Trail to Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs: What to know about this weekend’s prep races

Trainer Brad Cox talks to he media about his Kentucky Derby hopeful, Cyberknife. April 27, 2022
Trainer Brad Cox talks to he media about his Kentucky Derby hopeful, Cyberknife. April 27, 2022
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Louisville trainer Brad Cox already has one probable starter for the upcoming Kentucky Derby with Risen Star winner Angel of Empire and will look to strengthen his hand Saturday in the $1 million, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

Cox has three contenders entered in the race scheduled for 6:42 p.m. at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The Louisiana Derby offers 200 qualifying points toward the May 6 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs — 100 for first place, 40 for second place, 30 for third place, 20 for fourth place and 10 for fifth place.

Leading Cox’s contingent Saturday will be 2-1 morning-line favorite Instant Coffee. The son of Bolt d’Oro enters off a 2 ½-length score in the Grade 3 Lecomte on Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds.

Cox’s other contenders are Tapit’s Conquest and Jace’s Road. Tapit’s Conquest, a son of Tapit, finished fourth in the Grade 2 Risen Star on Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds. Jace’s Road, a son of Quality Road, enters off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Southwest on Jan. 28 at Oaklawn.

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Other top Louisiana Derby contenders are Sun Thunder and Kingsbarns.

Sun Thunder, trained by Kenny McPeek, was runner-up to Angel of Empire in the Risen Star. Kingsbarns, trained by Todd Pletcher, is 2 for 2 in his young career and will be making his stakes debut.

Post time: 6:42 p.m. EDT Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Purse: $1 million. Grade: 2. Distance: 1 3/16 miles. TV: CNBC, TVG. Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100 for first place, 40 for second place, 30 for third place, 20 for fourth place, 10 for fifth place.

PP Horse, jockey, trainer, odds

1. Shopper’s Revenge, Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 12-1

2. Instant Coffee, Luis Saez, Brad Cox, 2-1

3. Curly Jack, Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss, 12-1

4. Sun Thunder, Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 5-1

5. Disarm, Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 10-1

6. Kingsbarns, Flavien Prat, Todd Pletcher, 6-1

7. Cagliostro, Cristian Torres, Cherie DeVaux, 12-1

8. Single Ruler, David Cohen, Keith Desormeaux, 15-1

9. Tapit’s Conquest, Manny Franco, Brad Cox, 10-1

10. Denington, Junior Alvarado, Kenny McPeek, 12-1

11. Jace’s Road, Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 12-1

12. Baseline Beater, Corey Lanerie, Neil Pessin, 20-1

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Todd Pletcher has favorite in Jeff Ruby Steaks

The Todd Pletcher-trained Major Dude is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

Post time is set for 6:25 p.m. EST, and the race will offer 200 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.

Major Dude, a son of Bolt d’Oro, enters off a victory on the turf in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream.

Other top contenders are Two Phil’s and Congruent.

Two Phil’s, trained by Larry Rivelli, enters off a third-place finish in the Risen Star. The Jeff Ruby Steaks will be his first start over a Tapeta surface.

“I’ve been trying to think of the easiest spot for the money, and I think this will be the spot,” Rivelli said. “If he absolutely hates the surface, that’s on me. I’m sort of putting myself out there saying that I think he will run well over it.”

Congruent, trained by Antonio Sano, won the John Battaglia Memorial on March 4 at Turfway.

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Post time: 6:25 p.m. EST Saturday at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. Purse: $700,000. Grade: 3. Distance: 1 1/8 miles. TV: CNBC, TVG. Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100 for first place, 40 for second place, 30 for third place, 20 for fourth place, 10 for fifth place.

PP Horse, jockey, trainer, odds

1. Major Dude, Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher, 5-2

2. Scoobie Quando, Luan Machado, Ben Colebrook, 15-1

3. Event Detail, Walter Rodriguez, Paulo Lobo, 15-1

4. Funtastic Again, Gerardo Corrales, Wesley Ward, 6-1

5. Maker’s Candy, Umberto Rispoli, Mike Maker, 12-1

6. Baby Billy, Joe Talamo, Jack Sisterson, 30-1

7. Bluebirds Over, Edgard Zayas, Saffie Joseph Jr., 15-1

8. Congruent, Sonny Leon, Antonio Sano, 5-1

9. Escapologist, Alex Achard, Kenny McPeek, 30-1

10. Two Phil’s, Jareth Loveberry, Larry Rivelli, 7-2

11. Wadsworth, Chris Landeros, Brad Cox, 8-1

12. Point Proven, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 15-1

Bob Baffert horse among UAE Derby favorites

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, right, spoke to the media outside U.S. District Court in Louisville, Ky. on Feb. 2, 2023 along with his attorney Clark Brewster after a hearing to seek a temporary injunction to lift his ban from Churchill Downs so he can participate in this year's Kentucky Derby.  The hearing was extended another day.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, right, spoke to the media outside U.S. District Court in Louisville, Ky. on Feb. 2, 2023 along with his attorney Clark Brewster after a hearing to seek a temporary injunction to lift his ban from Churchill Downs so he can participate in this year's Kentucky Derby. The hearing was extended another day.

The Bob Baffert-trained Worcester is one of the favorites in Saturday’s UAE Derby, but he won’t be able to earn qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby because of Baffert’s suspension at Churchill Downs.

The UAE Derby is set for 9:50 a.m. and will offer 200 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.

Worcester, a son of Empire Maker, is 0-1-1 in three career starts. He most recently finished third in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 4 at Santa Anita.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has two UAE Derby contenders in Ah Jeez and Tall Boy.

Ah Jeez, a son of Mendelssohn, ran his first eight races in California before winning at Meydan on Feb. 24. Tall Boy, a son of Lookin At Lucky, won the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas on Feb. 10 at Meydan.

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Post time: 9:50 a.m. EST Saturday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Purse: $1 million. Group: 2. Distance: 1 3/16 miles. TV: Fox Sports 2. Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100 for first place, 40 for second place, 30 for third place, 20 for fourth place, 10 for fifth place.

PP Horse, jockey, trainer, odds

1. Es-Unico, Joao Moreira, Antonio Cintra, 20-1

2. Ah Jeez, Tyler Gaffalione, Doug O’Neill, 12-1

3. Cairo, Ryan Moore, Aiden O’Brien, 5-2

4. Continuar, Ryusei Sakai, Yoshito Yahagi, 15-1

5. Derma Sotogake, Christopher Lemaire, Hidetaka Otonashi, 10-1

6. Dura Erede, Cristian Demuro, Manabu Ikezoe, 6-1

7. Go Soldier Go, Adrie de Vries, Fawzi Nass, 15-1

8. Goraiko, Yuga Kawada, Koichi Shintani, 8-1

9. Lahresh, Mickael Barzalona, Musabbeh Al Mheiri, 30-1

10. Mr Raj, Ray Dawson, Ahmad Bin Harmash, 20-1

11. Perriere, Oisin Murphy, Yoichi Kuroiwa, 15-1

12. Tall Boy, William Buick, Doug O’Neill, 10-1

13. Worcester, Frankie Dettori, Bob Baffert, 5-1

Another Baffert horse headlines Sunland Derby field

Baffert’s Hard to Figure is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Sunday’s $600,000, Grade 3 Sunland Derby in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Set for 6:45 p.m., the Sunland Derby will offer 100 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby. Hard to Figure, like other Baffert-trained horses, cannot qualify for this year's Kentucky Derby.

Hard to Figure, a son of Hard Spun, is 1-1-2 in five career starts and most recently finished second behind Newgate in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 4 at Santa Anita.

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Henry Q, trained by Todd Fincher, is the 3-1 second choice in the morning line. Henry Q won the Mine That Bird Derby on Feb. 28 at Sunland.

Post time: 6:45 p.m. EST Sunday at Sunland Park in Sunland Park, New Mexico. Purse: $600,000. Grade: 3. Distance: 1 1/8 miles. TV: TVG. Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 50 for first place, 20 for second place, 15 for third place, 10 for fourth place, 5 for fifth place.

PP Horse, jockey, trainer, odds

1. How Did He Do That, Alfredo Juarez Jr., Steve Asmussen, 9-2

2. Low Expectations, Mario Gutierrez, Antonio Garcia, 6-1

3. Fort Bragg, Juan Hernandez, Tim Yakteen, 4-1

4. Henry Q, Edwin Maldonado, Todd Fincher, 3-1

5. One in Vermillion, Harry Hernandez, Esteban Martinez, 6-1

6. Hard to Figure, Flavien Prat, Bob Baffert, 2-1

7. Wild On Ice, Ken Tohill, Joel Marr, 20-1

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Trail to Kentucky Derby 2023 at Churchill Downs: Weekend’s prep races