Sidelines with John Clay

Baffert, Baffert, Baffert atop Kentucky Derby media poll

Jockey Mike Smith, right, stands next to trainer Bob Baffert after Roadster’s win in the Santa Anita Derby horse race at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., Saturday, April 6, 2019.
Jockey Mike Smith, right, stands next to trainer Bob Baffert after Roadster’s win in the Santa Anita Derby horse race at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., Saturday, April 6, 2019. AP

Press release from Horse Racing Nation:

The Thoroughbred Daily News’ Bill Finley simply summed up the latest 2019 Kentucky Derby Media Poll results.

“Baffert. Baffert. Baffert.”

As in, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert conditions the Top 3 contenders in the rankings assembled each Monday by leading up to the first Saturday in May.

The Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster claimed the No. 1 spot this week; Game Winner, runner-up to him by a half length, only slipped to third; and Improbable, a leading contender in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G1), split them to land in second.

On May 4, Baffert will look to tie “Plain Ben” Jones’ all-time record of six Derby victories. A number of voters from racing industry trade publications and general news outlets are considering it a forgone conclusion.

“Baffert, already a five-time winner, could have the strongest contingent of Derby contenders he’s ever had in one year,” said the Southern California News Group’s Art Wilson.

“Well, I’m sure of one thing after the weekend: Bob Baffert is likely to win the Kentucky Derby again,” added SportsLine’s Jody Demling. “Just not sure which of the three it will be.”

A trio of final major preps shook up the Top 20 beyond the Baffert brigade leading the list.

Omaha Beach, another Arkansas Derby contender, and the Wood Memorial (G2) winner Tacitus rounded out this week’s Top 5. Major movers included Blue Grass Stakes (G2) hero Vekoma advancing 11 spots to sixth; the runner-up Win Win Win rising from unranked to 10th; and Tax, second in the Wood, climbing from 20th to 12th.

“With less than four weeks remaining until the first Saturday in May, this is one of the most competitive Derby fields to date,” said Churchill Downs’ Kevin Kerstein. “There have been 39 different winners on the Road to the Kentucky Derby through 43 races.”

Because of that, points are paramount, and it may take a record number to get in the field. Voters continue to back Anothertwistafate (17th), Bourbon War (18th) and Signalman (19th) as those colts live on the points bubble.

“Some good horses will be left on the outside looking in,” said Racing Dudes’ Mike Spector.

[Kentucky Derby 2019 points leaderboard]

Meanwhile, Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Bodexpress, UAE Derby (G2) second Gray Magician and Master Fencer, Japan’s qualifier, are all in the Derby field on points -- but remain just outside the Derby Media Poll’s Top 20.

Given the Derby trail parity, “The post draw may play a critical role in deciding the outcome of this year’s Derby,” said the Thoroughbred Daily News’ Ben Massam. “Off a series of wide trips, Game Winner is due for further improvement if he can save any kind of ground at Churchill.”

Churchill Downs’ Darren Rogers also mentioned that beyond Baffert’s chase for the wins mark, there’s another bit of Derby history possible.

“Notwithstanding the results of Saturday’s Arkansas Derby,” Rogers said, “Lookin At Lucky’s 2010 record as the highest-priced Kentucky Derby favorite (6.30-1) could be in jeopardy. Tremendous betting opportunities loom in less than four weeks.”

Kentucky Derby Media poll

First place votes in paranthesis.

  1. Roadster (8)
  2. Improbable (6)
  3. Game Winner (3)
  4. Omaha Beach (5)
  5. Tacitus (3)
  6. Vekoma
  7. Maximum Security (1)
  8. Long Range Toddy (1)
  9. Code of Honor
  10. Win Win Win (1)
  11. By My Standards
  12. Tax
  13. War of Will
  14. Hiakal
  15. Cutting Humor
  16. Spinoff
  17. Anothertwistafate
  18. Bourbon War
  19. Signalman
  20. Plus Que Parfait
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