The European Road to the Kentucky Derby swings back into action March 3 on the Dundalk all-weather course in Ireland after a four-month hiatus with a whole new cast of characters and a chance that at least one of them might actually be seeking a path to Louisville.
The seven-race series offers the overall points champion a guaranteed spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate. Inaugurated in 2018, the European Road has yet to lead to Louisville.
The first four races in the series are run in the autumn on the turf and attract 2-year-olds being screened for the European classics rather than American dirt events. None of the 2-year-old points earners is back as the series resumes with the one-mile listed Patton Stakes, which will award points on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale to the top five finishers.
The eight-horse Patton field is diverse, with three fillies and entries from Coolmore and Juddmonte.
Of particular note is Stormy Entry, a Charles Fipke homebred colt by Point of Entry , who has been active throughout the winter at Dundalk for trainer W. P. Browne. He was second on debut in December, then landed back-to-back wins in January and February, relegating the nice Joseph Patrick O’Brien trainee Cash Out to second by a fraction of a whisker in the latest.
Fipke also has a promising 3-year-old in Dubai, Shirl’s Bee , who finished second to Tall Boy in the U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas (G3) and could earn enough points in the U.A.E. Derby (G2) on World Cup night to make it to the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
Fipke acknowledged he’s interested in moving on from the overseas engagements to the Run for the Roses if his horses are good enough.
“What my objective would be is to win the Triple Crown,” he said, while expressing doubt Stormy Entry will be good enough to top the European Road standings.
“Those are some talented horses running there,” he said about the Patton field. “I’m not sure ours will be able to run with them.”
If the top finishers on the European Road leaderboard decline an invitation to the Derby, the offer is extended down as far as the fourth-place horse. If it should fall to Stormy Entry, would Fipke accept?
“Absolutely,” he said.
Cairo , a Quality Road colt out of the Galileo mare Cuff , comes to the Patton off four starts in 2022 for trainer Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore partners, earning two wins and two seconds. One of the seconds was over the Dundalk all-weather surface and the colt won at a mile on turf in his second start. He won the Killavullan Stakes (G3) last time out in October at Leopardstown. Ryan Moore gets the leg up for the Patton.
Tiverton, a Juddmonte homebred colt by Expert Eye , makes his 3-year-old and all-weather debut. He was last seen finishing eighth in the Leopardstown stakes won by Cairo Oct. 15.
Joseph Patrick O’Brien has two in the field. The aforementioned Cash Out, a son of No Nay Never , already has three starts through the all-weather season, progressing from an unplaced outing in November to a second Feb. 10 and a victory one week later—all at Dundalk. All Things Nice, a filly by Sioux Nation , won two of her first three starts in 2022 but beat none of her 23 rivals in her finale after missing the start. She makes her all-weather debut.
Miss Caruso and News At Ten have been knocking heads in all-weather events at Dundalk through the winter.
The series continues with the Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes at Kempton Park March 15 and concludes with the Cardinal Condition Stakes at Chelmsford City April 1.