In most years, the winners of the 100-point Kentucky Derby prep races are horses who are merely solidifying their places at the top of their division.
This is something we have seen in most of the 100 point prep races this year. Forte, who won the Grade I Florida Derby, was last year’s two-year-old champion. Derma Sotogake had won the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby in the months before his Grade II UAE Derby performance. Practical Move was widely considered the best Derby hope of the West Coast even before he won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.
Angel of Empire preceded his Grade I Arkansas Derby win with a win in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes, Tapit Trice had won the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby prior to the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes, Two Phil’s took the Grade III Street Sense Stakes before his sparkling victory in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks, and although Kingsbarns had never won a stakes race before his Grade II Louisiana Derby win, he was undefeated and highly regarded for his talent.
But what About the Grade I Wood Memorial?
There were several horses who had good reputations leading up to the race. Brad Cox’s pair, Hit Show and Slip Mahoney had won the Grade III Withers Stakes and placed in the Grade III Gotham Stakes, respectively, and were arguably the leaders of the New York circuit of three-year-olds. Neither of them, however, won the Wood.
Instead, the race was taken by Lord Miles, a colt whose best stakes performance to that point had been a third in the listed Mucho Macho Man Stakes.
According to TwinSpires betting guide, this underdog might have the makings of a Kentucky Derby winner. So, should you place your bets on him?
Analysis of Lord Miles’s pedigree shows that the distance and surface of the Kentucky Derby should be to his liking.
Lord Miles is a son of Curlin. Curlin was a two-time Horse of the Year whose racing career highlights included the Dubai World Cup, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, all at ten furlongs (1 ¼ miles, the distance of the Kentucky Derby). He also won the Preakness and placed in both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. Clearly, Curlin had stamina.
He has also shown the ability to pass that stamina on to his get. Curlin has sired many graded stakes winners who won at 1 ¼ miles or longer, including grade I winners Vino Rosso, Keen Ice, and Palace Malice.
Lord Miles’s dam, Lady Esme, was unraced. She is the daughter of Grade I Hopeful Stakes winner Majestic Warrior. Majestic Warrior has proven to be a versatile if unspectacular sire; he sired top-level turf sprinter Leinster, but he also sired Lone Rock, who won the Grade II Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at 1 ⅝ miles (one of the few graded stakes at that distance on dirt) and is still active on the racetrack at age eight this year.
Lord Miles has only two career wins.
Whenever a horse wins a race at a massive price, the natural inclination is to go back and look for what the bettors overlooked. In the case of Lord Miles, the $120.50 winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes had some reasons for optimism but you needed to dig pretty deep to uncover them.
Lord Miles made a terrific first impression in winning his career debut by 5 ¾ lengths Nov. 19, 2022, at Gulfstream Park and he then finished a fast-closing third in his stakes debut in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, also at Gulfstream, in just his second start.
From there, things did not go as smoothly for the bay Curlin colt. Unplaced finishes in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes Feb. 4 and the Grade 3 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby March 11 led the public (myself included) to lose faith in Lord Miles.
Lord Miles broke from the inside post and was mostly hemmed in behind horses throughout the running of both races. I did not think he showed much in either race, but to his credit he never stopped trying and finished willingly while beaten by 5 ¾ lengths in the Tampa Bay Derby.
The first win came in his very first race, which took place on November 19th of last year at Gulfstream Park. The win was an impressive one- he was bumped in mid-race and went wide on the turn, but was still able to win by nearly six lengths.
The next start for Lord Miles was in the listed Mucho Macho Man Stakes over a mile at Gulfstream. He showed a lot of promise, charging late to finish third behind Legacy Isle and Dreaming of Kona.
Unfortunately, Lord Miles’s next two starts, the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes and the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, resulted in off-the-board finishes to more accomplished horses. Legacy Isle and Dreaming of Kona’s further stakes performances also did not flatter Lord Miles; Dreaming of Kona finished off the board in Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby, while Legacy Isle was off the board in the Holy Bull as well as the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes.
In the Wood, Lord Miles showed the same grit that he did in his maiden, surviving bumping and going wide around the turns. He also showed grit, dueling with Hit Show and Dreamlike for the length of the stretch and putting his nose in front.
While Lord Miles has talent, however, he has proven to be inconsistent. The speed figures that Lord Miles earned for the Wood also indicated that the race was not quite up to the level of other final Derby prep races; Lord Miles earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93, while the only horses on the Derby leaderboard to earn lower figures in their final prep have been Disarm, Raise Cain, Rocket Can, and Wild On Ice, none of whom are highly regarded going into the Kentucky Derby.
Remember, though, that anything can happen in the Kentucky Derby, as Rich Strike proved last year, and Lord Miles has it in his favor that he can overcome a troubled trip!