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March 5 was an inclusive day on the road to Kentucky Derby 2022 despite four preps being run. Simplification won the Fountain of Youth but two horses scratched including the favorite, two runners fell, and promising Pletcher runner Emmanuel had a tough trip. Morello ran his record to 3-for-3 in the Gotham but that was a one-turn race. Tiz the Bomb took the Battaglia Memorial as the chalk on all-weather ground, and Forbidden Kingdom ran off without rating and kept on going in the San Felipe. The Derby winner was probably not in any of those preps. On March 12, Classic Causeway easily went all the way in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) but the final time was disappointing.

My longtime top ranked Derby contender Commandperformance made his highly anticipated sophomore bow in a special weight route on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard, but he is not ready for prime time after a subpar runner-up finish behind easy front running winner Fenwick. Pletcher’s talented maiden sat a nice outer tactical trip but failed to dispose of what looked like a less than stellar maiden dirt route. I am sure his connections thought he would win this soft race and target a Derby points race, but all bets are off now. He showed raw ability as a maiden last year with a clear runner-up finish in the Champagne (G1) and a better than appears 4th in the BC Juvenile (G1), but surprisingly did not move forward in his initial 3yo start March 12. I have to believe he is off the Derby trail, and he drops off my list.

Kentucky Derby 2022 Points Race Results

Fountain of Youth Stakes (3-5-22) – Winner: Simplification ($7.00)

This race was messy and very hard to gauge. Morning line favorite Mo Donegal came down with a temperature and scratched. BC Juvenile show finisher Giant Game also scratched. Eleven runners broke from the gate but only nine finished. Markhamian broke running from the rail and set the pace, and Dean Delivers chased from 2nd and came after the early leader at the six furlong mark. A. P.’s Secret joined the chase and High Oak and a very wide Emmanuel were also right there. In Due Time was lurking in midpack with post time favorite Simplification, and the field was bunched up and stacked across the track. Jose Ortiz gave Simplification a smart ride considering what happened next. He decided to go widest of all around the far turn, and at this point High Oak clipped heels with A. P.’s Secret and fell, and Galt jumped over his stablemate and lost his rider. Simplification steered clear of trouble and cruised home by 3+ lengths. In Due Time rallied for the place and 87-1 outsider O Captain rallied from last to land the show. Emmanuel was 4th and he had the worst trip of all. He broke slow from post 8 and was hung out to dry chasing the pace every step of the way. Pletcher’s inexperienced entrant made a nice wide run to make a bid for the lead with 2+ furlongs to go, but he flattened out in the lane and lost 3rd late. This was a nice education run and he might go much better next time. The final time was 1:44.04 and Simplification ran well again. The main problem with him is too many races in a short timeframe and peaking too soon. He won the Mucho Macho Man Jan. 1, overcame a troubled start to finish 2nd in the Holy Bull (G3) Feb. 5, and won a rough and tumble renewal of the FOY March 5. If he goes next in the Florida Derby (G1) as expected, that would make the Kentucky Derby (G1) his fifth start of the year.

Gotham Stakes (3-5-22) – Winner: Morello ($4.00)

Morello has done nothing wrong in a trio of easy one-turn victories to begin his career for Asmussen. I do not know how far he wants to go but he has excellent tactical speed and can carry it at lead a mile. In the Gotham, he chased Dean’s List and always seemed to have that one measured. He came up to the early leader in the lane and drew away to score by 4-1/2 lengths. Dean’s List held 2nd and Golden Circle edged Life Is Great for the show. The latter was the only closer making up any ground and he was 9+ clear of the rest. The final time was 1:39.28.

John Battaglia Memorial (3-5-22) – Winner: Tiz the Bomb ($5.20)

In this local prep for the Jeff Ruby Steaks, the two favorites were both turf route specialists, and they were the best finishers. Tiz the Bomb rallied wide from post 10 and looked home free, but my top choice Stolen Base had a decent inside trip, found clear sailing, and was getting to the winner late but fell a neck short. The top two were 2+ clear of stalking show finisher Gael. Rich Strike rallied from 11th to pick up one Derby point. The final time was 1:44.12.

San Felipe Stakes (3-5-22) – Winner: Forbidden Kingdom ($4.00)

In this 8.5f Derby points race, Forbidden Kingdom ($4.00) blazed to the front under Juan Hernandez, and he put away Baffert chaser Armagnac with ease. He opened up by several lengths after 6f and my top choice Doppelganger started to come after him. Forbidden Kingdom showed no signs of slowing down and stayed well clear by 5+ lengths in an impressive speed display. Doppelganger was clearly second best for Prat/Baffert, and Happy Jack was well clear of the rest in 3rd. Beautiful Art had a troubled beginning and was along for 4th. Cabo Spirit, Armagnac, and Worse Read Sanchez also ran. The splits were 22.66, 45.60, 1:10.46, and 1:36.89, with a final time of 1:43.98. This was a simple case of a runner with superior early speed running them off their feet. He got slower as the race went on but it did not matter today.

Tampa Bay Derby (3-12-22) – Winner: Classic Causeway ($3.60)

Classic Causeway shook off pace pressure and cruised in the Sam F. Davis (G3) Feb. 12., and he got loose and easily captured the Tampa Bay Derby. There was not much depth in either of those races and the final time in this spot was nothing special (1:44.90). Grantham saved ground stalking the pace and edged Shipsational for the runner-up spot. The latter raced wide from an outer post and was probably second best. Golden Glider showed mild late interest to complete the superfecta.


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)
John Battaglia Memorial (10-4-2-1) – March 5 – Winner: Tiz the Bomb ($5.20)
Fountain of Youth (50-20-10-5) – March 5 – Winner: Simplification ($7.00)
Gotham (50-20-10-5) – March 5 – Winner: Morello ($4.00)
San Felipe (50-20-10-5) – March 5 – Winner: Forbidden Kingdom ($4.00)
Tampa Bay Derby – March 12 – Classic Causeway ($3.60)

Upcoming Derby Points Races
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 40 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 3-18-22)

66 Points: Classic Causeway

64 Points: Epicenter

54 Points: Un Ojo, Simplification

50 Points: Forbidden Kingdom, Morello

30 Points: Smile Happy

21 Points: Grantham

20 Points: Ethereal Road, In Due Time, Dean’s List

18 Points: Barber Road

14 Points: Pappacap, Zandon, Shipsational

12 Points: White Abarrio, Mo Donegal

10 Points: Tiz the Bomb, Rattle N Roll, Slow Down Andy, Major General, Dash Attack, Early Voting, Call Me Midnight, Courvoisier, Happy Jack, O Captain, Golden Code

7 Points: Kavod

6 Points: Commandperformance

5 Points: Mackinnon, Life is Great, Golden Glider, Emmanuel, Pioneer of Medina

4 Points: Giant Game, Cabo Spirit, Stolen Base, Tough To Tame, Smarten Up


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2022 Contenders (3-18-22)

1 – 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 worked twice since the Risen Star including a solid half-mile move at Gulfstream Park on March 12. It looks like they have landed on the April 9 Blue Grass (G2) as his final Derby prep.

2 – 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) on April 2. He stretched his legs three times since the Holy Bull including a 5f bullet in 59.49 on March 13.

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

He gave Mo Donegal a real tussle in the 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. Chad Brown has penciled in the April 9 Blue Grass (G2) for his next assignment. He breezed a half-mile at Payson Park March 5 (49.60), and picked up the pace at that same venue and distance March 12 (48.40).

4 – 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. He has not had a published workout since Feb. 26.

5 – 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 his last two moves (March 7 & 14) were 5f bullets. He will stay in New Orleans and target the March 26 LA Derby (G2).

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

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 was firing three bullets in advance of the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 5, and he used his blazing easy speed to run them off their feet in that spot. The waters get deeper in the SA Derby (G1), and he is going to need to distribute his energy more efficiently if he expects to handle 9f and beyond.

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 a productive renewal of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). He started his sophomore campaign the right way with an easy front running victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3), and he followed that up when controlling the pace and cruising again in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He broke sharply in his last pair and that was the key to his success in those races. After those quick starts, he utilized his high cruising speed to keep the others at bay. The Blue Grass (G2) will be his final Derby prep.

8 – 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 had worked three times since his maiden win and Pletcher has decided on the Florida Derby (G1) on April 2 as his next assignment.

9 – 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. He got back on the worktab at Santa Anita on Feb. 28 and fired a strong 5f bullet March 13. The SA Derby (G1) is his next engagement but Baffert runners are banned from competing in the Kentucky Derby (G1) this year.

10 – SIMPLIFICATION (Not This Time – Simply Confection, by Candy Ride)

His versatility is his biggest asset, but just like Epicenter, he has most likely already peaked. He wired the field in the Mucho Macho Man Jan. 1, stumbled at the start and rallied for 2nd in the Holy Bull (G3) Feb. 5, and rallied to win a less than stellar renewal of the Fountain of Youth (G1). He probably goes next in the April 2 Florida Derby (G1).

11 – MORELLO (Classic Empire – Stop the Wedding, by Congrats)

Asmussen’s early-pressing colt captured all three starts. He stalked and scored in his 6f bow, and duplicated that feat in the 7f Jimmy Winkfield. In the Gotham (G3) at one mile around one turn, he chased the pace and pulled away in the lane. He got back to work at Belmont Park (dirt training) March 14, and the April 9 Wood Memorial (G2) is the next logical step. We will learn much more about him in that 9f affair.

Next Nine: (12) Early Voting, (13) Un Ojo, (14) Grantham, (15) Ethereal Road, (15) Cyberknife, (16) Zozos, (17) Emmanuel, (18) Tiz the Bomb, (19) Pioneer of Medina, (20) Call Me Midnight

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.