While we don’t have an entrant in this year’s Kentucky Derby, we’re certainly wishing the best of luck to the five MyRacehorse trainers that have runners in the field.
Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Brad Cox, Saffie Joseph Jr., and Todd Pletcher have a combined nine starters in Saturday’s 20-horse starting gate.
Let’s take a look at their runners for Derby 148, as well as the rest of the field for the world’s most-celebrated race. Following our Race Overview, we’ve shared our staff picks.
Field in Post Position Order with Morning-line Odds:
Mo Donegal (10-1) is one of three horses in the field for Pletcher, who has won the Derby twice before (Super Saver & Always Dreaming). The Wood Memorial winner is looking to buck a trend with the last winner of that New York prep to emerge victorious in the Derby coming in 2000 (Fusaichi Pegasus). Joel Rosario who rode Mo Donegal in the Wood Memorial has opted to go with second choice, Epicenter, but the colt is in the capable hands of Irad Ortiz Jr., who has had plenty of success with Pletcher. Obviously, the rail draw in a 20-horse field is not optimal (the last horse to win from the one-hole was Ferdinand in 1986). Mo Donegal does not figure to go to the early lead as he is a stalking-type, so the key here is to save ground while not getting jostled by his outside rivals jockeying for position going into the first turn of the 1 1/4-mile race.
Happy Jack (30-1) will be looking to give trainer Doug O’Neill his third Kentucky Derby win. It’s a tall task ahead for this colt, who has just one win in four starts on his resume. Blinkers come off for the son of Oxbow, who won the 2013 Preakness Stakes.
Epicenter (7-2) carries the Derby hopes of trainer Steve Asmussen who, despite all of his extraordinary success, has yet to win the Run for the Roses. The Hall of Fame trainer is very bullish on this son of Not This Time and has good reason to be. Epicenter enters the Derby in extremely sharp form following consecutive wins in the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby, respectively, with Joel Rosario aboard. His career-top Beyer Speed Figure of 102 is only second to Messier and Taiba in this field. This is a quick colt and he would be expected to be among the first flight of runners leaving the gate, pending a clean break.
Summer Is Tomorrow (30-1) is a Dubai invader and finished second in the UAE Derby. He’s a consistent sort, but the waters are much deeper in this spot than he has been facing in the Middle East.
Smile Happy (20-1) was undefeated in two starts as a 2-year-old for trainer Ken McPeek, including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes over the Churchill Downs’ surface, which is a bonus. He has had to settle for second twice this year in his Derby preps, the Risen Star and Blue Grass. He was not disgraced in either race, and is certainly worth a look here at a price to finish in the money and to be used in exotic plays.
Messier (8-1) is one of the two horses in the field who previously was in Bob Baffert’s barn and is now trained by Tim Yakteen, who is making his first Derby foray. The colt was expected to finish ahead of his lightly raced stablemate, Taiba, in the Santa Anita Derby, when they both made their first starts for Yakteen. But Messier had to settle for a well-beaten second behind Taiba. Keep in mind, that was Messier’s first race since early-February, when he won the Grade 3 Robert Lewis by 15 lengths to earn a career-best BSF of 103. This speedy colt will be ridden by John Velazquez, who knows his way around Churchill Downs and has won three Derbies. If he’s anything like his sire Empire Maker, the 2003 Belmont Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up, the 10 furlongs on Saturday should be right up his alley.
Crown Pride (20-1) won the UAE Derby in his last start, defeating the aforementioned Summer Is Tomorrow by nearly three lengths. Bred and raced in Japan, Crown Pride is the fifth horse from Japan to run in the Kentucky Derby with hopes of becoming the first one to be draped in a blanket of red roses. He has caught the eye of many while training at Churchill and on Wednesday morning sizzled in a breeze for the race, prompting Daily Racing Form’s head clocker, Mike Welsch, to write: “Crown Pride was all the rage, and rightfully so, Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs after turning in a powerful and very impressive final breeze for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.” The success of Japanese-bred, owned and trained horses on American soil was on full display at last year’s Breeders’ Cup when Loves Only You won the Filly & Mare Turf, which was followed by Marche Lorraine taking the Distaff. Crown Pride will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire, one of Japan’s top international jockeys who will be participating in his first Kentucky Derby. Lemaire was aboard for Wednesday’s work.
Charge It (8-1) is another entry from the Pletcher barn. The son of Tapit finished second in the Florida Derby in just his third start and his first race following his maiden victory. Pletcher used the Florida Derby as a final and winning prep for his 2017 Ky. Derby winner, Always Dreaming. Charge It is definitely a nice colt, but he does concede some racing experience to most of the field. On the flip side, he’s looked terrific on the track at Churchill while training and that certainly counts for something.
Tiz the Bomb (30-1) is another entry from the McPeek barn and despite winning his last two starts, including the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks, looks overmatched here from the perspective that his best races have been on synthetic surfaces and the turf. He did, however, break his maiden in an off-the-turf race at Ellis Park last summer. The last time he ran on dirt, though, he was defeated by more than 20 lengths in the Grade 3 Holy Bull.
Zandon (3-1) is the morning-line favorite for future Hall of Famer Chad Brown, who is seeking his first win in the Derby. Much to like about this colt who will be making his fifth career start. He broke his maiden sprinting last fall at Belmont Park and then moved up to Grade 2 company to finish second in the Remsen Stakes, beaten a nose by Mo Donegal. Started 2022 with a less-than-ideal trip in the Risen Star to finish third and then strutted his stuff to win the Blue Grass Stakes. Top rider Flavien Prat, aboard for the Blue Grass, has the assignment. The colt has made a favorable impression on the track during his training at Churchill Downs with his huge and effortless stride. Additionally, post No. 10 has the highest percentage (28%) of top-three finishers since 1930 when the starting gate was first introduced. Read more about Derby post position stats here.
Pioneer of Medina (30-1) is the third entrant for Team Pletcher and gained his starting berth to the race earlier in the week with the defection on Un Ojo. Blinkers come off for this son of Pioneerof the Nile, who finished second in the 2009 Derby. His Beyers have been improving, even though he has yet to crack through with a stakes win and the competition looks too deep here for him to get black-type status.
Taiba (12-1) is a colt who has created plenty of buzz following his strong Santa Anita Derby win, which came in just his second career start and first two-turn race. Quite impressive to see him go from winning a six-furlong maiden special weight to racing nine furlongs in Grade 1 company and winning. He has impressive Beyers of 102 and 103. He will be ridden by Mike Smith, who has won the Kentucky Derby two times, including aboard the 2018 Triple Crown winner, Justify, and could become the oldest Derby-winning rider at the age of 56 on Saturday. Taiba, who does not wear blinkers when he races, had them on Wednesday morning when he had an easy three-furlong blowout. He had a similar move with blinkers on three days before his win in the Santa Anita Derby. According to Marcus Hersh of Daily Racing Form, there’s not many Derby runners who have just made two prior starts before running in the race; the only winner to do so was Leonatus in 1883. In recent years, the lone starter with that profile is Disposal, who finished 18th in 1992.
Simplification (20-1) comes from the barn of Antonio Sano, who saddled his first Derby runner in 2017 when Gunnevera finished seventh. Simplification, a son of Not This Time, held his own this winter in South Florida’s Derby preps, by winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, finishing third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and second in the Grade 3 Holy Bull. He’s piloted by the extremely talented Jose Ortiz and had a solid bullet five-furlong work on April 29th at Gulfstream Park. Some trainers opt to arrive in Louisville early to allow their horses to have their final works over the surface they will compete on. Sano did not and it should be noted that this colt has never raced anywhere but Gulfstream Park in seven career starts. If he handles the Churchill surface, Simplification, at a price, could prove to be a crafty exotics play.
Barber Road (30-1) is a very consistent and willing runner, but with Beyer Speed Figures topping out in the 80s, he is up against it in this field.
White Abarrio (10-1) is looking to put trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. on the map as a Kentucky Derby winner. The son of Race Day, who was purchased for just $40,000 as a 2-year-old, has been an overachiever. He won both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby in consecutive starts and with two months between those races. Like Simplification White Abarrio did all his serious work for the Derby at his Gulfstream Park home base, but he does have the benefit of having a race over the Churchill Downs surface when he finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall. Following his final breeze last Saturday, DRF clocker Mike Welsch remarked that White Abarrio “looked terrific” going a half in 48.11 seconds with a strong five-furlong gallop out in 1:00.12. “Best seen from him yet this spring,” Welsch reported.
Cyberknife (20-1) is from the trainer/jockey team behind last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Mandaloun, who was elevated to first place after the disqualification of Medina Spirit for a post-race medication positive. Trained by Brad Cox and to be ridden by Florent Geroux, Cyberknife enters the Derby in fine form, fresh off winning the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. The son of Gun Runner’s Beyer Speed Figures are on an upward trajectory and he fired a bullet six-furlong work last weekend at Churchill. He’s among the many in here with a fighting chance and a big performance from him would not be shocking.
Classic Causeway (30-1) was originally thought not to be pointing to the race after a poor performance in the Florida Derby, but trainer Brian Lynch had a change of heart because he suspects that the colt displaced his soft palate that day, which can lead to restricted air flow. Daily Racing Form reporter Marty McGee reported that Classic Causeway will wear a dropped noseband bridle in the Derby. The equipment discourages a horse from opening its mouth by increasing pressure lower on the nose. He will also wear a tongue tie, McGee reported.
Tawny Port (30-1) is another entrant for Cox and is a son of Pioneerof the Nile. He exits a victory in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland under Geroux, who opted to stick with Cyberknife, so the mount goes to Ricardo Santana. This colt is a winner of 3 of 5 starts, and is obviously a solid performer, but the field here is much tougher than what he has been facing.
Zozos (20-1) is yet another Cox runner who gets stuck with an outside draw, but keep in mind, seven of the last 11 winners (64%) started from post 13 or wider. He finished second to Epicenter in his last race in the Louisiana Derby with Geroux aboard and earned a career-top BSF of 98. The son of Munnings will be making just his third career start on Saturday. It’s a tough task, but if you like Epicenter, who beat him by 2 1/2 lengths, you may be inclined to back Zozos who will be a much bigger price. The only winner to exit from Post 19 was I’ll Have Another in 2012.
Ethereal Road (30-1) has four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas in his corner. But the son of Quality Road needs much more than that to pick up a piece of the purse here and looks overmatched.
ALSO-ELIGIBLES (Rich Strike and Rattle N Roll are on the also-eligible list and can draw into the field if there’s a scratch by 9 a.m. Friday).
Rich Strike (30-1) is winless in five starts since breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs last September in a $30,000 claiming race. If he were to gain entry in the field, he’s most likely looking at a finish position at the back of the pack.
Rattle N Roll (30-1) is another from the McPeek barn. He has a win and a third at Churchill Downs, but has been largely overmatched when facing stakes company, except for a fourth-place finish (beaten 8 lengths) in the Louisiana Derby, but then he subsequently ran disappointedly in the Blue Grass. The blinkers he wore in the Blue Grass will come off, if he starts in the Derby.
MyRacehorse Staff Picks:
Nick Hines (MRH Host & Analyst):
Paige Marcinek (Midwest Racing Manager):
Joe Moran (West Coast Racing Manager)
Harry Rice (East Coast Racing Manager)
2. Crown Pride
3. Charge It