Secretariat

Final 2022 Derby Rankings

This obviously is the final Derby Rankings and we’re reverting back to our old ways with a Derby Dozen to focus on our main win candidates. It’s been a fun ride with lots of twists and turns and interesting back stories. I hope everyone has enjoyed it and now it is time for the nitty gritty. I will analyze everything over the next few days, including post positions, and post my handicapping column on Thursday. ~ Steve Haskin

Final 2022 Derby Rankings

By Steve Haskin

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

The buzz surrounding him keeps growing with every gallop and workout, and with all the rave reviews there is now a good chance he will go off as favorite, but it still should be close with Epicenter, who has been training at Churchill Downs now for several weeks. Zandon has been pure poetry out on the track whether galloping or working, or just his overall presence. Watching him work an effortless five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 with such long fluid strides you can understand all the praise he’s been receiving. In the work he came home his final quarter in :23 3/5 with the rider’s hands turned down loosely allowing him to do everything on his own. He then galloped out another eighth in :12 2/5 covering the six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 and pulling up seven furlongs in a strong 1:26 2/5. And he is one of few Derby horses who works by himself. If he gets a good trip there is no telling what he is capable of.

 

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

He’s been working at Churchill Downs so long you can call him the house horse. His works have not been flashy, but he is just a professional, workmanlike colt who goes about his business, does what is asked of him, and basically never does anything wrong. We know now he can be on the lead or sit back off the pace. He is reminiscent of American Pharoah, who was a confirmed frontrunner until his final prep in the Arkansas Derby. Once he showed he could rate off the pace you knew the sky’s the limit. That is exactly what Epicenter showed in the Louisiana Derby, which now makes him doubly dangerous, especially with his high cruising speed and ability to come home fast. There was nothing to knock in his six-furlong work in 1:12 1/5, out in 1:26 1/5 in company. I’m sure many will still look at him as the deserving favorite, feeling he will put himself in perfect position just off the pace while Zandon will have to work out a trip from farther back.

 

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

For a horse who was ranked No. 1 most of the year and was the favorite in the first four Future Wagers, he has become a bit of an enigma. I still think very highly of him and feel the Blue Grass Stakes was a race he desperately needed, and I liked when I heard he drank a lot of water after the race, indicating he wasn’t fit enough for the race and got tired and should now be ready to take a big step forward. But here is why he has been an enigma. He was out for a long time before returning in the mile and eighth Risen Star Stakes. Because of his issues over the winter, they took it easy with him, and Corey Lanerie just sat on him around the far turn and basically lost any chance of winning. By the time he asked him to run turning into the stretch Epicenter was long gone. He was a lot more tactical in the Blue Grass and moved early to chase the front-running Emmanuel after going five-wide on the first turn. He was able to put him away but had no answer for Zandon’s big closing punch. I don’t like seeing horses passed in the stretch in their final Derby prep, but he did the dirty work in a race that was meant to just get him fit and move forward. Then came his final work in company with Tiz the Bomb when the latter went off too fast and he fell way behind and never was asked to close the gap, as Lanerie decided to just let him work by himself and nailed the time anyway. I do know he is going to be a decent price in the Derby and if you still believe in him you’re going to get great odds on a horse who once was the clear-cut favorite.

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

Like with Smile Happy he was passed in the stretch in his final Derby prep, and by a stablemate who had only one six-furlong maiden race under him. That alone will turn a lot of people off. But also like Smile Happy he chased a very fast horse in Forbidden Kingdom, was coming off a two-month layoff since his 15-length walk in the park in the Robert Lewis Stakes, and desperately needed the race. Working alone at Santa Anita he did everything smoothly and easily going six furlongs in a sharp 1:11 4/5 and I can’t help but feel he is ready to peak on Derby Day and is sitting on a monster race. I also love his Thoro-Graph pattern, which indicates he is ready for a good move forward following his pairing up fast numbers. So again like Smile Happy I am willing to overlook the fact that he was passed in the final eighth and will benefit a great deal from that race coming off a layoff. His namesake, hockey great Mark Messier, was one of the most clutch players in NHL history, and this colt might also be the type to save his best for the big moments.

 

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

Yes he will have to work out a trip and get through the big field, which will require some luck, and closers have not won many Derbys in the last 10 years, but sometimes you can’t ignore what is right in front of you, and if you leave him out and he wins you will look back to his sensational :35 2/5 final three-eighths and :11 4/5 final eighth in the Wood Memorial, and his whopping 121 late pace figure on Brisnet and realize too late that he was touting you big-time and you ignored it. Although his half-mile final work in :48 3/5 in company with the speedy My Prankster was solid at best I did like the way he did it, with his rider way up in the saddle and doing virtually nothing with him. Unlike Pletcher’s other two Derby horses, Charge It and Pioneer of Medina, who ran five and six weeks prior to the Derby, Mo Donegal had that big effort four weeks out and didn’t need to do as much in his work. They did a lot more working in company and galloping out strongly. And Mo Donegal has had two hard-fought mile and an eighth races. He went into the Wood Memorial a fresh horse off a two-month layoff and now is fit and sharp and ready for a career-best effort.

 

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

Everyone agrees he has looked like a freak in his two starts and clearly is the fastest horse in the field. As you well know by now I hate going into the Kentucky Derby off only two lifetime starts and rightly so since it’s been almost 140 years since a horse has won the Derby off so few starts. And on top of that he will have only one work in the four weeks between the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby, and that work was good, but nothing extraordinary. I know he had lots of works before his career debut and Bob Baffert had gotten him very fit, and nothing in racing surprises me anymore. You would think he’s done too much too soon and likely will regress going a mile and a quarter so soon, especially facing 19 opponents, and like with Justify, who had only three career starts, I will let him beat me rather than bank on him defying the history books. As I mentioned his speed figures have been through the roof and he could be a freakishly talented colt who can overcome all handicapping logic. But I will be a spectator and just enjoy the show.

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

Whether it’s in his races or in his works he always seems to be in the right place, indicating a horse who will do exactly what you want him to do and be wherever you want him to be. In his three-furlong work in :34 2/5 at Gulfstream Park he showed off his athleticism by hugging the rail and cutting the corner beautifully turning for home and galloping out . In his most recent work, still at Gulfstream, which went late in the afternoon, he was a powerhouse in the stretch and galloping out, and was striding out beautifully. He is not a horse who is going to wow a lot people with his brilliance, but he has drawn off in the final eighth to win by open lengths in all four of his victories and somehow managed to get a sensational “1” on Thoro-Graph in the Florida Derby, the second fastest number run by a 3-year-old, topped only by Taiba’s Santa Anita Derby. Not many people are talking about him, partly because of the ridiculously slow closing fractions and mundane final time of the Florida Derby that still has not been corrected and doing all his racing and training at Gulfstream. And it looks as if those fractions are going to stay. I don’t know whether he’s good enough to win or has beaten horses of the caliber he will face in the Derby, but I do know it’s tough to leave him out of the exotics.

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

He has pretty much fallen off everyone’s radar screen and his past performances and speed ratings are all over the place, but I have seen too many things I like about him to dismiss him. That is because I don’t know how he wants to run, how fast he really is, and most important how high his ceiling is. And for that reason I am going to strongly consider him in all exotic wagers and even as a win bet at a huge price. I know he’s fast (see the Mucho Macho Man Stakes) and can win on the lead, I know he can close from off the pace (see the Fountain of Youth Stakes), and I know he can win his races by daylight (see all three of his victories by 16, 4, and 3 ½ lengths). In the Florida Derby he reverted back to his old speedy ways due to strategy gone wrong and paid the price, getting caught in the middle of a three-horse speed duel, then a two-horse duel through a rapid Brisnet middle pace figure of 113 before tiring a bit in the stretch to finish third. I can’t help but feel that this colt is a far better than his overall record looks and he is capable of great things when allowed to run his race.

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

Although I’m still not sure he is ready take on the leading contenders, as I don’t believe he has beaten top quality fields in his last two starts I can’t ignore the way he’s been working and how he handles this track. He has been moving with great authority, especially in his six-furlong work in 1:12 1/5 in company, in which drew clear from his workmate and then galloped out another eighth in :12 2/5 to complete the seven furlongs in a sprightly 1:24 3/5. In his final work in company with Zozos, more of a maintenance drill, he matched strides with his stablemate, and although he did carry his head a bit high turning for home, he was moving very well in the final eighth to finish on even terms. There is no doubt this colt is coming into his own at the right time. I just don’t know if he’s quite there yet.

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

If this colt only had one more start I would rank him higher based on all the positives I saw in his first two starts and the way he’s been training at Churchill Downs. Working inside stablemate Pioneer of Medina in his final Derby drill he was doing everything well within himself and was just gliding over the ground. It was his mechanics that drew me to him in those first two starts, and I was surprised how greenly he ran in the Florida Derby. But it was a big step up for him and he still was good enough to finish second to White Abarrio, beaten only 1 ¼ lengths, despite hitting the side of the gate at the break. I have no doubt this colt has a very bright future and will win his share of big stakes. But I am still dubious about horses with only three starts unless I am convinced they are a freak, as were the only two horses to pull it off – Big Brown and Justify. And they did not face strong fields in the Derby. So we’ll see what he can do under the circumstances and go from there.

 

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

I am saving my two huge longshots for last, although I’m not sure just how big a longshot Crown Pride is going to be. I said a few weeks ago following Tiz the Bomb’s impressive victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on a synthetic surface that I want to see how he trains at Churchill Downs. Well, he has shown absolutely no signs of disliking the dirt and in fact seems to relish it. In fact you can blame him for his work in company with Smile Happy going awry, as he was so keyed up early he basically sprinted clear of his workmate who was supposed to be right up there with him. Brian Hernandez was not about to strangle him and just let him roll while Corey Lanerie, finding himself some four or five lengths behind, just let his horse work on his own, paying no attention to Tiz the Bomb, who finished three lengths in front. But this was not a horse running off. It was more a horse with controlled energy who just was too fast for his stablemate in what was supposed to be a maintenance work. Both horses actually turned in the same time of :48 for the half; they just did it in different ways. McPeek has always been extremely high on this colt and if you can throw out his dismal effort in the Holy Bull Stakes I believe you’re looking at a horse firing on all cylinders now and capable of upsetting this race at a big price.

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

And now we come to the most intriguing horse in the race and the one I feel you have to place a win bet on just so he doesn’t jump up and bite you in your wallet as so many of his compatriots have done in major races all over the world. The Japanese, with their unique training methods, have arrived and we better accept them. As for Crown Pride, I love what I’m seeing every morning, especially the way they have him accelerating on the turn after crossing the wire. He’s been doing his calisthenics on the chute every day and has been calm during parts of his gallops and aggressive during others. He wants to go and I love his energy level, which is high, but well in control. When they really let him open up in a work he went his half in an eye-catching :46 2/5, but was never being urged. He is coming off a very impressive victory in the UAE Derby going 1 3/16 miles and was relentless in the stretch going after the loose on the lead Summer is Tomorrow in what was a two-horse race down the stretch. I will be betting him to win, but wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a lot more money than you think. He has caught the eye of a lot of people.

 

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

Yes, there is still a door on which to knock. But at this late date I’m not sure anyone will let you in. I love finding longshots to play in the Derby, but after the top 12 I cannot separate the rest, and while anyone can find their way into the exotics I’m just not seeing any of the others as win candidates.

Sure, ZOZOS is very talented horse who can carry his speed a long way, especially for a son of Munnings, but again we have a horse with only three starts, and I feel his best races are down the road. BARBER ROAD would be the most likely deep-closing longshot to hit the board, but he still needs to figure out where the winner’s circle is one of these days. He is persistent and keeps knocking on the door every race. One of these he’s going to squeeze his way in, but I would think it will be against lesser company in a smaller field. But for now I wouldn’t discourage anyone who wants to include him in their exotics. He is as honest as they come.

PIONEER OF MEDINA is another who is going to win his share of big races and he’s been running well against top company, mainly Zandon, Epicenter, Smile Happy, and Zozos. But at this stage of his career he looks to be more of a one-paced grinder who just keeps coming. He just needs to either try to wire his field or find a stronger closing punch. He will give them a run for their money and could hang around for piece of it.

 If we’re in a forgiving mood and wish to overlook CLASSIC CAUSEWAY’S implosion in the Florida Derby then you can say he belongs in the race. But how he’s going to win is another matter. He will be on or right off the pace, but how far he can cay his speed is the main question. He looked good at Tampa Bay Downs, but this is a different story, and we know trainer Brian Lynch was not keen on this path. But the owners deserve a shot so here he is.

TAWNY PORT is a horse on the rise, but not quite there yet, finding his way into the Derby at the last minute with a victory in the Lexington Stakes. Coming back in three weeks doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  Rebel Stakes winner UN OJO will have his following and he does have a good closing kick, but all his numbers say he is just too slow. SUMMER IS TOMORROW looked like a sure winner in the UAE Derby before Crown Pride corralled him in the final furlong and he should be a pace presence for quite a long way. Remember, all his previous starts had come in sprints so he should be stronger with that race under him.


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275 Responses to “Final 2022 Derby Rankings”

  1. greg marsh says:

    Hi

    Thanks Steve for welcoming us onboard the Haskin Derby Express back in mid-January when winter had a grip on the weather and our mood. Now you have brought us into the welcoming warmth of spring (though here in Winnipeg there is still the final traces of snow on the ground.) You have been a wonderful guide and friend for all of us.

    Despite praising your guidance, I have chosen to take a potentially foolish but very inspired drive this Saturday along Ethereal Road . To get into this year’s Derby that colt had to gain two needed points in the Lexington after disappointing in the Blue Grass a week prior. He then needed plenty of help as he was 23rd on the Ky Derby Point ranking. He has already twice beaten the odds just to get into the starting gate.

    Among the reasons I am pulling for this colt is because I would like to see D. Wayne Lukas win another Derby, plus a win by Ethereal Road might prompt future owners and trainers to race their colts more often during their pre-Derby 3 year-old campaigns.

    I hope it is a cleanly run race where all horses and jockeys return safely.

    greg (in Winnipeg)

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That’s very kind of you Greg. Thank you!

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Ethereal Road is one of the horses who could outdo his 50 to 1 (likely) odds just because he will be running without any pressure whatsoever … the projected hot pace might benefit him greatly. Some times when one plays just for the fun of it the results are pretty startling…

      Good luck with the Coach and the son of Quality Road…!

  2. TommyMc says:

    I’m looking forward to Steve Haskin’s Handicapping Column tomorrow. That will be the final piece of the puzzle. Then I can start putting some tickets together.

  3. Matthew W says:

    I thought Taiba’s work at SA was uninspiring, THAT was supposed to be IT …but he got a 3 furlong work TODAY??? Methinks they might not be going….at the least there is a big question mark with Taiba .

    • Lynda King says:

      MatthewW, I do not think either of Taiba’s works were anything to write home about.
      However, to be fair, it is my understanding that both works are typical for him but he delivers in the afternoon.
      Not sure that we can make that leap in that he has only had two races.
      I think Messier’s were much, much better.

      • Matthew W says:

        The SA work he was trying to pass a maiden breaker who was being pulled back and Taiba didn’t go by—Yakteen said BEFORE the work it was going to be his lone work….yet he goes 3 fur?….Hmmmm……

    • Davids says:

      Taiba is not supposed to be a flashy worker but he didn’t impress.

  4. Nelson Maan says:

    Congrats Steve on another successful year of Derby rankings.

    Your opening prediction about Zandon and Epicenter being close in the morning line was spot-on. I likewise hope your expectations on Smile Happy’s rebounding this Saturday is also fulfilled… at 20 to 1 the son of Runhappy is one of the greatest overlays ever.

    The inside information you shared here puts Smile Happy in a good light indeed. It is hard to dismiss a horse who was the second favorite in the winter book only behind champion Corniche… especially because he has been improving in form steadily since mid-February.

    After fifteen fulfilling weeks of watching a Carousel of beautiful horses trying to prove themselves, many of us don’t need to even see the past performances to recognize the fastest horses in this Derby.

    There is nothing much remained to be said apart from trying to infer which Derby hopefuls love Churchill Downs and how the race would unfold.

    Among the few points remaining untold are the ones surrounding the past performances of the Japanese horse. After watching the Hyacinth Stakes ran at Tokyo Racecourse I concluded that Crown Pride is not undefeated due to a very bad racing luck in that Derby qualifying race. Crown Pride was noticeably blocked at the start leaving him desperately last at least 10 lengths behind the front runners. Then his race was over after being stopped again in the backstretch when he was gaining momentum. Still the son of Reach the Crown closed strongly enough to finish only 3.5 lengths behind the winner of that mile contest.

    Anyway, as you said, Crown Pride has already flaunted so much class at Churchill that he will be taking a lot of betting on top of the expected Japanese money.

    Marche Lorraine and Loves Only You with their wins in the Breeder’s Cup festival jump started Japan wave of international success the last five months.

    Japan took the first four international races on the Saudi Cup undercard and won four out of the eight Stakes on Dubai World Cup night.

    So, it is not farfetched to expect Crown Pride riding Japan’s wave of worldwide success to deliver a nice show this Saturday.

    We shall see…

    • Lynda King says:

      Nice comment Nelson.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Thanks Lynda… it is the Land of the Rising Sun rising to the challenge of the American Triple Crown…

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you Nelson. Best of luck with all your bets.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      I can’t seem to shake from my mind the surprising performance of the last Japanese horse, Master Fencer, in the 2019 Derby. He was the only horse running the last quarter in less than 25 seconds (24 3/5) while passing 12 horses in the homestretch. He was in front of all but Maximum Security 20 meters after the finish line. He had spent only 5 days galloping at Churchill before the Derby…

      I expect a better performance from Crown Pride not only because his credentials are better but also because he has had more time to acclimate (since March 30).

  5. John Goggin says:

    Just read that a horse has started in the post position #17 has never won the KD…#17 is Barber Road.
    FTI….the longest drought for post positions for #1-12 is #10-over 50 years (Canonero II in 1971).
    FYI….Taiba, as of present, has #12.

  6. TommyMc says:

    Crown Pride is getting plenty of buzz from his latest workouts. I don’t like his chances at all. But, maybe I should. One factor that I use in trying to figure how horses will do running a mile and a quarter for the first time is to look at how they did at a mile and an eighth. Crown Pride is 2 for 2 at a mile and an eighth and 1 for 1 at a mile and 3/16. Nice. The knocks are that he ran his worst race and only non-winning race at a mile over a muddy track in Japan. The other knock is the field that he beat in The UAE Derby at Dubai. Pinehurst was one of the favorites in that race for goodness sakes. The clockers love this guy. Looking back at his first work at Churchill Downs on April 16th, he went 6-furlongs over a “good” track in 1:18 3/5. He either didn’t like that “off” track or he was running backwards. 1:18 3/5???

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      Japanese training methods are not ours. They start out slow, very slow and then ramp it up. His work today very good and some thinking too much this close to a race. The fact his jockey flew in early to ride him today another plus for me. Look at his pedigree. Sunday Silence sire and dam. You can ignore him if you want.20-1?

      • TommyMc says:

        I wonder if he’ll be 20-1 with all the clockers raving about his works. I respect the horse and his connections. I can’t play them all though. Good luck this weekend.

        • Laura L Lanham says:

          Good luck to you as well. My bankroll is about nonexistent but he is worth a WPS bet for me. I like the extra dressage work he does.

    • Lynda King says:

      TommyMC, there is more to his loss in the Hyacinth (his only loss so far by the way) than the track conditions.

      “Losing all chance at the start when squeezed out, he ended up having to make his moves wide and from off the pace in a race where speed held up. The fact that Crown Pride was able to get within four lengths of the winner suggested he was a colt with serious ability, and he proved that to be correct on Dubai World Cup night.”

      The work on the 16th was his first. six furlongs from the half-mile pole. The colt completed opening fractions of :14 3/5, :28 1/5, :54 and 1:06 1/5. Crown Pride steadily picked up his work around the turn and onto the backside before completing gallop out of seven furlongs in 1:32 2/5. Upon his arrival in the US from Dubai, he was in quarantine for about a week.

      I hardly think his trainer was send him out with a blowout after exiting quarantine.

      • TommyMc says:

        I should have watched the replay of that race. The comment in my Racing Form about Crown Pride’s loss says: Had no excuse. My comment about that slow work on April 16th was supposed to be a joke. It just looks weird to see a horse at the top level with a workout like that. Good luck on Friday & Saturday.

  7. Matthew W says:

    Prediction #1…Secret Oath wins, for Coach….Prediction #2 ….Epicenter leaves there favored..

  8. EddieF says:

    I like the number 5 for career starts: Medina Spirit & Mandaloun in ’21, Authentic in Sept ’20, Always Dreaming in ’17, American Pharoah in ’15, I’ll Have Another in ’12, Barbaro in ’06, and Fusaichi Pegasus in ’00.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      So EddieF, that means you are picking from this group:

      White Abarrio
      Smile Happy
      Mo Donegal
      Tawny Port

      Pretty salty.

      • EddieF says:

        LOL. I’m still working on the winnowing process. But I won’t eliminate a horse for one start on either side! Tough to go past the two faves, but White Abarrio should be a nice price.

  9. TommyMc says:

    Mattress Mac now says that he will probably be splitting his $3million in bets mostly between Epicenter and Zandon with a little on Smile Happy. He also said he would be playing The Oaks-Derby double. Mac is driving me towards Mo Donegal. Actually, my strategy will be to wait as long as possible to make my “big” Derby bet and look for the best value. I would want 4-1 or 9-2 on both Zandon & Epicenter. 8-1 or better on Mo Donegal. 15-1 or better on Smile Happy. If none of those work out, I’ll keep an eye on Tiz the Bomb at 25-1 or better. The horse that I want to bet is Smile Happy, but only at the right price. For the 2nd year in a row Mac has gotten into my head and I can’t get him out. I’m sure he’s a nice fellow, but I don’t like him “hijacking” The Kentucky Derby.

    • TommyMc says:

      One problem with waiting as long as possible to bet The Derby is that it’s the biggest race in America with a huge betting pool and, in the past, I have experienced problems with my ADW caused by heavy traffic at the last minute.

      • Matthew W says:

        A couple million on the race favorites will have little bearing on their win prices.

        • EddieF says:

          I don’t know about that, Matthew. Between the wagers of the mattress man and Bill Dawson, there’s bound to be movement on the tote board.

          • Matthew W says:

            After Bill hits I wanna ride in his Mazzarati!

            • Bill Dawson says:

              LOL

              This year, I’m making a serious attempt to hit the Super Hi-5. Each ticket will cost $12.00, similar to the following:
              3,10//3,10// 1,6,12// 1,6,12// 1,6,12.
              I plan on using various combinations of favorites and longshots on about 36 to 40 Super Hi-5 tickets.
              The expected rain could have a major impact on how the race plays out. One thing for sure, if the track does wind up “sloppy/muddy”, things could get real interesting.
              Good luck with your picks Matthew W.

              • Matthew W says:

                Thanks, Bill! Probably going with Cyberknife and Messier on my pick 3’s,4’s,5’s.

                • Bill Dawson says:

                  Cyberknife has been working lights out at Churchill, probably the best colt that Brad Cox has entered in the race. However, if the track comes up muddy, I’ll take a hard look at Zozos in p/p#19. If he breaks well, he could be one of the early leaders coming out of the first turn. He managed to hold his speed in the Louisiana Derby, only to be past late by Epicenter. I like his chances to at least hit the board. He’s been burning up the CD track in recent workouts, just like Cyberknife. I will toss Cox’s other entrant, Tawny Port.

    • TommyMc says:

      As Matthew points out, there are different kinds of “off” tracks. I would love Mo Donegal on a heavy muddy surface. A sealed, sloppy track could favor Epicenter or a horse like Classic Causeway. Yes, I said Classic Causeway. He looks impossible on paper. Slow speed figures that are trending downward. A winless post position(#17). Coming off of a horrible prep race with no visible excuse. His trainer seems like he wants no part of the Derby. But, while it was only a “good” track, CC is 1 for 1 on an “off” track. I see Storm Cat and Thunder Gulch in his pedigree. 30-1 on Mike Battaglia’s Morning line and likely heading “North”. People have been jumping off of his bandwagon like they were jumping off of the Titanic. Hopefully, one of his owners will be wearing his lucky Jed Clampett hat. He’s going to need it.

      • TommyMc says:

        I always consider an “off” track as the great equalizer. It brings slower horses closer to the more brilliant horses.

        • EddieF says:

          Maybe for ITM finishes, but not for 1st-place finishes. Seven off-track Derbies this century: six were won by the first or second favorite. Mine That Bird was the exception of course.

  10. Matthew W says:

    Saw the Messier “flying lead change”….handling the off track in his gallop….looks good.

  11. El Kabong says:

    Steve, I heard from a source that Tiz The Bomb does not like dirt kickback. He doesn’t seem to mind the surface as far as running on and he had great energy but have you heard any talk about his ability to handle dirt in his face. I know I love dirt in my face from time to time but I’m not the one taking money on Saturday.

  12. Doc Jr says:

    Crown Pride’s third birthday today. Youngest of all of the Derby horses so may have the most room for improvement between last race and Saturday.

  13. Sherri Lytle says:

    It is so hard to pick. I believe many of these horses will go on to have wonderful racing careers! I like so many of them for different reasons. I always look to your input to help me narrow down my picks though.

  14. El Kabong says:

    Wow! Crown Pride worked out today and looked amazing. He is a beauty and looks dead fit. 46 3 and he was fluid, relaxed, no urging. Started out slow and turned on the afterburners to get 22 + in last two F’s. He looks good folks.

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      He not only looked great it was his jockey onboard. That makes me feel even better about his shot on Saturday.

    • Lynda King says:

      Just watched. Yes, moving well over the track and strong. Like the way he hugged that curve and how he works those ears.
      Also watched Taiba’s gallop this morning. See he had the blinkers on again. Supposedly he is not a “morning guy” but has it together in the afternoon when it counts.

    • Matthew W says:

      I just saw the end if that work….did he get whipped? Saw rider waving it some….

      • Lynda King says:

        Matthew W what you probably saw was the crop bouncing up and down a little in Christopher’s left hand. I watched the full video twice and just watched it again looking for the crop.
        CP as usual wanted to do more but he responded quickly to slowing down…Christopher had him well in hand.
        This was Christopher’s first time riding him.

        • Laura L Lanham says:

          I thought Christopher rode him in the UAE derby. It would seem from the morning shows they have been turning him loose on the clubhouse turns just for that reason.

  15. Discopartner says:

    I’ve always liked White Abarrio, but in the last few days he’s gained a lot in my eyes. The Tales from the Crib piece helped, revealing he’s a dominant horse, not one to hesitate when passing another, but also his conformation looks good. He’s got that efficient stride. Distance is the big question, but he could be improving, that’s a valid chance to take in picking him to win. His post 15 is great, many to his left will be cutting back. He could get jostled with Classic Causeway likely to cut in front from the right and maybe Zozos too, the jockey will know these and more things to look for. I think he’s the most self contained and self reliant of them all, he’s made his own way. Grey horses are good lately, witness Knicks Go. He may not be as fast as Messier and Epicenter, but may last them out with smart racing, not up quite as close as thise two who may duel. I don’t think there are any of his quality after those two.

  16. Dutch says:

    Thanks for all the great articles these last few months, Steve. Trying to find the Kentucky Derby winner is about as easy as putting together a thousand piece puzzle. My longshot pick is Tiz the Bomb, but I also believe Smile Happy is a bit overlooked here. How about a Ken McPeek exacta?

  17. Lynda King says:

    Well Steve and all, here we are within hours of the Kentucky Derby.
    Seems like just yesterday that we were all pouring over Week One back in January.
    Time certainly does fly when we are having fun.
    Will be brief and to the point (now that is very unusual for me!)

    After watching works and the post draw, reading pedigrees, back ground stories and the bios of the jockeys and looking at photos of the colts; analyzing their race records and connections and of course, faithfully reading your Derby column each week as I have been doing for 13 years this year and many of the comments, this is where I am:

    Zandon, Epicenter, White Abarrio, Tiz The Bomb, Messier and Crown Pride. I am especially enamored of Zandon and Crown Pride. The two long shits that I am most fascinated by are Happy Jack and Pioneer of Medina.

    Heartfelt gratitude to you Steve for all your diligence, hard work, devotion and knowledge that you pass along to us every year. Every year I manage to learn something new about this sport that I have been following for many decades since I was a child.

    Best of luck, safe races to all of the horses and their jockeys. And as always best of luck to you and everyone who follows you with their bets.

    Lots of talented colts in this field and even if they do not win or place on Saturday, I am pretty sure we will see some of them again soon!

  18. Matthew W says:

    Deep mud can help closers, rolled down “wet fast” helps speed! If track is dry and has cushion (harrowed) and THEN it rains DURING the races, WATCH how they roll down the cushion, in the rain, they start INSIDE, and the inside can get faster, just because it got rolled down FIRST, probably won’t happen this weekend, as Friday now calls for 90%rain..

  19. Since Lil E. Tee says:

    How vulnerable are the favorites Zandon and Epicenter? Extremely. Imo.

    I’m predicting monster payouts this derby.

    • EddieF says:

      Hi, Lil E Tee. What is your definition of “extremely vulnerable”?

      • Davids says:

        I’d say that 19 are “extremely vulnerable.” In fact, I can swear by that statement. Lol.

      • Since Lil E. Tee says:

        Hi Eddie,

        Epicenter’s post position really bothers me. And I just think the Blue Grass was a super weak race, where Zandon had it as easy as can be.

        • EddieF says:

          Hello again, Lil. I can’t agree in any sense on your two points. All runners are vulnerable to varying degrees. The odds will indicate which runners are “extremely” vulnerable. But the historical record doesn’t support your concern about Epicenter breaking from Post 3. The vast majority of Post 3 horses in the past 20+ years were longshots. You’d be hard-pressed to find previous Derby horses from Post 3 with similar circumstances to Epicenter, who

          1) will be the first or second choice.
          2) has won on the lead, vying for the lead, and stalking the early leaders.
          3) has two closers to his inside.
          4) has always broken well from the gate.

          Of course, Epi needs to break cleanly from the gate. Which horse doesn’t? You may say that a closer doesn’t need to break well. But how have closers fared since Orb, with or without a clean start?

          As for the quality of the Blue Grass Stakes, it was as good as any of the other final preps.

          • Since Lil E. Tee says:

            All good Eddie. Just my opinion. I’m wrong more often than I am right. 🙂 Good luck with your bets.

  20. Since Lil E. Tee says:

    I just can’t stop digging/looking, trying to find the answer. So I guess I’m not done yet. Probably won’t be until midnight the day before. This sounds really familiar lol.

  21. Deacon says:

    Thank you Steve for this post. It is a great way to bring the curtain down on a befuddling Derby picture. I have enjoyed these 4 months of insightful writing. I love how you have the ability to simplify things. My final assessment is just a personal one. I like Smile Happy & Zozos to win but I will put them in box with Simplification, White Abarrio & Taiba.
    Smile Happy at a morning line of 20-1 is ridiculous. He could easily win this race by 4 lengths. Battaglia seems to have lost his mind. Yes Epicenter & Zandon are the live horses but I am not sold on a Louisiana Derby winner. I feel Zandon has much more of a chance to win then Epicenter. I will use him in a couple of my bets.

    Lastly, a lot has been written & said about how lightly raced most of these horses are. Justify set that parameter for owners so we shouldn’t be surprised. Truth is , it doesn’t matter because most of these horses are very lightly raced, so its an even playing field.

    On a different note Steve who do you like in the Oaks?

    • Liam says:

      I just listened to Jerry Brown’s Thoro-graph Derby seminar from 2021. “Less is More” regarding their opinions regarding horses with just 2 preps as 3yo’s before the Derby. 2 preps have produced more new tops. It’s about the same with 3 preps.

    • EddieF says:

      Deacon, I agree that SH’s ML odds are too high. I expect him to be around 14-1. As for the La Derby, the 9.5f distance makes it new. Of course, Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie did quite well last year in the Ky Derby. Then there’s the record of Blue Grass runners in the Ky Derby. It’s not good. This century, only Street Sense came out of it to win the Derby, but the BG was on an all-weather track. So about Smile Happy and Zandon….

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks very much Deacon and best of luck with your bets.

  22. Ms Blacktype says:

    Steve, I happened to open a press release in my business junk filter that surprised me. Apparently a sports writer named Jack Gliden has just come out with a book about Spectacular Bid, called “The Fast Ride: Spectacular Bid and the Undoing of a Sure Thing.”

    Release calls it “an eye-opening saga of corruption, abuse and crime.” Apparently it’s based on last-gasp interviews with jockey Ronnie Franklin. Just what racing needs during Derby week!

    Have you heard of it? I can send you the release or you can look it up the book on Amazon.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Please do send it. I never heard of this book.

      • Ms Blacktype says:

        Just sent the release to your AOL account from my email address registered here. Hope it’s still active!

    • EddieF says:

      The review in the Wall Street Journal gives me more than enough reason to read the book.

    • Lynda King says:

      I read the sample pages on Amazon, intriguing to say the least.

    • SoloSolo says:

      Thanks for informing us about this book. After reading the description on Amazon and the review in the WSJ, I think it will be a fascinating read. I’d sure like to get Steve’s take on it if he reads it.

  23. Matthew W says:

    After the Bluegrass I did not hear Derby favorite about Zandon…his star has risen because of works and gallops not because of his 2 for 4 record….he was beaten by Epicenter and then Epicenter won again, Zandon has been made favorite by hype—he won Blyegrass coming from last, over a track that favored that style…I got him for five bucks at over 30-1, then a tenner at 18-1 right before his Bluegrass, but at 3-1 I wouldn’t touch him, because for 3-1 in a contentious field I need Chrome, or Pharoah, or Tiz the Law, 3-1 on a horse that has never won two in a row not for ke..

    • John Goggin says:

      I believe that Zandon is in that group that takes turns beating each other or finishing in front of each race after race….Zandon just beat Smile Happy, before that both Smile Happy and Epicenter finished ahead of him and before that Mo Donegal finished ahead of him with Epicenter being the most consistent.
      However, now of these horses just “awe” you at this point.

  24. Lynda King says:

    Hey Steve, have a question.
    Someone down in the comments below mentioned the “Tomlinson Ratings”.
    I had never heard of the rating until late Monday after the pp draw (saw them on racing group I follow). Evidently it is a widely used tool by handicappers.
    Following is the Tomlinson for the final field. I think 480 is the upper limit.
    Can you tell me how accurate these ratings have been historically?
    I just now glanced at the forecast for Friday and Saturday and it is looking like the Oaks might be a wash out with thunderstorms likely and 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms and rain overnight (70%) with a 66% chance of rain early then decreased rain chances in the afternoon on Saturday.
    Thanks!
    PP Horse Tomlinson
    1 Mo Donegal (KY) 414
    2 Happy Jack (KY) 440
    3 Epicenter (KY) 445
    4 Summer Is Tomorrow (KY) 364
    5 Smile Happy (KY) 378
    6 Messier (ON) 417
    7 Crown Pride (JPN) 280
    8 Charge It (KY) 432
    9 Tiz the Bomb (KY) 345
    10 Zandon (KY) 331
    11 Pioneer of Medina (KY) 365
    12 Taiba (KY) 480
    13 Simplification (FL) 445
    14 Barber Road (KY) 363
    15 White Abarrio (KY) 372
    16 Cyberknife (KY) 400
    17 Classic Causeway (KY) 357
    18 Tawny Port (KY) 377
    19 Zozos (KY) 436
    20 Ethereal Road (KY) 401

    • Davids says:

      Lynda, just search for “How to use DRF – Tomlinson Ratings” and a full explanation will come up.

      • Lynda King says:

        Thanks Davids.
        I did access the site and it gave me a better understanding of what the form is and how the ratings are arrived at.

    • EddieF says:

      Maximum Security had a 316, Justify 386, Always Dreaming 385, Orb 405, Super Saver 412, Mine That Bird 341, Smarty Jones 313. All but one race (Always Dreaming on wet fast) were on a sloppy track.

  25. Ms Blacktype says:

    I read Steve’s pedigree analysis in Week 10 with great interest and good attention (or so I thought), but just re-read it before posting my own deep dive into the female families of several of the favorites. No surprise — Steve wrote up all the good stuff, so I’ll focus on stuff of interest on the horses he didn’t cover that week.

    What’s interesting is that the top horses in this year’s Derby uniformly come from great female families. The same can’t be said of some of the outsiders although I haven’t researched all of them. Also, since many recent Derby winners have been first or early foals of their mothers, I’ll note the age of all the moms of the Derby entries I cover.

    EPICENTER’S 8th dam is major British stakes producer NEARLY, ancestress of graded SWs BAMBOOZLE, NORTHERN GEM, NANTICIOUS, ROYAL ROCK, and MYSTERIOUS MOLL. Epi’s fourth dam, Hobe Sound, is the mother of Grade 1 Japanese SW TAIKI HERAKLES, and his dam, SILENT CANDY (2007) is a stakes winner on the turf.

    As Steve wrote, ZANDON’s 9th dam is BOUDOIR II. She’s the ancestress of Kelso sire YOUR HOST, T.V. COMMERCIAL, GALLATIA, and GAY HOSTESS. Gay Hostess is the dam of Derby/Preakness winner MAJESTIC PRINCE, second dam of French Derby winner and champion CARACOLERO, and third dam of Epsom Derby winner SECRETO. Boudoir is also the second dam of FLOWER BOWL, who gave us champion BOWL OF FLOWERS, GRAUSTARK, and HIS MAJESTY, and is third dam of champion GALLANT BLOOM (one of the most amazing mares of the 1960s, a decade full of them.) ZANDON’s second dam Incarnate Memories produced graded SW CAIRO MEMORIES and SW CARIBA. He’s the second foal from Memories Prevail, a 2014 mare.

    SIMPLIFICATION Jumping into the wayback machine, Simplification descends from Polly Agnes second dam of English TCW ORMONDE and third dam of the legendary double Guineas/Oaks/St. Leger winner SCEPTRE. Closer in — and as Steve mentioned — Simplification’s second dam, stakes-placed Ballado’s Halo, is a full sister to two-time champion ASHADO He is the first foal and SW from his stakes-placed dam Simply Confection.

    MO DONEGAL descends from Canadian SW ORCHESTRA, a major source of stakes winning and champion Canadian thoroughbreds, including: DANCE IN TIME, GIBOULEE, LAST ANSWER, NORTHERN SKY, ESENI, ALEZZANDRO, MEADOW MONSTER, UNCAPTURED, MRS. BARBARA and CCA Oaks winner CURALINA. Mo’s stakes winning second dame is G1 winner ISLAND SAND. He’s the second foal and only stakes performer out of 2012 mare Callingmissbrown.

    CROWN PRIDE descends from FORGET, one of my favorite broodmares. She is the dam of SIX SW, including BORROW, who defeated Derby winners Regret , Old Rosebud, and Omar Khayyam in the Brooklyn H’cap when he was 9. The line has also produced Derby/Belmont and 3YO champion TWENTY GRAND and a slew of graded SW on the grass, including turf champ RUN THE GAUNTLET. Closer to home: Crown Pride’s 2nd dam is a half to Japanese 2YO champion DIRAQOUEE who produced two (ungraded) Japanese SW. Crown Pride is the first foal and only SW out of the 2012 mare, Emmy’s Pride.

    As Steve noted earlier this season, SMILE HAPPY’S 5th dam is Bravura, whose mom Teretania is a half to major sire ALIBHAI and SIX major stakes winners, including Oaks winner THERESINA. No wonder Bravura herself is the ancestress of a slew of G1 winners, including HAIL THE PIRATES, CANDALITA, TOUSSAUD, EMPIRE MAKER, CHESTER HOUSE, HONEST LADY, FIRST DEFENSE, and CHISELLING. Smile Happy’s 4th dam Pumpkin Patch is the ancestress of G3 SW BELLE OF COZZENE, Derby/Preakness winner FUNNY CIDE, and G2 winner RULE. Mom Pleasant Smile is on the older side, foaled in 2006. Her only other stakes performer is Wilko Rum, 3rd in a G2 race in Puerto Rico.

    WHITE ABARRIO descends from major foundation mare MAID OF MASHAM, an English stakes winner in the 1840s and most famously ancestress of FAIR PLAY, the sire of Man o’ War. Much further down the pike is White Abarrio’s 4th dam, G3 SW FANEUIL LASS, ancestress of major SWs in Japan, Brazil, and the U.S., including SAM WHO, ABIRU BUN GOD, GAILY CONDOR, JUNO (BRZ1), LOVE ‘N’ HAPPINESS (BRZ1). Abarrio’s seccond dam, Grand Breeze, produced UAE G3 winner COOL COWBOY and is second dam of G2 SW MUTASAABEQ. White Abarrio is the first foal and only SW of his 2015 dam, Catching Diamonds.

    MESSIER descends from a very old American and later Canadian family that includes the dam of LEXINGTON, Alice Carneal, and 1886 Preakness winner THE BARD. Closer to home, his 8th dam, Swooning, produced Hall of Fame G1 winner SWOON’S SON. Third dam CATCH THE RING won the Canadian Oaks and was champion at 3, and his mother, CHECKERED PAST, is a Canadian SW.

    TAIBA comes from a female line of major winners in Argentina, Uruguay, and . . . Ohio! His mother, NEEDMORE FLATTERY (2011) was an Ohio champion, running almost exclusively in races restricted to Ohio-breds. His fifth dam, Etherea, was stakes placed in Puerto Rico. I’ve never seen that in the profile of a past Kentucky Derby winner, so this could be another first for the two-time runner.

    TIZ THE BOMB’S 5th dam is G1 SW GAY MISSILE, dam of Reine de Course mare LASSIE DEAR (DEERHOUND, WEEKEND SURPRISE, WOLFHOUND and 2nd dam of A.P. INDY and SUMMER SQUALL) so we’re talking major bloodlines here and several doses of Secretariat blood as well. GALLANTA, his 4th dam, foaled European 2YO champion GAY GALLANTA. He’s the third foal and only stakes horse under his 2011 dam Tiz the Key.

    • Lynda King says:

      Good reading and lots of great information. The mares are often left out of the equation of what makes a champion.

      • Ms Blacktype says:

        Yet they are at least as important as the sire. The female family gives a pedigree foundation, in my opinion. Thanks, Lynda!

        • Bill Dawson says:

          With respect to a horse’s pedigree, I look for speed on top and stamina on the bottom.

          • Lynda King says:

            Surprisingly genetic research on the “speed gene” finds that a genetic variant associated with speed likely originated with a single mare in the mid-17th century.

            • Ms Blacktype says:

              Lynda, do you know the name of the mare? Or is she the mitochondrial Eve of speed?

              Something else I noticed about Crown Pride’s pedigree (after Steve mentioned more details below) is that his dam descends in tail male from Polynesian, the sire of Native Dancer. Polynesian’s third dam, American champion mare Black Maria, had only a single foal and died young. Had she not had Black Polly, we would not have seen Native Dancer, Raise a Native, Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, A.P. Indy, and a bunch of other dominant sires. Undoubtedly other horses would emerged to dominate modern pedigrees, but they would look very different without Polynesian.

              Must stop. Boss wants me to plan issues for all of 2023.

        • Davids says:

          So true Ms Blacktype, the sire is hopefully adding ‘something’ to the family, it’s foundation. Excellent read.

          • Ms Blacktype says:

            Thank you, Davids. That’s a real compliment coming from you because you REALLY understand pedigrees.

            • Davids says:

              Thanks Ms Blacktype that’s very kind. Following the breeding/sales side of racing provides you with an extra pleasure in racing. It’s unfortunate that sceptre doesn’t post here anymore he is extremely knowledgeable and has been so generous over the years.

    • Lynda King says:

      Ms Blacktype, just read a great piece from Michele McDonald about Crown Pride.
      And if Steve does not mind, I am going to share part of her article:
      “This year, we have had the chance to see the patient, classic horsemanship involved with the schooling of Japan’s G2 UAE Derby winner Crown Pride. This robust specimen of a colt, who has frequently shown he can be a tough ride while galloping, often spends a major part of his mornings cantering and jogging near the starting gate, executing the turns and rhythms with the focus and precision of a dressage champion.
      The Japanese typically train their horses with this kind of patient, repetitive approach prior to strong gallops followed by long walks to cool out. It goes without saying that this method, as judged by all their international triumphs in recent years, can work exceedingly well.
      “Crown Pride is a most intriguing Derby contender as he won the UAE Derby at 1 3/16 miles. As a son of Japanese G2 turf winner Reach the Crown, he may seem like he has an obscure pedigree. But look closer. He is 3×4 to America’s 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence, and his pedigree also features Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Secretariat, as well as filly Triple Tiara winner Chris Evert. Additionally, he has 2 lines of Mr. Prospector, the former Claiborne Farm king who reigned as one of world’s most influential sires.”

      • Ms Blacktype says:

        A lot of folks are on his bandwagon this year. I keep meaning to watching some of the works, but WORK gets in the way, LOL. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the field for the Oaks yet.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Great analysis. Thanks very much.

    • EddieF says:

      Wow, Ms. B! You have me looking up those names. I may not get any sleep tonight. Great job!