A Look Back Before Derby Prep Season Picks Up Steam

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With no points races scheduled this weekend on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, it is a good time to reflect and scrutinize some of the more impressive victories seen so far.

Beginning March 2, seven straight weekends through April 13 will offer at least one points race as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) field takes shape.

With that in mind, this year's column launches with thoughts on five of the more impressive winning efforts to date in Derby points races.

Game Winner, Nov. 2 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), Churchill Downs
Though these races are listed in alphabetical order by horse name, this effort is still the most impressive on the Derby trail. In 1 1/16-mile races at Churchill Downs, winning from an outside post is difficult because the first turn comes up quick. As Game Winner raced wide throughout the early going in the Juvenile, the problems with this post seemed to be playing out. But Game Winner proved up to the challenge, unleashing a long drive to the wire to complete an unbeaten season. The track that day was playing to off-the-pace, outside runners, but there's never a penalty for winning.

Harvey Wallbanger, Feb. 2 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull Stakes (G2), Gulfstream Park
Give Harvey Wallbanger credit for closing along the rail--not something a lot of horses want to do. And give Brian Hernandez credit for saving ground on a horse capable of this move. Hernandez has long been one of the best to ride inside. On the other hand, Harvey Wallbanger did save a lot of ground, which benefited him late.

Super Steed, Feb. 18 Southwest Stakes (G3), Oaklawn Park
Many in this field certainly had hit a wall in the far turn, but remember that Super Steed was not only rallying from last in the far turn, he was making that rally five wide--so extra credit there. Beyond that, trainer Larry Jones noted Super Steed battled a bit of an illness at year's end. When you look at his Equibase Speed Figures, the son of Super Saver earned a 100 in his second start, then after an 85 and a 90, he registered a 99 in the Southwest--a number that's even better when you factor in the wide move. This suggests Super Steed not only is back on track but could improve.

War of Will, Feb. 16 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2), Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
The "take-home" from this effort is that War of Will is a horse who can create his own luck--an important skill if you enter a 20-horse field. Faced with an outside post, War of Will quickly moved into position to deliver a winning race.

Well Defined, Feb. 9 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), Tampa Bay Downs
I'm giving some extra credit here for leading every step on a day that wasn't kind to frontrunners.

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