Friday, April 12, 2019

Bourbon War unlikely to reach Derby, as Saturday's races make him 25th, but stablemate wins the Ben Ali

UPDATE, April 13: Saturday's Derby preps moved Bourbon War down to 25th in Kentucky Derby points, but it was overall a good day for Midway's Bourbon Lane Stable. Bourbon Resolution, its four-year-old son of New Year's Day, won his first stakes race with an upset win of the $200,000 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. Bourbon Resolution, going off at 18-1 under Chris Landeros, won the 1 and 1/8-mile race by four and a half lengths over Nun the Less in 1:38:45. Bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West Stables, he was bought for $125,000 by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, which races as Bourbon Lane Stable, at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale in July, The BloodHorse reports.

By Abbey Huffman
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway-connected horse Bourbon War is still pointing towards the Kentucky Derby after a fourth-place effort in the Florida Derby March 30.  Based on the points system that limits the Derby to the top 20 horses, Bourbon War is on the bubble of getting into the May 4 classic at Churchill Downs.

Bourbon War’s connections think he is a better horse than his performance in the Florida Derby, where he picked up 10 points for a total of 31, ranking him 21st.

Jockey Luis Saez rose after Maximum Security beat Bodexpress
in the Florida Derby. 
Bourbon War, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, is shown
finishing a close fourth.
(Photo by Derbe Glass via Paulick Report) 
The eventual winner, Maximum Security, was the pacesetter and set slower fractions, which was to his advantage.  Bourbon War, being a closer that comes from off the pace, benefits from a faster pace set by speed horses.  Trainer Mark Hennig said he thinks a faster pace and cleaner trip could have helped Bourbon War finish in the money and pick up 20 points or more. 

"I don't think there's any doubt (the pace) had a large impact on us at least not being third, for sure,” Hennig told a BloodHorse reporter.  “I'm not saying we were going to win the race or anything, but I'd like to think with a little pace we could have been a little closer.”

This year’s Kentucky Derby trail has been wide open.  Out of 24 prep races so far, there have been 22 winners, and only two horses have won twice. War of Will, No. 10 in points, won the Lecomte and the Risen Star, and Tacitus, No. 1 in points, won the Tampa Bay Derby and last Saturday’s Wood Memorial. No. 9 is Haikal, owned by Shadwell Stable, which has a large farm on Leestown Pike west of Midway.

Bourbon War’s connections say they like his chances if he makes it to the Derby on points.

"We'll see how things will shake out, but we don't want to go to the Kentucky Derby unless we can win it,” said Jamie Hill of Bourbon Lane Stables, based in Midway. They co-own the horse with Lake Star Stable, and Bourbon War would be the first Kentucky Derby horse for either.

“Getting a fancy box seat to watch the race sounds nice, but we won't go unless it's the right thing to do for the horse,” Hill said. “The horse takes you to the Derby, you don't take him there.”

Looking ahead, Bourbon War’s chances of making it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May are out of his control.  The final two prep races are Saturday; the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park offering 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth; and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland offering 20-8-4-2..

Any horse above Bourbon War in the standings might not enter the Derby due to injury or another reason, but there are a few horses that could leapfrog Bourbon War on Saturday.  One is Improbable, a talented Bob Baffert-trained colt who has 25 points and is in the Arkansas Derby.  A finish of fourth or better would put him in the top 20.

Alternatively, the Arkansas Derby could be as simple as a new name winning the 100 points, and this year’s Derby trail trends suggest that could very well happen. 

In the Lexington Stakes is Anothertwistafate, which has 30 points.  Just a fourth place finish would earn him two points and allow him to leapfrog Bourbon War. Saturday may be decisive.

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