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The road to Kentucky Derby 2022 suddenly got interesting after White Abarrio burst onto the scene with a breakout victory in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3). The next day, Messier ran a hole in the wind in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park. Not to be outdone, Classic Causeway threw his hat in the ring with an impressive front running score in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs last weekend.

We are now more than two weeks into February and the 50 point races begin with the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19. It is starting to get late for some of the Derby contenders without published workouts this year like recently named juvenile champion Corniche. The latter would have picked up 30 Derby points but instead has zero due to Bob Baffert’s Derby ban this year. He has also yet to have a published workout in 2022 so an appearance in the Derby seems unlikely.

That leads me to a few defections from my list. Corniche has been dropped for the reasons above. I also removed Giant Game and Sir London after below par efforts in recent Derby preps, and Jack Christopher has been removed due to a recent update from his trainer Chad Brown. He has rejoined his barn in Florida after missing 60 days with a shin ailment. He has no published workouts and is rapidly running out of time to prepare for the Derby.

Kentucky Derby 2022 Points Race Results

Lecomte (1-22-22) – Winner: Call Me Midnight ($59.00)

Epicenter was intent on the early lead under Ricardo Santana Jr., and the fractions were quick for this day. BC Juvenile runner-up Pappacap was the slight favorite and he stalked inside, and tried to make an impression on Epicenter in the lane, but the latter gamely dug in and briefly looked home free, but Call Me Midnight stormed home down the middle of the track and caught the longtime leader in the final stride to score by a head. The winner was the only late runner making up any ground and won’t be 28-1 next time for Keith Desormeaux. Epicenter did everything but win. He was hounded by multiple horses at different intervals and ran the best overall race. Pappacap was a clear 3rd in his first start of the year and this was a solid starting point for him. Trafalgar was an even 4th in the 9-horse field and picked up one Derby point. The final time was 1:44.36.

Southwest (1-29-22) – Winner: Newgrange ($5.00)

The pace was honest and 3-2 favorite Newgrange was in a good spot in 3rd. He appeared a bit one-paced around the final turn and seemed to have flattened out in the stretch, but he responded to Johnny V’s handling and spurted clear late to win by a length and a half. Barber Road rallied from the back of the pack to finish a clear 2nd, and Ben Diesel stalked the pace from the inside post and was best of the rest in 3rd. Kavod set the pace and weakened to 4th in the 12-horse field. The final time was 1:45.83. Newgrange showed the ability to pass horses and that early-pressing versatility should serve him well going forward. His connections believe he struggled with the surface. Overall, the speed rating was right on par with the Sham (G3) and Lecomte (G3), and this is a very evenly matched sophomore crop at this stage.

Withers (2-5-22) – Winner: Early Voting ($4.60)

Chad Brown’s lightly raced son of Gun Runner ran his record to 2-for-2 but did not run particularly fast in this 9f Derby prep. The betting favorite got a great ride from Jose Ortiz. He was aggressively sent up after the lead from post 9 and he cleared off early. He kept widening and was 6-1/2 lengths in front in the lane, and he wrapped up his job by an easy 4-1/2 lengths when all was said and done. New York-bred Uno Ojo was up for the place at 28-1 odds and Gilded Age checked in 3rd for Bill Mott. Grantham raced evenly in 4th and the rest were of no consequence. The final time was a slow 1:55.90. The winner has upside but will have to run much faster to be competitive in future Derby preps.

Holy Bull (2-5-22) – Winner: White Abarrio ($14.00)

This looked like a strong race for the top three finishers. Galt set sail for the lead from the inside post and that was a bit of a surprise. White Abarrio chased from 2nd from post 8, and he took the lead at the 6f mark, pushed clear, and finished with plenty of energy to score by 4-1/2 lengths. Simplification was the expected pacesetter, but he was unprepared for the start and broke last. He made a sustained run from off the pace and just held 2nd over Mo Donegal. The latter was making his first start since winning the Remsen (G2) in November. The beaten favorite was slow to begin and finished best of all at a distance shorter than his best. Galt weakened to 4th and seems a cut below the best. The final time was a good 1:42.80 and this was a pleasing race from a visual standpoint.

Robert Lewis Stakes (2-6-22) – Winner: Messier ($3.20)

Johnny V and Baffert were at it again. Messier got to the front from the inside post and held a short advantage through six panels in 1:11.32. He let it out a notch after that and that was the ballgame. He coasted through the stretch and ended up a mile clear at the end (15 lengths to be exact). Surface switcher Cabo Spirit chased the pace and tried hard throughout in a clear runner-up finish. Messier’s stablemate Wharton was best of the rest in 3rd and disappointing second choice Sir London chased and weakened to 4th. Happy Jack trailed throughout. The final time was 1:42.89 and this was a legit effort, but Baffert trainees are barred from earning Derby points. Messier, a son of Empire Maker, was bred in Canada and that makes him eligible for the Queen’s Plate if his connections opt to go in that direction.

Sam F. Davis Stakes (2-12-22) – Winner: Classic Causeway ($5.20)

Classic Causeway became the third runner from last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) to win a points race route this year. He was 2nd to Smile Happy in the latter race, and in this 8.5f affair at Tampa Bay Downs, he dueled inside, put away presser Little Vic, and kicked away to score by a bit less than four lengths. Shipsational was along for the place and Volcanic was an okay 3rd. Strike Hard broke from post 10 and rallied from the back of the pack to complete the superfecta. The final time was a very solid 1:42.80.

El Camino Real Derby (2-12-22) – Winner: Blackadder ($9.60)

This was not a strong Derby prep. Blackadder was exiting an off the turf maiden win on fast dirt, and he jumped right up and won this all-weather stakes affair at a mile and an eighth. His rider Edwin Maldonado worked hard to get him to relax off the pace, and he rallied from 7th place in this 11-horse affair to score by a neck over beaten favorite Mackinnon. The latter is best as a turf router and was 3+ clear of show finisher Del Mo. Il Bellator rounded out the top four. The final time was 1:50.34. The winner did not earn any Derby points due to Baffert’s Derby ban, but he did pick up a free berth in the Preakness (G1) starting gate if they opt to go in that direction. Mackinnon will get some time off and point to a summer turf campaign.


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)
Los Al Futurity (10-4-2-1) – Dec. 11 – Winner: Slow Down Andy ($12.40)
Springboard Mile (10-4-2-1) – Dec. 17 – Winner: Make It Big ($4.60)
Gun Runner (10-4-2-1) – Dec. 26. – Winner: Epicenter ($7.80)
Smarty Jones (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 1 – Winner: Dash Attack ($17.40)
Jerome (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 1 – Winner: Courvoisier ($10.00)
Sham (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 1 – Winner: Newgrange ($7.40)
Lecomte (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 22 – Winner: Call Me Midnight ($59.00)
Southwest (10-4-2-1) – Jan. 29 – Winner: Newgrange ($5.00)
Withers (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 5 – Winner: Early Voting ($4.60)
Holy Bull (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 5 – Winner: White Abarrio ($14.00)
Robert Lewis (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 6 – Winner: Messier ($3.20)
Sam F. Davis (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 12 – Winner: Classic Causeway ($5.20)
El Camino Real Derby (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 12 – Winner: Blackadder ($9.60)

Upcoming Derby Points Races
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
Gotham (50-20-10-5) – March 5
San Felipe (50-20-10-5) – March 5
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


Top 30 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 2-17-22)

16 Points: Classic Causeway

14 Points: Pappacap, Epicenter

12 Points: White Abarrio, Mo Donegal

10 Points: Rattle N Roll, Jack Christopher, Make It Big, Smile Happy, Slow Down Andy, Major General, Dash Attack, Early Voting, Call Me Midnight, Courvoisier

8 Points: Barber Road

6 Points: Commandperformance

5 Points: Mackinnon

4 Points: Giant Game, Simplification, Cabo Spirit, Tough To Tame, Un Ojo, Zandon, Shipsational, Smarten Up

3 Points: Ben Diesel

2 Points: Wit, Kavod, Cooke Creek


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2022 Contenders (2-17-22)

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

Todd Pletcher’s talented maiden finished 2nd in the Champagne (G1) and 4th in BC Juvenile (G1). 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 but the Juvenile has not been a productive race. He has worked three times this month at Palm Beach Downs including a half-mile move Feb. 14.

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

Won both starts at 8.5f including Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), and three runners from that heat have won Derby points races this year (Call Me Midnight, White Abarrio, Classic Causeway). He has worked six times at Gulfstream Park this year, most recently logging five panels in 1:01.62 (6/26) on Feb. 12. He is the 7-2 morning line favorite in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19.

3 – WHITE ABARRIO (Race Day – Catching Diamonds, by Into Mischief)

He is a perfect 3-for 3 at Gulfstream Park, and his only career loss was a show finish in the highly productive Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). His early-pressing speed always leads to a favorable journey, and he sat in 2nd before taking over in a sharp win in the Holy Bull (G3) earlier this month. He will skip the Fountain of Youth and make his final points race stop in the Florida Derby (G1).

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

Gave Mo Donegal a real tussle in Remsen (G2). He smartly captured his 6f bow and ran a big one at 9f second time out. In the Remsen, he stalked slow fractions 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 upside for Chad Brown and is currently training at Payson Park in Florida. He fired a half-mile bullet Jan. 9, and completed his Risen Star (G2) preparations with another four panel bullet Feb. 12.

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. He made his sophomore bow in the Holy Bull (G3), and he rallied for the show in a rock solid effort. He wants more ground and might move forward in upcoming longer events, especially if the pace in honest.

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

He should have won the Los Al Futurity late last year but was his own worst enemy. He did not settle like Prat would have hoped and was outfinished late after chasing and taking the lead in the lane. Fast forward to the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 6, and he looked like a new horse under Johnny V. He got to the front early, opened up, and won by the length of the stretch in a visually impressive and fast winning performance. His trainer Bob Baffert is banned from running horses in the 2022 Kentucky Derby so I am not sure what the game plan is, but the Ontario-bred sure is talented.

7 – CLASSIC CAUSEWAY (Giant’s Causeway, Private World, by Thunder Gulch)

He had a productive juvenile season with a show finish from the far outside post in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), followed by a solid runner-up finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). He started his sophomore campaign the right way with a strong front running victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3).

8 – EPICENTER (Not This Time – Silent Candy, by Candy Ride)

Improved nicely in his prominent throughout romp in the Gun Runner Stakes at 8.5f on Dec. 26. He came right back in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds on Jan. 22, and he carved out legit fractions, turned away multiple challenges, and was nailed on the line by longshot closer Call Me Midnight. His Lecomte effort was stellar and he keeps picking up Derby points and should make his presence felt throughout in the Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 19.

9 – FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (American Pharoah, Just Louise, by Five Star Day)

I am really not sure how far Richard Mandella’s colt want to travel, but he sure looked sharp in his seven panel return in the San Vicente (G2). In that affair, he got to the front from the inside post and stayed clear throughout in a nice 2-1/4 length score over Baffert trainees Pinehurst, McLaren Vale, and Doppelganger. He has fired two bullets since the San Vicente and is expected to stretch out and join the points race chase in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 5.

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

Captured back-to-back races at a mile and a sixteenth on dirt last year including the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. A foot abscess kept him out of the BC Juvenile (G1), and he returned to the worktab Jan. 22. He has now breezed four times at Gulfstream Park including a half-mile move on Feb. 12.

11 – CHARGE IT (Tapit, I’ll Take Charge, by Indian Charlie)

He missed by a neck while 12+ clear of the show in his flat mile debut at the Gulf Jan. 8. Volcanic beat him that day and came back and finished 3rd in the Sam F. Davis (G3). Pletcher’s promising colt resurfaced in a one mile MSW affair Feb. 12, and he set the pace and was much the best, and the final time was a good 1:35.55. I am not sure what is next but an appearance in a Derby points race seems all but certain.

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.