Last call for spot in Kentucky Derby: Hades is taking his chance

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Hades, shown winning the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, takes one last stab at making it into the Kentucky Derby field in Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Photo courtesy of Gulfstream Park
1 of 2 | Hades, shown winning the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, takes one last stab at making it into the Kentucky Derby field in Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Photo courtesy of Gulfstream Park

April 12 (UPI) -- Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland offers a last-gasp chance for a spot in the Kentucky Derby field, and a few horses are lining up for the opportunity.

The maximum 20-horse Derby field, determined by points earned in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" races, was pretty much set after last weekend's extravaganza of competition.


With the final spot reserved for a horse from Japan, the No. 19 slot is held by Sam F. Davis Stakes winner No More Time, with 45 points.

The Lexington confers 20 points upon the winner, with 10, 6, 4 and 2 for the next four finishers. Hades, the Holy Bull Stakes winner, has 30 points and is entered for the Lexington. A victory there would up his total to 50 points and, after adjusting for ties on the basis of earnings, would jump him to the No. 15 slot on the leaderboard, pushing No More Time to No. 21 -- on the outside, looking in.


That could be a temporary view as he and/or several others could move up the list and into the field if any of the top 20 drop out. That's a common occurrence in the weeks leading up to the big race.

While Hades is the only horse in the Lexington field with a chance to claim a guaranteed a spot in the Run for the Roses, Encino and Liberal Arts could move up the "also eligible" list to fill any vacated slots.

Another potential, albeit long shot, wrinkle in setting the field is a lawsuit filed by Amr Zedan seeking to force Churchill Downs to allow his contender, Arkansas Derby winner Muth, into the race.

Muth did not accrue the 100 points normally given the Arkansas Derby winner because Churchill Downs has banned his trainer, Bob Baffert, from the competition. A hearing is set for Monday.

Derby Bits

Four of the prospective starters in America's signature race will be running for primarily foreign owners.

Forever Young, winner of the Saudi Derby and UAE Derby in Dubai, and T O Password, champion of the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby," have Japanese owners.

Risen Star and Blue Grass winner Sierra Leone's ownership group is headed by the Irish Coolmore "lads," and includes Americans Peter Brant and Brook T. Smith.


And Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's Qatar Racing fronts the partners owning Gotham Stakes and Blue Grass runner-up Just a Touch, along with Chicagoan Marc Detampel and John Stewart's Resolute Racing.

In other action:


Friday's $600,000 Grade I Maker's Mark Mile on the grass has the usual classy field including Godolphin's reigning Breeders' Cup Mile winner Master of the Seas and Naval Power, boasting a 6-for-7 career record.

William Buick jets in to ride Master of the Seas. Keeneland is the only corner of Kentucky welcoming horses trained by Baffert, so he sends Du Jour, owned in part by his wife, Jill.

Friday's $250,000 Limestone Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass has an overflow field and couldn't be much more wide open.

On Saturday, the feature actually is not the Lexington (except, perhaps for Hades' connections), but rather the $600,000 Grade I Jenny Wiley for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Buick sticks around to partner Godolphin's highly regarded Frankel filly English Rose. Gina Romantica, one of four in the 10-horse field trained by Chad Brown, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in a field that also includes Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Didia.


Saturday's card also has the $300,000 Grade III Giant's Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs on the lawn.

Oaklawn Park

Saturday's $1.25 million Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap for fillies and mares drew Adare Manor from California.

The Baffert-trained mare, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, comes off a second in the Grade I Beholder Mile and was seventh in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Before that, she posted five straight wins, four of them in graded stakes. Misty Veil finished third in the Grade III Bayakoa and second in the Grade II Azeri, both at Oaklawn, but is 12-1 on the morning line.

Skelly had seven straight wins before finishing second to crack Japanese sprinter Remake in the Group 3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 24. He returns in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, which he won last season.

Tejano Twist and Ryvit could compete if Skelly hasn't fully overcome the jet lag.

Around the world, around the clock


Sunday's Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2,000 Guineas has a fascinating field.

Regaleira, a Suave Richard filly, won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes in 2023, defeating some of the nation's best 2-year-old colts with a remarkable late turn of foot, so why not continue on that path?


She once again takes on Shin Emperor, who was second, beaten by 3/4 length in the Hopeful. The French-bred colt is a full brother to 2020 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sottsass.

Last year's champion 2-year-old colt, Jantar Mantar, also is set to line up in the Satsuki Sho.


The island continent's autumnal celebration rolls on at Royal Randwick on Saturday with four Group 1 events -- the Australian Oaks, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Sydney Cup and the Grainshaker Vodka Queen of the Turf.


Speaking of Buick, he was in Normandy on Tuesday, partnering Romantic Style to victory in the Group 3 Prix Imprudence at Deauville.

The 1/2-length score in her season debut at 7 furlongs earned the Night of Thunder filly a shot at the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches or French 1,000 Guineas.

Appleby said the 1-mile Classic is pushing Romantic Style's limits, especially in the English Guineas at Newmarket.

But, he said, "If she is going to stay a mile anywhere, it will hopefully be at Longchamp."

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