2012 Kentucky Derby may set record for graded stake earnings

2012 Kentucky Derby may set record for graded stake earnings

There are two 2012 Kentucky Derby prep races this weekend that could raise the graded stakes earnings threshold to a record dollar amount. Currently the dollar threshold stands between $220,000 and $270,000 to be among the Top 20 horses with graded stakes earnings. Churchill Downs list of nominations has many horses that are planning to run but there are some that may not.

Trinniberg’s owner has publically said the colt is 15 percent for the Derby and 85 percent for the Preakness. Wrote who raced in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf is not a definite to travel from Ireland for the Derby.

Without defections, which always seem to happen in the last weeks before Derby, horses such as El Padrino ($250,000) and Florida Derby runner-up Reveron ($220,000) won’t make the field. “We’re going to take a look at what happens this weekend and then make a decision whether or not to run him in the Lexington,” Bezara (Reveron’s trainer) , who does not speak English, said through his interpreter, Eibar Coa. “If he qualifies, we’ll run him in the Derby. If not, we’ll look at the Preakness.”

There is one new rule this year; four horses can go on the “also-eligible” list if more than 20 horses are entered. If there are any scratches from the first 20 before 9 AM on May 4, then an “also eligible” can run.

Counting Trinniberg and Wrote, standing at No. 20 now is Mark Valeski ($260,000). Owner Brereton Jones and trainer Larry Jones have to hope no horses leapfrog over Mark Valeski after Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn or Keeneland’s $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes. The three additional graded stakes left — each worth $200,000 — aren’t enough to guarantee its winner makes the field unless he already has some substantial graded earnings.

“There’s an excellent chance a new record will be established,” said Churchill spokesman Darren Rogers. “A lot can change over the next few weeks; we’ve seen that time and time again. But you could have as many as three new horses (in the top 20) if the right scenario fell into place. In all likelihood, it looks like the Blue Grass could only produce one horse. So you could have as many as four new horses jump into the top 20.

“If you’re on the bubble, you’re rooting for Secret Circle and Sabercat to run 1-2 in the Arkansas Derby to take the big money. And you’re rooting for Hansen, Dullahan and Prospective in the Blue Grass.”

Among the horses hoping be in the top 20 after the Arkansas Derby is Optimizer. Optimizer, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, has graded stakes earnings of $181,375, or No. 24 on the list. A top three finish Saturday would most likely assure him a spot in the Derby starting gate.

“I think we sorted out a lot across the country last weekend,” Lukas said. “We are set to clarify it even more Saturday. I think we are ready.”

The current record for the earnings cutoff was the $218,750 that Make Music for Me had as the last horse to get in the 2010 Kentucky Derby field. He finished fourth in the Derby.

Next week may clarify who is looking for 2012 Kentucky Derby tickets. Or it could be completely clear only at 9 AM on May 4. We know Kentucky Derby Tours will enjoy this Derby!