On Derby Trail, Horsemen Weigh Their Options

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After punching through on the inside and rolling to a 4 1/2-length victory in the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes (G3) in his first start at Oaklawn Park, a return trip to the Hot Springs, Ark., track seemed to be in order for My Boy Jack.

But before owners Don't Tell My Wife Stables (Kirk Godby) and Monomoy Stables (Sol Kumin) and trainer Keith Desormeaux committed to a return trip to Oaklawn for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 17, they glanced at the race conditions and noticed they would not be favorable relative to other available options.

Like many stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the Rebel is not an equal-weights event. The assigned weight for the race is 122 pounds, but non-winners of $60,000 at one mile or longer in 2018 are allowed three pounds; non-winners of $50,000 at a mile or longer anytime are allowed five pounds; and non-winners of $35,000 at any distance (not counting maiden or claiming) are allowed seven pounds.

With the $300,000 My Boy Jack had just earned in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, he would have been assigned 122 pounds in a field where Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Solomini was given 115, as was the eventual winner, lightly raced Magnum Moon

Seeing that they would be spotting some nice horses up to seven pounds, My Boy Jack's connections opted for the March 24 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, where he would finish third. Desormeaux said returning to Oaklawn, where their horse enjoyed success, was weighed against the weight disadvantage.

"As soon as he crossed the wire in Arkansas, we started thinking about our next move," Desormeaux said. "When you win over a track, it makes sense to run right back there, but Sol Kumin brought up a good point. The Rebel is not an equal-weights race, so off a graded stakes win, we would be at an immediate disadvantage. The Louisiana Derby is equal weights, and there are twice as many points offered."

The Rebel offered Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 while the Louisiana Derby is the first 100-40-20-10 points race of the season. In the Louisiana Derby all starters carried 122 pounds; there were no allowances based on prior performance.

Most of the 170-point qualifying races in the U.S. this year will be contested at equal weights for males with the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) at 122 pounds, the Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at 123, and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at 124. One exception will be the Arkansas Derby (G1), which assigns males a weight of 122 pounds but allows four pounds to non-stakes winners.

That's not the case for most of the 85-point races. While the 85-point Sunland Derby (G3) assigns equal weight for males at 122 pounds, more typical are the conditions seen in the aforementioned Rebel; the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), which saw a range of 116-122 pounds; and the Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2), which saw a range of 116-120.

In the Risen Star, Bravazo—carrying 117 pounds—edged 120-pound highweight Snapper Sinclair by a nose. Those two are now separated by 32 points and 12 leaderboard spots on the Derby points list used to determine the Louisville classic's field.

Males entered in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) are assigned 126 pounds.

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