Keeler Johnson’s Kentucky Derby Top 10: Game Winner Remains On Top

Omaha Beach (right) holds off Game Winner (left) in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) - Coady Photography Although he suffered the first defeat of his career last Saturday, the performance of Game Winner in the Rebel Stakes was sufficient for the champion colt to retain the top spot in my Kentucky Derby Top 10. Not surprisingly, Omaha Beach—the colt who gallantly conquered Game Winner—has secured a high ranking as well in his first week on my list. Game [...]

Long Range Toddy Catches Improbable in Rebel Stakes Division 1

Long Range Toddy winning the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) - Coady Photography He was favored at 2-5 and ran a good race, but when the real running began in the first division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park, the previously undefeated Improbable came up short of expectations and fell to defeat at the hands of Long Range Toddy. Granted, Improbable faced some adversity in the 8.5-furlong Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race. The [...]

Improbable and Game Winner Look to Dominate in Separate Rebel Stakes Divisions

Improbable(Horsephotos.com) Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is after his sixth Kentucky Derby win, and two of his horses are shaping up to give him an outstanding shot at the garland of roses. Both Improbable and Game Winner are slated to race in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes, though they won’t have a chance to face one another. On Wednesday, it was announced the Kentucky Derby prep race would be the first to split off into two separate [...]

Improbable Stands Out in Rebel Stakes Division #1

Improbable winning the Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I) - © Benoit Photo He's 3-5 on the morning line, which says something about how much will be expected of #9 Improbable when he makes his much-anticipated three-year-old debut in the first division of Saturday’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Bob Baffert, who has won the Rebel six times since 2010, Improbable is undefeated in three starts and hasn’t been challenged in his two stakes [...]

How to Bet the Southwest Stakes

Sueno galloping at Oaklawn Park - Coady Photography When I started handicapping the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) on Presidents’ Day at Oaklawn Park, I initially began by trying to separate the six runners coming out of last month’s Smarty Jones Stakes. I took note of the fact that #1 Gray Attempt won the Smarty Jones in gate-to-wire fashion, tenaciously clinging to a narrow advantage down the homestretch while giving the impression that he was in better control [...]

Gray Attempt Successfully Stretches His Speed in Smarty Jones Stakes

Gray Attempt winning the Smarty Jones Stakes - Coady Photography Sprint to the lead. Run everyone off their feet. Hang on to secure the victory. Rinse and repeat. That’s been the magic formula for the up-and-coming three-year-old Gray Attempt, who secured his third straight front-running triumph when forging to a hard-fought win in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on January 25 at Oaklawn Park. Never mind that he was stretching out to a mile for the first time—he [...]

Sorting the Contenders in the Smarty Jones Stakes

Gray Attempt winning the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds - Photo by Hodges Photography The Road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Friday with the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, a one-mile race that strikes me as considerably easier to interpret than last week’s Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. Whether that indeed proves to be the case is another question entirely, but here’s how I break down the main contenders: The Deserving Favorite #8 Gray [...]

2018-19 Road to the Kentucky Derby Year-End Review

The field rounds the first turn of the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs - Coady Photography With the running of the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun in Japan on December 19th, the final Kentucky Derby prep race of 2018 entered the history books, giving us an opportunity to look back on the season before the calendar turns over and we continue headlong toward the 2019 Derby. During the course of the primary Road to the Kentucky [...]

Rating the First Round of 2019 Kentucky Derby Preps

Game Winner winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) - Coady Photography With the running of Sunday's Remington Springboard Mile, the last North American Kentucky Derby prep race of the year entered the history books, bringing to a close the first stage of qualification for the 2019 “Run for the Roses.” From September through December, nine Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races were conducted across the country, and while the majority offered the same number of qualification [...]