Coady Photography

Coady Photography

American Pharoah had to travel through a blizzard of praise, but he arrived safely Monday afternoon in Louisville as the one to beat in the Kentucky Derby. His recent victory at Oaklawn Park couldn’t have been easier, nor his performance more impressive. He won the Arkansas Derby by eight lengths even though Victor Espinoza was pulling up the handsome colt at the wire. With that, American Pharoah moves to the front of the line among Kentucky Derby contenders, and Espinoza moves to fourth among the jockeys. But, of course, if there are no defections, Espinoza will occupy the top spot as soon as John Velazquez, J.L. Ortiz and Gary Stevens, who have multiple options, make their decisions.

By the way, if American Pharoah wins on May 2, Espinoza would become the sixth rider to win consecutive Derbies. He, of course, rode California Chrome to a roseate victory last year.

Much could change, as it always does, in the next couple of weeks and even in the week leading up to the bands playing “My Old Kentucky Home.” The Derby field will be limited to 20, but will the Churchill Downs gate be full? With the leading contenders looking so formidable, some owners and trainers seem to be reconsidering their Derby plans. The current horse rankings reflect the hesitation expressed by some connections, as well as the points earned.

The jockeys’ points are based on the horses’ rankings, with the rider of the No. 1 horse getting 25 points, followed by No. 2 at 24 points, No. 3 at 23 points, etc. Velazquez, for example, has 46 points, the total from his three possible mounts, including Madefromlucky: 22 + 21 + 3.

Jockeys (total points) leading the way on the road to the Kentucky Derby:

1. John Velazquez (22 + 21 + 3 = 46)
2. J. L. Ortiz (18 + 10 = 28)
3. Gary Stevens (20 + 6 = 26)
4. Victor Espinoza (25)
5. Martin Garcia (24)
6. Joel Rosario (23)
7. Mike Smith (13 + 8 = 21)
8. Miguel Mena (19 + 1 = 20)
9. Julien Leparoux (17)
10. Rafael Bejarano (16)
11. Christophe Soumillon (15)
12. Florent Geroux (14)
13. Luis Saez (12)
14. C.C. Lopez (11)
15. Joe Talamo (9)
16. Ramon Vazquez (7)
17. Santiago Gonzalez (5)
18. James Graham (4)
19. Ricardo Santana (2)

Horses leading the way on the road to the Kentucky Derby:

1. American Pharoah
2. Dortmund
3. Frosted
4. Carpe Diem
5. Materiality
6. Firing Line
7. International Star
8. Upstart
9. Danzig Moon
10. One Lucky Dane
11. Mubtaahij
12. Stanford
13. Far Right
14. Itsaknockout
15. El Kabeir
16. Tencendur
17. War Story
18. Bolo
19. Mr. Z
20. Frammento
21. Ocho Ocho Ocho
22. Keen Ice
23. Madefromlucky
24. Bold Conquest
25. Firespike

The 2015 Derby Poll is compiled by Gary West.

Gary WestThe son of a jockey who then became a trainer, Gary West grew up around racing and horses, and his earliest jobs were all at the racetrack. While going to school, he worked as a hot walker, groom, assistant, agent and valet, and then he set out on a very different career path. But after teaching writing and American literature at the University of Tennessee and publishing scholarly articles in such magazines as The Yeats Eliot Review and The Mark Twain Journal, he returned to the racetrack — as a turf writer. He has worked for the Dallas Times Herald, Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram; his work also has appeared in many magazines and journals. He’s the author of Razoo At the Races and has contributed to many books on racing. A former president of the National Turf Writers Association, he currently writes a regular column for ESPN.com.