How many qualification points will be required to run in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, and which horses will secure the last few slots in the starting gate?
That’s the question everyone is asking now that the 2018-19 Road to the Kentucky Derby is complete, and the field of 20 horses is pretty much set. It would be set in stone ,except that there are still 19 days until the first Saturday in May, and there are bound to be a few defections.
As of April 15, Tacitus (150 points), Omaha Beach (137.5), Vekoma (110), Plus Que Parfait (104), Roadster (100), By My Standards (100), Maximum Security (100), Game Winner (85), Code of Honor (74), Haikal (70), Improbable (65), War of Will (65), Long Range Toddy (53.5), Tax (52), Cutting Humor (50), Win Win Win (50), Country House (50), Gray Magician (41), Spinoff (40) and Master Fencer (qualified via the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby) are assured of spots in the starting gate should their connections choose to accept them.
But for various reasons—illnesses, injuries, changes in plans, etc.—it’s probably a safe bet that a few of those 20 will wind up skipping the Kentucky Derby. While the majority have been confirmed as expected starters, UAE Derby (G2) winner Plus Que Parfait and the Fountain of Youth (G2) victor Code of Honor are still uncertain to run, and the $400,000 Pat Day Mile (G2) on the Derby undercard could be an attractive target for horses whose connections have doubts about the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby.
Ranked on the outside looking in for qualification purposes are Bodexpress (40), Signalman (38), Anothertwistafate (38), Sueno (32) and Bourbon War (31). Should there be a defection, then Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Bodexpress would draw in first and become the third maiden since 2016 to contest the Kentucky Derby.
Next in line would be Signalman, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in November. The son of General Quarters earned his 38 points in dribs and drabs, never receiving more than 20 at a time while winning or placing in no less than four Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races.
Anothertwistafate and Sueno attempted to gain entry to the Derby by contesting the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, but after finishing second and third, respectively, they’ll need plenty of help to make the cut. Bourbon War seems destined to target a difference race, since five defections would be a lot to expect.
We’re often surprised by the large number of horses who withdraw from Derby consideration in the final three weeks, so expect the connections of the bubble horses to sit tight for the time being and keep a close eye on the leaderboard as the first Saturday in May draws closer.