Trying to decipher which 3-year-olds will be going to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), especially those on the graded earnings bubble, can be a dizzying task.
Though we will have a much better idea of who is in and who is out after this weekend’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and Arkansas Derby (gr. I), there are still a few horses that have completed their prep work but have question marks next to their names.
Homeboykris is one that should not be considered a question mark, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said April 8. The son of Roman Ruler is going to Churchill Downs despite having not raced since Feb. 27, a runner-up effort in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park. The colt’s other start this year resulted in a fifth-place finish in the Jan. 23 Holy Bull (gr. III).
Normally, they are not the type of efforts that inspire trainers to keep their horses on the Derby path, but Dutrow sees it differently.
“He doesn’t have to win the race, all he has to do is run big. If he picks up a check, there is nothing wrong with that.”
Homeboykris, who was bred in Maryland by Dark Hollow Farm and William Paca Beatson, was purchased privately after breaking his maiden at Calder Race Course in July. He went on to win the grade I Champagne Stakes in his next start, which is where he banked most of his $250,500 of graded earnings. He is owned by a group that includes Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre.
In his only trip beyond one mile, Homeboykris finished fifth, beaten nearly 10 lengths in the nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (gr. II) last November. Is being unproven at the distance and entering the Derby off a more than two month layoff a concern to Dutrow?
“It doesn’t concern me. I’m going into the race with hope, not confidence.”
Dutrow said the bay gelding, currently at Gulfstream Park, will ship to Churchill April 20.
Another 3-year-old who could have enough earnings, but is not a definite for the Derby is Backtalk. The son of Smarty Jones completed his prepping with a distant third-place finish in the April 3 Illinois Derby (gr. III), which upped his graded earnings to $225,916. A winner of a pair of graded stakes as a 2-year-old, Backtalk could have enough to make it to the starting gate, but the connections have been non-committal about their plans. He is owned by Gold Mark Farm and trained by Tom Amoss.
“There has not been a strong decision made as of now,” Amoss said April 8. “Anything I said now would probably be unfair. The best I can tell you is that it’s still under consideration.”
There are five horses currently in the top 20 that will be racing this weekend in either the Blue Grass or the Arkansas Derby—Aikenite, Interactif, Make Music for Me, Noble's Promise, and Dublin. Other than those and Backtalk, it is believed that the remaining 14 3-year-olds are pointing toward the May 1 Derby, if they get in.
Of course, as is almost always the case, there will be plenty of changes in the final weeks leading up to big race.