The Road to Kentucky Heats Up

horse racing blinkersSimilar to the Cheltenham Festival in England, the Kentucky Derby is arguably one of the biggest horse racing must-sees in the world. A festival with a very rich and prestigious history, there is no denying how anticipated and valued the Derby is. As the Road to Cheltenham gets us on our way to The Festival, so too does the Road to Kentucky take us to the Derby. Both races come up at around the same time of the year, making it a double whammy of horse racing’s finest for our entertainment. Unlike the British calendar, however, the US is not very populated but still has plenty to go around. With so much to enjoy and on display, both home and internationally, the punters of nearby Tennessee will be spoiled for options with the trusted Twinspires Tennessee app there to guide them by keeping them in the loop with all the tasty runs of the month.


In the US, the month of February saw an early run with the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, a Grade 3 race for three-year-old colts. The winner, Candy Man Rocket, showed out in 1:44:30, taking home ten qualifying points for the Derby. That winning time was two seconds slower than other victors in recent years, who have always been within the 1:42 range, showing how much the off year with the pandemic might have affected the pace and conditioning of horses; it may be a trend to watch closely. So close to Valentine’s Day, the 13th of February will see the Risen Star Stakes come to Fairgrounds, a Grade 2 run over One and one-eighth of a mile for three-year-old colts. Over in England, Lingfield Park will be serving up an early run of flats starting at 11 am, followed by Chelmsford City, while Newbury and Warwick will be offering a series of jump races, as the Road To Cheltenham continues. No Valentine’s Day races in the US, but Exeter and Southwell will have that covered on English soil with seven races each. Late February will see the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream take center stage in the US as one of the marquee races on the Road to Kentucky. The Fountain of Youth Stakes has produced some fine performances in recent years that have gone on to shine in the Derby, so it is without a doubt worth keeping within eyesight.


However, March is when things start to get real serious, offering seven races, four more than in February, including the prestigious Florida Derby on the 27th of March. The Gotham Stakes and Frank E. Kilroe Mile whet the appetite for what will be a tasty month before the Beholder Mile runs on the 13th of March. The month ends on a high note, with the Dubai Carnival running simultaneously with the Florida Derby.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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