Saturday is the end of the road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby. The Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park are the final prep races. When the races go official so will be the final 2019 Kentucky Derby qualifying standings. The top 20 point getters receive an automatic bid for the first Saturday in May. The next four are alternative entries in case one of the top 20 can't go.
The Arkansas Derby is the more consequential of the two races, awarding 100 points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third, and 10 points for fourth. Whereas, the Lexington assigns 20 points for the win, eight for place, four for show, and two to fill in the superfecta.
Two points might seem meaningless but horses ranked 21 through 25 have between 28 and 31 qualifying points. The tiebreaker is non-restricted stakes earnings. Every point and every dollar counts as the road to the Kentucky Derby heads to a photo-finish, hold all tickets.
Winning is everything for Lexington Stakes horses SUENO and ANOTHERTWISTAFATE. Hitting the board for Arkansas Derby runners IMPROBABLE, OMAHA BEACH, GRAY ATTEMPT, GALILEAN and COUNTRY HOUSE is essential. All of them are on the bubble and likely eliminated with an out-of-the-money finish.
Of course, the winner of the Arkansas Derby gets 100 points, more than enough to find his way onto Churchill Downs grounds. That's the only guaranteed ticket to the Kentucky Derby on the line. For the rest, it's a free-for-all.
Eleven, three-year-olds will race 1 1/8 miles on Oaklawn dirt for those coveted Kentucky Derby qualifying points. With 53.5 points, LONG RANGE TODDY (PP: 11 ML 5-1) is the only Saturday runner with a place in the derby, ranked 11th on the leaderboard.
OMAHA BEACH (PP: 3 ML 2-1) would be a cinch to make the Derby if he finishes in the top four. The Richard Mandella trainee currently sits in the 19thspot with 37.5 points, thanks to his win in one of the two Rebel Stakes races. Another 10 points would vault him up the ladder to 15th place.
Morning-line Arkansas Derby favorite, IMPROBABLE (PP: 1 ML 8/5) needs to finish at least third to avoid a major disappointment for the third favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, according to the most recent futures pool.
GRAY ATTEMPT, GALILEAN and COUNTRY HOUSE share IMPROBABLE's position, hit the board or else. If our handicapper's commentary in our Arkansas Derby Wagering Guide is correct, the rich will get richer.
"IMPROBABLE finished second as the big-time chalk in his last race. Trainer Bob Baffert rebounds with a win at 26%. OMAHA BEACH has put in two bullet workouts since winning the Rebel Stakes in his last. He should remain razor sharp. LONG RANGE TODDY is two lengths and a neck from a six-race winning streak. He could be the biggest beneficiary of an extra 1/16th mile. GALILEAN has never finished out-of-the-money with three wins, a second and third in five races."
Nobody is safe in the Lexington Stakes. Playing the part of spoiler is the reality for all but morning-line favorite ANOTHERTWISTAFATE (PP: 4 ML 2-1) and SUENO (PP: 3 ML 5-1). Both need to win and then cross their hoofs and hope the Arkansas Derby goes to script.
ANOTHERTWISTAFATE is currently ranked outside the top 20 at 23rd with 30 points, tied with Arkansas Derby entry COUNTRY HOUSE (PP: 8 ML 12-1). SUENO is two spots down at 25th with 28 points. A win for either would temporarily put them in 20th place.
A few hours later, their owners and trainers will be glued to the TV, watching the Arkansas Derby, hoping that some longshot doesn't come home first or second.
According to our Pro-Subscribers' bonus commentary, the day could end early for SUENO and ANOTHERTWISTAFATE's trainer (Blaine Wright) and owner (Peter Redekop B C Ltd.) will have a long two hours of fingernail biting.
"ANOTHERTWISTAFATE is a neck away from a four-race winning streak. He'll most likely be on the lead and could be hard to pass. HAWAIIAN NOISES won his last race on March 9th; since he's put in three bullet works and should be sharp. SHANG gets to ride the 18% winning rail and has won three of four on fast dirt. HARVEY WALLBANGER has the back-class to get it done but will need to get off to a quicker start."
Once all the dirt has settled Saturday evening, we'll put together a list of the horses that found their way home on the 2019 road to the Kentucky Derby, along with some commentary on those we believe looked the best along the way.