Derby Field Could Dip Well Past Current 20

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1:51 am EDT

By Dick Downey

NOTE: Updated 3:19 p.m. with deletion from points chart of Uncaptured, Merit Man and Departing

The Kentucky Derby field is close to being set, but more things can and will happen before entries close on May 1. We could see horses now ranked well into the 20's pop up in the field.

Right now, connections with horses ranked in the top 17 look firm for the Kentucky Derby. See the chart below. Let's assume that group of 17 remains intact. Once you get past them, things could begin taking a different shape.

Rank  Horse Points   Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings          Rank  Horse Points   Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1 Orb 150 $840,000   15 Frac Daddy 44 $240,596
2 Verrazano 150 $810,000   16 Mylute 42 $363,365
3 Goldencents 129 $1,208,000   17 Oxbow 36 $346,000
4 Java’s War 122 $651,772     Uncaptured 30 $396,341
5 Overanalyze 110 $908,381   18 Super Ninety Nine 30 $308,000
6 Revolutionary 110 $720,000   19 Falling Sky 30 $207,500
7 Lines of Battle 100 $1,261,089     Merit Man 20 $357,500
8 Vyjack 70 $505,000   20 Den's Legacy 20 $329,000
9 Will Take Charge 60 $512,971   21 Charming Kitten 20 $206,000
10 Itsmyluckyday 50 $593,600     Departing 20 $130,000
11 Govenor Charlie 50 $400,000   22 West Hills Giant 20 $90,666
12 Black Onyx 50 $317,130   23 Code West 20 $90,000
13 Palace Malice 50 $200,000   24 Tiz a Minister 20 $81,000
14 Normandy Invasion 44 $258,000   25 Golden Soul 14 $84,000

Complete Derby Points List Updated with Defection of Uncaptured, Merit Man and Departing

Uncaptured is ranked number 18 on the list put out by Churchill Downs on Saturday night, but trainer Mark Casse was clearly disappointed after the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass. Uncaptured won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last Fall, but after Casse watched him finish tenth, beaten 11 lengths in the Blue Grass, the trainer said he would talk to the owner, "but I can't see him going to the Derby off that performance."

After Super Ninety Nine, nineteenth on the list, finished a distant third in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade I Santa Anita Derby, trainer Bob Baffert said, "he probably doesn't want to go that far." The next day, Baffert discovered that Flashback, who finished a good second and appeared to be on his way to Louisville, would miss the Derby with an injury. Will the connections of Super Ninety Nine have a change of heart?

Jim Covello, principal owner of Falling Sky, has already declared his intention to go on to the Derby if the colt has the points. Right now, he does at number 20 on the list if there are no defections above him.

Merit Man is ranked number 21. It's interesting to see him on the Churchill Downs list, given that trainer Bob Hess said he would not run Merit Man in the Derby Kentucky Derby. Hess said that before Merit Man ran third in the Florida Derby -- and he repeated it after the Florida Derby. But anyone who's been around this sport for very long knows that Derby fever can be alluring. However, if Hess maintains his position, we are likely to see Merit Man next in either the Grade II Peter Pan or the Preakness Stakes.

At number 22 on the Derby points list is Den's Legacy, who finished an uninspiring sixth in the Grade I Arkansas Derby, beaten 6 1/2 lengths. However, he finished only 1 1/4 length behind number 17 Oxbow, who looks like he will go on to the Kentucky Derby. Is it possible Baffert will see a reason to recommend sending Den's Legacy to Kentucky for the big race? That would be contrary to the trainer's long-stated belief that a horse must run big in his final prep in order to belong.

This brings us to Charming Kitten, and it is absolutely no secret that Ken Ramsey would like to see Todd Pletcher take him to the Derby off his good third-place finish in the Blue Grass. The question is: will it take another race to get there? Not if enough others don't go forward, and so it becomes important to learn their plans.

So, if Uncaptured, Super Ninety Nine, Merit Man and the Den's Legacy don't show up for the Derby, that would also open the door for number 24 Departing. The Al Stall, Jr. trainee arrived at Churchill Downs on April 3 and is in barn 45.

West Hills Giant, number 25 on the list, would appear completely illogical for the Kentucky Derby after running twelfth in the Blue Grass.

The final points races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby are the Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes and the Grade III Derby Trial. Each race carries 20 points for the winner, eight for second, four for third and two for fourth.

Under our stated scenarios, Code West, number 26 on the leaderboard, couldn't pick up enough points in either the Lexington or Derby Trial to make the Kentucky Derby unless he wins. He was last seen finishing sixth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby. The same would apply to number 27 Tiz a Minister, who finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby.

Meanwhile, Golden Soul lies in wait in barn 48 on the backside of Churchill Downs. After the colt arrived there on April 6, trainer Dallas Stewart said that they would just hang around until the Derby and see what happens. He currently ranks number 28 and has 14 points.