Spirit got the job done beneath Churchill Downs’ iconic twin spires to become trainer Bob Baffert’s seventh Kentucky Derby winner.
A century ago, there was “Derby Dick.”
Now we have “Derby Bob.”
Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015, Justify in 2018, Authentic in 2020 and Medina Spirit in 2021.
Thompson became the first trainer to win the Kentucky Derby in back-to-back years when he did so with Burgoo King and Brokers Tip.
Brokers Tip won the famous “Fighting Derby” by a nose over Head Play. Don Meade rode Brokers Tip. Herb Fisher piloted Head Play.
In “The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America,” William H.P. Robertson wrote that Meade and Fisher “engaged in a violent fight” as Brokers Tip and Head Play were battling furiously for the lead while coming down the stretch toward the finish line.
“Meade and Fisher could be seen tugging and pushing at one another, although who was doing what to whom wasn’t clear, and immediately after they crossed the finish, Fisher slashed Meade across the face with his bat,” Robertson wrote.
Brokers Tip, who was a maiden going into the race, won that controversial Kentucky Derby by a nose. It would be his only victory in 14 lifetime starts.
For being naughty during the stretch run, Meade and Fisher were each handed a 30-day suspension. The stewards tacked on an additional five days to Fisher’s penalty for attacking Meade when he entered the jockeys’ room.
In yet more history made by Baffert last Saturday, he became the first trainer in Kentucky Derby history to win the race in back-to-back years twice.
In addition to Thompson, Jones and Baffert, the only other three trainers to have achieved the feat were Jimmy Jones (Iron Liege in 1957 and Tim Tam in 1958), Lucien Laurin (Riva Ridge in 1972 and Secretariat in 1973) and D. Wayne Lukas (Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Grindstone in 1996).
It was Lukas who just barely kept Baffert from winning the 1996 Kentucky Derby with Baffert’s first-ever starter in the race, Cavonnier, who lost by a scant nose to Grindstone. That nose is how close Baffert is to having eight Kentucky Derby victories.
SHOWING HEART TO FEND THEM ALL OFF
Despite Baffert’s considerable Kentucky Derby success prior to this year, Medina Spirit was allowed to get away at odds of 12-1 in the field of 19 last Saturday. The Kentucky-bred Protonico colt departed the gate in alert fashion and then proceeded to lead past every pole. He steadfastly refused to relinquish the lead all the way down the stretch while staving off Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie and 5-2 favorite Essential Quality, with those three finishing 2-3-4 in that order.
“Turning for home, they came to him and he just dug in,” Baffert said of Medina Spirit at the barn Sunday morning. “I still didn’t know if he was going to do it. But he just dug in and fought hard. It was sort of the same race as he ran at Santa Anita when he won the Robert Lewis. They came to him and he just fended them all off. He’s a blue-collar horse, but he has a huge heart.”
MOST TRIPLE CROWN RACE VICTORIES
Thanks to Medina Spirit, Baffert increased his record total number of wins in Triple Crown races to 17. The trainers with seven or more such wins are listed below:
Total (Ky. Derby, Preakness, Belmont wins) Trainer
17 (7-7-3) Bob Baffert
14 (4-6-4) D. Wayne Lukas
13 (3-4-6) “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons
11 (2-1-8) James Rowe
11 (0-7-4) R. Wyndam Walden
9 (3-2-4) Max Hirsch
9 (6-2-1) “Plain Ben” Jones
8 (2-1-5) Woody Stephens
7 (0-0-7) Sam Hildreth
7 (2-4-1) Jimmy Jones
If Baffert wins the Preakness at Pimlico on May 15, he will break the record for most victories by a trainer in that race. Baffert and R. Wyndam Walden currently share the record with seven wins apiece.
BAFFERT ALSO SETS RECORD FOR GRADE I WINS
Baffert won a pair of Grade I events at Churchill Downs last Saturday. Prior to Medina Spirit, overwhelming 1-5 favorite Gamine was victorious in the Grade I Derby City Distaff for Baffert.
According to Equibase, Gamine was former Quarter Horse trainer Baffert’s 220th Grade I win in Thoroughbred racing. This broke the record for most Grade I victories by a trainer that had been held by Lukas (another ex-Quarter Horse conditioner), who gave the call for riders up at the paddock prior to this year’s Kentucky Derby. Lukas, by the way, trains Ram, a $20.80 upset winner in the first race on last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby card.
When Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby, he raised Baffert’s number of Grade I Thoroughbred victories to 221.
What Baffert has accomplished as a trainer is truly astounding.
“Nobody has more manifest gifts as a horse whisperer than Baffert,” multiple Eclipse Award-winner Bill Nack wrote in GQ magazine back in 2003.
For Baffert to nearly win two Triple Crowns with Silver Charm and Real Quiet, “who were purchased for $102,000 combined, was one of the most startling training feats of the last half century,” as Nack put it.
Silver Charm brought $85,000 at auction. Real Quiet was a $17,000 buy.
Baffert said the determination that Medina Spirit showed coming down the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby reminded him of the gritty Silver Charm.
Of course, as you no doubt know, after Baffert came so close to Triple Crown glory with Silver Charm and Real Quiet in the 1990s, he did sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont with American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.
And now, as a consequence of last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby victory by Medina Spirit, Baffert is the only trainer who has a chance for a Triple Crown sweep this year.
Think of just how far Baffert has come since winning his first Thoroughbred race with Flipping Star at Rillito in Arizona on Jan. 28, 1979. The purse was $600. The purse in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby was $3 million.
By not having one of the Kentucky Derby favorites this year, Baffert said he enjoyed himself during the week leading up to the race.
“It was nice to be under the radar,” Baffert said. “I thought it’d be nice that, if he’s good enough, maybe he’ll hit the board…I came in here, like, ‘We’re going to have fun.’ You know, I’ve been doing this for so long now I didn’t want to come in here and start bragging about my horse. Everybody was talking about their horse, but I wanted to come in here and have a good time and let the horse do the bragging, let him run the race. Usually when we come in here, we come in here with a heavy-hitter or a favorite, which is a lot of pressure. This wasn’t pressure. It was fun.”
Having fun is something that has been important to Baffert throughout his extraordinary training career. Fun is something he talked about in a 1987 article written by Diane Ciarloni Simmons for Speedhorse magazine when Baffert was training Gold Coast Express, a World Champion Quarter Horse.
“I’ll quit training the day it’s no longer fun, the day I have to drag myself to the barn,” Baffert was quoted as saying.
THIS YEAR’S DERBY WINNER A HUGE BARGAIN
While adding his name to the illustrious list of Kentucky Derby winners, Medina Spirit increased his earnings thus far to $2,175,200.
Bred in Florida by Gail Rice, Medina Spirit brought a final bid of only $1,000 from Christy Whitman at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Winter Mixed Sale. Bloodstock agent and private clocker Gary Young, acting on behalf of Amr F. Zedan, purchased the dark-hued colt for $35,000 from the Ocala Breeders’ Sales 2020 July 2-Year-Olds & Horses of Racing Age sale.
The 1971 Kentucky Derby winner Canonero II sold for $1,200 as a yearling. The 2021 Kentucky Derby winner sold for $1,000 as a yearling. Perhaps it will turn out that the 2071 Kentucky Derby winner likewise will have been sold as a yearling for $1,000 or so.
FLORIDA DROUGHT COMES TO AN END
Medina Spirit is the seventh Florida-bred to capture the Kentucky Derby. He’s the first since Silver Charm in 1997.
The first Florida-bred Kentucky Derby winner was Needles in 1956, followed by Carry Back in 1961, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Affirmed in 1978, Unbridled in 1990, Silver Charm and Medina Spirit.
Speaking of Unbridled, he is the maternal grandsire of Medina Spirit’s dam, Mongolian Changa. Mongolian Changa made six starts, all in 2016, winning once, a one-mile maiden race on Presque Isle Downs’ synthetic surface.
CAN’T SAY YOU WERE NOT WARNED
I wrote this for Xpressbet last week: “Watch out for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Oh, sure, Baffert is not running the brilliant Life Is Good or the talented Concert Tour. Life Is Good is on the shelf while recuperating from a left-hind ankle issue that required surgery. Concert Tour, who worked a crisp five furlongs in :47.80 at Churchill on Monday, is being prepared for the Grade I Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 15 after not coming out of the Arkansas Derby to Baffert’s satisfaction. Concert Tour finished third as the 3-10 favorite in the Arkansas Derby, his first loss in four career starts.
“But even though Life is Good and Concert Tour are not participating, it’s not hard for me to envision Baffert still winning the Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit, who finished second in the Santa Anita Derby as the 9-10 favorite.”
ANOTHER SANTA ANITA DERBY RUNNER-UP GETS ROSES
Medina Spirit was the 9-10 favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 3. He finished second, 4 1/4 lengths behind Rock Your World, who was racing on dirt for the first time following grass victories in his first two career starts.
It’s interesting that Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby more often with a 3-year-old who ran second in the Santa Anita Derby than those who won it.
Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Authentic and Medina Spirit finished second in the Santa Anita Derby for Baffert, then won the Kentucky Derby. Cavonnier, Indian Charlie, Dortmund, and Pioneerof the Nile were Santa Anita Derby winners for Baffert who then ran second or third in the Kentucky Derby.
Following Rock Your World’s sparkling Santa Anita Derby victory, he was the 9-2 second favorite in the Kentucky Derby. But his race last Saturday essentially was over just about as quickly as you can say his name.
Rock Your World, with Joel Rosario in the saddle, broke a step slowly, which many times can spell doom in a large field unless your name is Seattle Slew. And then in the opening strides, Rock Your World became the cheese in the sandwich when bumped hard from both sides (by Highly Motivated on the right and Essential Quality on the left). Rosario’s foot even momentarily slipped out of his left stirrup before he got his foot back in it.
In Rock Your World’s Santa Anita Derby victory, he set the pace. But he never came close to the front end in the Kentucky Derby after the adversity he encountered at the outset. Instead of setting or forcing the pace, Rock Your World found himself 10th through the early stages. He would finish 17th.
Medina Spirit won by a half-length. He completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.02. Mandaloun ran second. Hot Rod Charlie finished third, a half-length behind Medina Spirit. Essential Quality ended up fourth while losing for the first time in six career starts.
Brad Cox trains Mandaloun and Essential Quality. While Cox understandably was disappointed that neither colt won, he was pleased that they ran as well as they did.
“They went swift up front,” Cox said. “You can’t take anything away from the winner. He did all the dirty work [early] and kept on rolling. Listen, he ran a big race. He ran huge.”
Cox said he respects Medina Spirit, calling it a “huge, huge performance” on his part to “lay down those fractions and keep going.”
When Cox was asked if he believed that Essential Quality might have been the best horse in the race because of his wide trip, the trainer was quick to respond.
“I do,” Cox said. “I think he was the best horse. People can say what they want, but he was beaten a length and ran 68 feet further than the winner [according to Trakus].”
Some say Essential Quality, who moved up to loom boldly approaching the top of the long Churchill stretch, had every chance to run down Medina Spirit in the lane. And that is true. Nevertheless, it’s awfully difficult for a horse to run 68 feet (approximately seven to eight lengths) farther than someone and still beat them.
I’m guessing that Essential Quality will be the Kentucky Derby starter who quite possibly will emerge from the race with the best Thoro-Graph number. When it comes to Thoro-Graph, a lower number is better than a higher one. This is the opposite of Beyer Speed Figures.
Thoro-Graph takes many more factors into account than the Beyers. According to Thoro-Graph, “each number on a sheet represents a performance rating arrived at by using time of the race, beaten lengths, ground lost or saved on the turns, weight carried, and any effects wind conditions had on the time of the race.”
Medina Spirit received a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his Kentucky Derby win. It was his first triple-digit Beyer. His previous top figure had been a 99 when he ran second to Life Is Good in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 2.
Authentic, last year’s Kentucky Derby winner for Baffert, won the Sham (a race named after the 1973 Santa Anita Derby winner and runner-up to the great Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness).
Below are the Beyers for Kentucky Derby winners going back to 1989 (the figures prior to 2020 are listed in the American Racing Manual, which is now digital only):
2021 Medina Spirit (102)
2020 Authentic (105)
2019 Country House (99)+
2018 Justify (103)
2017 Always Dreaming (102)
2016 Nyquist (103)
2015 American Pharoah (105)
2014 California Chrome (97)
2013 Orb (104)
2012 I’ll Have Another (101)
2011 Animal Kingdom (103)
2010 Super Saver (104)
2009 Mine That Bird (105)
2008 Big Brown (109)
2007 Street Sense (110)
2006 Barbaro (111)
2005 Giacomo (100)
2004 Smarty Jones (107)
2003 Funny Cide (109)
2002 War Emblem (114)
2001 Monarchos (116)
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (108)
1999 Charismatic (108)
1998 Real Quiet (107)
1997 Silver Charm (115)
1996 Grindstone (112)
1995 Thunder Gulch (108)
1994 Go for Gin (112)
1993 Sea Hero (105)
1992 Lil E. Tee (107)
1991 Strike the Gold*
1989 Sunday Silence (102)
+Country House finished second but was placed first through the disqualification of Maximum Security
*No Beyer Speed Figure listed
FRACTIONAL TIMES FOR THIS YEAR’S DERBY
Medina Spirit recorded fractional times of :23.09, :46.70, 1:11.20 and 1:35.98 en route to his Kentucky Derby triumph.
Below is a comparison of the time for each quarter-mile posted by Medina Spirit in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Authentic in the 2020 renewal:
:23.09, :23.61, :24.51, :24.77 and :25.04
:23.20, :23.49, :23.82, :24.79 and :25.59
ANOTHER DERBY FOR JOHNNY V.
As was the case last year when John Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby aboard Authentic for Baffert, the trainer with the distinctive white hair raved about the Hall of Famer’s ride astride Medina Spirit last Saturday.
For Velazquez, this was his fourth Kentucky Derby victory. He previously had won it with Animal Kingdom in 2011, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Authentic last year.
Velazquez now is tied with Bill Shoemaker for the second-most Kentucky Derby wins. The record of five is shared by Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack.
Johnny V. became the eighth jockey to win the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks in the same year. He guided Malathaat to a neck victory in Friday’s Grade I Oaks as the 5-2 favorite. The Kentucky-bred Curlin filly, trained by Todd Pletcher, now is five for five.
This was the sixth Kentucky Derby win for Velazquez’s agent, Ron Anderson, one of the best of all time. Prior to this year, Anderson’s client won this race with Thunder Gulch (Gary Stevens in 1995), Silver Charm (Gary Stevens in 1997), Charismatic (Chris Antley in 1999), Orb (Joel Rosario in 2013) and Authentic (John Velazquez in 2020).
By the way, Daily Racing Form’s David Grening came up with a good tidbit.
“Exactly six years to the day that John Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby on Medina Spirit, he won the Grade II Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs aboard Protonico, the sire of Medina Spirit,” Grening wrote. “It was the only time Velazquez rode Protonico, who was trained by Todd Pletcher.”
STRENGTH IN CALIFORNIA
Seven of the last 10 Kentucky Derby winners have been based in California (I’ll Have Another in 2012, California Chrome in 2014, American Pharoah in 2015, Nyquist in 2016, Justify in 2017, Authentic in 2020 and Medina Spirit in 2021).
DERBY FINISH HAS SIMILARITY TO LEWIS STAKES
Baffert said Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby victory reminded him of how the colt had won Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Jan. 30 by showing so much heart in the stretch.
In the 1 1/16-mile Lewis, Medina Spirit and Hot Rod Charlie finished 1-3 at the end of a three-way stretch battle with Roman Centurian. Roman Centurian came in second.
In the Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit and Hot Rod Charlie again finished 1-3. This time it was Mandaloun who ran second.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ANDY BEYER
Medina Spirit officially carried 126 pounds in the Kentucky Derby. In a way, though, he packed considerably more weight than 126. That’s because he was Andy Beyer’s top pick to win the race.
In terms of picking the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, Beyer’s record has been dreadful. Considering I have mentioned that from time to time, I think it’s only fair that I congratulate Beyer for picking the Kentucky Derby winner this year.
Beyer himself admits that his record in this regard is woeful. He even recently said, with a chuckle, that it might be another 20 years before he picks the winner of the Kentucky Derby again.
WHERE HAVE THE 99-1 LONGSHOTS GONE?
Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee pointed out recently that “horses sent off in the Kentucky Derby at 99-1 or higher have seemingly become extinct despite an expansion from 14 to 20 betting interests in 2001 — which also happened to be the last time any horse was sent away at triple-digit odds. Startact was 10th at 102-1 and Arctic Boy was 12th at 101-1 behind the victorious Monarchos that year.”
Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia listed six horses at 50-1 on his Kentucky Derby morning line this year: Brooklyn Strong, Helium, Hidden Stash, Like the King, Keepmeinmind and Sainthood.
McGee also listed five of those horses at 50-1 in his odds for the DRF. McGee had Helium at 30-1.
While Battaglia and McGee had a plethora of horses at 50-1, nobody in this year’s Kentucky Derby started at 50-1 or higher, though one of the starters did come close to 50-1. Keepmeinmind was sent off at 49-1 (and actually ran a sneaky-good race in that he rallied to finish seventh after being 19th for the first six furlongs).
ZERO STRIKES FOR MEDINA SPIRIT
Medina Spirit had zero strikes in my Derby Strikes System (DSS).
I came up with the DSS years ago to try and determine a horse’s chances to win the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May from both tactical and historical perspectives. The DSS consists of eight categories. When a horse does not qualify in one of the categories, the horse gets a strike. The eight categories are listed at the end of this column/blog/article.
A number of the categories in the DSS are associated with the Kentucky Derby being run in May. Consequently, when the race was switched from May 2 to Sept. 5 last year due to the pandemic, it rendered the DSS unworkable.
Because the Kentucky Derby again was run on the first Saturday in May this year, the DSS returned.
Since 1973 and again excluding 2020 when the race was run in September, now 40 out of the 48 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or one strike, while seven have had two strikes and only one has had more than two strikes.
The seven Kentucky Derby winners with two strikes were:
Cannonade (1974) Categories 3 and 4
Ferdinand (1986) Categories 2 and 4
Sea Hero (1993) Categories 3 and 5
Funny Cide (2003) Categories 2 and 8
Giacomo (2015) Categories 2 and 5
Justify (2018) Categories 1 and 8
Country House (2019) Categories 2 and 3
The only Kentucky Derby winner with more than two strikes was:
Mine That Bird (2009) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 8
In the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security had zero strikes and finished first by 1 1/4 lengths. However, the stewards disqualified Maximum Security and placed him 17th when ruling that he had committed a foul by veering out sharply nearing the five-sixteenths marker to cause interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy.
WINNER WAS LEADING A FURLONG FROM FINISH
Thanks to the DSS, I have come to the conclusion that it behooves one to try and figure out who appears to have a good chance of being first or second with a furlong to go in the Kentucky Derby.
With a furlong left to run last Saturday, Medina Spirit led by a head. Mandaloun was second.
That now means 53 of the last 56 winners of the Kentucky Derby were either first or second at that point.
Interestingly, Medina Spirit, Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality were 1-2-3-4 in that order a quarter of a mile from the finish and again a furlong from the finish. And they were 1-2-3-4 in that same order at the finish.
NUMBER OF STRIKES FOR DERBY WINNERS SINCE 1973
These are the number of strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973 (again, the eight categories in the Derby Strikes System are listed at the end of this column/blog/article):
2021 Medina Spirit (0 strikes)
2020 race run in September
2019 Country House (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 3*
2018 Justify (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 7
2017 Always Dreaming (1 strike) Category 1
2016 Nyquist (0 strikes)
2015 American Pharoah (0 strikes)
2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)
2013 Orb (0 strikes)
2012 I’ll Have Another (0 strikes)
2011 Animal Kingdom (0 strikes)
2010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 4
2009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 9
2008 Big Brown (0 strikes)
2007 Street Sense (0 strikes)
2006 Barbaro (0 strikes)
2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 5
2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)
2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 8
2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)
2001 Monarchos (0 strikes)
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 6
1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 5
1998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)
1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 4
1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)
1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)
1994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)
1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 5
1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)
1991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)
1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 3
1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)
1988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)
1987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 2
1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 4
1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)
1984 Swale (0 strikes)
1983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 1
1982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 3
1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 1
1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)
1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)
1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)
1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)
1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)
1975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)
1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 4
1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)
*Maximum Security (0 strikes) finished first, disqualified and placed 17th
THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS
Mystic Guide, who won the Dubai World Cup in March for trainer Michael Stidham, continues to hold the top position in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week.
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
- 350 Mystic Guide (31)
- 322 Charlatan 6)
- 199 Monomoy Girl
- 199 Colonel Liam
- 184 Knicks Go
- 161 Gamine
- 141 Letruska
- 133 Maxfield (1)
- 84 Shedaresthedevil
- 55 Domestic Spending
As expected, after winning last Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit takes over the top spot in this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll. He ranked No. 7 last week.
Undefeated Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat debuts on the Top 10 this week at No. 5. According to Pletcher, two races under consideration for Malathaat’s next start are the Grade I Belmont Stakes on June 19 and Grade II Mother Goose Stakes on June 26. Pletcher has won the Belmont with a filly, having done so in 2007 with Rags to Riches.
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
- 374 Medina Spirit (34)
- 315 Essential Quality (2)
- 284 Mandaloun
- 266 Hot Rod Charlie
- 179 Malathaat (1)
- 95 Concert Tour
- 94 Life Is Good (1)
- 82 Jackie’s Warrior
- 69 Rock Your World
- 65 Midnight Bourbon
MY DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES
What are the eight categories in my Derby Strikes System? They are listed below:
- THE GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Always Dreaming in 2017 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 2 or early at 3 before March 31.)
- THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.)
- THE EIGHTH POLE CATEGORY. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners through 2021 have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second a furlong from the finish in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
- THE GAMENESS CATEGORY. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
- THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION CATEGORY. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.)
- THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS CATEGORY. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.)
- THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD CATEGORY. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old now are a combined 1 for 65 in the Kentucky Derby through 2021. During this period, the only horses to finish second or third in the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2 were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; and Battle of Midway, third in 2017.)
- THE NOT A GELDING CATEGORY. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)