Ore Pass headed to Gotham Stakes in search of Kentucky Derby points

Horses seeking a spot in the Kentucky Derby must earn points through a new system

  • Ore Pass ridden by Julian Pimentel wins the $125,000 Frank Whiteley Stakes for three-year olds at Laurel Park on Saturday, January 19 2012. Photo by Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ore Pass ridden by Julian Pimentel wins the $125,000 Frank Whiteley… (Maryland Jockey Club )
March 01, 2013|By Chris Korman

Horses chasing a spot in the Kentucky Derby this year must, for the first time, compile points (instead of graded earnings) by finishing in the top four in a series of races chosen by the staff at Churchill Downs.

The revised qualification rules are meant to make it easier for the common fan to follow the Derby trail. So let’s keep this simple: the hunt really began last week, with the first two races worth a total of 85 points (50-20-10-5). Previous races had only been worth 17 (10-4-2-1) and the most well-known prep races will be worth 170 (100-40-20-10).

Last week the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth States at Gulfstream featured the most-talked about 3-year-old with Maryland ties: Cerro, the Graham-Motion trained colt who is partially owned by swimmer Michael Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman.

Cerro -- the name’s Italian and pronounced Chair-O -- finished sixth. He was the first horse Bowman has ever been involved with to run in a graded stakes race, and the coach remained upbeat afterward, tweeting to Motion “He should move forward off of that. #itsaprocess.”

This weekend, the Derby trail moves to New York for the Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, and will feature another horse with Maryland ties generating some buzz.

Mike Trombetta, who like Motion is based at Fair Hill, will enter Ore Pass, who won the Frank Whitley Jr. Stakes at Laurel on Jan. 19. Trombetta, a Baltimore native, also has a stable at Laurel.

Motion, who conditioned 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, works with six horses who’ve been nominated for the Derby (which simply means the owner paid $600; 369 horses were nominated during the early period.)

Another Fair Hill trainer, Michael Matz, has four horses who were nominated. He trained last year’s Belmont winner, Union Rags, as well as 2006 Derby winner Barbaro.

Here’s a look at the 18 early Derby nominees with Maryland ties (that I could identify; if you know of others, please shoot me an email.) Four of them were bred here. The others are based her or are conditioned by trainers who are usually stabled in the state.

For those paying close attention to Maryland's embattled breeding industry, here's where the early Derby entries came from: Kentucky (263), Florida (29), Pennsylvania (16), New York (11), California (10), Virginia (7), Maryland (4), Louisiana (3) and nine other states had one each.  Eleven were bred in Canada and six in Ireland.

Always Curious
Trainer: Ignacio Correas, IV
Owner: Sagamore Farm
Bred: Kentucky
So far: Son of Big Brown has yet to race.

Big Lute
Trainer: Steve Hobby
Owner: Lieblong, Alex and JoAnn
Bred: Maryland (Green Willow Farms)
So far: The son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup sprint champion Midnight Lute broke his maiden on Feb. 1 at Oaklawn, racing toward the front the entire way.

Trainer: Graham Motion
Owner: Team Valor International (with Michael Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman)
Bred: Ireland
So far: Swimmer Michael Phelps became interested in horses thanks to his coach, Bob Bowman. The two have finally teamed to invest in a Derby contender, though Cerro finished sixth in both of his stakes races since coming to the states.

Corinthian Order
Trainer: Michael Matz
Owner: Centennial Farms
Bred: Kentucky
So far: Has not raced.

Crop Report
Trainer: Graham Motion
Owner: Team Valor International
Bred: Kentucky
So far: Raced twice at Newmarket in London and made his first start in the U.S. on Feb. 23, overcoming a rough start to an allowance race at Gulfstream and finishing third.

Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Owner: Red Bullet Racing
Bred: Maryland (Chanceland Farm, Robert T. Manfuso/Katharine M. Voss)
So far: Finished second in his only race so far, at Delaware Park in late October.

Dynamic Strike
Trainer: Richard Small
Owner: Fitzhugh, LLC
Bred: Pennsylvania
So far: Has won three in a row at Laurel, most recently the Mircacle Wood Stakes on Feb. 9.

Empire Star
Trainer: Richard Small
Owner: Fitzhugh, LLC
Bred: Pennsylvania
So far: Has not raced.

Exchange Partners
Trainer: John Tammaro III
Owner: Happy Tenth Stable
Bred: Maryland (Carey K. Miller Revocable Trust)
So far: Broke his maiden at Parx in Philadelphia on Feb. 3.

Gray Meteor
Trainer: Graham Motion
Owner: Mueller Farms, Inc. & Taylor Made Stallions, Inc
Bred: Kentucky
So far: Has yet to race.

Trainer: Michael Trombetta
Owner: Meyerhoff, Harry C. and Tom O.
Bred: Kentucky
So far: Yet to break maiden in three races, including one at Laurel. Finished 10th of 12 at Gulfstream on Feb. 23. 

Heat Press
Trainer: Graham Motion
Owner: Sagamore Farm
Bred: Kentucky
So far: Has run five times, with one win and one show. Finished third in a three-horse race won by Derby nominee Dynamic Strike. Breezed at Fair Hill on Feb. 28.

Intrepid Citizen
Trainer: Graham Motion
Owner:Team Valor International and Paul Fowler Jr.
Bred: Kentucky
So far: Broke maiden in January, then finished third at an allowance race at Parx in February.

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