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The road to Kentucky Derby 2022 is in full swing with seven points races in the books and three more on the docket this year. It is time to unveil my first Derby 2022 Exceptional Eleven contenders. I will update this blog frequently in the coming weeks and months, and make sure to check out my Derby points race video series as well.

Corniche is expected to be named two-year-old champion but his trainer Bob Baffert is currently banned from running in the Kentucky Derby for two years due to medication violations, so his runners are ineligible to earn Derby points. If the ban holds up, it is possible that some runners currently under his care will be transferred to other barns. We will have to see how all of this plays out in the coming months.

Kentucky Derby 2022 Points Race News & Results

Below Par Renewal of Iroquois?

The G3 Iroquois Stakes has never been a strong Derby prep and that looks like the case again in 2021. Major General rallied and held on by a neck and the top four were bunched up on the line. The final time was nothing special and that about sums it up.

Corniche Takes Two

Corniche set the pace from the rail and kept on going in his first route test in the American Pharoah (G1), and the strength of that race held up in the BC Juvenile (G1). Once again, Corniche set the pace in the big juvenile contest at Del Mar, but this time he cleared off from post 11 and ran hard throughout in another solid front running victory over American Pharoah runner-up Pappacap. The latter is surprisingly the points leader at this stage and he just missed making my Derby list. He is targeting the Lecomte (G3) at FG on Jan. 22. My main concern is stamina. I am just not convinced that he wants to go 9f and beyond. Giant Game was best of the rest in 3rd for Dale Romans and my top pick Commandperformance got the wrong ride. He was expected to close but ended up stalking wide in 3rd and stayed on for 4th under Ortiz Jr. The maiden ran a quality race in his two turn debut.

Jack Christopher Sips the Champagne

Jack Christopher was strong in both wins for Chad Brown and he was in complete command in the Champagne (G1). He chased from 2nd, took a short lead, widened, and coasted home 2+ lengths in front of Commandperformance, and those two were well clear of show finisher Wit. This was a fast race and Jack Christopher was forced to miss the BC Juvenile (G1) after an injury was detected the day before the race. He underwent surgery on his left shin and should return to action early next year.

Rattle N Roll Shakes Loose in Breeders’ Futurity

Ken McPeek’s colt Rattle N Roll finished with a flourish to win the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) by 4+ lengths under Brian Hernandez Jr. Classic Causeway set a strong early pace from the outside post and led to the stretch, but the closers were coming. Rattle N Roll finished best of all and was all alone at the wire. Double Thunder got past Classic Causeway late for the runner-up spot. I don’t know how much overall talent was on display in this 13-horse contest, but the top three appear to be decent sorts. Rattle N Roll was preparing for a start in the BC Juvenile (G1) but developed a hind foot abscess in his final work for that race.

Smile Happy Shines in Kentucky Jockey Club

Smile Happy stalked from midpack and drove home impressively in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27. Ken McPeek has another promising one on his hands. My top choice Classic Causeway stalked, made a run for the lead, and was clearly second best in a solid effort. White Abarrio raced evenly for the show. Highly regarded Romans trainee Howling Time surprisingly set the pace and weakened to 5th.

Remsen Trending Again?

Mo Donegal and Zandon dominated the Remsen (G2), and there is a possibility that this was a better than average renewal of this Derby points race at the Big A. Mo Donegal stalked from the inside post and Zandon stalked outside, and they battled all the way to the wire with the former prevailing by a nose. Mo Donegal is a well-bred colt for Todd Pletcher, and Zandon was making just his second career start and first over a route of ground for Chad Brown. When you factor in overall experience and total ground covered in this nine furlong contest, Zandon may have been slightly best and might have the most upside, but I have nothing but good things to say about the Remsen 1-2 finishers.


Kentucky Derby 2022 Points Race Results
Iroquois (10-4-2-1) – Sept. 18 – Winner: Major General ($11.80)
American Pharoah (10-4-2-1) – Oct. 1 – Winner: Corniche ($2.80)
Champagne (10-4-2-1) – Oct. 2 – Winner: Jack Christopher ($5.40)
Breeders’ Futurity (10-4-2-1) – Oct. 9 – Winner: Rattle N Roll ($19.40)
BC Juvenile (20-8-4-2) – Nov. 5 – Winner: Corniche ($4.80)
Ky Jockey Club (10-4-2-1) – Nov. 27 – Winner: Smile Happy ($11.60)
Remsen (10-4-2-1) – Dec. 4 – Winner: Mo Donegal ($4.90)

Upcoming Derby Points Races
Los Al Futurity (10-4-2-1) – Dec. 11
Springboard Mile (10-4-2-1) – Dec. 17
Gun Runner (10-4-2-1) – Dec. 26
Smarty Jones (10-4-2-1) – January 1, 2022
Jerome (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 1
Sham (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 1
LeComte (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 22
Southwest (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 29
Holy Bull (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 5
Robert B. Lewis (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 5
Sam F. Davis (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 5
Withers (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 12
El Camino Real Derby (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 19
Risen Star (50-20-10-5) – Feb. 19
Rebel (50-20-10-5) – Feb. 26
John Battaglia Memorial (10-4-2-1) – March 5
Fountain of Youth (50-20-10-5) – March 5
San Felipe (50-20-10-5) – March 5
Gotham (50-20-10-5) – March 12
Tampa Bay Derby (50-20-10-5) – March 12
UAE Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 26
Louisiana Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 26
Sunland Derby (50-20-10-5) – March 27
Florida Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 2
Arkansas Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 2
Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-40-20-10) – April 2
Wood Memorial (100-40-20-10) – April 9
Blue Grass (100-40-20-10) – April 9
SA Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 9
Lexington (20-8-4-2) – April 16


Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 12-9-21)

12 Points: Pappacap

10 Points: Rattle N Roll, Jack Christopher, Smile Happy, Major General, Mo Donegal

6 Points: Commandperformance, Classic Causeway

4 Points: Double Thunder, Giant Game, Tough To Tame, Zandon

2 Points: Wit, Oviatt Class, White Abarrio, Midnight Chrome, Red Knobs

1 Point: American Sanctuary, My Prankster, Ben Diesel, Mr Jefferson, Bourbon Heist


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2022 Contenders (12-9-21)

1 – COMMANDPERFORMANCE (Union Rags – Smitten, by Tapit)

Champagne (G1) runner-up was a better appears 4th in BC Juvenile (G1), and he is all upside for Todd Pletcher. In the latter race, he was shipping across country and trying two turns for the first time, and the pace scenario changed dramatically following the defection of Jack Christopher. Corniche shook loose from the outside post and Commandperformance surprisingly chased the pace. He stayed on well for 4th and won’t be a maiden much longer.

2 – SMILE HAPPY (Runhappy – Pleasant Smile, by Pleasant Tap)

Won both starts at 8.5f including Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). He has a nice blended pedigree with win early sprint influence sire Runhappy and stamina oriented dam sire Pleasant Tap. Plenty to like here and we will see if he continues to progress for Ken McPeek.

3 – CORNICHE (Quality Road – Wasted Tears, by Najran)

Two big G1 route wins for the soon-to-be crowned 2-year-old champ. Bob Baffert’s colt has a high cruising speed and can carry it at least 8.5f. Early speed and the ability to keep on keeping on has proven to be a winning formula in Derby preps and the Derby itself, especially when Baffert is the trainer.

4 – ZANDON (Upstart – Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause)

Gave Mo Donegal a real tussle in Remsen. He smartly captured his 6f bow and ran a big one at 9f second time out. In the Remsen, he stalked while out in the clear, grabbed the lead in the lane, and fought back when Mo Donegal passed him in a gritty nose defeat. He was giving up valuable experience last time and should have gotten plenty out of his stakes bow. He has real upside for Chad Brown.

5 – MO DONEGAL (Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit)

Back-to-back route wins including the Remsen (G2). In that race, he saved ground stalking the pace from the rail, swung out wide in the stretch, gained a short advantage, and dug in and edged Zandon in an exciting stretch battle. He showed nice determination, and Todd Pletcher’s well-bred colt owns fine tactical speed.

6 – CHASING TIME (Not This Time – Race Hunter, by Dixie Union)

Developing nicely for Steve Asmussen. He was 4th to subsequent Street Sense hero Howling Time in his 6f bow, and landed the place at 6f second time out. He stretched out to 7f and graduated under the Twin Spires Nov. 27. I like the professionalism he showed when he bullied through a small opening in his maiden win. I would not be surprised if he handled two turns next year.

7 – SIR LONDON (Malibu Moon – Seeking Atlantis, by Seeking the Gold)

Settled for the place in his first two sprints and ran off the screen in a flat mile affair at Los Alamitos Race Course Dec. 4. Simon Callaghan’s $700k purchase is targeting the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 6. The pedigree is certainly there and it is a good sign that he fired a big shot in his first route attempt.

8 – JACK CHRISTOPHER (Munnings – Rushin No Blushin, by Half Ours)

Captured both starts in NY for Chad Brown including the Champagne (G1). He had shin surgery and was forced to miss the BC Juvenile, and he is expected to be out of action for two months. Look for him to return early 2022.

9 – MESSIER (Empire Maker, Checkered Past, by Smart Strike)

Bob Baffert’s $470k purchase should be all set for two turns. He ran out of ground in a rallying runner-up finish in his 5f bow, and he chased and crushed at 6f second time out. He was the favorite again in the Bob Hope (G3) at seven panels Nov. 14 and he did not disappoint. He removed blinkers and went last-to-first in a 4-horse field that day. His rider Prat reportedly believes he is better with the hood, so blinkers go back on for his next start in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) Dec. 11. He is bred to love a route of ground.

10 – RATTLE N ROLL (Connect – Jazz Time, by Johannesburg)

Exits back-to-back victories at a mile and a sixteenth on dirt including the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. A foot abscess kept him out of the BC Juvenile and Ken McPeek will take his time and get him healthy before bringing him back next year.

11 – GIANT GAME (Giant’s Causeway – Game For More, by More Than Ready)

For this final spot, I was torn between Pappacap and Giant Game, and I gave the latter the nod. I was impressed with his forward move over a route of ground at Keeneland second time out, and he shipped to Del Mar and finished a fine 3rd in the BC Juvenile (G1). In the BC, he stalked wide, made an outside bid for the lead in the lane, and was a bit one-paced late. Juvenile runner-up Pappacap scraped the paint and was second best, but his trip was ridiculously perfect. Dale Romans might have some fun with this one in 2022.

​Article by Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak posts stakes recaps from Del Mar and Santa Anita Park, along with full card recaps and free stakes picks from Southern and/or Northern California.