We might be five months away from the Kentucky Derby, but before you know it, three-year olds are going to be lined up at the gate at Churchill Downs looking to start the same magical run which American Pharoah put on last year when he won the Triple Crown.
American Pharoah was a West Coast horse, running at Santa Anita leading into the Derby, and there are a few different ponies which could follow in his footsteps running the same prep races this time around.
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The favorite to win the Derby right now has to be Nyquist. He's an undefeated rising three-year old having gone 5-for-5 to start his career.
The winner of the Best Pal Stakes, the Del Mar Futurity and the Frontrunner Stakes went on to the Breeders' Cup as the second favorite to Brody's Cause. Nyquist went on to become the two-year old champion, and he'll end up being the favorite at the San Vicente Stakes in February, the race which will officially start his quest to reach Churchill Downs. It's a foregone conclusion that, assuming he stays healthy, Nyquist will be at the Derby in May, but obviously, he has to navigate what could be a strong field going up against him this Spring at Santa Anita.
The job for Nyquist likely became a heck of a lot easier when it was announced that Swipe might not ultimately be ready to run in the Derby prep races in February or March. For all intents and purposes, that would leave Swipe with just one shot to get into the Run for the Roses, that coming at the Santa Anita Derby in April.
Swipe has always been the bridesmaid here to Nyquist. He finished second at the Best Pal Stakes, the Del Mar Futurity, the Frontrunner Stakes and the Breeders' Cup. It isn't often that you see the second best horse from any of the locations around the country with prep races putting on a show in the Kentucky Derby or any of the other Triple Crown races for that matter, but Swipe has some great breeding as the son of Birdstone and the grandson of Grindstone, both of which were Triple Crown winners in their day.
Distance isn't going to be a problem for Swipe, but if he can't recover from his bone chip in his ankle, he might not ultimately be a factor until the Breeders' Cup.
The real question is what else is going to bother to come out to California to challenge Nyquist?
The real question we have is if Mor Spirit is going to be heading to California for his prep races or not. Bob Baffert has been rather non-committal to where one of his top three-year olds is going, but a romp in the Los Alamitos Futurity generally has three-year olds pointed towards the same prep road that Nyquist and Swipe would be on.
Interestingly enough, all three of these horses we've mentioned are amongst the top seven favorites in Kentucky Derby futures. Mor Spirit is actually the second choice right now behind Mohaymen at 8 to 1, while Nyquist is 15 to 1 and Swipe is 20 to 1.
Especially if Swipe isn't going to end up ready to run for a while, betting on either of these two to come out of California to challenge at the Kentucky Derby is probably smart, though we'd bet that the sharper money right now is on Nyquist at 15 to 1.
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