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We are a couple of races into the 50 points events on the Kentucky Derby 2022 trail. Epicenter was sharp throughout in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19, and Un Ojo pulled off a shocking 75-1 upset in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 26. The Fountain of Youth (G2) and San Felipe (G2) are the next two big points races, and the big 100 points events are looming later this month.

Kentucky Derby 2022 Points Race Results

Risen Star (2-19-22) – Winner: Epicenter ($9.00)

Epicenter was forced to go too fast in the Lecomte (G3) and he was nailed on the line. In this 9f affair, he was able to secure an easy lead through moderate splits, and his two main rivals did not have smooth sailing from off the pace. This one was over at the break and Rosario just had to point the winner in the right direction. Power of Medina put token pressure on the winner and the comfortable splits allowed him to hang in there throughout. Epicenter floated away on the backside and into the stretch, and after opening up by 4-1/2 lengths, he just coasted to the wire while under a hold. The final margin of victory was a very easy 2-3/4 lengths. 2-1 favorite Smile Happy was reserved off the pace as expected. He waiting for racing room approaching the stretch, and finished well for the place in a solid start to his sophomore campaign. My top choice Zandon broke in the air at the start and was last early. He made a wide, sustained run and edged Pioneer of Medina for show honors. Nothing wrong with this effort from the Chad Brown trainee, and the top four finishers were well clear of the rest. The final time was 1:49.03.

Rebel Stakes (2-26-22) – Winner: Un Ojo ($152.80)

A shocker in a slow renewal of the Rebel. Overachieving New York-bred gelding Un Ojo lurked inside behind the speed, came after stretch leader Ethereal Road, and edged past that one to produce the biggest points race upset so far on the road to Derby 2022. Ethereal Road stalked from post 10, led, and just held 2nd over Barber Road. The latter always tries hard and picked up another stakes check. Kavod set the pace from the inside post and weakened to 4th. No excuses for post time favorite Newgrange. He was in a great spot in 2nd chasing Kavod but had no answer and came up empty for Johnny V/Baffert. Ramon Vazquez guided home the winner for trainer Ricky Courville, and the final time was 1:45.69. For comparison sake, earlier in the day, sophomore filly Secret Oath competed her 8.5f Honeybee (G3) journey in 1:44.74. Also, optional claiming 3yo’s ran faster than Uno Ojo in the seventh race (1:45.45), and 3yo MSW runners beat his final time as well (1:45.63). I seriously doubt that we saw the Derby winner in this event.


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)
Risen Star (50-20-10-5) – Feb, 19 – Winner: Epicenter ($9.00)
Rebel (50-20-10-5) – Feb. 26 – Winner: Un Ojo ($152.80)

Upcoming Derby Points Races
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 3-3-22)

64 Points: Epicenter

54 Points: Un Ojo

30 Points: Smile Happy

20 Points: Ethereal Road

18 Points: Barber Road

16 Points: Classic Causeway

14 Points: Pappacap, Zandon

12 Points: White Abarrio, Mo Donegal

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

7 Points: Kavod

6 Points: Commandperformance

5 Points: Mackinnon, Pioneer of Medina

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

3 Points: Ben Diesel

2 Points: Cooke Creek


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2022 Contenders (3-3-22)

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

Todd Pletcher’s talented maiden finished 2nd in a fast edition of the Champagne (G1), and followed that up with a deceptively good 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 worked five times in February at Palm Beach Downs including a five panel move Feb. 26 (1:02.29). He is nearing a 3yo start, possibly an upcoming maiden race in Florida.

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 made his 3yo bow in the Risen Star (G2) and ran well without winning. He sat back in 8th place in the 10-horse field, and after finding clear sailing in the lane, he got into a nice rallying groove and landed the place. Winner Epicenter was loose through moderate splits and Ken McPeek’s colt was gaining on the winner late. He has not worked since the Risen Star and his next start is still undecided.

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). He skipped the Fountain of Youth and will make his final points race appearance in the Florida Derby (G1). He stretched his legs in the first time since the Holy Bull with a three panel breeze in 36.22 on Feb. 27.

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

Was sharp in his winning sprint bow, and he gave Mo Donegal a real tussle in Remsen (G2). In the latter event, 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 originally slated to go in the Holy Bull (G3), but his connections called an audible and opted for the Risen Star (G2). In the 9f affair at Fair Grounds, he was expected to stalk the pace but lunged at the start and was away last. He made a nice, long run from off the pace and ended up a solid 3rd. That race should have done wonders from a fitness standpoint and he might move up in a big way next time. Chas Brown likes to use the Blue Grass Stakes for his top Derby hopefuls, and that is probably where this one will end up.

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 was entered in the March 5 Fountain of Youth (G2), but he drew post 12 and came down with a fever, so he was removed from that event. If everything goes well, look for him to target the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 9.

6 – 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 above par fractions, turned away multiple challenges, and was nailed on the line by longshot closer Call Me Midnight. He lost nothing in defeat in the Lecomte, and he really put it all together with a strong front running victory in the Risen Star (G2) at 9f. Quality early-pressing types will make you pay if you hand them an easy lead through comfortable fractions, and he did just that on Feb. 19. This is not really a knock, but it is more like a nagging feeling that he is peaking too soon. He ran well in points race routes on Dec. 26, Jan. 22, and Feb. 19, and he will have one final prep before the Derby. It is tough to run so many hard races in a relatively short timeframe without regressing. He got back to work with an easy half-mile move on Feb. 28, and he will probably stay in New Orleans and shoot for the LA Derby (G2) next.

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

He should have won the Los Al Futurity (G2) 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. He got to the front early, opened up, and won by the length of the stretch in a visually impressive and fast winning performance, and that was the quickest Derby prep of the year. 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. He got back on the worktab at Santa Anita on Feb. 28. The SA Derby (G1) might be his next engagement.

8 – 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 a productive renewal of 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). He had his first breeze since that win at Palm Meadows on Feb. 26 (4f in 48.50). The March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) is his next likely assignment.

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 (next-out winner in G3 Saudi Derby), McLaren Vale, and Doppelganger. He has fired three bullets since the San Vicente and joins the points race chase in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 5.

10 – 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. He got back to work with a half-mile move at Palm Beach Downs on Feb. 26.

11 – 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. Classic Causeway was 3rd that day and he recently captured the Sam F. Davis (G3), but the other runners from the Keeneland juvenile stakes event have not done much since. A foot abscess kept this one out of the BC Juvenile (G1), and he returned to the worktab Jan. 22. He has breezed six times at Gulfstream Park this year and is entered in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at that venue March 5. He has not really impressed in his recent works and might need the outing.

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.