Kentucky Derby Day 149 is Here!

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The late B. Wayne Hughes will be smiling somewhere on this first Saturday in May.

Unbeaten GII Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarns (Uncle Mo), an $800,000 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream breezer, will carry the famed orange-and-purple colors of Spendthrift Farm while making just his fourth career start in the 149th GI Kentucky Derby.

“Our primary business really is standing stallions, but when we can go to a sale and get a horse that has a shot to make it to the stud barn, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Spendthrift’s General Manager Ned Toffey said. “And winning a race like the Derby is obviously a big step in the right direction if you want to stand a stallion. Kingsbarns has done everything we’ve asked of him so far and he’s done it nicely.”

Spendthrift Farm’s all-conquering stallion Into Mischief, responsible for Friday’s GI Kentucky Oaks heroine Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief), will have three chances at a third bouquet of roses with longshots Cyclone Mischief (Into Mischief), Rocket Can (Into Mischief) and Sun Thunder (Into Mischief).

Into Mischief’s Authentic, of course, won the 2020 Kentucky Derby for a high-profile partnership headed by Spendthrift Farm. Into Mischief is also the sire of Mandaloun, who was promoted to first via Medina Spirit’s well-documented medication disqualification in the following year’s Derby.

“That’s what breeders are looking for, to get to the Derby,” Toffey said. “Into Mischief can get you any kind of horse. He’s an amazing horse and continues to get the job done.”

What do you think Mr. Hughes would say if he were still around to see this day?

“I think Wayne would be saying ‘I told you so,’” Toffey said with a big laugh.

“I literally remember him saying, ‘I think we might have Bold Ruler on our hands.’ He said that very early on in Into Mischief’s career. Now, he’s a four-time consecutive Leading General Sire and has done something that’s not been done since Bold Ruler. Wayne really loved this horse. He meant a lot to him.”

Forte Heads ‘Strong’ Hand for Pletcher…

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Kentucky Derby twice from a record 62 starters and arguably brings his strongest hand ever to the 1 1/4-mile Classic this year. In addition to Kingsbarns, Pletcher will saddle 3-1 morning-line favorite ‘TDN Rising Star’ Forte (Violence) and fellow ‘Rising Star’ Tapit Trice (Tapit).

Last term’s GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old colt Forte punched his ticket to Louisville for Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable with a valiant win with a much-discussed less-than-ideal trip in the GI Curlin Florida Derby. Only Street Sense and Nyquist have pulled off the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-Kentucky Derby double so far.

The $1.3-million Keeneland September graduate Tapit Trice will put a four-race winning streak on the line following eye-catching, come-from-behind victories in the GIII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and GI Toyota Blue Grass S.

“In terms of pari-mutuel support, it’s probably going to be the strongest team that we’ve brought,” Pletcher said. “I think only one time have we started a favorite and that was in 2017, with (Derby winner) Always Dreaming. You could argue that it was possible that Forte and Tapit Trice could be the favorite and second choice or close to it. This is the deepest squad that we’ve put up so far.”

Derby Quartet for Brad Cox…

Brad Cox will have four of the 19 Kentucky Derby starters, including GI Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire (Classic Empire), one of three Derby entries for the Albaugh Family Stables; narrow Blue Grass runner-up Verifying (Justify); the rail-drawn GII Wood Memorial S. runner-up Hit Show (Candy Ride {Arg}); and Louisiana Derby third and ‘Rising Star’ Jace’s Road (Quality Road).

While officially recognized as a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer courtesy of the previously mentioned Mandaloun, Cox is still looking to experience that thrill of a lifetime winning the historic first leg of the Triple Crown.

“There was no experience of winning the Derby,” Cox said of the 2021 renewal. “It’s the thrill of the victory that you’re wanting to experience. There’s no thrill in saying that you won the Derby through a phone call that says you were placed first through a DQ. There’s no celebration. There’s no win picture.”

Cox continued, “I do look forward, hopefully, this year to winning it. I think we got some really good shots. I’m sure it’d be a feeling like no other.”

In addition to Angel of Empire, Dennis Albaugh’s operation also campaigns the Dale Romans-trained Florida Derby third-place finisher Cyclone Mischief and Jace’s Road. The latter two are owned in partnership.

Outside Draws for Japanese Duo…

Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits) (post 15), a dominating winner of the G2 UAE Derby, and GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby runner-up Mandarin Hero (Jpn) (Shanghai Bobby) (post 18) will look to continue the recent high-profile worldwide success for Japan. A sixth-place finish by Master Fencer in the 2019 Derby has been the nation’s best finish in the Run for the Roses so far.

What’s All the Buzz About…

Who’s made the best impression in the mornings leading up to the main event? Last out GII Rebel S. winner Confidence Game (Candy Ride {Arg}) is certainly a good place to start after his visually impressive bullet workout beneath the Twin Spires last weekend. ‘TDN Rising Star’ Disarm (Gun Runner), meanwhile, has given every indication in the a.m. that he’s ready to run the race of his life for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen following a flat third in the GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. Impressive GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Two Phil’s (Hard Spun) is another who has caught the eye during his morning preparations.

Stacked Derby Undercard…

Kicking off at 10:30 a.m. with another sensational forecast calling for partly cloudy skies and a high of 78 degrees, the 14-race Kentucky Derby program also prominently features: GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint heroine Goodnight Olive (Ghostzapper) in the GI Derby City Distaff S.; GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Cody’s Wish (Curlin) in the GI Churchill Downs S.; and the highly anticipated return of last year’s GI Del Mar Oaks heroine Spendarella (Karakontie {Jpn}) in the GII Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile S. The graded stakes action at Churchill Downs is rounded out by the GI Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic; the GII Pat Day Mile S.; the GII American Turf S.; and the GII Twin Spires Turf Sprint S.

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