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There was a big 50 points race on the road to Kentucky Derby 2021 at Fair Grounds on Feb. 13, and Mandaloun captured what was essentially a win and you’re in race in the Risen Star Stakes that day. Rombauer picked up 10 points in a last-to-first victory in the other Derby prep on Feb. 13, and that event was the El Camino Derby at Golden Gate Fields on all-weather ground.

Kentucky Derby 2021 Points Race Recaps

Risen Star Stakes (G2) – Fair Grounds (2-13-21)

The first local prep for the Derby was the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at 8.5f, and it was dominated by front runner Midnight Bourbon and stalkers Proxy and Mandaloun. In this 9f graded affair, those same three runners were much better than the rest. Rightandjust gunned to the lead from the outside post and was a factor for the opening six furlongs. Midnight Bourbon stalked from 2nd and Mandaloun added blinkers and chased outside. Proxy was right behind those runners in 4th. Midnight Bourbon took a short lead but Mandaloun was breathing down his neck, and the latter slowly edged away to win by a length and a quarter. Proxy got past Midnight Bourbon in late stretch to secure runner-up honors, and the top three Lecomte finishers were 5+ clear of the rest. O Bezos, Senor Buscador, Rightandjust, Santa Cruiser, Sermononthemount, Starrininmydreams, Carillo, and Beep Beep completed the order of finish. Mandaloun was rock solid throughout in this race. He looks like a legit Derby contender at this still early stage. He has a strong route pedigree, excellent tactical speed, and fine connections.

El Camino Real Derby – Golden Gate Fields (2-13-21)

Rombauer is one of those all-surface threats. He broke his maiden in a turf route at DMR last summer, rallied for the place in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) on dirt, and now he is an all-weather stakes winner after capturing the El Camino Real Derby. It took the late runner quite some time to get going in this spot. There were three realistic win contenders in the paper race. Los Al Futurity (G2) show finisher Petruchio had the tactical edge and he pressed the pace but came up empty when the real running began. Javanica was a filly taking on the boys and she stalked from midpack and had the lead in late stretch, but Rombauer finally kicked it in high gear in deep stretch and prevailed by a neck. Javanica was clearly second best and Governor’s Party grabbed 3rd late at 119-1 odds. It’s My House set the pace and weakened to 4th, and he was followed by Waspirant and Petruchio. Tesoro and Play Chicken trailed.


Top 20 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru El Camino Real Derby 2-13-21)

52 Points: Mandaloun

30 Points: Essential Quality

26 Points: Midnight Bourbon

24 Points: Proxy

18 Points: Keepmeinmind

14 Points: Medina Spirit, Rombauer

13 Points: Spielberg

12 Points: Capo Kane, Jackie’s Warrior

10 Points: Brooklyn Strong, Caddo River, Candy Man Rocket, Get Her Number, Greatest Honour, Hot Rod Charlie, Life Is Good, Risk Taking, Sittin On Go

8 Points: Cowan


Upcoming Derby 2021 Points Races

John Battaglia Memorial (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 26
Southwest (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 27
Fountain of Youth (50-20-10-5) – Feb. 27
Gotham (50-20-10-5) – March 6
Tampa Bay Derby (50-20-10-5) – March 6
San Felipe (50-20-10-5) – March 6
Rebel (50-20-10-5) – March 13
Jeff Ruby Steaks (20-8-4-2) – March 20
LA Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 20
Florida Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 27
UAE Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 27
Blue Grass (100-40-20-10) – April 3
SA Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 3
Wood Memorial (100-40-20-10) – April 3
Arkansas Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 10
Lexington (20-8-4-2) – April 10


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders (2-21-21)

(1) ESSENTIAL QUALITY (Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality)

Trainer – Brad Cox

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (3/41) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 20.

Comments: The 2-Year-Old Champion has not missed a beat in his morning activity at Fair Grounds. He worked every seven days from 12-31-20 to 2-14-21. His last work was a solid five panel breeze on Feb. 20. As smooth as his work pattern has been, it has been a completely different story in regards to his first 2021 start. He was supposed to return in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 15, but bad weather pushed that race back to Feb. 20. The rotten weather continued and the Southwest was pushed back another week to Feb. 27. He has been ready to run for a couple of weeks and should be plenty fit for his 3-year-old bow.


(2) CADDO RIVER (Hard Spun – Pangburn, by Congrats)

Trainer – Brad Cox

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in :59.60 (1/41) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 20.

Comments: He has been taking it easy since his dominating front running victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 22. The twice rescheduled Southwest Stakes was never on his radar screen. He was always going to wait for the Rebel Stakes on March 13. Due to the recent poor weather conditions in Arkansas, he shipped to Fair Grounds to continue his training. He worked at OP on Feb. 5, and his last two moves were at FG on Feb. 14 and Feb. 20.


(3) MANDALOUN (Into Mischief – Brooch, by Empire Maker)

Trainer: Brad Cox

Comments: This one ran his record to 3-for-4 in the Risen Star. His only blemish was a close 3rd in the LeComte, and he added blinkers and bounced right back four weeks later. As I said in my last Derby report, you could see a big difference in his works leading up to the Risen Star. He is tactical and continues to improve nicely. He is expected to remain at FG and target the LA Derby on March 20.


(4) LIFE IS GOOD (Into Mischief – Beach Walk, by Distorted Humor)

Trainer – Bob Baffert

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 59.60 (1/54) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 21.

Comments: He won both starts including the Sham Stakes (G3). The main problem in his first two starts and many of his works has been the inability to relax. Based on his Sham Stakes performance, anything beyond a mile looked shaky. The main thing now is to get him to distribute his energy more efficiently, and to that end, they changed his bit and started sending him out later in the morning. The new routine started paying dividends on Feb. 15. He was more relaxed and focused in his breeze that day, and he fired a bullet six days later. The San Felipe Stakes on March 6 is his next engagement.


(5) GREATEST HONOUR (Tapit – Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry)

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Latest Workout: 4f in 51.20 (15/28) at Payson Park on Feb. 21.

Comments: I profiled this one as a hot prospect in my Jerome/Sham video, and he broke though with a strong point race victory in the Holy Bull (G3) at GP on Jan. 30. He rolled from off the pace in a decisive 5+ length victory that day. He has a classy pedigree and appears to want more ground, and the Fountain of Youth at the Gulf on Feb. 27 is his next target.


(6) RISK TAKING (Medaglia d’Oro – Run a Risk, by Distorted Humor)

Trainer: Chad Brown

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.06 (34/120) at Belmont Park on Feb. 21.

Comments: This colt has improved in a hurry. He was no threat in his first two career starts last fall, and he returned to dirt, added blinkers, stretched out to a mile and an eighth, and smartly graduated from a stalking position at Aqueduct on 12-13-20. He jumped into the stakes ranks in the Withers (G3) at 9f Feb. 6, and he rallied from off the pace to easily take that one. He is 2-for-2 at 9f and is steadily improving for Chad Brown, and he can stalk and finish. He is suddenly a very interesting player on the Derby trail. Brown is thinking about training him up to the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3.


(7) MEDINA SPIRIT (Protonico – Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed)

Trainer – Bob Baffert

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:12.40 (1/8) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 20.

Comments: He is not your typical expensive yearling purchase with a flashy pedigree for Baffert. This overachiever has a big heart like Silver Charm and he keeps battling all the way to the end. His stablemate Life Is Good was in complete command in the Sham (G3) but this one kept chipping away and made it close at the end. In the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3), he set the pace and put away the early challengers, and held off a stalker and a closer to hold on by a determined neck. I am not sure how far he wants to go but there is no doubt that this street fighter has a winning spirit.


(8) KEEPMEINMIND (Laoban – Inclination, by Victory Gallop)

Trainer (Robertino Diodoro)

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.60 (13/23) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 8.

Comments: Broke his maiden in a last-to-first triumph in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs last fall. He hit the board in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) before that. He was entered in the Risen Star at FG on Feb. 13 but scratched in favor of the Southwest Stakes (G3) at OP on Feb. 27. The latter race was postponed from Feb. 15 to Feb. 20 and is now on the docket for Feb. 27. This one has remained at OP during the inclement weather.


(9) THE GREAT ONE (Nyquist – Little Ms Protocol, by El Corredor)

Trainer – Doug O’Neill

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.20 (49/85) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 20.

Comments: He almost upset Spielberg as a maiden in the Los Al Futurity (G2) Dec. 19. He was back with maiden friends Jan. 23 and graduated by 14-lengths that day. Now we will find out exactly how much he has improved, because he is going to get a major class test in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 6.


(10) HIGHLY MOTIVATED (Into Mischief – Strong Incentive, by Warrior’s Reward)

Trainer: Chad Brown

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.40 (1/2) at Payson Park on Feb. 20.

Comments: Earned a strong number when last seen in the Nyquist Stakes on 11-6-20, and he earned the best speed rating of any juvenile during the 2-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships. We know he is a talented sprinter and they are going to slowly stretch him out in distance. He is scheduled to make his first start of 2021 in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 6, and that race is a flat mile race around one turn.


(11) MIDNIGHT BOURBON (Tiznow – Catch The Moon, by Malibu Moon)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Comments: You have to admire his consistency and his speed ratings have improved in a pair of 2021 starts. He got a great ride and was able control the pace from the rail in a one-length victory in the LeComte on Jan. 16. In his next start in the Risen Star, he tracked the pace and grabbed a short lead, but Mandaloun wore him down, and Proxy got past him for the place. I like his pedigree and early-pressing versatility, but he will need to take another step forward in his next start in the LA Derby on March 20.


THE NEXT NINE: (12) Proxy, (13) Hot Rod Charlie, (14) Concert Tour, (15) Prevalence, (16) Prime Factor, (17) Freedom Fighter, (18) He’s In Charge, (19) Roman Centurian, (20) Dream Shake

​Article by Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak posts stakes recaps from Del Mar and Santa Anita Park, along with full card recaps and free stakes picks from Southern and/or Northern California.