The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes two stops on Saturday: Arcadia, Cal. for the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park and Tampa, Fla. for the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs. Each race offers a total of 85 points to the top four finishers as part of Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby points system.
Under the system, the top four finishers in the 19-race “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” schedule of races are awarded 10-4-2-1 points, respectively. This “prep” portion of the schedule began in late September and concluded with the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18. The two-leg Kentucky Derby Championship Series began Feb. 23 and awards the top four finishers in the listed races 50-20-10-5 points, respectively for the first leg of eight races and 100-40-20-10 points accordingly for the second leg of seven races. A wild card, which includes the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland (Apr. 20) and the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs (Apr. 27) awards points of 20-8-4-2, respectively.
Going into the week, trainer Bob Baffert had the deck stacked in his favor for the 1 1/16 mile San Felipe Stakes (G2), but by the end of the week, his odds had changed. Baffert’s lightly-race allowance winner, Bayern, had been installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite, but Baffert stated through a text message that went viral on Twitter that the undefeated son of Offlee Wild would scratch due to a bruised foot. That leaves Baffert with Sham Stakes (G3) winner, Midnight Hawk, set as co-third choice on the morning-line at odds of 4-1. Although Midnight Hawk has only three lifetime starts, he’s got a Grade 3 win and finished third to Candy Boy in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis. He also has the experienced Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the irons.
Second choice on the morning-line is trainer Art Sherman’s California-bred California Chrome. He boasts four victories and one place finish in a career eight starts, all coming in restricted races. The two times he race in open company—the W. Proctor Memorial and the Del Mar Futurity (G1)—he finished fifth and sixth, respectively. He’s battled Del Mar Futurity winner Tamarando, beating him last out in the California Cup Derby Jan. 25. Tamarando went on to win the El Camino Real Derby (G3) Feb. 15.