He Shoots, He Scores!

Here is the 2nd half of the 2022 Kentucky Derby field which includes the late scratch of ETHEREAL ROAD and his replacement.

11. PIONEER OF MEDINA [ML 30-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Joe Bravo. He was 3rd in the Louisiana Derby after pressing the pace, which is promising, but without a Stakes Win to his credit, he is just another longshot here chasing the connections Derby dreams.

12. TAIBA [ML 12-1] Trainer: Tim Yakteen. Jockey: Mike Smith. In only his second career start, TAIBA sat behind the pace and then passed the favorites to Win the 100-point Santa Anita Derby. With two-time Kentucky Derby Winning jockey Mike Smith in the saddle, TAIBA has the characteristics of past Derby Winners from California. His detractors will note his lack of experience and the fact that he beat a field of seven and then six in his only two starts. 

13. SIMPLIFICATION [ML 20-1] Trainer: Antonio Sano. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. He found success racing from a stalking position and from the front end. In the Florida Derby he dueled for the lead, got there, but then was caught nearing the wire. His best race was in the Fountain of Youth (G2) when he sat in a stalking position and then rallied wide for the Win on the Derby trail. His tactical speed will help him to secure a safe, early position in the Derby.

14. BARBER ROAD [ML 30-1] Trainer: John Ortiz. Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez. BARBER ROAD ran in all four of the Derby preps at Oaklawn Park, getting points in all of them. He’s earned a lot of money with his competitive late stretch runs, but those races will be a far cry from the big field in the Run For The Roses. His last Win was in November at Churchill in a starter Allowance. 

15. WHITE ABARRIO [ML 10-1] Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. Won four times at Gulfstream Park, including two races on the Derby trail. In the 100-point Florida Derby, he sat a couple of lengths behind the pacesetter and took control of the race at the stretch call and increased his advantage from there. He has the right running style for success in the Derby. Naysayers will note that his lone loss came at Churchill Downs, but he did not have an ideal trip in his first try in a Stakes race. He has the right resume for Derby success. 

16. CYBERKNIFE [ML 20-1] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux. CYBERKNIFE burst on the Derby scene when he closed to Win the 100-point Arkansas Derby. His trainer has talked about how this son of GUN RUNNER has tons of talent but is mentally immature. The Arkansas Derby field was not as good as in recent years. Facing a field of 20 and a crowd of 150,000 people might not be an ideal setting for CYBERKNIFE

17. CLASSIC CAUSEWAY [ML 30-1] Trainer: Brian Lynch. Jockey: Julien Leparoux. He was a leading Triple Crown contender until he finished 11th in the Florida Derby. In response, he was pulled from consideration for the Derby, only to re-enter the picture. He probably should have stayed on the sidelines.

18. TAWNY PORT [ML 30-1] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. He locked up his place in the Derby when he Won the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland with a late rally. That Win on the dirt also confirmed that he is more than a Tapeta specialist; his prior best efforts were at Turfway Park. The Derby will be his third start in a month, but Cox certainly has this guy in fine form.

19. ZOZOS [ML 20-1] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Manny Franco. Running 2nd in the Louisiana Derby behind EPICENTER in just his third start was certainly a noteworthy performance for ZOZOS, especially after setting the pace in that 1 3/16-mile race. He prefers to press the pace and already has shown the ability to handle distance. You just cannot discount a horse like this from the Brad Cox barn. 

20. ETHEREAL ROAD [ML 30-1] Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas. Jockey: Luis Contreras. SCRATCHED

21. RICH STRIKE [ML 30-1] Trainer: Eric Reed. Jockey: Sonny Leon. Likes synthetic surfaces, shouldn’t be a factor here.

SUMMARY: Entering the 2022 Kentucky Derby, 14 of the last 17 KD Winners competed in two or three races between January and April of their three-year-old season.

This year the field has several horses that had four prep races between January and April and they all have 20-1 (or longer) Morning Line odds.

Needless to say it is a wide-open affair.

The Daily Racing Blog is keen on two horses; #6 MESSIER [ML 8-1] Somewhat overshadowed by the hype of his stablemate TAIBA, MESSIER comes into the Kentucky Derby having finishing in the exacta in all six of his career starts and with a career-top dirt Speed Figure of 107 that is tied with ZANDON as the best in the field. He’s been well supported since his first race back in June 2021 when he finished 2nd at Los Alamitos at odds of 1-2, and when he debuted as a 3-year-old and romped by 15 lengths against four overmatched opponents in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park (earning that 107 figure). He became Derby-eligible in his last-chance race- the Santa Anita Derby. There, he sat just behind pacesetter and even-money favorite FOREBIDDEN KINGDOM and put away that tiring foe entering the homestretch, but he could not withstand a late charge from TAIBA (who was making only his second start) and finished 2 ¼ lengths behind the Winner.

We will also use #3 EPICENTER [ML 7-2] as our other key horse. He rampaged through the four-race series of Derby preps at Fairgrounds and came up a head short of Winning all of them, earning a Speed Figure of 97 in each race. He clicks a lot of boxes for an ideal Kentucky Derby horse: he’s got tactical speed, responds well to handling, and has shown some competitiveness when challenged (which has been rarely this year). EPICENTER set the pace in his second-to-last start, Winning the Risen Star Stakes by an easy 2 ¾ lengths, but he showed the ability to rate in his final prep, sitting off of pacesetting ZOZOS in the Louisiana Derby before dispatching that rival in early stretch and rolling to a 2 ½-length score. There’s not a large amount of early speed lined up in this year’s Derby, and horses racing on or near the lead have done very well in recent years. Look for jockey Joel Rosario to strive for the right balance between aggressiveness and judiciousness when positioning EPICENTER among the early leaders Saturday evening. 

The Kentucky Derby is slated as race twelve on a monster-card of fourteen, with a scheduled Post Time of 6:55.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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