November 28, 2021

Kentucky Derby Report – Prep races completed

Super Stock
Super Stock wins the Arkansas Derby (Photo by Coady Photography)

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series concluded with a pair of double-digit upsets.

Super Stock made the biggest impact, knocking off odds-on favorite Concert Tour and 3-1 second choice Caddo River in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Concert Tour brought an unbeaten record to the 1 1/8-mile race, recording a dominant win in the Rebel S. (G2) at Oaklawn a month earlier, and the Bob Baffert-trained colt would have been a popular pick at Churchill Downs with another strong performance.

His disappointing third strengthened unbeaten champion Essential Quality’s hold upon Kentucky Derby favoritism.

Lexington S. (G3) winner King Fury needs defections to draw into a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. He had no points entering his three-year-old opener on Saturday, and the Lexington awarded only 20 to the winner.

Arkansas Derby

Super Stock has special meaning for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Owned by his parents, Keith and Marilyn, and longtime Nashville music manager Erv Woolsey, the colt recorded his first stakes win last summer, the Texas Thoroughbred Futurity at Lone Star, with Steve’s son, Keith, in the saddle.

The Kentucky-bred son of Dialed In went on to record consecutive thirds in the Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs and Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, and Super Stock concluded his juvenile season with a close second to King Fury in the Street Sense S. in late October.

Ricardo Santana Jr. now rides.

After opening 2021 with a fourth in the March 13 Rebel, Super Stock left the Arkansas Derby starting gate as the 12-1 fourth choice among six runners. The bay sophomore settled in third, just behind Caddo River and Concert Tour.

The pace was hot. “Those horses went :46 2/5 for a half-mile,” Asmussen said. “Plenty solid fractions, carried him nicely.”

Concert Tour advanced to take a short lead entering the stretch. Caddo River was still plugging away to his inside with a furlong remaining, and Santana angled Super Stock outward for clear sailing.

Super Stock charged past his rivals to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths. He’ll head to Churchill Downs on the upswing, but his 97 Brisnet Speed rating came back a little light.

Asmussen now has a pair of Kentucky Derby contenders, with Super Stock joining Midnight Bourbon.

Despite weakening after his early exploits, Caddo River re-rallied past Concert Tour for second in the latter stages. The Brad Cox-trained colt is eligible to add significant pace to the Kentucky Derby field.

Concert Tour had everything his own way on the lead when winning the Rebel by 4 1/4 lengths. Switching tactics on Saturday, he was exposed on the stretch out to nine furlongs. That makes Concert Tour a candidate to send hard from the Kentucky Derby starting gate – his only chance may be wire-to-wire.

Lexington

King Fury made his first start since a fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) at Churchill Downs in late November. He had failed to finish in the top four in three points-qualifying races last year.

The Curlin colt returned to the races with a career-best effort in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, rallying boldly to the lead on the far turn and drawing away to a 2 3/4-length decision. Overlooked at 18-1, he received a career-best 95 Speed rating.

Trainer Kenny McPeek will point King Fury to the Preakness S. (G1) at Pimlico if he doesn’t make the Kentucky Derby field.

Derby betting

Essential Quality and Rock Your World will be the top two betting choices in the Kentucky Derby.

Essential Quality looks like a solid favorite. How short his price will run is a guessing game — projections range from 5-2 to 7-2 – but there should be a gap to the rest.

Rock Your World isn’t as clear cut, receiving a favorable setup as the lone speed in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), but his attributes remain appealing. Bred for a classic distance, the John Sadler-trained colt has never been exposed, winning all three starts convincingly, and his 102 Brisnet Speed rating is tied for top last-out number in the field.

The next tier could all be in the 8-1 to 15-1 range. Presently, I think Florida Derby (G1) winner Known Agenda will be the third choice at post time, followed by Santa Anita Derby runner-up Medina Spirit, Blue Grass S. (G2) runner-up Highly Motivated, and Louisiana Derby (G2) scorer Hot Rod Charlie.

That’s at least six horses at 15-1 or less.

When War Emblem upset the 2002 Kentucky Derby at 20-1 odds, only two runners were 50-1 or higher. Mine That Bird sprung a 50-1 upset in 2009 when three contestants met the threshold.

I expect the odds to be more spread out in 2021, similar to 2005 when Bellamy Road left the starting gate as the 5-2 favorite and Afleet Alex as the 9-2 second choice. Seven horses were 50-1 or higher that afternoon, including the winning Giacomo (50-1) and runner-up Closing Argument (71-1).