Early Derby Points Races: California Appears To Have Strong Hand Once Again

The Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve offers its first West Coast points of the 2018-2019 season on Saturday, and based on early polling of Churchill Downs Inc. handicapping experts on KentuckyDerby.com, California again looks loaded with talent.

Since the “Points System” began qualifying horses for the 2013 Kentucky Derby won by Orb, California-based horses have won 4 editions of America’s most famous horse race: California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Nyquist (2016), and Justify (2018). American Pharoah and Justify went on to win the Triple Crown.

Del Mar Futurity winner Game Winner is the likely favorite for the American Pharoah Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. Formerly known as the FrontRunner Stakes, the American Pharoah offers 17 points to the top 4 finishers, including 10 to the winner.

Game Winner appears on all 6 polls for the 2019 Derby while occupying the top spots for Ed DeRosa, James Scully, and Vance Hanson. He’s second behind Mucho on Kellie Reilly’s ballot, third behind Endorsed and Magic On Tap for Scott Shapiro, and 5th for Joe Kristufek, who ranks another Bob Baffert charge, Tale of the Union, as his number one. Baffert also trained American Pharoah and Justify as two of his five Derby wins.

“In the span of 2 ½ weeks, Game Winner rose quickly to become the leading juvenile in training in California,” Hanson said. “Precocious enough to win the Del Mar Futurity, his pedigree suggests that he should do even better over a distance of ground, as he’s by Candy Ride and out of a daughter of champion older female Fleet Indian. The Baffert factor is also in play.”

Another California-based colt, Best Pal Stakes winner Instagrand, was the top consensus pick when the Road to the Kentucky Derby began with the Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 15 at Churchill Downs, but he dropped out of the top 5 following news that he would skip the rest of his two-year-old season after missing the aforementioned Del Mar Futurity won by Game Winner.

Iroquois winner Cairo Cat, the current points leader with 10—appears on 3 ballots: as high as 7th on Reilly’s poll and 8th for both Scully and Shapiro. DeRosa, Hanson, and Kristufek remain unconvinced.

The prep season continues Oct. 6 with races from Belmont Park and Keeneland Race Course followed by the 34-point Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (with 20 points to the winner) on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs.

Brisnet.com is the official data source of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs and will provide FREE past performances for all Road to the Kentucky Derby races, and fans can watch and bet on all races via TwinSpires.com, the betting partner of both Churchill Downs and the Breeders’ Cup.

The post Early Derby Points Races: California Appears To Have Strong Hand Once Again appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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