Are Kentucky Derby and Oaks Points a Useful Selection Tool?

by Art Parker

In 2013 the criteria for being able to enter the Kentucky Derby was measured by graded stakes earnings accumulated during the career of a three year old. The idea was to award those that performed well in certain races known as “Derby Preps.” These races are the traditional big races in the spring when racing eyes are beginning to envision the first Saturday in May.

While this year has been quite a bit different due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky Derby points system is still the measurement used to determine who gets into the gate on September 5, the Derby Day of 2020. The actual races may have changed a bit but the point system is still the determinant.

On the Derby Leaderboard the clear favorite for the race, Tiz the Law, has 372 points after embarrassing competition in several outings this year, most notably the Travers, which was his last start.

Churchill Downs Stock UpgradedThe second horse behind the leader is Authentic, one of two Bob Baffert charges. Authentic has 200 points which puts him slightly above half of what the Tiz the Law has accumulated. Comparing the point differential from first to second in prior years tells us that Tiz the Law is in a league of his own – at least based on points. This has been the difference in other years: zero, one, 13, 16, 18, 21, and 30. The number that looks so big, 30, was Derby winner’s California Chrome’s number over Vicar’s in Trouble in 2014. By the way, only one other point’s leader that has won the Derby was in 2013, when Orb romped home on a muddy track.

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Since California Chrome no point’s leader has won the Derby. The winner in 2019, Country House, was 17th in points in a Derby we all wish to forget, except the winner’s connections. In 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify was ninth sporting only his Santa Anita Derby win. In 2017 Always Dreaming was seventh in points. In 2016 Derby winner Nyquist was second in points to eventual great Gun Runner. When American Pharoah won the Triple Crown in 2015 he was fourth on the points list.

Should you select a Derby winner based upon on points? According to this, the answer is no, based on history. However, no other horse has held such a colossal amount of points over the competition.

The points leaderboard for the Kentucky Oaks looks similar. Swiss Skydiver has been on tour winning four major races in four different states. Her point total for the Kentucky Oaks is a whopping 450. In second is Speech with only 160 points. The difference of 290 points is hard to imagine. Like the Derby, let’s look at the point differential between the leader and second place. The only Oaks winner that led in points was Untapable in 2014. The point differential between first and second on the leaderboard has been, zero, zero, 6, 10, 19, 20, and Untapable’s 40.

In 2019 Serengeti Empress won the Oaks and was eighth on the points list. In 2018 Oaks winner Monomy Girl was second on the points list to Midnight Bisou. Abel Tasman won the Oaks in 2017 and was seventh on the points list. In 2016 Cathryn Sophia captured the Oaks while finishing sixth in the points race. Lovely Maria won the 2015 Oaks and was fifth in points. Before Untapable in 2013 Princess of Sylmar finished seventh on the points list and won the Oaks.

Like the points question asked earlier about the Derby, should you select an Oaks winner based upon on points? According to this, the answer is no, based on history. However, just like the point differential in the Derby, no other horse has held such a colossal amount of points over the competition in the Oaks.

A major consideration in the Oaks points this year is Bob Baffert’s filly, Gamine. The superstar is ninth on the points list but has raced in only one race with points – The Acorn at Belmont.

For a final, up to date listing of points for the Derby and the Oaks.

COVID-19 and Horse Racing

Good luck at sorting this out

By ART PARKER

Like everyone else I was disappointed when the Kentucky Derby was postponed. I did a double take when the proposed new date was September 5, the first Saturday in September. My next thought was the scheduling mess that would most assuredly come, especially since the full impact of the coronavirus  (COVID-19) remains unknown.

The new date of the Derby is not too close to the Breeder’s Cup, scheduled for the first Saturday in November at Keeneland. What happens to the other big races could be the real problem.

The latest on Gulfstream Park, the Florida Derby and COVID-19

The first thought I had was the Travers. I think many will agree that the Travers is the most important three year old race next to the Derby. If a horse wins the Derby and the Preakness then the importance of the Belmont is elevated beyond the Travers, but generally speaking I feel the Travers is second only to the Derby.

Saratoga canopy walk throughThe Travers is scheduled for August 29, just one week before the rescheduled Derby. It can’t happen that way. It just can’t. To make matters worse the Alabama is scheduled for August 22, less than two full weeks for the new Kentucky Oaks date of September 4. To me the Alabama is the premier race for three year old fillies. Having the Alabama that close to the Oaks? Again, it can‘t happen that way.

The Saratoga problems begin with the rescheduling of the Derby, but it could be worse depending upon what happens with the Preakness and the Belmont. I read the other day that someone suggested we start with the Derby on September 5 and then wait two weeks for the Preakness and then wait three weeks for the Belmont – the usual intervals between Triple Crown races. If so, that would put the Belmont on October 10 four weeks before the Breeder’s Cup. Some may think this is workable but it would place the better three year olds in a whirlwind of activity in a very short period of time. I believe it will provide the older horses in the Classic Division a big advantage over the sophomores.

Unless the Preakness and Belmont are run before the Derby then the Triple Crown will cause problems for the Breeder’s Cup, unless those races are cancelled. If the Preakness and Belmont are run before the Derby then huge problems are created for the Saratoga meeting, and possibly others.

Added to this is the difficulty of planning a path for a three year old. Trainers will have a difficult time finding appropriate prep races if the racing world remains in its current state. One major issue that has a guiding hand over the timing of races is television. Racing cannot afford to lose the airwaves for the huge races. Even if television goes along for fall racing broadcasts then there will be a fight with college football early in its season – a fight guaranteed to result in cuts and bruises.

How much leadership does the American racing industry have? We will soon know the answer.

Nilsen’s KY Derby Analysis with Wagering Strategies

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Derby 144 Analysis with Wagering Strategies & Spot Plays by Rich Nilsen

Get the complete analysis of the 2018 Kentucky Derby card with Nilsen’s professional selections for the big race.  Nilsen covers all 14 races on Derby Day and includes his written analysis on all 20 starters in the Run for the Roses!  Along with exacta and trifecta strategies for the KY Derby, Nilsen has three spot plays with wagers on the day.

As always this is a tremendous betting card, one of the best of year!

Rich Nilsen is the winner of 6 major handicapping tournament and a 14-time qualifier to the $3 million National Horseplayers Championship (NHC).  There are a lot of pretenders out there.  Get affordable, expert advice for this year’s amazing KY Derby card.

This sheet contains:

  • Top selections for all 14 races
  • Sophisticated Pace Scenario for all 14 races
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Rich Nilsen handicapperTestimonials

“Hey Rich.. Thanks for putting me on Tapwrit !! I liked him and Gormley and Irish War Cry… I had Tapwrit straight & the exacta.  Tapwrit & Gormley both had “dream trips”, But Gormley didnt want to go that far… Hey !! let’s give some love to Disco Partner for his new North  American record for 6 panels. I had him straight  and also knocked down the exacta of 2-4 for $42.00… Hope you had a good day & made some cash!  Thanks Again, ” ~ Wayne M.

“Rich, thanks for your terrific analysis of the Gulfstream Park [Rainbow Six 3/31/18].  I was able to hit the Pick 6 [paid $9,018 for twenty cents!].   Anyone out there who bets horses would be well advised to download your sheet on every major race day… thanks again for a job well done.” ~ Evan C.

“Great job, Rich!” ~ Jeff S.

“Rich: nice job Travers Day! Thanks to Arrogate, you gave me a good day. How in the world did you land on him? I suspect you’re doing some kind of voodoo pace analysis. If you ever decide to give lessons or a seminar, let me know.” ~ Kelley S.

Superfecta Strategies for the Kentucky Derby

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants.

by Justin Dew

Favorites have won the last five Kentucky Derby. In 2016, the top four betting choices ran 1-2-3-4 in order. As a bettor who likes to use the Derby as an opportunity at a life-changing score (or at least a year-making score), an edition dominated by low odds horses usually means a bad day for me. But that doesn’t have to be the case, and to my credit I feel I have learned from past mistakes.

Take 2004, for example. Smarty Jones and Lion Heart were the top two betting choices in the Kentucky Derby, and they ran 1-2 in order of favoritism. Imperialism finished 3rd at a modest 10-1. But the fourth-place finisher, Limehouse, helped to light up the tote board by contributing to a $41,000 (for $2) superfecta at odds of 41-1. The trifecta only paid $987. So let’s say you liked the two favorites to run 1-2, and then used every horse that was under 20-1 the 3rd spot, with all in 4th. As a $2 play, that’s $380 and a return of over $41,000…..with the two favorites running 1-2 in order!

Easy game, right?

Not so fast. Last year, I liked Always Dreaming as a top win candidate, but wouldn’t have had Battle of Midway or Lookin at Lee even WITH the ALL button (joke). In 2013, Orb was my top pick, and I used runner-up Golden Soul on all tickets, but didn’t match them up with the rest of the superfecta.

Thus, one of my goals for this year is to make sure I am in a position to cash a big ticket if I am right about the most likely winner and also right about a longshot who runs big. And I need to do it economically. But at the same time, how many horses can I confidently eliminate from superfecta consideration? Six? Seven? Can I trim down my selections near the top of the ticket and allow myself to use the ALL button? Do I need to just single my top pick in the 1st spot in lieu of a win bet on him, and then spread heavily underneath?

Maybe I’m looking at something like 1x13x12x11 at a cost of $1,716 (that’s one horse keyed on top over the other 13 in spots 2-4). If one of the seven horses that I eliminate from superfecta consideration runs 4th, then I guess I can just accept the fact that I didn’t deserve to cash. Or maybe the thing to do is play my top two in 1st and demand that one of my top five or six longshots runs somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd spots, with the other logical horses in there as well. So, something like this:

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top six longshots
3rd: Top seven overall (including the top two)
4th: Top seven plus top six longshots

So that’s 2x6x6x10, for a cost of $720. And then I play it with longshots only in 2nd and 3rd at a cost of $600, followed by using the top seven in 2nd with just the longshots in 3rd for another $720.

So overall, I would spend more on the superfecta that way, but I’d have my top two on top instead of just a single horse. And in exchange for having that extra coverage on top, I must have at least one of my longshots run 2nd or 3rd, with a big payday coming my way if I’m right about the winner and the non-super-contenders, AND I get more than one one my longshots in the 2-4 spots.

With the 1x13x12x11 approach, I could easily envision a scenario where I hit the superfecta but lose money. See: 2016. But with the “demand a longshot” approach, my top pick could win, spots 2-3 could be filled by logical horses, one of my longshots could run 4th, and I lose. Again, that’s the price (in this example) of using two horses on top.

Or…maybe I try this…..

Use my top two in first, trim it down to three longshots, and leverage the ALL button.

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top seven overall
4th: ALL

That would run me $612, plus another $612 when I move the longshots into 3rd and the top seven into 2nd, plus another $510 when I play it this way….

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top six longshots
4th: ALL

The $510 play gives me a big score if my longshots run 2nd and 3rd, with some extra coverage in 3rd.

I am not after bragging rights. And having been very lucky in recent years to cash some very large tickets at the track, I am not excited by the prospect of winning a few thousand dollars on Derby Day. Apologies if anyone doesn’t like the way that sounds. But I don’t want to see another $75,000 superfecta pass me by.  I feel like I need to be willing to spend the money to hit it.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich Nilsen

Justin Dew (Left) and AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen (Right)

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants. And I am willing to use all or most of my bankroll to take a swing at that payday. Because if someone guaranteed me I could double my bankroll on the Kentucky Derby, I wouldn’t sign up.

Now, if my Derby bankroll is $2,000, and the horse I like is 12-1, maybe the thing to do is abandon the entire approach that I just spent the last hour writing about and simply bet to win.

I have a lot of thinking to do.

The Derby Choices of Javier Castellano and John Velazquez

he now has the option to ride [him] in the Derby, and he’s passing.

by Justin Dew

My initial reaction to the news that John Velazquez was going to ride Vino Rosso in the Kentucky Derby, and that Javier Castellano had chosen Audible over Bolt d’Oro was probably the same reaction that many others had; JV thinks Vino Rosso is better than Audible and Javy thinks Audible is better than “Bolt.”  And it may just be that simple. But the more my mind wanders (as it always does during Derby Season), I’m wondering if JV [and his agent] simply chose to stay close to Mike Repole and the other partners in Vino Rosso who were also part of Always Dreaming last year.

As for Javy, maybe he spent a quarter mile trying to get past Justify on Bolt d’Oro and realized there is no way Bolt d’Oro or any other horses is going to beat Justify in the Kentucky Derby, so he chose to be loyal to Todd Pletcher and landed on Audible after Vino Rosso earned the requisite Derby points and won the services of JV. Or maybe he thinks he got the best that he could out of Bolt d’Oro, and thinks that one isn’t noticeably better than Audible, so why not ride for Pletcher?

Another early reaction I had was that all of this meant Vino Rosso was a Derby contender that needed to be taken seriously. This ran counter to my initial inclination, which was that the Wood Memorial wasn’t a strong race and none of the runners from that prep were Derby threats. For the moment, I’ve decided to split the difference. I don’t like any of the Wood runners as prime Derby contenders, but I can see Vino Rosso appearing at or near the bottom of my superfecta tickets.

Audible and Bolt d’Oro are both going to cause me some restlessness between the hours of midnight and 6am in the coming weeks. On one hand, I think both will be overbet in the Derby. But on the other hand, there is no denying that both have a major talent advantage over the vast majority of the prospective Derby field. As I mentioned in a previous post, Audible had a perfect setup in the Florida Derby, and really would have needed to throw in a total dud of an effort to lose. But that can’t be held against him when gauging his talent, can it? And if we assume that JV jumped on Vino Rosso for reasons unrelated to ability, then we are dealing with a Derby contender in Audible who really hasn’t done anything wrong.

Ok, now for Bolt d’Oro. Every year, there is at least one horse in the Kentucky Derby that I dismiss, and then hold my breath with a slight amount of regret and fear. I can’t remember a time that I have been wrong about one of those decisions. We know there are 20 horses, and we know we can’t use all 20. So some difficult decisions have to be made, and this year, it’s looking like Bolt d’Oro might be one that I don’t use. In three straight races, he has failed to run down the eventual winner. That’s the reality. Make whatever excuses you want, and I’d probably be hard pressed to argue with you. But Bolt d’Oro brings a fair amount of hype and low odds with him to the Kentucky Derby, and as I’ve said in countless articles and blog entires over the last decade or so, we have to draw the line somewhere.

handicapper Justin DewOne more thought about “Bolt” and Javy. Javy took the mount on him with the intention of HAVING THE OPTION to ride him in the Kentucky Derby. I think we can agree on that, right? If he always planned to stay loyal to Pletcher, I can’t see him even getting aboard in the first place. And he now has the option to ride Bolt d’Oro in the Derby, and he’s passing. That alone, in my opinion, is reasonable justification for dismissing Bolt d’Oro in the Kentucky Derby. But that doesn’t mean you have to be confident about the decision.

Gronk and Gronkowski Team Up for Kentucky Derby 144

“This horse is a winner and I love a winner,” Gronk (the person) said.

by Rob Gronkowski (for Gronk Nation)

There’s gonna be at least one Gronk at the Kentucky Derby next month — and probably a whole lot more now that the human Gronk has a stake in his namesake racehorse.

Rob has partnered with Phoenix Thoroughbreds Ltd. to get a substantial stake in three-year-old colt Gronkowski, who recently galloped his way to earn a spot in the biggest horse race of the year and the first leg of the Triple Crown.

One of the fastest tight ends in the NFL owning a racehorse (or least part of him), what could be more perfect than that?

“This horse is a winner and I love a winner,” Gronk (the person) said. “When I heard about the racehorse being named after me, I started watching and got really stoked when he started winning. He’s won his last three races and is now headed to the Derby. I’m all in: Welcome to the Gronk Family, Gronkowski the Horse!”

We sure hope this thoroughbred likes to party …

“I really can’t think of anything cooler than having a top-class thoroughbred named after me,” Rob added. “Except maybe having him win the Derby.”

Gronk and his entourage will be at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 5 for the 144th Kentucky Derby, and you can guarantee that all bets will be going on Gronk.

“We are very excited to have this talented racehorse running in the Derby and to have Rob Gronkowski join our team,” said Tom Ludt, who directs Phoenix’s global racing and bloodstock operations. “His involvement only adds to our growing credentials worldwide and can help us introduce the best of horse racing to a whole new audience.”

The pair actually share some similar traits as they are both fierce competitors and strike imposing poses on their respective athletic fields. They stand nearly the same size: Gronk the man is 6-feet, 6-inches tall, while the horse is 6-feet, 5-inches (although horses are officially measured in hands and inches).

While Gronkowski (the horse) is considered a “wild card” in this year’s Run for the Roses, so was Tom Brady when the Patriots picked him 199th in the NFL Draft 18 years ago, so never underestimate an underdog especially with a name like that.

The colt is a son of champion Lonhro, Australia’s Racehorse of the Year in 2003-04, and he was bred in Kentucky as the first foal from the mare Four Sugars, a daughter of twice champion American racehorse Lookin At Lucky. Phoenix purchased Gronkowski in 2017 as an unraced 2-year-old in training at the Tattersalls Craven breeze-up sale in England.

Trained by British-based Jeremy Noseda, who is well known in American racing as the trainer of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Wilko and European classic winners Araafa and Sixties Icon, Gronkowski will be ridden in the Kentucky Derby by his regular jockey, Jamie Spencer. The colt will be shipped to Churchill Downs from Noseda’s stables in Newmarket, England, a week before the Derby, and soon thereafter the football star will be introduced to his equine namesake for the first time.

It may be the horse’s first time at the Derby, but who can forget when Rob partied there over mint juleps in 2015 wearing this epic suit …

copyright Gronk Nation

Pletcher Derby Prospects Work Well

“To me it’s always really key who handles the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said

Florida Derby (G1) and Holy Bull (G2) winner Audible continued preparation for the May 5 Kentucky Derby Friday morning (April 13) when he worked a half-mile in :48.74 at Palm Beach Downs.

Owned by China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, Head of Plains Partners and WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, Audible galloped out in 1:02.22 while working alongside the 4-year-old stakes winner You’re To Blame. It was Audible’s first work since winning the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby March 31.

Churchill winner's circle“For him I thought it was outstanding,” Pletcher said. “He’s not always an overzealous work horse, but today he seemed on his game and focused. I thought he did very well. He’s coming back in five weeks off a 1 1/8 mile race so I think we’re just trying to have him peak on the day and keep him fit without overdoing it. I thought this morning was an important step in that direction. I know sometimes he doesn’t work as well as others but leading up to this race you’d like all three of his works to be good and the first one was excellent.”

Approximately 30 minutes before Audible hit the track Pletcher watched his Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Noble Indy work five furlongs in 1:01.19 with blinkers. Noble Indy, owned by WinStar Farm and Repole Stable, broke his maiden at Gulfstream Dec. 3 before winning an optional allowance over the track on Jan. 11.

“It was a good, solid five-eighths,” Pletcher said. “He’s never been a horse that’s a fantastic gallop-out horse, but I think today was solid.”

Pletcher added the blinkers to “keep him a little more in tune, a little more focused.”

Pletcher has four horses preparing for the Kentucky Derby. Along with Audible and Noble Indy, Pletcher has Vino Rosso, who won the Wood Memorial (G2) last weekend, and undefeated Rebel (G2) winner Magnum Moon, who won Saturday in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Pletcher said his current plan is to work Audible, Noble Indy and Vino Rosso next weekend before shipping to Kentucky on April 23.

“To me it’s always really key who handles the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said “It can be pretty quirky, so I think that final breeze at Churchill will give us a big clue as to who likes it. Hopefully they all do. That’s always one of my concerns because you see some horses who get there and don’t get a grip of that track. So I think the final work there will be something we’re looking forward to seeing.

“The good thing about the group of horses we have going is they have run over all kinds of dirt surfaces….none of them appear to be horses that need a certain surface in order to be successful.”

Source: Press Release

Kentucky Derby or 2000 Guineas: Which Classic Will Ryan Moore Ride in Come May 5?

“The Kentucky Derby is a race on my bucket list, but we’ll have to see what’s best to do closer to the time.”

If you’re a horse racing fan and haven’t already circled May 5 as a date in your diary, then here’s a brief and gentle reminder why you should.

On one side of the Atlantic, the first Classic of the British and Irish flat season takes place at Newmarket, with the 2000 Guineas centre stage. In the Bluegrass State, meanwhile, Churchill Downs hosts the Kentucky Derby – the culmination of a two-week racing festival in Louisville.

Ryan Moore by Ogiyoshisan

The all-conquering stable of master Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore owners take aim at valuable and prestigious races all over the world these days. For evidence of that, see Mendelssohn’s 18-lengths-plus romp in the UAE Derby as the colt left the field in his wake on the dirt under Ryan Moore at Meydan.

Such globetrotting exploits – Mendelssohn also landed the Juvenile Turf race at the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on his previous start and final one of last season – present connections with a problem. A nice one to have to be sure, but Moore cannot ride both the ante-post Kentucky Derby fancy and either Saxon Warrior or Gustav Klimt in the 2000 Guineas.

What would you do? Well, current odds suggests Moore will be getting the leg up Stateside rather than riding at Newmarket. He’s odds-on with leading British and Irish bookmakers for Churchill Downs.

A big factor behind that short price are words from the jockey himself. Speaking after Mendelssohn bolted up in the United Arab Emirates, Moore said: “The Kentucky Derby is a race on my bucket list, but we’ll have to see what’s best to do closer to the time.”

Given Mendelssohn is clear 5/1 favorite in the latest horse racing betting with bet365 on the Kentucky Derby, it might well be the perfect opportunity to tick that ambition off. Connections certainly appear willing to go to the USA.

Having ridden two of the last three 2000 Guineas winners in Gleneagles and Churchill, Moore could be forgiven for letting someone else have a go. In the meantime, American horse racing fans will get to see him riding across Kentucky at Lexington track Keeneland.

Derby 2017 by LunchboxLarry

Moore piloted the Todd Pletcher trained colt Marconi in the Blue Grass Stakes – a recognized Kentucky Derby trial – on April 7. Pletcher called in a favor from Coolmore as that day also contained big races throughout the USA, notably in New York and California. [Moore’s mount finished off the board].

Taking this ride Stateside just a few weeks before the Kentucky Derby may be the biggest hint yet that Moore will be there on May 5 aboard Mendelssohn. Pletcher was keen to downplay the significance of booking the jockey, though, adding it had been arranged before the big Meydan win.

Although trainer and rider team up with Marconi at Keeneland, they could be competing against one another come the Kentucky Derby if Moore is on Medelssohn. Pletcher has a number of contenders for this year’s renewal of the richest Group 1 prize in the United States including market principal Audible.

And what of the 2000 Guineas hopes? Well, in Moore’s stead O’Brien can always call upon son Donnacha or Seamie Heffernan to ride Newmarket Classic contenders Saxon Warrior and Gustav Klimt.

Trainer Ian Wilkes Retains Confidence After Blue Grass Loss

Trainer Ian Wilkes had his humor intact and his perspective on point on the Sunday morning following McCraken’s third place showing in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the colt’s first loss in five career starts.

Source: Wilkes Retains Confidence After Blue Grass Loss

The Kentucky Derby Donald Trump-style

“First Saturday in May” Visitors can Purchase $100,000 Marriott package for the weekend

It’s a little over a month away to the Kentucky Derby, which means that hotels, motels, Airbnb rentals and any other accommodations in and near Churchill Downs are going fast – especially at economic rates. However, if you’re not on a budget, you have the chance to live like royalty the first weekend of May courtesy… [Read more…]