If you hear cheering in the distance, it's because we are finally through the winter season and onto spring.
And no, we aren't happy because of the changing of the weather — it's because the Road to Kentucky Derby® is about to hit its climax. Derby prep season officially ended on February 18, putting a close to the lower point races that have filled the calendar since September.
From this point on, we're in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, where the points are significantly higher and the stakes have risen dramatically.
The last four races of February marked the end of one season and the beginning of another. The Championship Series began on February 16 with the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds, and the Derby Prep Season ended on February 18 with the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
With every February Road to Derby race in the books, let's look at the final four races of the month.
El Camino Real Derby
There's nothing like a home field advantage.
In front of a home crowd at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, California, Anothertwistafate took home the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby on February 16 — marking the colt's third-straight victory on the track.
With four races now under the saddle, Anothertwistafate is looking stronger after each run. His performance in the El Camino Real Derby was the best of his career, finishing in front of second-place steed Kingly by seven lengths.
Under the tutelage of trainer Peter Redekop and jockey Juan Hernandez, this colt could be catching fire at the perfect time.
The victory earned Anothertwistafate 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, plus an automatic birth in the Preakness Stakes.
Risen Star Stakes
Ladies and gentlemen — a new Kentucky Derby frontrunner has made himself known.
War of the Will entered the Risen Star Stakes on February 16 as a heavy favorite and lived up to the billing by finishing first and earning a whopping 50 points on the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
Coming out of Post 14, War of Will, under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, quickly took the lead as the horses got to the quarter pole. As he crossed the finish line, War of Will was 2 1/4 lengths in front of Country Horse.
The win was War of Will's third in seven starts, with each victory displaying his impressive speed that has been relatively unmatched.
The 50 points on the board thrusts War of Will to the top of the rankings, but he'll have to keep winning if he hopes to secure a spot at Churchill Downs®. As the Championship Series continues, the point values will rise.
We head over to Japan for the third race of the weekend, where the Japanese representative in the 2019 Kentucky Derby is still as unclear as ever.
In the third race on the Japanese Road, Oval Ace conquered the competition in the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on February 17.
Throughout the race the leader was consistently changing, but Oval Ace always presented a threat from the outside. As the pack reached the final stretch, the rest of the field started to waver as Oval Ace got another spark of energy. In a duel for first place, Oval Ace was able to overtake then-leader Weitblick in the final moments to gain the victory.
The victory earned Oval Ace 30 points on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, putting him atop of the leaderboard with one race remaining. The final race has 40 points up for grabs, meaning that anyone can still be in play for a spot in the first race of the Triple Crown™.
In a weekend filled with favorites living up to the billing, it was nice to see the final race of February capped off with an upset.
62-1 underdog Super Steed took home the $500,000 Southwest Stakes on President's Day at Oaklawn Park.
The upset wasn't always in sight, though. In the first part of the 1 1/16 mile test, Super Steed looked bested as he stood in the back of the pack. But as the group rounded into the far turn, the J. Larry Jones-trained colt bolted past the other eight competitors.
With Super Steed now in the lead, he had to hold off Sueno who was coming up on his tail. The underdog kept his pace though, staying strong and finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Sueno.
With the win, Super Steed earned 10 points on the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
Other February Road to Derby Recaps:
Kentucky Derby American Road Standings
|1||War of Will||60|
|7||Long Range Toddy||16|
Kentucky Derby European Road Standings
|1||Royal Marine (IRE)||10|
|2||Magna Grecia (IRE)||10|
|5||Phoenix of Spain (IRE)||4|
|7||Sydney Opera House (GB)||4|
|8||Mount Everest (IRE)||4|
|10||Western Australia (IRE)||2|
|11||Cape of Good Hope (IRE)||2|
|12||Power of Now (IRE)||2|
|14||Victory Command (IRE)||1|
|15||Circus Maximus (IRE)||1|
Kentucky Derby Japan Road Standings
|1||Oval Ace (JPN)||30|
|2||Nova Lenda (JPN)||20|
|3||Derma Louvre (JPN)||14|
|6||Gal Vihara (JPN)||4|
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