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The points races on the road to Kentucky Derby 2022 have all been completed, and now we await any last minute changes and the post position draw for the twenty qualifiers. On April 9, we saw Zandon, Taiba, and Mo Donegal secure their spots in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. The final points race was the Lexington Stakes (G3) on April 16, and Brad Cox trainee Tawny Port punched his ticket to Louisville with a nice surface switching victory at Keeneland.

Kentucky Derby 2022 Points Race Results

Blue Grass (4-9-22) – Winner: Zandon ($6.20)

Is Zandon the one to give Chad Brown his first Derby winner? That definitely might be the case after a visually impressive late running victory in the Blue Grass. My value top choice Emmanuel set the pace as expected in a race lacking front end speed. The pace was moderate and there was no closing going on in this event, except for Zandon. The latter hovered at or near the back of the pack for a good six furlongs or so. He raced in traffic and started moving up near the far turn, and his sustained run pushed him past Smile Happy and he was clear by 2-1/2 lengths at the wire. Smile Happy stalked outside, led, and could not hold off the winner while clearly second best. Emmanuel held the show by a half-length over stalker Golden Glider. The final time was 1:50.35 (final interior quarter in 25.14), with a final furlong in 12.49. Zandon showed nice positional speed as a juvenile and closed nicely in both starts this year. He sports a trio of nine panel races and has been prepared nicely for the Derby. Smile Happy got first run but did not move forward sufficiently in his second start of the year. He is talented but needs to kick his game up a notch on the first Saturday in May.

Santa Anita Derby (4-9-22) – Winner: Taiba ($10.60)

Forbidden Kingdom got to the front as expected, but his stamina was always suspect and the even money favorite could never get separation from Messier. The latter did the pace dirty work and looked like he would win with a furlong to go, but his $1.7 million stablemate Taiba, fresh off a fast debut sprint win, wore him down from an outside stalking position and pulled clear late by 2-1/4 lengths under Mike Smith. Messier was miles clear of show finisher Happy Jack. Armagnac was another neck back in 4th and was followed by Win the Day and a fading Forbidden Kingdom. Taiba now has 100 Derby points and a ton of raw ability, but only has two starts and the 10f Ky Derby is a huge ask for such a lightly raced runner. Messier is probably the one to play out of this race. He has a nice foundation and can build on this solid effort, but I am not sure about 10f. The final time was 1:48.67 (final interior quarter in 25.04), with a final fraction of 12.70.

Wood Memorial (4-9-22) – Winner: Mo Donegal ($6.30)

The main track was playing fast at the Big A on Wood Memorial Day, and the big Derby prep played out exactly as expected. Early Voting got out there and controlled the pace and was chased by A. P.’s Secret, and Barese and Golden Code stalked. Early Voting got some pressure from A. P.’s Secret but was moving along smartly up front, and he got clear by a couple of lengths in the lane. Mo Donegal was at or very near the back of the pack from the inside post as anticipated, and he sat a great closing trip. He stayed inside, cut the corner, came after Early Voting, and wore down the front runner to score by a neck. Early Voting did everything but win in a clear runner-up finish. Skippylongstocking sat in midpack and plugged away for 3rd. A. P.’s Secret held 4th by a nose over Barese, and the other three runners were far back. I should mention beaten favorite Morello. He figured to be forwardly placed but hit the gate at the start while losing a few lengths, and he moved outside after that and never got seriously involved at any point. The final time for 9f was 1:47.96 (final interior quarter of 24.04), with a final fraction of 12.33.

Lexington Stakes (4-16-22) – Winner: Tawny Port ($12.20)

Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) runner-up Tawny Port was back in two weeks for Brad Cox, and he handled dirt just fine in this spot. He was actually the morning line favorite but floated up to 5-1. Major General and Strava dueled on the lead, and the former was stubborn under Irad Ortiz Jr. Tawny Port sat out wide while out in the clear, steadily moved up, and wore down Major General in the late stages to score by a length. My top choice In Due Time was bet down to favoritism and raced near the inside within striking ranged throughout, but did not quicken enough late and ended up an okay 3rd. Ethereal Road was an even 4th and was followed by Strava and Dash Attack. The other five runners were far back. The final internal fraction was 26.14 and there was nothing special about the final time of this final points race. Tawny Port was the sixth Risen Star runner to fire a big shot after that event. He was the fourth subsequent points race winner, and two other Risen Star entrants hit the board in late season Derby preps.

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 – Winner: Classic Causeway ($3.60)
UAE Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 26 – Winner: Crown Pride (JPN)
Louisiana Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 26 – Winner: Epicenter ($4.00)
Sunland Derby (50-20-10-5) – March 27 – Winner: Slow Down Andy ($4.40)
Florida Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 2 – Winner: White Abarrio ($7.80)
Arkansas Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 2 – Winner: Cyberknife ($13.60)
Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-40-20-10) – April 2 – Winner: Tiz The Bomb ($5.20)
Wood Memorial (100-40-20-10) – April 9 – Winner:
Blue Grass (100-40-20-10) – April 9 – Winner: Zandon ($6.20)
SA Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 9 – Winner: Taiba ($10.60)
Lexington (20-8-4-2) – April 16 – Winner: Tawny Port ($12.20)


Top 28 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 4-18-22)

164 Points: Epicenter

114 Points: Zandon

112 Points: White Abarrio, Mo Donegal

110 Points: Tiz the Bomb

100 Points: Cyberknife, Crown Pride (JPN), Taiba

74 Points: Simplification

70 Points: Smile Happy

60 Points: Tawny Port

58 Points: Barber Road

54 Points: Un Ojo

50 Points: Early Voting, Morello

40 Points: Messier, Zozos, Summer Is Tomorrow, Charge It, Tawny Port

30 Points: Happy Jack (#20)

25 Points: Pioneer of Medina

24 Points: In Due Time

22 Points: Ethereal Road

21 Points: Rich Strike

20 Points: Rattle N Roll, Skippylongstocking

18 Points: Major General

15 Points: Golden Glider


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2022 Contenders (4-18-22)

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

When I started my Derby list last year, Zandon was ranked fourth. He hit the board in two productive points races (Remsen, Risen Star), and had his coming out party in the Blue Grass (G1). He sure acts like he will relish 10f based on his strong finish at 9f on April 9. He has classic influences in his pedigree thanks in large part to grandsires A. P. Indy and Touch Gold, both Belmont Stakes winners. Flavien Prat rode him to perfection in the Blue Grass, and he partnered with Country House to win the 2019 Ky Derby via disqualification. Chad Brown’s best finish in the Ky Derby was a runner-up effort from Good Magic in 2018.

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

Flashed sharp early speed in Gun Runner (1st), Lecomte (2nd), and Risen Star (1st), and proved his could stalk and pounce in the LA Derby (1st). Does he have another peak effort in him on the first Saturday in May? At this point he keeps running and winning, and his speed ratings remain strong and steady. His trainer Steve Asmussen has yet to sip the Derby champagne. He is 0-for-23 with a pair of runner-up finishes (Nehro, Lookin At Lucky). He has won the Preakness (Curlin, Rachel Alexandra) and Belmont Stakes (Creator). Joel Rosario rides the likely Derby favorite, and he guided Orb to victory in the 2013 Ky Derby for Shug McGaughey. Epicenter is at Churchill Downs preparing for his biggest career test. He worked 5f in 1:01 flat on April 10, and logged the same distance in 1:00.80 a week later.

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

One of four original Derby list members to make the big dance. I had the Remsen (G2) hero ranked fifth when I started my list, and he remains in the top five after a late running show finish in the productive Holy Bull (G3), followed by a smart score in the Wood Memorial (G2). Todd Pletcher is his conditioner and he has struck twice in the Ky Derby (Super Saver, Always Dreaming). Rosario rode him in the Wood, but he is committed to Epicenter, so he will reunite with Irad Ortiz Jr (seeks first Derby score).

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

He was 3rd in the most productive 2yo prep (Kentucky Jockey Club), and won the first key Derby prep this year. That was the Holy Bull (G3), a race that is responsible for four horses (White Abarrio, Simplification, Mo Donegal, Tiz The Bomb) winning five subsequent Derby preps (Florida Derby, Fountain of Youth, Wood Memorial, Battaglia Memorial, Jeff Ruby Steaks). He is trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. Both are looking to pick up their first Derby win. He is from the Tapit line on top, which is more indicative of Belmont Stakes success. On Easter Sunday (April 17), he breezed 3f in 34.49, and kept on going in the gallop out (4f in 47.48), and finally 5f in 1:00.52.

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

He was ranked second when I began my Derby list last year. He made it to the top briefly but could not sustain that lofty ranking after back-to-back runner-up efforts in the Risen Star (G2) and Blue Grass (G1). He won the strongest 2yo Derby prep (Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes), and completed the exacta in what appears to be the strongest prep this year (Risen Star). His trainer Ken McPeek is still searching for his first Derby victory. He saddled Tejano Run to a runner-up finish in the 1995 Derby, and he has not had a starter since 2013. He did win the Belmont in 2002 (Sarava) and the Preakness in 2020 with filly Swiss Skydiver. Corey Lanerie was aboard for his last three starts and has been the leading rider at Churchill Downs many times. Smile Happy’s grandsire Super Saver won the Ky Derby in 2010, and he should get stamina from his female family (Pleasant Tap, Pleasant Colony, His Majesty, Graustark, Ribot, Flower Bowl).

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

He has been on my Derby list all along. I had him ranked 9th last year, and he is just outside the top five after a clear runner-up finish in the SA Derby (G1). Bob Baffert was his trainer of record through the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3), but since he is barred from running in the 2022 Derby, they moved him to the Tim Yakteen barn. His new conditioner worked as an assistant for Baffert, and the late, great Charlie Whittingham. The 57-year-old trainer has been on his own since 2004. He has not had a Derby runner in his name until now, but worked for Baffert when he saddled Derby winners Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and War Emblem. John Velazquez rode Messier in the Robert Lewis and SA Derby, and he has won the Ky Derby three times (Authentic, Always Dreaming, Animal Kingdom).

7 – TAIBA (Gun Runner – Needmore Flattery, by Flatter)

Arrived on the Derby scene very late with a fast March 5 debut sprint win, and he followed that up with a stalk and pounce victory over his stablemate Messier in the SA Derby (G1) at 4-1 odds. He lacks experience but makes up for it with raw talent, but only two starts in a 20-horse Derby Calvary charge at 10f is a tall order indeed. His sire Gun Runner was 3rd in the 2016 Ky Derby. Bob Baffert was his trainer of record for his debut, and Tim Yakteen has him now. Mike Smith is his pilot and the Hall of Fame rider has won the Ky Derby twice (Giacomo, Justify).

8 – CYBERKNIFE (Gun Runner – Awesome Flower, by Flower Alley)

He always had the ability but was having trouble putting everything together mentally and physically. He was up and down and showed flashes of talent through his first four starts. After finishing 6th in the Lecomte (G3), he got a confidence boosting allowance win, and ran his best career race in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He sat a great stalking trip in the latter race and is coming up to the Ky Derby the right way. His trainer Brad Cox backed into his first Derby win in 2021 with Mandaloun after Medina Spirit was disqualified for a medication violation. Florent Geroux rode Mandaloun and also pilots this one. He was an early Derby arrival at Churchill Downs, and he breezed five furlongs in a minute flat on April 16.

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

He was 2-for-2 heading into the Florida Derby (G1), but his raw talent was not quite enough to overcome his greenness. The Florida Derby was his first graded stakes and initial two turn attempt. He took dirt for the first time after a less than ideal start, and he might have won if he kept a straight line in the lane. It was a nice education run and I might really like him for the Ky Derby if he had one more race under his belt. The feeling at this stage is he will be better later this year. He had a strong pre-Derby workout at Palm Beach Downs on April 15 (4f bullet in 47.77). As mentioned earlier with Mo Donegal, Pletcher has saddled the Derby winner two times previously, and his rider Luis Saez is seemingly knocking on the Derby door. He briefly thought he won the 2019 Derby aboard Maximum Security, but was disqualified for causing interference. He rode Essential Quality to a close 4th place finish last year (later elevated to 3rd), and that one made amends in the Belmont Stakes.

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

This one is the personification of a hard trying overachiever, and he shows up for every dance. He wired the field in the Mucho Macho Man (Jan. 1), blew the break and rallied for the place in the Holy Bull (G3), closed wide to capture the Fountain of Youth (G2), and attended the pace and fought hard for 3rd in the Florida Derby (G1). You cannot help but root for this one to succeed. His trainer Antonio Sano saddled a similar Derby trail runner in 2017, and his name was Gunnevera. That one was 2nd in the Holy Bull, 1st in the FOY, 3rd in the Florida Derby, 7th in the Ky Derby, and 5th in the Preakness. Jose Ortiz is the pilot and he is hungry for his first Derby win. He worked 5f in 1:01.83 at Gulfstream Park on April 15.

11 – TIZ THE BOMB (Hit It a Bomb – Tiz the Key, by Tiznow)

Ken McPeek’s colt is 5-for-9 and has banked more than $1 million. He romped in his maiden win on dirt, but was no threat in the productive Holy Bull (G3) earlier this year. He won two stakes on turf last year and completed the exacta in the BC Juvenile Turf (G1). He won the Battaglia Memorial and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on all weather ground this season. Conventional dirt is probably his weakest surface but he is classy and packs a decent stretch kick. Brian Hernandez Jr. rides this one and he would like nothing more than to win his first Derby with McPeek.

Next Nine: (12) Early Voting, (13) Zozos, (14) Barber Road, (15) Crown Pride-JPN, (16) Un Ojo, (17) Summer Is Tomorrow, (18) Morello, (19) Tawny Port, (20) Happy Jack

​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.