The 2013 Kentucky Derby prep races came to a close with Saturday's Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes.
Three horses qualified for Churchill Downs, with the golden opportunity to notch a victory at the renowned track on May 3 in the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. Renowned trainer Todd Pletcher added two more contenders to his Derby bid, and Java's War grabbed the other spot by winning in Louisville.
Here is a power ranking of those who notched a post position in the Run for the Roses at the conclusion of the Championship Series' second leg.
3. Palace Malice
Despite the unfortunate result at the finish line, Palace Malice still got the 40 Kentucky Derby points necessary to qualify.
As Alicia Wincze Hughes of Kentucky.com reported prior to the Louisiana Derby, Pletcher was extremely enthusiastic about the training that Palace Malice had done leading up to that race. The hype went unfounded, though, as he finished in seventh.
The Blue Grass Stakes was a swell race for the horse and a welcome return to form, and it nearly resulted in third-place finish due to a strong charge by Charming Kitten.
Instead, Palace Malice will enter Churchill Downs as one of the most talented thoroughbreds in the lineup, but he will need to figure out how to finish better on the slightly longer 10-furlong track.
2. Java's War
An explosive push on the final straightaway put Java's War a nose in front of Palace Malice to notch the victory for trainer Ken McPeek.
Java's War finished in second place in the Tampa Bay Derby by just three lengths to undefeated Churchill Downs favorite Verrazano, as Claire Novak of Bloodhorse.com points out (h/t ESPN).
McPeek compared Saturday's win to that very race, per Novak:
It reminded me of Tampa when [Java's War] came late. He actually broke better today than he did in Tampa. But this is his running style. I wasn't at all worried. I was watching the front thinking,'Ok, if they set a little pace for us the first half or even in the middle, we'll get a good chance here.'
The 100 points in the $750,000 purse race has Java's War up to No. 4 in the points standings (h/t Daily Racing Form), and the burst down the stretch is an encouraging sign ahead of the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.
Which horse do you like to contend best at the Kentucky Derby?
With Rafael Bejarano in the saddle as the No. 4 money winner among jockeys in 2013 (h/t Equibase.com), there's no telling what Overanalyze can do from here.
A disappointing fifth-place showing at the Gotham Stakes led to a long layoff, making the colt a bit of a mystery entering Saturday. However, he answered in dominant fashion. The three-year-old roared to victory at the Arkansas Derby by four-and-a-half lengths, per USA Today's Harry King.
As KY Derby Contenders' Twitter page documented, Bejarano felt his horse had even more in the tank:
Jock Bejarano on Overanalyze: "Once we got to the stretch, I felt like I had a lot of horse left and saved something for the next race."— KY Derby Contenders (@DerbyContenders) April 14, 2013
If Overanalyze runs any better than he did on this occasion, he should be in prime position to cover Bejarano in roses on May 3.