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Graded Stakes Earnings a Major Kentucky Derby Factor

By Steve Davidowitz | The two most important races this weekend are the $500,000 Spiral Stakes (scheduled for the Polytrack at Turfway Park on Saturday) and the $800,000 Sunland Derby (scheduled for that New Mexico track on Sunday). While very few horses on most 'Derby Dozen' lists will run in either race, we will surely get at least two, if not three automatic qualifiers for the 137th Kentucky Derby after their owners pocket the winning and possibly the second place finisher’s share of the these rich purses.
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As most know, Churchill Downs restricts the starting field for the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby to a bulky 20, when a field of 16 horses would probably be much safer. Moreover, the 20 are determined by total earnings in Graded Stakes as registered by the time official entries are taken on Wednesday, May 2, three days before the race will be run.
This year, the list will be extended to include an 'also eligible' list for the first time; and if a horse is scratched from the top 20 before Friday, May 4, an 'also eligible' will be allowed into the starting field with the order to be determined by Graded Stakes earnings. With all of that, a win in the Spiral at Turfway will be worth $300,000 in Graded Stakes earnings, which should be more than enough to get into the top 20. Likewise, a win in the Sunland Derby (worth $400,000) certainly will do the same for that horse, as might the $160,000 that will be earned for second.
Of course, we also have the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby next weekend (March 31)  in Dubai, followed by a rush of Graded Stakes with purses ranging between $500,000 to $1 million.
In April there will be the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park; the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans; the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs; the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne near Chicago; the $1 million Santa Anita Derby; the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct; and the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.  We even have a $325,000 Lexington Stakes two weeks before the Kentucky Derby for horses that need to supplement previous  Graded Stakes earnings. Obviously, with all that money on the table, we are a long way from settling on the final Kentucky Derby Top 20.
Because there are 11 horses who have earned at least $200,000 in Graded Stakes, the $200,000 threshold might not even be enough for Kentucky Derby starting status.  There also are 16 more horses who already have earned $100,000 and 23 more who have earned at least $35,000 in Graded Stakes. All of these and others not even on the money list at all are just a win away from clearing the expected Top 20 Derby hurdle.
Here is the Kentucky Derby Top 20+ group at $100,000 and counting (some will be in action this weekend and virtually all will be running during the next three weeks)...
1. Hansen: $1,400,000
2. Union Rags: $1,070,000
3.Creative Cause: $686,000
4. Sabercat: $601,429
5. Wrote-IRE: $556,630
6. Secret Circle: $470,000
7. Dullahan: $405,000
8.Liaison: $393,000
9. Prospective: $365,452
10. On Fire Baby (f): $286,729
11. El Padrino: $200,000
12. Optimizer: $181,375
13. Alpha: $180,000
14. Rousing Sermon: $170,000
15. I’ll Have Another: $151,000
16-tie. Castaway: $150,000
16-tie. Currency Swap: $150,000
18. Daddy Nose Best: $145,558
19. My Adonis: $130,000
20. Battle Hardened: $127,000
21.Genten: $123,826
22. Brother Francis: $120,000
23.Mr. Bowling: $115,848
24.Lucky Chappy-IRE: $115,000
25.Gemologist: $103,855
26. Longview Drive: $102,834.
27. Scatman: $100,000
Important Reminder: Check out the Bovada Racebook for future odds and plays on this weekend’s prep races at Turfway and Sunland. And, to help Bovada and Gambling Beat Readers make better plays on these and other Graded Stakes races, please check my website for the latest workouts and pedigree reports for all the nominees to the Triple Crown races. Special and Exclusive Subscription discounts are available for all Bovada members and readers of The Gambling Beat. On the subscription page, just use the code words: Gambling Beat.
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