'Wild Card' Derby Trial Not A Misnomer
By Dick Downey
The makeup of the Grade III Derby Trial presents several interesting scenarios that could impact the makeup of the Kentucky Derby field -- including the far-fetched possibility that it could result in Todd Pletcher having eight starters.
Churchill Downs bills the Derby Trial as a Wild Card race. That could be an understatement. It takes a little explanation, so here we go.
To start off, we review the fact that Todd Pletcher currently has six of the top 20 horses on the Derby leaderboard.
Next, as you know, Charming Kitten, Winning Cause, Code West and Tiz a Minister all have 20 Kentucky Derby points, and the winner of the Derby Trial will pick up 20 Derby points.
Atop the list of 20-point horses is Charming Kitten, who stands at number 19 on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard. There is one horse in the Derby Trial that could leapfrog over Charming Kitten in points if he wins, and that is Todd Pletcher's Capo Bastone. The colt has four points already, and a win would push his total to 24.
Link to Derby points chart with details
So a win would put Capo Bastone at number 19, Charming Kitten at number 20 and Pletcher's Winning Cause at number 21.
As a result -- if Capo Bastone wins -- and anything other than a Pletcher horse subsequently drops off the top 20 on the leaderboard, Pletcher would have seven horses in the top 20 -- over a third of the field, thank you. Granted, Winning Cause is not considered probable for the Derby, but Pletcher hasn't ruled him out, either.
There's more, albeit highly improbable.
There are two other Derby Trial entries nominated to the Triple Crown that could jump past number 20 Winning Cause with a win. Officer Alex and Forty Tales would match his 20 points. The Trial has a $175,000-added purse, and if we understand what it would pay to the winner correctly, it looks like either horse would emerge more non-restricted stakes earnings (NRSE), the tiebreaker. Pletcher also trains Forty Tales.
The second finisher in the Derby Trial will not be a possible threat to make the Kentucky Derby field unless it's Capo Bastone -- and even then it's unlikely. As previously stated, he already holds four Derby points. With eight more from a second-place finish, he would jump past Power Broker (10 points). So if Forty Tales and Capo Bastone run one-two, and if there are enough non-Pletcher defections from the leaderoard, AND if none of Pletcher's horses are declared out, there's your eight horses.
Any horse in the field that wins the Derby Trial will surpass Code West in NRSE. He's currently number 21. Tiz a Minister is next in line, and it looks like he's going in the Snow Chief on Saturday. That brings us next to Golden Soul, who has 14 points.
Whether any of the Derby Trial horses "would if they could" be entered in the Kentucky Derby is anyone's guess at this point -- except for a couple of things. First, G. T. Tabu, Tour Guide and Ruler of Love aren’t nominated to the Triple Crown. And second, if Titletown Five wins, he's going if he can, and Paul Hornung and Willie Davis will have two of the best seats in the house.