Quick Notes: Kentucky Derby 2022 Contender Cheat Sheet

Chris Adams

The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, which will take place at Churchill Downs, are just weeks away.

With most of the Kentucky Derby prep races in the books, here’s a quick cheat sheet to help narrow down the contenders.

Kentucky Derby 2022

There is 1 prep race remaining on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. That race is the Lexington which is contested at Keeneland. The race is only worth 20 points.

In the entire history of the Derby only 1 horse, Charismatic (1999), has won the Lexington and gone on to earn the blanket of roses on the first Saturday in May.

With that we have a pretty solid idea of what the Derby picture looks like. Here’s your cheat sheet for all the horses that could be running on in the Kentucky Derby.

Top Contenders

The contenders are sorted by points. Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings are used in the event of ties and have been included.

Epicenter

Epicenter is a top contender for the Kentucky Derby.
Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #1
  • 164 Total Points
  • $940,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

As the top point getter into the Derby, this one went 2-3 on the Louisiana prep circuit, including a win in the 2022 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. This form was flattered by an impressive by Zandon in the Blue Grass. This one is a major player to give Asmussen his first Derby victory, as noted in our look at top point earners for the 2022 Kentucky Derby points standings.

Zandon

Zandon is a top contender for the Kentucky Derby.
Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #2
  • 114 Total Points
  • $663,500 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

This one ran a huge race coming from off the pace to roll in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. He could be getting really good at the right time.

White Abarrio

White Abarrio is a top contender for the Kentucky Derby.
Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #3
  • 112 Total Points
  • $769,650 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

Saffie doesn’t have Derby cred yet. I don’t believe this runner was the best in the 2022 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, and I am not sure he is the kind of horse that will overcome adversity in the Derby.

Mo Donegal

Mo Donegal is a top contender for the Kentucky Derby.
Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #4
  • 112 Total Points
  • $561,500 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

This runner had maybe one of the more impressive performances in the 2022 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. For a horse that comes from off the pace, he showed incredible patience and the ability to change gears quickly which is important against 19 other horses.

Tiz the Bomb

Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #5
  • 110 Total Points
  • $1,012,610 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

This horse will be a turf horse later in his career, but Derby fever is hard to resist when you have the points.

Cyberknife

Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #6
  • 100 Total Points
  • $752,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

Cyberknife took the win at the Arkansas Derby, but while I liked the performance at Oaklawn Park, I’m not sure what was in there. We saw much better this weekend, so I’ll pass.

Crown Pride (JPN)

Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #7
  • 100 Total Points
  • $671,544 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

Japan has been on fire winning the biggest races in horse racing across the world. The value on this one will be good, and the horse is already at Churchill acclimating to the track.

Taiba

Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #8
  • 100 Total Points
  • $450,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

As someone who watches around over 20 horse races seven days a week, I have never seen a more impressive 2nd career effort than I did in the 2022 Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park.

This one will be a monster in the classic division and may just be so talented he can win the Derby in only his third start.

Simplification

Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #9
  • 74 Total Points
  • $482,150 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

After a nice win in the Fountain of Youth, this runner was a distant third in the Florida Derby which came back extremely slow.

Smile Happy

Photo Credit: Blood Horse
  • Rank #10
  • 70 Total Points
  • $499,410 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

This one has a win over Churchill and has respectable 2nd place finishes to two bullish horses in Zandon and Epicenter. This one just seems like he isn’t progressing like some of the others.

Rest of the Current Kentucky Derby Field

Classic Causeway

  • Will Not Run Per Connections
  • 66 Total Points
  • $456,100 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: OUT

This one has only won races setting uncontested easy fractions. In a field of 20 that won’t happen, and he folded like a cheap lawn chair in the Florida Derby.

Slow Down Andy

  • Rank #11
  • 60 Total Points
  • $475,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

The win over Messier was nice, but the Risen Star defeat and the win in an underwhelming Sunland Derby mean this one is a pass.

Barber Road

  • Rank #12
  • 58 Total Points
  • $589,700 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

This runner hasn’t won since November of 2021. Looks more likely to fill out the trifecta than to win the race.

Un Ojo

  • Rank #13
  • 54 Total Points
  • $655,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

The one-eyed horse is a cool story but doesn’t appear to have the talent to beat some of the monsters we’ve seen.

Forbidden Kingdom

  • Will Not Run Per Connections
  • 50 Total Points
  • $392,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: OUT

If you want to believe the Santa Anita Derby was a workout you can have this one, but he showed no heart and moonwalked to the back of the pack in the lane.

Early Voting

  • Rank #14
  • 50 Total Points
  • $277,500 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

The Chad Brown runner was a respectable 2nd to Mo Donegal. He did the dirty work setting the pace and fending off the challenges of pace pressure. In the stretch he looked like he could get there but came up short. Not bad for a third career effort.

Morello

  • Rank #15
  • 50 Total Points
  • $220,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

I loved this horse going into the Wood and wanted so badly for him to cement his place atop the leaderboard. The 6th place finish wasn’t without excuse. He missed the start bad and was totally taken out of his game. However, we saw this last year with Rock Your World.

Speed horses that don’t break right in the Derby are doomed. He wasn’t able to overcome the adversity and that is a problem.

Messier

  • Rank #16
  • 40 Total Points
  • $390,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

This one ran extremely well and made Forbidden Kingdom look like a traffic cone in the stretch. He is definitely a talent, but the question is if he can be better than Taiba. They are close based on the result in the Santa Anita Derby.

Zozos

  • Rank #17
  • 40 Total Points
  • $200,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

A respectable 2nd behind Epicenter in the Louisiana Derby. This one could improve off the first stakes effort, but I haven’t seen the monster effort some of the others have shown.

Summer Is Tomorrow

  • Rank #18
  • 40 Total Points
  • $200,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

This runner will come over from Meydan. Middle East horses have not fared well in the Derby historically.

Charge It

  • Rank #19
  • 40 Total Points
  • $188,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bullish

This is the runner I prefer out of the Florida Derby. The race was only the third of his career. He was green, but he can be more professional next out. I don’t mind talent being raw in start 3. White Abarrio, who beat him, was still green after 5 races, which is more of a concern.

Tawny Port

  • Rank #20
  • 40 Total Points
  • $122,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

If this one gets in it will be based on points earned at Turfway Park which is a synthetic surface. That doesn’t typically translate well to dirt.

Current Kentucky Derby Also Eligibles

Happy Jack

  • Rank #21
  • 30 Total Points
  • $52,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

This one is a cut below some clearly talented California runners.

Pioneer of Medina

  • Rank #22
  • 25 Total Points
  • $116,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

Pioneer of Medina has yet to run a winning performance in a stakes race finishing 4th in the Risen Star and 3rd in the Louisiana Derby.

Emmanuel

  • Rank #23
  • 25 Total Points
  • $19,200 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

Finishing 4th in the Fountain of Youth to Simplification doesn’t instill confidence.

Grantham

  • Rank #24
  • 21 Total Points
  • $85,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

The closest this one came in stakes company was 2nd behind Classic Causeway who has shown the Tampa form to be weak.

The Other Kentucky Derby Possibilities

Rich Strike

  • Rank #25
  • 21 Total Points
  • $74,500 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

The only career win came in a maiden claiming race.

Rattle N Roll

  • Rank #26
  • 20 Total Points
  • $344,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

Since winning the Breeders’ Futurity in October of 2021 this runner has failed to hit the trifecta in three tries.

Ethereal Road

  • Rank #27
  • 20 Total Points
  • $200,000 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

I was ready to make this my sneaky improving type and then he ran 7th in Blue Grass. Horses who don’t win their final prep do not fair well in Kentucky.

Bye Bye Bobby

  • Rank #28
  • 20 Total Points
  • $176,700 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

If you can’t win the Sunland Derby, you likely aren’t winning the Derby.

Skippylongstocking

  • Rank #29
  • 20 Total Points
  • $86,350 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

The Wood was a decent third, but I question why it took 9 races to get this horse into a qualifying race.

In Due Time

  • Rank #30
  • 20 Total Points
  • $76,800 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

This runner will need a good run on the Lexington at Keeneland to earn enough points to get in. It is hard to imagine that there is a good enough performance in the Lexington that would make me even consider this one.

Golden Glider

  • Rank #31
  • 15 Total Points
  • $87,250 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

Failure to hit the trifecta in three Derby preps means this one is off my list. He likely won’t qualify anyway given the fact that he has no remaining preps.

Dash Attack

  • Rank #32
  • 10 Total Points
  • $175,834 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

He looked like a player after the Smarty Jones, but his performances since leave something to be desired. His last chance to qualify comes in the Lexington.

Call Me Midnight

  • Rank #33
  • 10 Total Points
  • $123,500 Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
  • Derby Outlook: Bearish

This one won the Lecomte on what appears to be a very salty Louisiana prep circuit, but he failed to go forward the way some of his other rivals did. He has a chance for redemption in the Lexington, but the winning 20 points would still only be enough to make this one also eligible for the Derby.

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*A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Lexington as being held at Turfway Park

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