Assuming you’ve been paying attention to the Road to the Kentucky Derby®, you’re well aware of all the excitement that went down this weekend. Two high-profile races were held in different parts of the world that were worth a combined 340 points on the Road to the Derby – the UAE Derby in Dubai and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. To this point, races on the Road to the Derby have been worth between 10 and 50 points max – this weekend saw the jump to 100 points for the winner, virtually assuring the victor a spot at the Kentucky Derby. We’ll only see 5 more of these highest-stakes races before May!
Always run in late March, the Louisiana Derby has been a staple at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans for the better part of a century. The race was inaugurated even further back, in 1894, and two Louisiana Derby winners have also won the Kentucky Derby, one in 1924 and one in 1996.
Gun Runner, who claimed first, clearly stood out from the rest of the pack quickly after breaking from the inside. He took advantage of an opening between Candy My Boy and Dazzling Gem and snuck up the middle to claim the lead. From there, it was all over – Gun Runner crossed the finish line to claim a four-length win and climb to the top of the Road to the Derby leaderboard with 151 total points.
"We're so fortunate and thankful...for the opportunity to train this horse and we really look forward to his next race," said Gun Runner’s trainer, Steve Asmussen. "He's very talented. [The Kentucky Derby] is what we're dreaming about." Another Thoroughbred will also be looking to the Run for the Roses in May – Tom’s Ready. While he ran into some traffic and hung back for some time, he was able to follow Gun Runner to the front of the pack and steer clear to second place, upping his standing to 44 points on the Road to the Derby.
$2 million was on the table for the winner of the UAE Derby – a staggering figure, especially considering the Louisiana Derby’s (comparatively) meager purse of $750,000. It’s a much younger race than the Louisiana Derby, too, having just been inaugurated in 2000, and it invites 3-year-olds from the Northern Hemisphere and 4-year-olds from the Southern Hemisphere to compete. This year’s winner, Lani, is the first Japanese horse to win this high-stakes race, and his trainer has already planned for his entry in the Kentucky Derby.
Could 2016 see the first Japanese horse to win the Kentucky Derby? Lani has won three out of six races, but it seems that his success at Churchill Downs® largely depends on whether or not he ships well. Traveling is hard on a horse, especially for a horse who is known for being temperamental. Lani will head to the United States within a week, so we should know fairly soon whether we can expect to see this son of Tapit in Louisville.
For the updated Road to the Derby leaderboard, click here.
Don’t Miss the 2016 Kentucky Derby®
Next weekend will bring the highly-anticipated showdown between Nyquist and Mohaymen at the Florida Derby and inch us further toward the main event: the Kentucky Derby.
Book your Official Ticket Package with Derby Experiences today to experience the incredible premium seating area upgrades that will be finished by the 2016 Derby and select the Derby parties that you’re dying to attend! Upgrade to include a three-night stay and choose from a selection of elite Louisville hotels to complete your ultimate Derby weekend package!