Derby Rankings: Week 14

The preps are officially over and there is nothing left but to watch the horses train and see who is thriving at Churchill Downs. There will be no Rankings next week, but we’ll have one final list the Monday before the Derby recapping what we’ve seen in the morning followed by a handicapping column on Thursday, May 5. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: April 18, 2022 – Week 14

By Steve Haskin


1– Zandon (Chad Brown, Upstart – Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause)

The only question I have with him is what his best running style is. He is so versatile it is a bit confusing because we have seen him be effective from just off the pace and from dead last. It seems as if he’s been comfortable in his last two starts rallying from the back of the pack, and he has shown he can weave his way through traffic. But the Derby hasn’t been kind to closers in recent years so he may wind up closer to the pace. Flavien Prat seems to fit him perfectly and is a good judge of pace, so I’m sure he’ll have him in the right spot. That versatility should bode well for the Derby knowing he is dangerous no matter where he is running. As someone who relies on the Thoro-Graph numbers I love his progression of “6 ½” to “4 ½” to “2 ½” to “1 ½,” a pattern that indicates he is ready to peak on Derby Day with a career-best number, and one more similar jump forward and he is going to be very hard to beat.


2– Epicenter (Steve Asmussen, Not This Time – Silent Candy, by Candy Ride)

He turned in another sharp drill at Churchill Downs, going five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 working inside a stablemate. His Thoro-Graph pattern is very good, but there have been a half-dozen horses who have already run faster numbers and are also on a very good pattern. What he has going for him is the ability to go to the front or sit off the pace and come home fast. His closing fractions in the Louisiana Derby would be extremely fast for a closer, never mind a horse running just off the pace. According to assistant Scott Blasi the biggest change in him is how much he has matured physically since last fall; mainly how he has grown and filled out. He is a very straightforward colt and a pleasure to work with. He loves his carrots and a good nap. Blasi added that he has gotten more confident with winning. So there is no doubt this is a colt moving forward rapidly. He just needs to maintain everything he has built up in the six weeks between the Louisiana and Kentucky Derby. Normally that would be a long time, which can be attributed to the lack of success of horses coming off the Louisiana Derby. But the change to 1 3/16 miles should help a horse build more of a foundation, and we saw the success of Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie last year. With his high cruising speed and ability to come home fast he looks like the horse to beat.


3– Smile Happy (Ken McPeek, Runhappy – Pleasant Smile, by Pleasant Tap)

It is very rare to have the top three ranked horses all having run in the same race, but the Risen Star surely looks like the key race of the year, especially now with fifth-place finisher Tawny Port winning Saturday’s Lexington Stakes following a strong second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. We know Smile Happy loves Churchill Downs after his dominating victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and although he has dropped on most Derby rankings after losing his only two starts this year by more than two lengths, he is on strong Thoro-Graph pattern, with his career-best “1 ½”iin the Blue Grass Stakes the same number as the victorious Zandon, despite the winner’s 2 ½-length margin due to his wide trip. He also made an early move to advance into third behind a dangerous speed horse and I don’t believe he wants to be quite that close to the lead. I think in a bigger field with a more contentious pace he can settle in a comfortable position closer to midpack and launch his bid from there. For a horse who was ranked No. 1 most of the year and was the favorite in all the earlier Future Wager pools he should be an enticing price in the Derby and I think the third time could be the charm.


4– Taiba (Tim Yakteen, Gun Runner – Needmore Flattery, by Flatter)

We finally had our first negative Thoro-Graph number with this freakish colt getting a negative-1/2 in the Santa Anita Derby following his exceptional “2” in his career debut. This makes him the fastest horse in the Derby, with the next fastest number being White Abarrio’s “1” in the Florida Derby, which frankly was much faster than expected considering the mediocre final time and pedestrian closing fractions. I really have no idea how to handicap this horse going into a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. He has taken the term “lightly raced” to a new level that could change the face of racing and the Derby if he should win. We are now in danger of having to handicap a field of strangers every year as the number of lifetime starts dwindle to the bare minimum. As I mentioned last week, no one puts a foundation into a young horse better than Baffert. The ones that can handle his training are fast, tough, and fit, which is why he has dominated the Run for the Roses in recent years. Yakteen merely has to keep this colt where he was when Baffert turned him over to him. Of course there is the bounce question, or simply put has he done too much too soon? The fact that he won the Santa Anita Derby so convincingly in such a professional manner, as if he were a hardened veteran, certainly boosts his chances of duplicating such a herculean performance. But as I’ve been saying it will take a freak to do it.


5– Messier (Tim Yakteen, Empire Maker – Checkered Past, by Smart Strike)

With the defections of Forbidden Kingdom, Classic Causeway, Slow Down Andy, and Emmanuel, and the possible defection of Early Voting, the Derby might have lost a good deal of its speed, leaving Messier and Zozos as the two potential frontrunners, along with Summer is Tomorrow, who doesn’t possess that kind of speed. We also have two horses, Epicenter and Simplification, who have won stakes on the lead, but have become more versatile and professional and seem more likely to sit off the pace. For what it’s worth, Messier’s Thoro-Graph number of “1” in the Robert Lewis Stakes has been changed to a “1 ½,” giving him back to back races with that number. Although that number is a tad slower than originally listed, at least it now means he didn’t regress slightly in the Santa Anita Derby. Considering he was coming off a layoff, that “1 ½” was a solid enough number and put him in a good position to make a substantial leap forward in the Kentucky Derby. In short, without him having to do the dirty work chasing a speedball like Forbidden Kingdom, and with the Santa Anita Derby under his belt, I expect to see a stronger horse at Churchill Downs who is going to be a lot tougher to run down than he was at Santa Anita.


6– Mo Donegal (Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit)

I have brought up his relatively slow speed figures, going into the Wood Memorial off three consecutive races in the “6” to “6 ½” range, which is well below Derby standards, and his equally slow Brisnet and Beyer figures. Thoro-Graph gave him a far more respectable “2 ¾” in the Wood Memorial while Brisnet went a bit wild with a huge 111 figure. Does that mean his nine-week layoff and excellent works did wonders for him and gave him that razor-sharp edge he needed after a series of workmanlike two-turn races? No one is going into the Derby off a stronger final three-eighths and final eighth than he is with his brilliant :35 2/5 and :11 4/5 closing fractions in the Wood. And I have never used the word brilliant describing him before. Are we about to see a new more exciting Mo Donegal in the Derby? Yes, he had a perfect ground-saving trip in the Wood, but I believe he ran down a very talented horse in Early Voting, who had a two-length at the eighth pole and came home in :12 1/5. Most frontrunners are not going to get beat under those circumstances. And I loved the fact that just as Early Voting was starting to string out the field on the far turn, Mo exhibited a much quicker turn of foot than I’ve ever seen from him on the turn. Unfortunately he loses Joel Rosario, who was riding him for the first time and is committed to Epicenter. Why his regular rider Irad Ortiz stayed in Kentucky to ride a maiden in the Blue Grass is beyond me. I believe this colt is sharper now than he’s ever been and is sitting on a peak performance.


7– White Abarrio (Saffie Joseph, Jr., Race Day – Catching Diamonds, by Into Mischief)

Joseph obviously is focusing his attention on sharpness right now. The colt went into the Florida Derby off a three-furlong blowout in :34 4/5 and he zipped three furlongs in bullet :34 2/5 in his first work following the race, fastest of 41 works at the distance, then galloping out a strong five-eighths in 1:00 2/5. Joseph said this work has boosted his confidence in the colt because of the way he went so fast so easily. Jockey Junior Alvarado, who worked him, said it was like his feet weren’t touching the ground. The way the Kentucky Derby is shaping up he should be able to get a great position behind the leaders. One thing about him he is very tactical and always seems to put himself in the right spot. Following a Thoro-Graph jump from a “5” in the Holy Bull to a “1” in the Florida Derby, he should appreciate the five weeks between races. With all the big performances since the Florida Derby it wouldn’t surprise me if gets ignored a bit in the betting and goes off at pretty attractive price. He’s not as flashy as some of those mentioned above and his most recent efforts might get lost, especially with the five-week layoff.


8– Simplification (Antonio Sano, Not This Time – Simply Confection, by Candy Ride)

I know his Thoro-Graph numbers keep jumping up and down, from a “14” to a “2 ½” to a “5 ½” to a “2 ½” to a “3 ¼,” and he would have to make a fairly big move forward to get into the win range, but his performances have been all over the place and I never know what to expect from him, including where he’s going to be running – on the lead or back in seventh. That’s what makes him so intriguing. We have seen sparks of brilliance from him on the lead and we have seen his ability to close from farther back. His 103 Brisnet speed rating is one of the fastest among the Derby horses, but that was in a Florida-bred maiden race in his second career start last October. The closest he’s come to it was his 99 in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes in his 3-year-old debut. His 95 in the Fountain of Youth and 93 in the Florida Derby is heading in the wrong direction, but I still get the feeling there is a huge effort bubbling under the surface waiting to burst out with the right kind of trip. He has shown enough in spurts to indicate that he is capable of great things if he can put it all together. He’s been on the lead when he shouldn’t have been; he’s been far back when he shouldn’t have been; he’s failed to switch leads when he should have; and he’s been in the wrong spot in both his meetings with White Abarrio. One of these days we’re going to see the real Simplification with all the stars aligned perfectly and when we do you’re going to want to be holding some mutual tickets on him.


9– Cyberknife (Brad Cox, Gun Runner – Awesome Flower, by Flower Alley)

You certainly can’t knock his first work at Churchill Downs, a five-furlong drill in 1:00 flat. Cox at one point looked to have no serious Derby contenders and now he could have three in the starting gate. But as good as Zozos and Tawny Port have looked this guy remains the most Derby ready of the three, coming off back-to-back wins and a solid victory in the Arkansas Derby. My big question with him is how good he is. He’s definitely improving and was never in danger of getting beat at Oaklawn, but with Secret Oath faltering in the stretch following an explosive move on the far turn I’m just not sure what he beat or where he fits among the leading contenders. One thing he has going for him is his red-hot sire who came within a neck of having the Arkansas Derby, Santa Anita Derby, and Wood Memorial winners. He will be a pace presence sitting in the second tier right behind the leaders, but he’s going to have to outrun a number of very talented horses from there, and I’m just not sure if he’s quite ready to do that.


10– Charge It (Todd Pletcher, Tapit – I’ll Take Charge, by Indian Charlie)

Is it possible he could be one of the wise-guy horses that people will latch onto come Derby week? I still can’t get too excited over any horse with only three lifetime starts. Yes, I have Taiba ranked high with only two starts, but he at least has the potential to be a freak, and only freaks like Big Brown and Justify have won the Derby with three lifetime starts. Although Charge It wasn’t as smooth or polished in the Florida Derby as he was in his first two starts, he still was able to finish second despite racing greenly, so there is a lot to say about that and what he might accomplish coming off that race. I believe he has tremendous upside and a bright future, but I still can’t get past the three starts at least when it comes to winning. He certainly can hit the board with another step forward. After running a “5” and a “5 ¾” on Thoro-Graph in his first two starts he made a good jump to a “2 ¼” in the Florida Derby, so he’s never run a slow race. In fact, not even the possible Derby favorite Epicenter has run that fast. Now the question is can he make another jump forward in a 20-horse field with so little experience?


11– Tiz the Bomb (Kenny McPeek, Hit It a Bomb – Tiz the Key, by Tiznow)

It is difficult making comparisons of horses on dirt and synthetic surfaces, but you still can’t overlook the fact that he was flattered by Tawny Port’s Lexington victory following his second-place finish in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, where he was no match for Tiz the Bomb. I mentioned last week about the legitimate time of 1:48 3/5 in the Jeff Ruby and the way Tiz the Bomb accelerated instantly on the far turn to quickly put himself in contention. You can’t be too sure how he’s going to handle the kickback in the Derby after his Holy Bull fiasco, but if he does and can demonstrate the same turn of foot he showed in the Jeff Ruby and the explosive stretch run he unleashed in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf then we’re talking about a serious longshot chance in the Derby. He is one horse I am really looking forward to watch train at Churchill Downs. He started off on the right foot with a solid half in :48 2/5. If he dazzles us with the way he handles the Churchill Downs surface then we’re talking about perhaps the most intriguing horse in the field when it comes to betting, as we know he has all tools. He just has to show the Holy Bull was a fluke and that his spectacular maiden victory at Ellis Park last year was a true indication of how he handles the dirt. He looks to be a sure-fire win bet at a big price, and you just hope he is able to use all the weapons we’ve seen from him on grass and synthetic.


12– Crown Pride (Reach the Crown – Emmy’s Pride, by King Kamehameha)

The more I watch the UAE Derby the more I say why not. He ran 1 3/16 miles over a deep slow track that saw a top-class field in the Dubai World Cup run the slowest time (on dirt) in the history of the race, and he raced four-wide into the first turn, was still wide on the second turn, and ran down a tough frontunner despite not changing leads the entire length of the stretch. So I’m not sure if any Derby horse got more out of his final prep than he did. And who is going to doubt the ability of the Japanese horses after last year’s Breeders’ Cup and this year’s Dubai World Cup card, which produced five winners from Japan. Not only is he inbred 3 x 4 to Sunday Silence, his third dam’s sire and dam are both by Arc de Triomphe winners. He had his first work at Churchill Downs, but don’t let the absurdly slow time of 1:18 3/5 for six furlongs fool you. Don’t try to figure out what the Japanese are doing in the morning. I’m sure this was more of an open gallop that the clockers timed. If you leave him out of your bets you’re going to have him hanging over your head.


13– Zozos (Brad Cox, Munnings – Papa’s Forest, by Forestry

He had his second work at Churchill Downs, going five-eighths in 1:00 3/5. That’s two strong works already over the track. As mentioned earlier, the speed horses are dwindling and he now is the possible pacesetter. But he will have an awful lot of brilliant horses right behind him just waiting to take him on. With only three lifetime starts, he likely will have his hands full holding off that many top-class horses. His pedigree is a bit of an enigma. He is by the speed influence Munnings, but he has already shown he can be a force at 1 3/16 miles going against the potential Derby favorite in Epicenter. This colt no doubt has a very bright future, but at this stage of his career it looks like the best he can do is hope to hold on for a piece of it. If for some reason he does get loose on the lead then that will make things a bit more interesting


14– Early Voting (Chad Brown, Gun Runner – Amour d’ete, By Tiznow)

I still haven’t been able to touch base with Brown regarding their plans. I have gotten the feeling all year he would prefer to point for the Preakness using the same path as Cloud Computing. As strong a race as he ran in the Wood Memorial, you don’t want to see a Derby horse blow a two-length lead at the eighth pole in his final prep and then go into the Derby with only three career starts, and he won’t be getting any easy leads this time. Also, Brown already is in a great position with Zandon, a horse he has been crazy about since last fall. So there is no use saying anything more on this guy for now until we know whether he’s headed to Churchill Downs. If he is, he likely will move up the Rankings. But until then I am treating him more as a Preakness horse.


15– Pioneer of Medina (Todd Pletcher, Pioneerof the Nile – Lights of Medina, by Eskendereya)

He is one of those horses who will be between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He is a tactical speed horse who doesn’t quit, but doesn’t have the fire power to outkick the top contenders. He has made great strides with every race and is going to win his share of races, but right now I don’t see a scenario where he can win. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t put a scare in these horses by hanging tough for a long time. After all, he was right there in the Risen Star, beaten only a half-length and a head for second by Smile Happy and Zandon, and was a solid third behind Epicenter and Zozos in the Louisiana Derby. So he has faced the best and hasn’t backed down. His Brisnet figures have increased in his last four starts, and after getting a “10 ½” Thoro-Graph number n his allowance win he leaped to a “3 ½” in the Risen Star and pretty much paired that up with a “3” in the Louisiana Derby. That certainly makes him legitimate.



A lot to ponder down here. You had to be impressed with TAWNY PORT’S victory in the Lexington Stakes, in which he raced wide all the way and still was able to come away with the victory in only his second dirt race. He has high action and holds his head high, and his future may very well be on the grass, but for now he is an interesting newcomer to the Derby picture if they decide to go in that direction. ETHEREAL ROAD and CALL ME MIDNIGHT failed to finish in the money for the second race in a row and IN DUE TIME ran well to finish third, but is better off not getting in the Derby, as he has yet to run farther than 1 1/16 miles and his best races are down the road. Credit must be given to MAJOR GENERAL who battled gamely in the stretch after setting the pace and put himself in good position for a try at the Preakness.

Rebel Stakes winner UN OJO, who had an excuse in the Arkansas Derby, cutting himself up coming out of the gate, returned to the work tab with an easy five-furlong drill in 1:03 at a training center in Louisiana before leaving for Churchill Downs on Tuesday. The one-eyed gelding surely will have his following, But he has a lot of improving to do even off his Rebel score. He does have a good late closing kick and you never know who is going to come on in the final furlong to pluck second or third in the Derby at a huge price. The other Oaklawn-based horse who will have a strong following is BARBER ROAD and he certainly fits that bill if the pace is hot enough. He is just one step behind right now and needs to make his move a little sooner and get a little more luck in the stretch. He definitely is good enough to be ranked and will be once again if Early Voting defects. No one will be that surprised if he winds up getting a piece of it in the Derby.

MORELLO, who lost all chance in the Wood Memorial at the break, is still listed among the point getters, but I am going to assume they will not run in the Derby. As much as I have loved this colt, I see no reason to pursue the Derby off a race that told you nothing about the horse and did nothing to set him up for a big comeback effort.

Although UAE Derby runner-up SUMMER IS TOMORROW set all the pace and held the lead until the final yards, remember he was coming off six straight sprints and had romped by 8 ¼ lengths going seven furlongs in his previous start at Meydan, so who knows if he can show that kind of speed again with that long a race under him.


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452 Responses to “Derby Rankings: Week 14”

  1. Many years ago I read an article and it was an interview with the longtime farm manager of Claiborne farms at the time, John Sosby. And he was asked what his thoughts were on why Secretariat’s offsprings were not more successful on the racetrack and his answer sticks with me to this day. It went something like this. He said a lot of the trainers were coddling these horses where the owners had spent a lot of money on them for fear of breaking them down and were not training them hard enough to get the best out of them.
    So when I read comments about Bob Baffert (BB) and his training methods and the commentator feels that Baffert pushes his horses too hard it puzzles me and it always reminds me of that article with John Sosby. How do you argue with success? BB has won 17 Triple Crown races which is more than the total of all the trainers combined that will be entering horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby. BB knows that for the most part that the horses he is given to train will only be with him 1 to 2 years (they will going to stud or the breeding shed) and he needs to train them fast ( and sometimes long ) to get them race-ready and put the “base” under them so they can perform at their best. As Steve Haskins said ” Nobody does that better than BB” and the jockeys that ride his horses know that to.
    How many readers in this blog know that Lauren Lucien gave Secretariat a 1 1/8 workout between the Preakness and Belmont (which he won in world record time)? How many know that between the Preakness and Belmont that Laz Barrera gave Bold Forbes 1 1/2 mile workout (2:43 2/5) and a 1 mile workout (1:50 3/5 out of the gate) and won the Belmont leading the race from start to finish.
    I remember a trainer who was preparing a horse to run a race at a 1 1/4 mile. This same horse had just run a race 2 weeks prior and won at 1 1/8 mile and two weeks prior to that had won a race at 7 furlongs (set track record). So the Friday before the 1 1/4 race the trainer works the horse 3 furlongs in 35 sec. , 5 days prior to that he works the horse 1 mile in 1:36 (on a track labeled as “good” ). The horse won the 1 1/4 race in World Record time (which still stands today ) !!! The horse Spectacular Bid and the trainer Buddy Delp. (BTW , I was at Santa Anita that day and witnessed him do it)

    One last thing with a quote from Andy Beyer “When you have a Champion you train him like a Champion” !!!

  2. Scott Silver says:

    Just read DRF’s Jon White final derby strikes column. He had been very high on Taiba, but was concerned about him having only 1 work since the SA Derby. He downgraded Taiba to number 3 on his list and upgraded Zandon to his number 2 selection. He is picking Messier for the win in Kentucky. Like Mr Haskin, he really likes the Thorograph progression for Messier and believes he is sitting on a big one.

    • i agree with Mr White’s assessment especially about Messier I also like Cyberknive and Mo Donegal

    • TommyMc says:

      Jon White has a Western bias. Messier’s last workout has me adding him to my Derby Trifecta though. But, only in the 3rd position.

    • Lynda King says:

      Cannot confirm this but an individual who lives in CA posted in a FB group that Tim Yakteen said that the reason Taiba was not putting in anymore works after the one at Santa Anita because the SA Derby wiped the colt out.
      Taiba is supposed to arrive at CHD today (Sunday), that is a bit earlier than Baffert has shipped in the past.
      It might explain why Taiba put in a less than stellar work (in my opinion and that of others as well).
      Guess we will see how he traveled and how he adapts to CHD.

  3. Lynda King says:

    Guess I can give myself a wee pat on the back.
    COROEBUS (1) and NATIVE TRAIL (2) finish in the Guineas.

    • Davids says:

      Lol, I did say it was between Native Trail, Corebus, and Luxembourg so I guess I tramped you. Ha Ha No glory really, these three were so obviously the best.

      The 1,000 Guineas hopefully goes to Tenebrism. Allez, Tenebrism!!

      • Lynda King says:

        LOL, fair enough.
        Since I am now following International races closely and follow several International FB pages I had already actually checked out the entries as to pedigree, race record, connections etc.
        The surprise was that they finished one, two.
        Have not yet watched a replay of the race but hope to as soon as it drops on BH or some other website I follow. I do have a FB friend who iives in Pakistan who usually drops the race videos on his FB age.
        Congratulations as well to Honeysuckle and connections on her win as well.

        • Davids says:

          Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Reach For the Moon were to win the Epsom Derby. Allez, The Queen!!

          • Lynda King says:

            Absolutely, especially since the race is part of her Platinum Jubilee celebration.
            So hope her health allows her to attend the race.
            I read that she visited her Royal Stud when she spent some time at Sandringham (the one year anniversary of Prince Philip’s death).
            Her smile and the look of joy she has on her face when she interacts with her horses tells me that is when she is truly in her element.
            There was a lovely photo of her holding the leads of two of her Fell ponies that was taken shortly before her birthday.
            Upon her passing do not know who would take over the Royal Stud. The Princess Royal I guess?
            I hold Her Majesty the Queen in the highest regard and have the deepest respect for her.
            We would be blessed to have a “President” that I could feel the same way about…her dedication, her loyalty to the British citizens and her love of Country, but sadly we do not and have not for many decades.

            • Davids says:

              Speaking of The Queen, I heard today that she loves Jazz and especially Duke Ellington. Apparently, they were quite close. Excellent taste.

              • Lynda King says:

                My late mother was a big fan of Frank Sinatra who had roots in jazz music. My Mom was born in 1919, older than the Queen b a few years but the same generation.
                Jazz (the big band jazz that Duke Ellington made famous) was very popular in the United States during World War ll and in fact (WW ll) had a lot to do with the growth and popularity of jazz.
                Interesting that Her Majesty The Queen likes Jazz but then not really. She is very interested in and likes a lot of things that we Americans would never think she would.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Congratulations, Lynda! A pick may not be as good as a wager to some, but always love it when I’m right about a horse race. Kudos to you!

      • Lynda King says:

        Ms B, thank you.
        Unfortunately I live in a state that does not allow pari-mutual betting. It would be nice to make a little money off my “picks”. I sure could use it these days to pay for hay and feed for my little herd of brumbies in this current economy.

  4. Spaldeen says:

    If Baffert is doing everything except tightening the girth on his Derby horses, what is the point of the suspension?
    Is it like an ejected manager who calls all the shots from the runway runway leading to the dugout?

  5. Lynda King says:

    Condolences to the family, friends, loved ones and associates of twenty year old Callie Witt who passed this morning at 8:AM this morning at Keeneland. She was thrown from the two year old that she was exercising for Joe Sharpe.

  6. TommyMc says:

    For supporters of Zandon: Chad Brown is winning at 33% for the year and Flavien Prat is winning at 28%. Those stats along with the way the horse is working should give you plenty of confidence going into The Derby. Post #20 is Prat’s lucky number in The Derby although I think there was a scratch and he may have broke from #19 with Country House. BTW, Country House never raced again. We hardly knew him.

  7. Blake says:

    Messier is still my pick to win the Derby, but if Zandon runs as good as he looks he may lap them!

  8. Bruce Crawford says:

    On the topic of post position draw, anyone know if any of the TV networks will cover it or is the only access via streaming?

  9. TommyMc says:

    Running out of things to post about before the post position draw on Monday. Here’s something from J. Keeler Johnson(Keelerman) over at Bloodhorse. In the last 40 years, Grindstone is the only January foal to win The Derby. Who are the January foals in this year’s race? There’s only one and his name is……………………………….Epicenter!!!! Uh, oh! If anybody knows Mattress Mac you better give him a call. Still plenty of time for him to redirect his bets to Zandon. Seriously, Keelerman reasons that being a January foal could be a reason why Epicenter was so good at Fairgrounds this season. The later foals could possibly have caught up to him by the first Saturday in May. Most of the Derby winners in that 40 year period were foaled in February. March had the second most and April comes in third. May has had the second fewest winners with only five. Interesting? Yes. But, if I loved Epicenter, I wouldn’t let this stop me. I will admit that the way that Zandon and Smile Happy have been handled so patiently could have them sitting on their best races on May 7th. Still, I’m going to use Epicenter & Smile Happy as my keys to cashing the Derby trifecta. I am very tempted to replace Epicenter with Zandon as one of my keys. But, I won’t unless Epicenter draws very poorly(1,2,3,18,19,20 or especially the winless #17 post).

    • TommyMc says:

      Speaking of patient trainers and leaving the polarizing BB out of the conversation, are Chad Brown and Graham Motion the most patient trainers in the country? Maybe.

      • Matthew W says:

        John Shirreffs..

        • Lynda King says:

          Matthew W, I agree, John Sheriff’s and I would add Shug McGaughey and Art Sherman.

          • Discopartner says:

            Graham Motion, great turf trainer plus Animal Kingdom trainer. Chad Brown, patient considering the size of stable and financial pressures that come with it. It’s a lot easier to be patient when you only train a few horses and have an independent means of support.

          • Davids says:

            Bill Mott and Richard Mandella don’t rush their young stock either.

        • Spaldeen says:

          Shirreff’s gotta be #1.
          He ticked off the fine folks at NYRA a few years ago by not running enough of his horses stabled at Saratoga during their meet…

    • EddieF says:

      TommyMc, I’d guess that there are far fewer foals (and Derby runners) born in January than in February, March, or April. I looked back 12 years and found only 17 Derby runners that were born in January. Epicenter may not win the Derby, but it’s not likely the birth month will be the reason.

      • Lynda King says:

        In the past 40 years, only one horse born in January (Grindstone) has won the Kentucky Derby. In contrast, there have been 12 Kentucky Derby winners born in February, 14 born in March, eight born in April, and five born in May.
        Medina Spirit, April 5
        Authentic, May 5 (Derby held in September due to COVID-19)
        Country House, May 8
        Justify, March 28
        Always Dreaming, February 25
        Nyquist, March 10
        American Pharoah, February 2
        California Chrome, February 18
        Orb, February 24
        I’ll Have Another, April 1
        Animal Kingdom, March 20
        Super Saver, March 18
        Mine That Bird, May 10
        Big Brown, April 10
        Street Sense, February 23
        Barbaro, April 29
        Giacomo, February 16
        Smarty Jones, February 28
        Funny Cide, April 20
        War Emblem, February 20
        Monarchos, February 9
        Fusaichi Pegasus, April 12
        Charismatic, March 13
        Real Quiet, March 7
        Silver Charmer, February 22
        Grindstone, January 23
        Thunder Gulch, May 23
        Go for Gin, April 18
        Sea Hero, March 4
        Lil E. Tee, March 29
        Strike the Gold, March 21
        Unbridled, March 5
        Sunday Silence, March 25
        Winning Colors, March 14
        Alysheba, March 3
        Ferdinand, March 12
        Spend a Buck, May 15
        Swale, April 21
        Sunny’s Halo, February 11
        Gato Del Sol, February 23
        Secretariat was born on March 30.

        • Discopartner says:

          Conclusion: Birth date is irrelevant.

          • Lynda King says:

            Exactly Foaling season really does not kick off until late February into March and April and then starts to decline in May.
            Fewer foals born in January results in statistically fewer foals winning the Derby.
            The mares have to be put under lights or given hormones to cycle in February to be bred for a January foal. Harder to get a mare to settle when covered under these conditions and often times these mares have to go back their next cycle to be rebred.
            The desire for a January foal is based on the foals having more time to mature than if born in late April or March.
            Had two close friends who bred horses (between the two of them, a little over 100 years of experience) and that was always the ultimate wish, a foal born in January. Easier said that done even with ai.

  10. Bill Dawson says:

    Per Chad Brown interview, (Friday, 4-29), “Early Voting more likely for the Preakness”.

  11. Matthew W says:

    Was not impressed with Taiba, heard he needs company, is smart and lazy by himself, was kicking Bob’s good ones around but today…..a maiden winner…with Wilt Chamberlain up, was being restrained to stay behind. ..

    • Davids says:

      Thanks for the information, Matthew.

    • TommyMc says:

      I don’t like what they are doing with Taiba. He’s only going to have the one workout since his Santa Anita Derby win before The Derby?

      • Matthew W says:

        18 days, after going 2 turns first time (a gr1) is not at all odd….the horse just does not have enough TIIME, I thoughthe was having a hard time getting in front of his workmates, whose rider looked bigger than DVD and was trying to keep his mount behind Taiba..

        • Lynda King says:

          Is that not typical of Baffert, one workout before the race?

          I watched the video of his work and thought he was either being lazy (as has been said about him) or was lugging along.

          Have seen better workouts this week at CD.

          Former jockey Rosie Napravnik shared a video of Crown Pride cantering in 20 meter circles for exercise and then he went down the straight and did a half halt (dressage).
          I had read that the Japanese do not exercise their horses in the shed row, they ride them outside for exercise.

          The one Derby winner that was trained basic dressage when was racing was Seattle Slew. He also worked cows if you can believe that.

          Working in circles at a collected canter has its benefits, teaches the horse to be balanced and work off his hindquarters and use his mind.

          • EddieF says:

            “Is that not typical of Baffert, one workout before the race?”

            Not typical of Baffert, nor any Derby trainer.

      • I tend to agree with you. I see that the only way he wins is that Smith holds him back and comes from the clouds with him. I think if he tries stalking with him like in the SA Derby he will not have enough horse at the end… But who knows like Steve says he may be the FREAK of all FREAKS !!!!

  12. EddieF says:

    1982 Gato del Sol 21.20-1
    1992 Lil E. Tee 16.80-1
    2002 War Emblem 20.50-1
    2012 I’ll Have Another 15.30-1
    2022 ?????

  13. TommyMc says:

    Can Johnny V finish first in Derby#148 for the 3rd year in a row? I think that Messier will outrun Taiba in The Derby. Messier could be my undoing. I’ll probably only use him “underneath” in a trifecta. If at all. It will be interesting to see how this Tim Yakteen/BB thing works out on Oaks & Derby days.

  14. TommyMc says:

    For what it’s worth: I just read an article that says 28 of the last 30 Derby 1st place finishers had at least a BSF of 95 and 19 of the last 22 winners had a Brisnet number of 100 or better. Seven runners qualify on both of those counts: Messier, Taiba, Epicenter, Zandon, Mo Donegal, Simplification, and Early Voting. My problem is that I am considering Smile Happy who just misses with a BSF of only 94. Tiz the Bomb falls into that same category with a BSF high of only 94. But, I don’t see any speed figures as an exact science. I look at speed figure trends instead. An upward trend always catches my eye. If it weren’t for Mattress Mac betting $3million mostly on Epicenter, I’d be all over him at 9-2 or better. But, I can’t discount Smile Happy simply because he misses the BSF benchmark by a single point. Smile Happy has the same top Brisnet Number of 101 as Epicenter. I know that Smile Happy has that quick turn of foot that I’m looking for and Churchill is “home”. Nine days out from Derby Day, I like Smile Happy best at 12-1 or better. Subject to change pending post positions and Derby week doings. Looking forward to Steve Haskin’s final rankings and reader comments.

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      Smile Happy at 2 and at 3 to me show he is struggling a bit this year. Not crazy about his works right now either. Not fighting his rider but getting lathered up in the morning works makes me wonder. The Derby is a real circus before the race. Even though Taiba put in an awesome work today how will he handle all the noise and the very large field?

      Crown Pride is getting a lot of attention in the morning shows. I would like him a lot better if he had a jockey that spent time racing here more.

      Epicenter right now looks great, training well. Post draws are going to make a difference except for a grinder like Mo Donegal. As long as he’s not too far behind he still has that stretch run to turn it on. I want to hear Steve’s thoughts as well.

  15. TommyMc says:

    I like Mo Donegal a little bit and I would like him a lot more on an “off” track. IMO, Mo Donegal has more of a “grinding” turn of foot instead of a “quick” turn of foot. He just keeps coming. Which could play well on a muddy or sloppy surface where quicker horses could be slowed by getting mired in the muck. My concern with “Mo” is that The Wood Memorial was a much improved race for him figure-wise. Steve Haskin has commented several times about him being stuck around a “6” on Thorograph numbers before running a 2 3/4 in The Wood. His Brisnet also jumped to 111 and his BSF to 96. Did “Mo” figure things out after missing a race with a fever? He ran straight and strong in The Wood to wear down perfect-tripper and lone speed Early Voting. Todd Pletcher has him on the right track, but Mo Donegal will have to improve again to win The Derby. Sure, he can. But, he can also “bounce” off of his big Wood performance. A Hall-of-Fame trainer is in his corner which lessens his chances of a “bounce”.

  16. TommyMc says:

    Tim Yakteen said yesterday that Adare Manor will point to The Eight Belles and not The Kentucky Oaks. She did have a workout 4 days ago. Maybe she shows up for The Eight Belles. The Eight Belles is run at 7-furlongs and owner Michael Lund Peterson had another horse named Gamine that had great success at that distance.

    • TommyMc says:

      Tim Yakteen says today that Adare Manor won’t be going to Churchill Downs at all. I knew something was going on with this horse.

  17. Lynda King says:

    Dortmund now runs with the Heavenly Herd.
    Died April 18th in Korea from a small intestine torsion while out on grass pasture at night.
    Condolences to all the connections.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      I saw that, too, Lynda. He was such a magnificent horse. I preferred him for much of the run up to the Derby that year over American Pharoah. So sad that he died so young.

      • Lynda King says:

        I too thought he would win the Derby.
        A very sad day to hear of his death.
        He was deeply loved by the owners of the farm he was standing at in Korea.
        They are shocked and devastated by his untimely death.

        • Ms Blacktype says:

          Sure sounded that way from the release posted on drf. I wish more people realized that many owners love their horses as much as most people love their cats and dogs.

          • Lynda King says:

            Did the DRF have the photos of hum in Korea. He was so happy and looked so beautiful.
            just getting over the loss of Midnight Bourbon and now this.
            The Shah still owned him (Dortie) and he said that if he did not thrive in Korea (at stud) he would go and get him and bring him home.
            Yes, we do love our horses as much as some people love their cats and dogs (and in my case, my goas as well).
            As Gretchen Jackson said when Barbaro died, “Grief is the price we all pay for love”.

  18. Mark says:

    Taiba’s work left lead on the turn switched to the right as soon as he straightened away stayed on the right until he started the turn and switched back left for the turn. Very Nice !!!

  19. Lynda King says:

    Secret Oath (Arrogate) may challenge the boys again, after the LONGINES Oaks, in the Preakness Stakes according to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      See how she does with Espinoza riding

      • Lynda King says:

        She should do well with Victor. Victor rode Take Charge Brandi for Lucas.
        I like Victor other than that abysmal ride on Chrome in the BCC.
        Never thought it was his fault that American Pharoah lost the Travers, rather a bad decision by Zayat to run AP in the Travers without a break after the TC.
        He is lucky to be alive and back riding after than near fatal accident.

        • No, it was Victor’s fault !!! It was his only ride of the day and he was not paying attention to the previous races. There was extreme track bias ( the rail was dead ). Frosted on the backstretch kept AP down on the rail all the way around the turn coming into the stretch and when Frosted jockey tried to get him to the middle of the track in the stretch Keen Ice beat him to it. BTW, On that same day in an earlier race, I still think RunHappy would have had the world record for 7 Furlongs if the jockey had kept him in the middle of the track in the stretch instead of dropping him down on the rail. JMO

          • Lynda King says:

            Zayat was promised additional money in the stud deal with Coolmore for every race that AP won after winning the Triple Crown, a deal that ended up being worth $65 million.
            Baffert did not want to run AP in the Travers but Zayat insisted. After the race Baffert and Zayat pointed fingers at each other and Baffert and then Victor was given some heat.

          • Matthew W says:

            The day before the Travers American Pharoah galloped before the public, ten thousand fans and he went too fast—is what Bob said beat him..

          • Laura L Lanham says:

            Classic case of a jockey getting out foxed in the BCC

  20. Lynda King says:

    Crown Pride (JPN) works an impressive half-mile in :46.40 over a fast track.

    • Davids says:

      Yes, Crown Pride does impress but Zandon just oozes as the horse to beat. Charge It comes across as the imposing type that will make his presence felt. Mo Donegal and White Abarrio also gave a good impression.

      • Lynda King says:

        Davids, Zandon has been on my list of the top 4 to win the Derby for quite awhile now. Epicenter, Taiba and White Abarrio are the other 3.

        Yes, I am following Crown Pride with a great deal of interest and I think he has a good chance to finish higher than the three previous contenders from Japan (sixth, ninth, and 14th).
        I am impressed by Crown Pride’s pedigree and his physical appearance and how he seems to have taken to the track at CD.
        Certainly do not feel that I am a traitor (against American bred and trained Derby contenders) because I like him and hope that no one thinks that of me.

        I just appreciate beautiful, well bred and talented horses regardless of the country they are bred, born and trained in.

        Japan is very serious about making their mark on dirt racing.

        The North Farm (the broodmare operation that comes under the Shaddai Stallion Station) has been steadily purchasing graded stakes winning mares at the auctions here in the United States for awhile. For example, at the Keeneland sale in November 2021, the North Farm spent over 12.8 million in acquiring Swiss Skydiver (4.7 million), Medina Spirit’s dam (Mongolia Changa, by Brilliant Speed out of Bridled by Unbridled), Princess Noor for 2,9 million and in foal to Into Mischief (Zedan Racing’s first successful racehorse); Simply Ravishing (by Laoban out of the More Than ready mare Four Wishes; Heavensmynikki (by Majestic Warrior out of Floral Park by Forest Wildcat and in foal to Into Mischief and is Secretariat: 4S X 5S X 5D X 5D and Dayoutoftheoffice (by Into Mischief and out of Gottahaveadream by Indian Charlie). Shaddai purchased Carina Mia (By Malibu Moon out of Miss Simpatia (by Southern Halo) and in foal to Uncle Mo. All of these mares with the exception of Mongolian Changa are graded stakes dirt winners and Swiss Skydiver of course won the Preakness.

        • Davids says:

          Yes, Lynda, the Japanese are looking for outcrosses that will work with their predominant Halo, Northern Dancer, and to a lesser degree Mr. Prospector line stallions. Moreover, further douses of US blood will add more speed for both their turf and dirt runners.

          Obviously, winning the Saudi Cup, Dubai World Cup, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Kentucky Derby are desired jewels of the dirt surfaces.

  21. Lynda King says:

    Per Chad B, Early Voting still in New York and will train up there for the Preakness.

    • Lynda King says:

      Should give Pioneer of Medina a slot in the Derby.

    • Matthew W says:

      Hey Linda are you CERTAIN Early Voting is out of the Derby???…

      • Matthew W says:


        • Bruce says:

          Yeah can we confirm that info from Chad Brown, because just this morning he said they wouldn’t decide until Monday whether to run in the derby or not?

      • Lynda King says:

        This is the direct quote from Brown:
        “Right now the horse is still in New York preparing for the Preakness,” Brown said of Early Voting. “If the complexion of the Derby field changes a certain way before the race, it’s not out of the question that I go ahead and ship him over to Churchill and enter him in the Derby. But right now we’re planning on running in the Preakness.”

        He continued, “We have the points [to get in the Derby]. The horse is doing well. We have the flexibility to keep it as an option. No one is forcing us to make a decision earlier than we want. I don’t want to make a ‘final’ decision and then change your mind. That’s worse than delaying. Things happen. Horses drop out, the pace scenario could change, things like that. Seth [Klarman] and I want to handle it intelligently. We want the flexibility. But if everything stays the way it is right now with the field, I plan on running the horse in the Preakness.”

        At no time during the interview did Brown indicate which horse he was referring to as a defection that would result in Early Voting running in the Derby.

  22. TommyMc says:

    I’m still trying to figure out the TV schedule for Oaks and Derby Days. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a one stop shop for viewing all the races on both days? NBCSN is no more. Apparently, some of the races will be shown on USA Network, some on NBC. It gets complicated. No word on where TVG fits in. IMO, this is one of the biggest problems with the sport. Fans shouldn’t have to hop around all over the place to watch all the races on the biggest days. USA, NBC, Stream some races, and maybe a little TVG. It’s irritating. USA Network????? I thought that was the place to go to watch “Law and Order” reruns.

    • Lynda King says:

      This is all I have been able to find:
      Friday, May 6th, 2022 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
      5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oaks 148 Undercard – Live Coverage Peacock
      USA Network
      Saturday, May 7, 2022 12-2:30 p.m. Derby 148 – Live Coverage USA Network
      Saturday, May 7, 2022 2:30-7:30 p.m. Derby 148 – Live Coverage (Post Time: 6:57 pm ET) NBC
      N.B: All times and dates are subject to change and All times are ET.
      I think we have USA as part of cable. If so I can live stream to my computer. If not, I will be out of luck.
      TVG requires a betting account which I cannot set up.
      I totally agree with you…a channel that airs the cards for both days from start to finish the way ABC Sports did.
      Very frustrating for those of us who do not have “smart phones”.

      • Matthew W says:

        Even with a TVG betting account ..they don’t have rights to broadcast some races, I don’t have cable, and sometimes in Derby Day I’m out in the cold, too…..most of the races aren’t on the network station but instead are on a cable subsidiary …

        • Lynda King says:

          MatthewW, my husband has cable TV and if he is working Saturday I can sneak into his “man cave” and watch, LOL.
          His TV is very old and requires two remotes to work and it is very easy to mess up the cable connection., so I have to be very cautious. He is a TV junkie whereas I am not.
          Since he has cable, I can probably use the “watchTVeverywhere” app and live stream to my desktop computer.
          I truly miss the “good old days” when ABC sports started broadcasting at the crack of dawn on Derby Day and broadcast all the races and had some great commentary and back stories.

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      They don’t consider horse racing much of a sport for television anymore. I just watch on Twinspires.

  23. Laura L Lanham says:

    Any thoughts on the works so far at Churchill? The announcers seem to like what they have seen from Epicenter and Crown Pride among others. Interview with Pletcher tomorrow morning.

  24. EddieF says:

    I’ve put a stopwatch on White Abarrio in the Florida Derby. I’ve timed the entire race 10 times and the average time was 1:50.56. The official time was 1:50.64. The difficult timing is for the final eighth. In 10 tries, the average final furlong was 13.43. The official final furlong time was 14.09. !!!! Is there anyone with some TIME on his/her hands to confirm my findings?

  25. TommyMc says:

    Prevalence is on a roll after 2 straight wins. Is he ready to challenge Jackie’s Warrior at 7-furlongs in The Churchill Downs Stakes?

    • Matthew W says:

      I love Prevelence, Jackie’s Warrior is way better! But I’ll be rooting for Prevelence, and his beautiful head..