With nearly six weeks until the Kentucky Derby and only eight major preps remaining, it is not too early to start looking at the one thing that is most important when it comes to who will be starting on May 3: Graded earnings.
Because the Derby is limited to 20 horses, preference is given to those with the most graded earnings. That means, if more than 20 are entered (which is likely because of the depth of this year's class), the "tiebreaker" comes down to who has earned the most money.
As you can see from the list below, some very popular names are still on the outside looking in. Right now, the cutoff appears to be with No. 20 Indian Sun, who has earned $104,000. Last year, the cutoff number was $112,000, although all 20 horses that qualified did not enter.
In most cases, the candidates on this list will start only one more time. That means their final start could be their last shot at eligibility. Noticeable below the cutoff line are Smooth Air, Elysium Fields, Fierce Wind and Big Brown, who will all start in the Florida Derby. Yankee Bravo (Santa Anita Derby), Texas Wildcatter, Atoned, and Cowboy Cal, all have work to do as well.
Also not on this list (which was compiled by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman) are Hey Byrn and Tomcito (Florida Derby), Halo Najib (Lane's End Stakes), and Monba, who just had his first work since the Fountain of Youth.
Much will be determined after this week's Lane's End and next week's Florida Derby. But suffice it to say, for some, it's now or never time.
Horse, Trainer, Owner, Graded Earnings
1. War Pass, Zito, Robert LaPenta, $1,320,000
2. Pyro, Asmussen, Winchell Thoroughbreds, $1,020,000
3. Z Humor, Mott, Zayat Stable, $524,000
4. Kodiak Kowboy, Asmussen, Vinery & Fox Hill Farm, $441,373
5. Turf War, Casse, Woodford Racing and Partners, $400,000
6. Georgie Boy, Walsh, George Schwary, $390,000
7. Tale of Ekati, Tagg, Charles Fipke, $288,000
8. Colonel John, Harty, WinStar Farm, $270,000
9. Sierra Sunset, Bonde, Philip Lebherz, $259,000
10. Court Vision, Mott, IEAH Stables & WinStar Farm, $256,872
11. Cool Coal Man, Zito, Robert LaPenta, $212,767
12. Big Truck, Tagg, Eric Fein, $194,500
13. Anak Nakal, Zito, Four Roses Thoroughbreds, $189,716
14. Visionaire, Matz, Vision Racing & Team Valor, $180,000
15. Majestic Warrior, Mott, Kinsman,Smith,Tabor,Magnier, $164,000
16. Denis of Cork, Carroll, Mr. & Mrs. William Warren, $150,000
17. El Gato Malo, Dollase, West Point Thoroughbreds, $130,000
18. Blackberry Road, Carroll, Dogwood Stable, $123,417
19. Z Fortune, Asmussen, Zayat Stable, $120,000
20. Indian Sun, Hendricks, Cecil Peacock, $104,000
21. Atoned, Pletcher, Dogwood Stable, $100,000
22. Smooth Air, Stutts, Mount Joy Stable, $90,000
23. Shediak (FR), O'Neill, Triple B Farms, $78,576
24. Etched, bin Suroor, Godolphin, $77,180
25. Elysium Fields, Tagg, Robert Evans, $70,000
26. Yankee Bravo, Gallagher, Harlequin Ranches, $60,000
27. Kings Silver Son, Asmussen, Mike McCarty, $60,000
28. Cowboy Cal, Pletcher, Stonerside Stable, $57,660
29. Texas Wildcatter, Pletcher, Stonerside Stable, $50,000
30. Gayego, Lobo, Cubanacan Stable, $40,000
31. Nikki'sgoldensteed, Hess, M. Lomas & G. Spencer, $30,000
32. Bob Black Jack, Kaparoff, J. Harmon & T. Kasparoff, $30,000
33. Isabull, Hobby, JoAnn & Alex Lieblong, $30,000
34. Stevil, Zito, Robert LaPenta, $12,000
35. Big Brown, Dutrow, IEAH Stables & Paul Pompa, $0
36. Fierce Wind, Zito, Four Roses Thoroughbreds, $0