The Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby® has officially begun. For the next eight months, horses from around the globe will compete for the right to enter the 145th 'Run for the Roses' on May 4.
This racing series is broken up into the American, European and Japanese roads, with us keeping you updated every step along the way. Points are distributed per race, with the top four horses earning points towards the leader board. As the road goes on, the point values get higher and the stakes become greater.
With the first month of races now in the books, let's look at the start of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby!
It bodes well for the entire Road to the Kentucky Derby that the first prep-race in the series was one of the most exciting sprints that we've seen this year.
Cairo Cat, a 17-1 long shot, made a late surge at Churchill Downs® to win the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes on September 15. Tight Ten, the favorite going into the race, led for a majority of the 1 1/16-mile distance, but was overtaken from a late surge by Cairo Cat in the final sixteenth.
This race doubles as a "Win & You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 2, making it quite the haul for Cairo Cat.
American Pharoah Stakes
The race formerly known as the FrontRunner Stakes came this year with a new title honoring the 12th Triple Crown™ winner in history.
While American Pharoah is long retired, his trainer Bob Baffert is still at the top of his game and looking for his next great champion. That horse just might be Game Winner, the victor of the American Pharoah Stakes on September 29.
Game winner took the race into his hooves in the final stretch, ousting Gunmetal Gray and Rowayton at the top of the stretch. The two-year-old won by 4 1/4-lengths, securing his third consecutive victory.
There's nothing complex about being undefeated.
Trainer Chad Brown's Complexity pushed himself to the top of the American Road standings with a three-length victory in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes on October 6. The two-year old took Belmont Park by storm after jumping out as the front-runner right out of the gates and never letting up during the entire mile distance.
"I am really proud of this horse," Brown said after the race. "For a horse that has his speed, to carry it is impressive. He was bred for speed, but he's so strong and an outstanding talent, so his pedigree might not limit him. He's a rare horse, an exceptional horse."
While the victory gave Complexity 10 points on the leaderboard, it also earned him an all-expenses paid entrance into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November.
Nobody saw this one coming.
At a 70-1 longshot, Knicks Go shocked the horse racing world and onlookers alike at Keeneland by roaring to his first grade 1 victory ever at the Breeders' Futurity on October 6. The Ben Colebrook-trained colt took first place out of the 13-horse field by 5 1/2-lengths.
And this upset victory didn't materialize in the final stretch. Knicks Go came out of the gate well and kept the pace throughout every step, including the clubhouse turn. By the time the field reached the back half of the race, his victory was almost a certainty.
Knicks Go also punched his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with the impressive win.
American Road Standings
|6||Code of Honor||4|
Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes
Mohawk became the first horse to earn points on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby with a first-place finish at the Royal Lodge Stakes on September 29 at Newmarket.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt came in at 8-1 odds, and was bound to be in contention after close finishes in his last two races. Contenders Sydney Opera House and Victory Command set the pace early, with Mohawk staying closely behind through the first half-mile. But the chance for victory became clearer as Mohawk hit the final straight away and was able to get out in front of the other two, winning by 1 1/4-lengths.
Similar to Cairo Cart, Mohawk also punched a free ticket to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November with the victory.
Juddmonte Beresford Stakes
O'Brien hit a picture perfect double the day after the Royal Lodge Stakes with a follow-up victory in the Beresford Stakes at Naas Racecourse. This time it was Japan taking all the glory by beating out stablemate Mount Everest in a close heat.
The race looked to be in Mount Everest's hands, but the two-year-old didn't sense the urgency of Japan stalking behind him. Due in part to a last ditch effort by Japan and a gas tank quickly emptying, Mount Everest lost his lead position and had to settle for only 4 points as Japan came out with 10.
Prix de Jean Luc Lagardere
A win for Royal Marine in the Prix de Jean Luc Legardere on October 7 was another stamp on the impressive year that Oisin Murphy has had. With a victory in this race, the 23-year old jockey has 10 career wins, eight of which have come this year.
Trailing in the final furlong to contender Broome, Royal Marine was able to surpass the frontrunner and take the lead in the final sprint.
The win puts Royal Marine on the board with a vital 10 points considering that the European Road to the Derby has only four races left.
European Road Standings
|4||Mount Everest (IRE)||4|
|6||Sydney Opera House (GB)||4|
|7||Cape of Good Hope (IRE)||2|
|8||Power of Now (IRE)||2|
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