Kentucky Derby Prep Stretch: Ascending Contenders and Slipping Competitors

Kentucky Derby Preps Shape the Field: Winners and Losers

The Impact of Saturday’s Preps

Saturday’s set of Kentucky Derby prep races proved to be an important turning point, as it solidified the positions of four horses in the Derby field while also revealing the strengths and weaknesses of others. With victories in the Florida Derby and the Arkansas Derby, White Abarrio and Cyberknife guaranteed their spots in the Kentucky Derby. Additionally, Barber Road’s second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby and Tiz the Bomb’s win in the Jeff Ruby Steaks earned them a position in the prestigious race as well. As the Derby preps near their conclusion, next week’s races at Santa Anita, Keeneland, and Aqueduct will be crucial in determining the final contenders for the Derby.

White Abarrio: A Strong Derby Contender

White Abarrio emerged as a leading Derby contender following his impressive victory in the Florida Derby. Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., this colt has displayed consistent brilliance throughout his career. With a gritty win at Gulfstream Park, he secured his fourth consecutive victory at the venue. White Abarrio’s only setback came at Churchill Downs, but his stellar performance in the Florida Derby has reignited hopes of a victorious run in the Kentucky Derby. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who secured his fifth win of the day aboard White Abarrio, shares in the excitement surrounding this talented colt’s Derby prospects.

Cyberknife’s Unexpected Triumph

In the Arkansas Derby, Cyberknife surprised many by emerging victorious. Going unnoticed behind more prominent contenders, this Brad Cox-trained colt boldly maneuvered his way to victory. Jockey Florent Geroux’s audacious move of splitting the leaders Kavod and Chasing Time in the far turn proved to be a winning strategy, securing Cyberknife a 2 ¾-length victory. Cox’s decision to remove the blinkers after a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Lecomte proved to be a turning point for Cyberknife, setting him up for success in the Arkansas Derby. Despite not being at full strength, Geroux’s skillful navigation and Cox’s training expertise contributed to this surprise triumph.

Tiz the Bomb’s Tapeta Expertise

Tiz the Bomb has demonstrated a clear affinity for Tapeta, as evidenced by his impressive victories in the Jeff Ruby Steaks and the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. However, his performance on dirt remains uncertain. After finishing seventh in the Holy Bull, trainer Kenny McPeek contemplated taking Tiz the Bomb to the UK for their 3-year-old classics. Whether he will compete on turf in the 2,000 Guineas or make a transition to dirt for the Kentucky Derby remains to be seen. Tiz the Bomb’s talent on Tapeta surfaces presents a unique factor that may influence the decision-making process.

Barber Road: The Poster Child for Perseverance

Barber Road’s journey to the Kentucky Derby serves as a testament to his resilience and determination. With consistent top-four finishes in four Oaklawn Derby preps, including second-place finishes in the Smarty Jones and Southwest races, Barber Road secured 40 valuable points in the Arkansas Derby to earn a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs. Despite lacking high-speed figures, this colt’s unwavering tenacity has propelled him into the Derby mix, making him a horse to watch on race day.

Classic Causeway’s Bubble Bursts

Classic Causeway, once considered a strong Derby contender, experienced a major setback in the Florida Derby. After back-to-back front-running victories in the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby, Classic Causeway’s performance took a nosedive as he finished last by a staggering 21 ¼ lengths. The collapse of his front-running style after setting the pace in the first half-mile raised concerns about his form and fitness. Trainer Brian Lynch confirmed that they are reevaluating Classic Causeway’s condition before committing to a guaranteed spot in the Derby.

Un Ojo’s Disappointing Run

Un Ojo, despite securing a spot in the Kentucky Derby, faced disappointment in the Arkansas Derby. With an eighth-place finish as a 19/1 longshot, this one-eyed gelding failed to impress. His speed figures decreased significantly, dropping from a career-best 91 Equibase rating in the Rebel Stakes to a lackluster 73 in the Arkansas Derby. Furthermore, his non-competitive performance, finishing 14 ¼ lengths behind Cyberknife and never rising above seventh position, indicates that he may not be a serious contender in the upcoming Derby.


In the penultimate wave of Kentucky Derby prep races, several horses solidified their positions in the Derby field, while others encountered setbacks. White Abarrio and Cyberknife showcased their potential as leading contenders with impressive wins in the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby, respectively. Barber Road’s consistent performances earned him a Derby spot through sheer determination. Tiz the Bomb’s expertise on Tapeta surfaces adds an intriguing aspect to his Derby prospects, while Classic Causeway’s regressing form raises doubts about his readiness for the Derby. Meanwhile, Un Ojo’s underwhelming performance suggests that he may struggle to make an impact in the Kentucky Derby. As the Derby preps near their conclusion, the upcoming races at Santa Anita, Keeneland, and Aqueduct will undoubtedly shape the final field of contenders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How did White Abarrio secure his spot in the Kentucky Derby?

White Abarrio secured his place in the Kentucky Derby by winning the Florida Derby with a gritty 1 ½-length victory. The colt’s impressive performance validated his previous victories and made him one of the front-row contenders for the Derby.

Q: What strategy did Cyberknife employ to win the Arkansas Derby?

Cyberknife surprised many by splitting leaders Kavod and Chasing Time in the far turn, a bold move that led to a remarkable 2 ¾-length victory. This audacious maneuver, executed by jockey Florent Geroux, propelled Cyberknife to triumph in the Arkansas Derby.

Q: Will Tiz the Bomb compete on dirt in the Kentucky Derby?

Tiz the Bomb’s preference for Tapeta surfaces is undeniable, as demonstrated by his victories in the Jeff Ruby Steaks and the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. However, the decision to compete on dirt in the Kentucky Derby or opt for turf in the 2,000 Guineas is yet to be determined.

Q: How did Barber Road secure his Derby spot?

Barber Road earned his spot in the Kentucky Derby by consistently finishing in the top positions throughout the Oaklawn Derby preps. With second-place finishes in the Smarty Jones, Southwest, and Arkansas Derby, Barber Road accumulated the necessary points to secure a place in the starting gate at Churchill Downs.

Q: What led to Classic Causeway’s disappointing performance in the Florida Derby?

Classic Causeway’s front-running style faltered in the Florida Derby, resulting in a last-place finish by a significant margin. After setting the pace through the first half-mile, Classic Causeway’s performance deteriorated, raising concerns about his form and fitness leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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