J.N. Campbell's 2022 Kentucky Derby Top Ten List

The historic grandstand at Churchill Downs might be empty now, but in less than 3 weeks the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby will be off! In the meantime, J.N. Campbell has a rundown of his Top Ten Contenders ... read on!
The historic grandstand at Churchill Downs might be empty now, but in less than 3 weeks the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby will be off! In the meantime, J.N. Campbell has a rundown of his Top Ten Contenders ... read on!

Welcome to the final edition of HorseRacing.net/us “Contenders List” for the 148th Kentucky Derby. The 3-yr-olds are ready … are you? Let us help!

The “Points Standings” phase is now at a conclusion. The “Run for the Roses” is going to be a watch-and-wait game all the way to the “First Saturday in May.” With workouts pending … a seemingly endless round of trainer interviews … plus, the official draw and the naming of jockeys … it will make for an exciting discussion as we roll towards Derby Week!

Just as before … some will rise, while others will dropdown … Once again, Lead Turfwriter J.N. Campbell offers his selections, along with a brief analysis of form and opportunities. The 1¼ “Classic” distance beckons … Take a look, as we celebrate the end of the Derby Trail, and the beginning of the Triple Crown chase!

Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders: J.N. Campbell’s M/L probables

#1 Cyberknife (20/1): There probably is no hotter sire in North America than Gun Runner … Owned by Gold Square out of Awesome Flower, this Brad Cox-trainee is a colt that solidified his Derby hopes with an impressive run down the lane in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park at the end of last month. Gun Runner’s offspring can clearly handle the “Classic” distances, and expect this one to be a great price on May 7th. Florent Geroux got the very best out of this 3-yr-old in Hot Springs, and his mount came out of that race in good order. Having already shipped to Churchill, he has a workout that was posted on 04/16. Cox had a pair of Derby entrants last year, and “won” by default. Now, he returns with a legitimate threat. I think he gets the job done … probably my top pick! Derby Pts: 100

#2 Epicenter (3/1): As most know … HOF trainer Steve Asmussen has done it all! … except win the Derby. He has come close in a pair of efforts … Lookin At Lee and Nehro. This colt by Not This Time began his trip along the Trail after a promising Fair Grounds score in the newly-minted Gun Runner S.—Winchell T-Breds best. Testing the Louisiana Series, he tried the Lecomte S. (G3), then the Risen S. (G2). In the former, the colt was just beaten at the wire by long shot Call Me Midnight. Super jockey Joel Rosario did not let that happen again in the latter with a frontrunning score. The Louisiana Derby (G1) was the final test, and the colt polished off his rivals with an off-the-pace score. He comes to Churchill as the Derby favorite … does Asmussen win? We shall see … Derby Pts: 164

#3 Zandon (5/1): Chad Brown’s shipping continues to impress, and he has a very strong entry for the Derby in this well-bred colt by Upstart. Brown made the decision to ship this runner down to New Orleans for the Risen Star S. (G2). He ran a great 2nd half of the contest, and finished 3rd behind Epicenter and Smile Happy. Jeff Drown’s colt may have lost the Remsen S. (G2) to Mo Donegal by a whisker over a foul last December, but he has not let that get in his way. A trip to Keeneland for the Blue Grass S. (G2) was a crowning achievement, as Flavien Prat rolled his mount with authority … enroute to a nice score. The 3-yr-old has turned some heads, and will be a popular selection come Derby Week. One to watch, and seriously consider … Derby Pts: 114

#4 Mo Donegal (10/1): Zandon’s rival from the Remsen S. (G2) took a different road that included the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park, and the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct. Clearly, he liked the oval at “The Big A,” winning the latter in fine style with Joel Rosario aboard. The Donegal Racing Team enjoyed the fruits of Todd Pletcher’s labor, and they have hopes of the greatest prize of all. Bred by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables, this son of Uncle Mo was a $250k purchase from the Keeneland September Sale in 2020. Pletcher will now probably switch back to Irad Ortiz, who was involved in that contentious ending of the Remsen … nothing like a great rematch story! It’s on … Zandon vs. Mo Donegal … who wins? Derby Pts: 112

#5 White Abarrio (17/1): Saffie Joseph is a conditioner who has worked hard these past years to establish a strong stable at Gulfstream Park. This colt by Race Day certainly earned his keep in the Holy Bull (G3) back in early February. Joseph chose to rest him, and by the looks of his work tab, he did well. Coming into the Florida Derby (G1), he was 2nd choice behind Antonio Sano’s Simplification. During the race, the grey flash wound up for a long drive, and Tyler Gaffalione clearly knew he had a bolt of lightning under him. Driving down the lane, the C2 Racing Stable colt was game, and wowed the crowd, winning by over a length. With over $823k in earnings to his credit, he appears ready to ship to Churchill. This could be Joseph’s big moment … if Gaffalione takes the mount, it could be the lynchpin these connections need. Derby Pts: 112

#6 Taiba (8/1): You never have to look far to find irony along the Derby and Triple Crown Trails … Zedan Racing and its controversial owner are headed back to the Derby after the Medina Spirit debacle from a year ago. At the F/T 2-yr-old Sale in Florida last year, Zedan dropped $1.7 million on this son of Gun Runner. In training, initially with Bob Baffert, the transfer to Tim Yakteen went off without a hitch, as the young phenom blew away stablemate Messier in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) with HOF jockey Mike Smith in the irons. Now, the colt is going to try and head to the Kentucky Derby, and right what Zedan believes was a severe indiscretion to his name and character. He might say it’s not personal, but we all know different. The sky is the limit for this talent, but no horse in the 20th or 21st centuries has won this race with only 2 contests to his credit … what a storyline … Derby Pts: 100

#7 Barber Road (40/1): There are more “fashionable” picks to be found, but let’s face it, John Ortiz’s son of Race Day was incredibly consistent on the “Trail.” In 8 career starts (the last 5 stakes), he has taken on all challengers. His last victory was in a Starter Allowance in early November at … you guessed it … Churchill Downs. Ortiz brought him along nicely after that, and his run through the Arkansas Series has been nothing short of stellar. A 2nd in the “Smarty,” a 2nd in the Southwest S. (G3), a 3rd in the Rebel S. (G2), and a highly-respectable 2nd in the Arkansas Derby (G1), means he belongs in Number 148. Kudos to Ortiz & Co. … I wouldn’t leave this runner off any of your tickets! Derby Pts: 58

#8 Crown Pride (JPN) (30/1): Bred by Shadai Farm, this colt impressed in Dubai, stamping his ticket to the Derby by winning the UAE Derby (G2) on WC Night. If you are not familiar with the colors of Yoshida, then you will get a reminder on Derby Day. By Reach the Crown, a grandson of Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence, the Japanese are out to prove that they belong across the globe in every G1 contest. With 4 career starts to his credit, trainer Koichi shipped his prize runner to Louisville so he could get used to his surroundings. Watching his unique workouts, which look like a combination between dressage and pieces of art in motion, this one will be conditioned and ready to go. After winning at the Breeders’ Cup, Saudi Cup, and the Dubai World Cup, I would not underestimate these connections. They have a major fan base behind them too! Derby Pts: 100

#9 Simplification (20/1): One of the hotter sires right now along the Trail is Not This Time (i.e. Epicenter). Here is yet another colt that is producing. Antonio Sano made a name for himself down in South Florida, and it is not easy establishing a spot in the sun … this is Todd Pletcher’s beach. With a unique running style, he can handle off-the-pace, as well as, up on the engine. A Florida bred, like Medina Spirit, owner Tami Bobo is hoping for great things from her investment. In the Fountain of Youth (G2), Sano’s charged seized the lead in the stretch, after a tough accident at the top of the lane. Undeterred, he pressed on for the win. Even though the Florida Derby (G1) was not a win, the 3-yr-old put in a strong performance. Sano continues to work hard, and this one will be a popular pick on Derby Day. Derby Pts: 74

#10 Un Ojo (50/1): The “one-eyed wonder” … how does a horse take the rail route in a G2, without a left eye, in an impending sleet storm, and win the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn? Talent … pure talent … The son of Laoban was transferred from Ricky Courville’s outfit up to the Dutrow Barn last fall. Cypress Creek Equine wanted to test the NYRA waters, and their colt ran an impressive 2nd in the Grade 3 Withers S., going 1 1/8th. He returned to Hot Springs, and Courville watched from home, as his charge performed nicely under Ramon Vazquez. That was that jockey’s greatest win of his career, and it certainly made many racetrackers think this might be a star. What a story … he lost his eye as a yearling in an accident, but did not let that stop him. A return in the Arkansas Derby (G1) produced an 8th place ending. He came out of that race with an issue, but maybe his barn has everything in-hand. We have not had a gelding win the Derby in some time … maybe the time has arrived? Another cool story … Derby Pts: 54


Others to consider, include … Kenny McPeek’s Tiz the Bomb (110 pts.) and Smile Happy (70 pts.); Brad Cox’s Tawny Port (60 pts.) and Zozos (40 pts.); Todd Pletcher’s Charge It (40 pts.) … all continue to look promising!


The 1st Saturday in May will be here before you know it! At Horseracing.net/us … we will have all your free selections, plus expert analysis! Be sure to also follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!

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