The road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby began on September 18th, 2021, and ended on April 16th, 2022.
All told, there were 37 prep races that carried qualifying points.
During the points era, Derby results have become remarkably consistent.
After success in the 100-point prep races, Derby Winners usually raced as part of the early pace, getting clear of traffic problems that are so common farther back in the field of 20.
A deep closer has not Won the Run For The Roses since 2013, when ORB rallied from 17th to find the Winner’s Circle.
A full field of 20 is scheduled to start, here is a look at runners 1 through 10.
1. MO DONEGAL [ML 10-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr. He closed from last in the 100-point Wood Memorial at Aqueduct to run down the pacesetter. All three of his Wins were at New York tracks with a 3rd-place finish in the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park mixed in there. In most of his starts he got away from the gate slowly, which in the Derby means that he will get far behind in the early going and will require lots of racing luck to work out an uneventful trip.
2. HAPPY JACK [ML 30-1] Trainer: Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Rafael Bejarano. Was a debut Winner in January at Santa Anita. He picked up Derby points with a pair of 3rds on the Derby trail in those small fields in the San Felipe (G2) and the Santa Anita Derby.
3. EPICENTER [ML 7-2] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Joel Rosario. This colt gives Asmussen, (the Winningest trainer in Thoroughbred racing), a chance to finally Win the Kentucky Derby. EPICENTER used tactical speed to get a Victory in the 100-point Louisiana Derby, which gives him the most important characteristics of a Winner on the first Saturday in May.
4. SUMMER IS TOMORROW [ML 30-1] Trainer: Bhupat Seemar. Jockey: Mickael Barzalona. He picked up his 40 points with a 2nd in the UAE Derby. He will make his first start in America in the Kentucky Derby. That is one tough task.
5. SMILE HAPPY [ML 20-1] Trainer: Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Corey Lanerie. In the Blue Grass Stakes he stayed closer to the pace than usual and was able to get the lead in the stretch at Keeneland. He looked like a Winner at that point, but he could not hold off the late run by ZANDON.
6. MESSIER [ML 8-1] Trainer: Tim Yakteen. Jockey: John Velazquez. MESSIER finished first or 2nd in all six of his starts, including the Santa Anita Derby. In all of those races, he was part of the pace, either pressing the leader or stalking just a few lengths from behind the front. He was run down by TAIBA last out after getting the lead in the stretch. He never ran in a field larger than six, so his success depends on his securing a position near the front in the early going. The 10-furlong distance will not be a problem for the son of EMPIRE MAKER, and he has the look of a Derby horse that could carve out 24-second quarters for the entire race, which might be enough to find the Winner’s Circle.
7. CROWN PRIDE [ML 20-1] Trainer: Koichi Shintani. Jockey: Christophe Lemaire. Customarily, the Winners of the 100-point UAE Derby have not found success in the Run For the Roses. To his credit, Japanese runners have recently been impactful on big stages such as the Breeders’ Cup on turf and dirt.
8. CHARGE IT [ML 20-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Luis Saez. The lightly raced grey colt picked up his qualifying points when he finished 2nd in the Florida Derby from a stalking position after racing greenly down the stretch while not being able to keep a straight path. As a promising Pletcher trainee, CHARGE IT is likely to attract more than his share of attention at the betting windows. The 20-horse field of the Derby is not a good spot for a horse that seems lacking in racing experience.
9. TIZ THE BOMB [ML 30-1] Trainer: Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Brian Hernandez, Jr. Heading into 2022, TIZ THE BOMB was not the McPeek 3-year-old expected to Win a 100-point race on the Derby trail, but he did it in the Jeff Ruby Stakes on the Tapeta at Turfway Park. He has Wins on dirt, turf and synthetic. He also was 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. That makes him the leading money Winner in the field here.
10. ZANDON [ML 3-1] Trainer: Chad Brown. Jockey: Flavien Prat. Got a 100-point Victory in the Blue Grass Stakes when he rallied from last in an 11-horse field and drew off to Win by more than two lengths. In his other two Derby preps, he had less than ideal trips and finished 2nd and 3rd. Brown, who has four Eclipse Awards for outstanding trainer, also looks for his first Derby Win. ZANDON will need to buck the current trend of Derby Winners pressing the pace and get an ideal trip while trying to rally from behind. He will get lots of support from the betting public.
On Friday The Daily Racing Blog will look at horses 11 through 20 and make our annual bold, Value based predictions in regard to the outcome of the race.
So be sure to stop back and see who we like.