Early on the trail, the 2019 Kentucky Derby hopefuls hailing from the Midwest have starred at Churchill Downs and Keeneland. Most of those horses are on the move South for the winter to destinations like Oaklawn Park, Fair Grounds and various Florida training centers.
RELATED: West Coast Division report
Here’s a look at where the current contenders stand:
(Sire – Trainer – Owner)
Signalman (Into Mischief – Kenny McPeek – Tommie M. Lewis, David A. Bernsen, LLC, and Magdalena Racing (Sherri McPeek)): Signalman ran second, given little pace to chase, in the Breeders' Futurity and ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 67-1. He broke through in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) when coming from off the pace to win by a neck over a sloppy track. McPeek said in a recent Horse Racing Talk podcast the March Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park would be an ideal 3-year-old debut for Signalman.
Knicks Go (Paynter – Ben Colebrook – KRA Stud Farm): He defied 70-1 odds to lead every step of the way in the Breeders’ Futurity, then outran 40-1 odds in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and finished second. When he finally went off as the favorite in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he bounced and finished 11th. Knicks Go is expected to make his 3-year-old debut at Tampa Bay Downs. Its first prep is the Feb. 9 Sam F. Davis (G3).
Tight Ten (Tapit – Steve Asmussen – Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC): Tight Ten was knocking on the door of a stakes win with close runner-up efforts in the Saratoga Special (G2) and Iroquois (G3). The speed-favoring type never got a good chance to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after hitting the rail in the first turn.
Hog Creek Hustle (Overanalyze – Vickey Foley – Something Special Racing, LLC): Hog Creek Hustle was a debut winner at Ellis Park, but didn’t run a lick in the Iroquois next out. He rebounded to win in allowance optional claiming Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs. Foley said Hog Creek Hustle showed no physical problems in the Iroquois and believes the track was off that day. She’ll point the colt to the Dec. 22 Sugar Bowl and Jan. 29 Lecomte (G3), worth Kentucky Derby points, at Fair Grounds.
Limonite (Limonite – Steve Asmussen – Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing LLC): Whereas Tight Ten likes to set the pace, Limonite is the opposite. In his stakes debut, the colt rallied from last to finish third in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He also came from far back to finish second in allowance optional claiming company a race after closing to break his maiden at Keeneland.
Mr. Money (Goldencents – Bret Calhoun – Allied Racing Stable, LLC): Following two starts at Ellis Park, Mr. Money put it all together when he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs, breaking his maiden by 3 ¾ lengths. He followed that up with a fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, his first stakes start against more experienced horses.
Plus Que Parfait (Point of Entry – Brendan Walsh – Imperial Racing LLC): Plus Que Parfait is another one that broke his maiden after stretching out to his first route race. He rallied for second in the Kentucky Jockey Club his first time against stakes company, missing Signalman only by a neck.
Souper Jackpot (Ghostzapper – Mark Casse – Live Oak Plantation): After finishing 11th on debut late June, Souper Jackpot returned at Churchill Downs Nov. 7 and led every step of a six-furlong maiden special weight event. He’s a half-brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Awesome Slew and considered one of the Casse barn's best juveniles.
Super Steed (Super Saver – Larry Jones – Michael Pressley and Steed Jackson): This son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver lost by a head in his debut at Keeneland, then turned the tables on the winner in allowance optional claiming company at Churchill Downs, winning by six lengths. Jones plans to send Super Steed to his Oaklawn string, but a trip to the six-furlong Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds could be first.
Ones to Watch
Blue Steel and Dunph looked ready to fire in the Kentucky Jockey Club off last out wins at Churchill Downs, but both missed the board. They remain horses to keep an eye on, as Spendthrift Farm’s Blue Steel came back from a rough trip in his debut to break his maiden on the lead going seven furlongs. He sat off the pace in the Kentucky Jockey Club and faded to 13th. Dunph, meanwhile came out of Penn National to win the Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes by an impressive 7 ¾ lengths. He didn’t show the same kick when stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the Kentucky Jockey Club and faded to ninth in the stretch.
Tobacco Road broke his maiden at Ellis Park and rallied to win the Ellis Park Juvenile. He missed the board in both the Iroquois and Breeders’ Futurity, but ran third in the Nov. 2 Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park, which hosts its Springboard Mile on Dec. 16. Although based on the East Coast, Hopeful (G1) winner Mind Control will ship to Remington for the Springboard Mile after seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Topper T, an Iowa-bred, proved himself a consistent sprinter between four races at Prairie Meadows and one at Canterbury Park. He won the Iowa Cradles Stakes and placed in two other. When purchased and moved to Bill Mott, he finished eighth in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Jockey Club.
On the Shelf
Cairo Cat and Preamble are notable names that have been off the work tab late. Cairo Cat won the Iroquois, then was taken out of training with a minor issue. He'll be back next year. Preamble broke his maiden at first asking during Churchill Downs’ September meet, then backed up that win with an allowance optional claiming score at Keeneland. He has not worked since last start. Quick Entry returned to Churchill Downs from Saratoga and broke his maiden in September. He last worked Oct. 16.
No recent works are listed for Whiskey Echo, the Ellis Park Juvenile runner-up from Aug. 19, or Mr. Ankeny, who broke his maiden at Ellis and ran sixth in the Breeders’ Futurity when bumped around and steadied.
Remaining Central Division Preps
Sunday, Dec. 16: Springboard Mile
Saturday, Jan. 19: Lecomte Stakes (G3)
Friday, Jan. 25: Smarty Jones Stakes
Saturday, Feb. 16: Risen Star Stakes (G2)
Monday, Feb. 18: Southwest Stakes (G3)
Saturday, March 9: Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3)
Saturday, March 16: Rebel Stakes (G2)
Saturday, March 23: Louisiana Derby (G2)
Saturday, April 6: Blue Grass Stakes (G2)
Saturday, April 13: Lexington Stakes (G3)
Saturday, April 13: Arkansas Derby (G1)