Kentucky Derby 2022: 3 stakes, an impressive array of winners @AQU, KEE, and SA ... Derby Story, Part 2

We are not far off ... Number 148 is coming! Here is a rundown of some of the last Kentucky Derby 'Points' races from over the weekend. Turfwriter J.N. Campbell offers perspective ...
We are not far off ... Number 148 is coming! Here is a rundown of some of the last Kentucky Derby "Points" races from over the weekend. Turfwriter J.N. Campbell offers perspective ...

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With less than 4 weeks-to-go until the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby ... here is a race review of the 3 major "preps" from over the weekend. At "stake" were "KYDPoints" to the tune of 100-40-20-10 ... to the Top 4 finishers!

The starting gate is taking reservations, and Horseracing.net's lead turfwriter J.N. Campbell offers perspective on all the action that took place on Saturday from Aqueduct, Keeneland, and Santa Anita!

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Aqueduct, Race 8: Dirt, 1 1/8th, Wood Memorial S. (G2), $750k, 3

The 1st of 3 major Kentucky Derby "Points" races on Saturday ... The once powerful Wood, which saw its winners compete year-in and year-out on the "First Saturday in May," has not made much of an impact on that celebrated race at Churchill Downs in quite some time. This year's edition had a strong field of 8 that would be traveling around 2-turns ... 1 1/8th ... so, NYRA hope springs eternal. The key "feeder" races to this Grade 2 ... the Remsen ... the Jerome ... the Withers ... and the Gotham Stakes, all produced some exciting results. How would the votes go at "The Big A?"

As a packet house in the Paddock assembled, the tote board told the story ... HOF trainer Steve Asmussen's Morello #5 would be the favorite at odds of around 8/5. The colt, owned by Blue Lion, was a perfect 3/3 in his career, but he had never tried a 2-turn contest. That was the major question mark, but Jose Lezcano, who rode him to perfection, knew he had some late gears at his disposal. As far as a "Second Choice," it was Todd Pletcher's Mo Donegal #1 (Joel Rosario) and Chad Brown's Early Voting #3 (Jose Ortiz) that were also taking money hand over fist. Clearly this was a matchup of titans, with the top prize ... $400k and 100pts ... to the colt that crossed the wire in-front. 

At the break, the news was massive ... Asmussen's Morello #5 was more than sluggish ... he lacked what seemed like early interest. As Lezcano tried to get him moving, it was Ortiz and Klaravich Stable's Early Voting #3 that seized the lead. Everyone else fell into line, as the Brown entry went 23.86 (1/4) and 47.75 (1/2) ... more than an honest pace. Knowing that being 1-2 off the pressers can have its advantages, it looked like Ortiz was in the driver's seat as the 2nd turn arrived. Urging his mount on, with the red-lettered "KS" on his chest striding ahead, it looked like he had a confident victory ... a trip to the winner's circle ... It was not to be ...

While Early Voting #3 was cruising toward the top of the stretch, Joel Rosario had a ton of horse under him. Making progress from the rear along the backstretch, he gave his Uncle Mo colt the cue, as they turned up the heat. Mo Donegal #1, cheered on by the throng of Donegal Racing, moved ... The Eclipse Award-winning jockey piloted his mount ably ... diving towards the rail, then cutting him into the 2-path at exactly the right moment. Ranging up late on his rival, the team clicked overdrive, gobbling up ground with less than a furlong to go. The result? A 2+ length win for Team Donegal, and yet another Derby Trail victory for HOF trainer Todd Pletcher. As for Morello #5, he was 6th, 23+ lengths back ...

The 3-yr-old, bred by Ashview Farm and Colt Neck Stables now has over $560k to his name, 112 Derby "Points," and should be booking a stall spot in Louisville. With Rosario probably riding Asmussen's Epicenter in the Derby, it is likely Irad Ortiz will re-take the controls for Pletcher. You will remember he was aboard this colt in the Remsen S. (G2) back in December in that controversial victory over Brown's Zandon. A rematch looks to be set after that horse won at Keeneland (see below). Of course, Early Voting #3 has a total of 50pts. to his credit, and also should have a spot in No. 148 after that 2nd Place ending. It was a couple of Saffie Joseph entries that secured the rest of the "minors" for the Florida-based conditioner. Long shot Skippylongstocking #6 (17/1) garnered 3rd (20pts.), while A.P.'s Secret #7 (50/1) put in a big tracking effort for 4th (10pts.)  Here are the Payouts ...

Results       Horse - Win / Place / Show
1st Mo Donegal #1 ... $6.30 / $3.10 / $2.70
2nd Early Voting #3 ... $4.00 / $3.80
3rd Skippylongstocking #6 ... $6.20

 

Keeneland, Race 9: Dirt, 1 1/8th, Blue Grass Stakes (G2), $1 million, 3

The 2nd KYD148 event of the weekend went-off at Keeneland Racecourse ... and all 11 that were entered, went ... Before that, trainer Kenny McPeek put out some "Bulletin Board material," essentially saying that it was going to take a "bear" to beat his Runhappy colt ... Smile Happy #10. Maybe some of "Mattress Mack's" (Jim McIngvale) rhetoric rubbed off on him? We know that brash owner of the colt's sire loves a great marketing campaign. The odds before the Grade 2 broke from the gate told the story ... Smile Happy #10 was the favorite at under 2/1. Others that were attracting attention included Chad Brown's Zandon #4 (just over 2/1), and the pair of Todd Pletcher runners ... Emmanuel #6 (nearly 6/1) and Commandperformance #1 (9/1) ... Everyone else was a boxcar, positioned near the end with the caboose.

From the beginning, it looked as though Luis Saez and Emmanuel #6 were bound and determined to make the front. Exhibiting some nice early speed, the colt sped to the 1st call, finding a way to wrestle the lead away from Mark Casse's Golden Glider #7 ... Others jostled for position, and it was clear that Smile Happy #10, ridden by Corey Lanerie, would be caught widest of all. There would be no "easy" striking position for this one. As everyone began to settle, the backstretch arrived. With the merry-go-round meeting the 2-turn, everyone began to pick up the pace, and Lanerie, hoping he would be able to range up on Emmanuel #6, gave his mount the signal. It was going to be an all-out fight to the wire ... trying to clear is never easy.

Without a mention of Brown's Zandon #4 to this point, the son of Upstart was languishing near the back of the pack with McPeek's other half of the uncoupled entry, Rattle N Roll #9. Jockey Flavien Prat, who came to ride at Keeneland as he shifts his tack east from Southern California, knew he had a power late-running colt at his disposal. He watched the replays, and knew Brown had trained this one to break with a burst of energy. Rolling around that picturesque curve, Zandon #4 went from almost dead last, to cut the corner at the top of the lane. Prat, cutting outward and taking dead aim, moved alongside Lanerie and Smile Happy #10 with less than a furlong left ... Serving as a "bear," and with Prat's left-handed urging, he muscled to the tape ... winning in fine style by just under 3-lengths. Owned by Jeff Drown, the colt had just completed an impressive late charge for the score. That kind of "kick" will be useful on an upcoming Saturday ... What a bear!

It was redemption of sorts for Drown and his team, especially since this Thoroughbred had a lost a tough one back in the Remsen S. at Aqueduct in December ... to Todd Pletcher's Mo Donegal (who won the Wood Memorial). As mentioned above, the adversaries will now have the chance to fight it out in one of the most historic races on the planet. Rounding out the Top 4 finishers were, of course, McPeek's Smile Happy #10 (40pts./total 70 Derby "Points"); the "rabbit" Emmanuel #6 (20 total Derby "Points"); and finally, Golden Glider #7 (10pts./total Derby "Points"). Here are the Payouts ...

Results       Horse - Win / Place / Show
1st Zandon #4 ... $6.20 / $3.20 / $2.40
2nd Smile Happy #10 ... $3.20 / $2.40
3rd Emmanuel #6 ... $3.60

 

Santa Anita Park, Race 6: Dirt, 1 1/8th, Santa Anita Derby (G1), $750k, 3

The final prep-related contest of the day was the renewal of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby ... at ... you guessed it ... at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Coming into this celebrated proving crowd for many would-be KYD champions, the storylines gravitated towards who wasn't present ... HOF trainer Bob Baffert. Serving his "ban" of 90 days, it was quite surreal to realize that Tim Yakteen, a SoCal-based conditioner of some renown, would be taking over a significant number of Baffert 3-yr-old prospects. Thus, Armagnac #2, Messier #4, and Taiba #6 would all be running for their new trainer, and not Mr. Baffert. Opposing this threesome was Richard Mandella's MyRacehorse-part-owned ace, Forbidden Kingdom #3, and Doug O'Neill's uncoupled entry, Happy Jack #1 and Win the Day #5.

With most of the 'capper talk about Yakteen's Messier #4 (6/5) vs. Mandella's Forbidden Kingdom #3 (Even), discussions concerning Amir Zedan's Taiba #6 (4/1), ridden by HOF jockey Mike Smith, were kept to a minimum. After all, though he was a high-priced colt (a whopping $1.7 million) by Gun Runner that was bred by Bruce Ryan, he was also lightly-raced ... only a MSW victory on debut @SA. The controversial Zedan, who also owned Medina Spirit, spared no expense, and hopes to return to Churchill in May. 

At the break, it was apparent that all 3 of these runners would try to contest the lead. In the end, it was Mandella's excellent on-the-engine-type who was able to get the inside track. In the prep races for this one, rider Juan Hernandez was able to use his mount's breakaway speed to a stern advantage. On the backstretch, it was Messier #4, with his own HOF jock in the irons, John Velazquez, that took up a stalking position. As Forbidden Kingdom #3 attempted to push out a lead, it was Taiba #6 and Smith who sat a ground-saving trip, leaving enough in the tank once the top of the lane arrived.

Past the 3/8 pole. with the pace speeding ahead, it was apparent that Forbidden Kingdom #3 was in trouble. As Johnny V wound up Messier #4 with a burst, it was actually Smith and Taiba #6 that tried to go with them. One would expect such an inexperienced horse to be outclassed at this point, but Zedan's investment was equal to ... then more than ready to take on the task. With the others fading into the backdrop, Smith urged his mount to move forward, and in deep stretch, he caught his Jockeys' Guild Co-Chairman ... passing him, crossing the wire first by 2+ lengths ... Taiba #6 had flipped the script, earning the showman, Amir Zedan, a chance to head back to the Derby. As for Mandella's entry, news was reported after the race that the colt would be taken off the Triple Crown Trail for now ... he apparently suffered what looks to be some type of epiglottis issue. MyRacehorse followers are probably heart-broken with Derby dreams dashed, but maybe we have not heard the last of this powerhouse on the track ... more to come.

With his 100pts., Taiba #6 receives $450k in purse money ... As for Yakteen's (Baffert's) Messier #4, the colt now has a total of 40 Derby "Points," and his new trainer has confirmed that a trip to Louisville is scheduled. The remaining colts to "hit-the-board" were O'Neill's Derby "bubble" entry, Happy Jack #1 (total 30 Derby "Points"), and Yakteen's Armagnac #2 (total 10 Derby "Points"). 

Here are the Payouts ...

Results       Horse - Win / Place / Show
1st Taiba #6 ... $10.60 / $3.60 / $3.20
2nd Messier #4 ... $2.80 / $2.10
3rd Happy Jack #1 ... $4.20

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Be sure to stick with us all the way to Churchill Downs! The Derby Trail is coming to a close, but that signals that the Triple Crown path is just beginning. A reminder ... follow us, like us on Twitter ... @Horseracing_USA !!!

Kentucky Derby 2022

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