On May 2, the first Saturday in May, twenty anxious three year old thoroughbred race horses will Run for the Roses. 180,000 fans in Louisville and a worldwide television audience will witness the sport’s greatest phone numbers.
Before that magic afternoon, there are a number of races from coast to coast that will determine the lineup in the 139th Derby.
Trainer Kirian McLaughlin fired the first shot in Florida on February 1. His colt, Prince of Cairo romped to a big win at Florida’s a Gulfstream Park in the Holy Bull Stakes. That race is the prelude to the 2/22 Fountain of Youth and ultimately the Florida Derby. Orb used that race as a doting oars to his 2013 Derby triumph.
Another critical venue is Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. The first of the three big prep races there will be staged on Monday 2/17. The Southwest Stakes is scheduled to include two much ballyhooed contenders. Taciturn, from the winning machine that is the Steve Asmussen barn, and Strong Mandate, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, headline the stepping stone mile and sixteenth race. The Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby follow later in the meet.
From now until late April, America’s race tracks will audition hundreds of aspiring champions. As exciting as Derby Day is, the journey to get there is dramatic and unpredictable. Let the scramble begin.