If there is one thing Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird reminded us of last year it's that you have a chance as long as you make it to the starting gate.
Saturday's Kentucky Derby prep races were another lesson in having hope against hope as 40-1 shot Stately Victor and 17-1 stunner Line of David managed to win the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes and Grade I Arkansas Derby, respectively.
While the upset winners defied logic to get themselves into the Kentucky Derby field, it's hard to believe they'll be able to duplicate that magic three weeks from now.
Line of David might have the best chance of the two. The son of 2004 Derby runner-up Lion Heart will go in with three straight victories, two of which came on the turf.
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Line of David boasts the same front-running style as his stablemate, Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy.
While trainer John Sadler certainly won't plan on having his colts fight one another on the lead, Sidney's Candy appears to have the better stamina and ability to relax. He was still drawing away at the end of the 11⁄8-mile Santa Anita Derby while Line of David was being reeled in at the end of the Arkansas by graded-stakes winners Super Saver and Dublin.
Though it's challenging to make a case for Line of David in the Derby, it's even more difficult to envision a scenario that puts Stately Victor in the winner's circle.
The son of Ghostzapper showed what he could do with a clean trip and his Blue Grass Stakes victory was visually impressive. However, the race has become one of the least reliable indicators on the Derby trail in recent years.
The last Blue Grass Stakes winner to hit the board in the Derby was Peace Rules (third in 2003) and since the track installed its synthetic surface in fall 2006, the best placing by a Blue Grass Stakes victor has been a tenth-place run from General Quarters last year.
1. Eskendereya: Trainer Todd Pletcher plans to work the son Giant's Causeway at Palm Meadows Training Center on April 18, then ship to Kentucky on April 20 to have his final Derby workout at Churchill Downs on April 25.
2. Lookin At Lucky: Eskendereya rightfully has the hype right now, but Lookin At Lucky has been at the top of his class since his career began. The son of Smart Strike has never been worse than third in eight career starts, he can run on dirt, and he showed he can overcome trouble in the Rebel Stakes. Trainer Bob Baffert is planning to ship last year's 2-year-old champion to Kentucky on Tuesday. He's scheduled to have two workouts at Churchill Downs.
3. Sidney's Candy: The front-running son of Candy Ride could have company on the lead in the Kentucky Derby from, all places, his stablemate Line of David, who took the Arkansas Derby in wire-to-wire fashion Saturday. Trainer John Sadler said Sidney's Candy is scheduled to leave for Kentucky on Monday.
4. Ice Box: His only loss in four starts beyond a mile came when he ran fifth behind Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. While Pleasant Prince, who Ice Box only beat by a nose in the Florida Derby, only managed a seventh-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes, that effort was likely the product of the colt not handling the synthetic surface rather than a reflection of his quality.
5. Endorsement: He had his first work since winning the $800,000 Sunland Derby on March 28, breezing 4 furlongs in :46.80 at Keeneland on Friday. Trainer Shannon Ritter said the son of Distorted Humor would probably have one more work at Keeneland before heading to Churchill Downs. "He is just now coming into his own and getting better and better," Ritter said.
6. Super Saver: He got beat a neck in the Arkansas Derby but perhaps the best thing that came out of that loss is that he showed he could take back off the lead and still deliver an admirable run. He's slated to leave for Kentucky on Monday.
7. Rule: He continues to prep for the Derby at Palm Meadows, working 4 furlongs in :49.95 on Sunday.
8. Jackson Bend: He's now 22nd in graded earnings and part of the "bubble" group of horses that need help in order to make the Derby field. It would be a shame if a legit contender like him missed out.
9. Awesome Act: The son of Awesome Again is slated to have his first serious work in preparation for the Derby in about two weeks, either at Belmont Park or Churchill Downs. "It had originally been planned to remain here at Belmont until a few days before the Derby, but now there is discussion about possibly shipping to Kentucky earlier than that," said Wayne Tanner, assistant to head trainer Jeremy Noseda.
10. Dublin: He seems to have to a kindred soul in Jackson Bend as these two have been in the mix all year but can't quite seem to find the wire first. Unlike Jackson Bend, however, Dublin already has the graded-stakes money to get into the Derby field.
11. American Lion: While the son of Tiznow won the Grade III Illinois Derby in gate-to-wire fashion, it would be premature to lump him in with the other potential front-running Derby contenders. His usual form is to sit just off the pace, as he did when he won the Grade III Hollywood Prevue Stakes last November.
12. Noble's Promise: Sadly, the son of Cuvee emerged from his trouble fifth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby with several cuts on his front legs, and his status for the Kentucky Derby is in doubt. "He's all cut up, and we had to treat them with antibiotics," said Walter Blum Jr., assistant for trainer Ken McPeek. "The Derby is three weeks away. We're going to have to wait and see if he can make it." Hopefully a recovery is imminent because this colt has shown too much mettle to be discounted on Derby Day.
The next dozen: Line of David, Mission Impazible, Conveyance, Stately Victor, Discreetly Mine, Uh Oh Bango, Dean's Kitten, Schoolyard Dreams, Setsuko, Paddy O'Prado, Interactif, Aikenite.