Roses: Our 1st 2022 Kentucky Derby Contenders List

2022 is here! That means it is time for us to get going on our Top Ten Kentucky Derby Contenders List. Check out our 1st Edition below ...
2022 is here! That means it is time for us to get going on our Top Ten Kentucky Derby Contenders List. Check out our 1st Edition below ...

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Welcome to the 1st edition of our weekly rankings for the 2022 “Run for the Roses”—The 148th Kentucky Derby. Each week our staff will rank our current Top Ten Thoroughbreds.

With KYD148 Points up for grabs over the course of the next several months, it is going to be exciting to watch how each colt "jockeys" for position on this list.

Some will rise, while others will fall … As the gate opens, Lead Turfwriter J.N. Campbell offers his selections, along with a brief analysis of where these colts ran, and when we might see them again.

Take a look, and join us along the Derby Trail!

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Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders: w/Circa Sports odds

#1 Corniche (13/1): Speedway Stables is staying with Bob Baffert … at least for now. The HOF SoCal trainer has this undefeated colt at the top of his 3-yr-old crop. Rightly so … the son of Quality Road is a perfect 3/3, and after a solid win in the American Pharoah (G1) @SA, Baffert watched as his charge did just that in the short stretch at Del Mar. A score in the BC Juvenile (G1) makes him the “clubhouse leader,” when it comes to “Derby Talk.” The Baffert Ban by CDI is the major stumbling block. He will have to be transferred at some point to another outfit. Unless the courts are getting involved … In the meantime, expect a Santa Anita Series try for this major talent.

#2 Epicenter (30/1): HOF trainer Steve Asmussen has done it all! … except a win at Churchill in the Derby. He has come close 2x … Lookin At Lee and Nehro. This colt by Not This Time looks promising after a score in the newly-minted Gun Runner S. @FG. Aptly-named, that race honored Winchell T-Breds greatest “runner.” Expect to see this one comeback for the Lecomte S. (G3), or possibly the Risen S. (G2). Asmussen knows how to manage them, and he had great success last season with Midnight Bourbon. Keeping Brian Hernandez aboard would be a plus … expert rider, going well …

#3 Smile Happy (22/1): Trainer Kenny McPeek has a bevy of rookie 3-yr-old Thoroughbreds in his stable, and all of these colts have already enjoyed some success. Lucky Seven Stable hopes that theirs is the one that earns the roses come May. A perfect 2/2, this son of Runhappy won the KY Jockey Club Stakes (G2) back in November in fine style at odds of 5/1. Now, he is ensconced down at McPeek winter quarters in South Florida, awaiting instructions. “Mattress Mack,” the owner of his sire, made some big bets on this one in the KYD Future Wager. A win under the Twin Spires would suit him just fine! If Corey Lanerie stays aboard this colt, it could be that veteran rider’s ticket to the limelight. Could the Holy Bull (G3) be an option?

#4 Jack Christopher (29/1): What an ownership group we have here … Jim Bakke? Coolmore? Peter Brant? Trainer Chad Brown was hoping his colt would bring these connections a celebrated win in the BC Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar. But it was not to be … An injury put this son of Munnings on-the-shelf, and Brown has worked assiduously to get him back to playing strength. We all hope it happens because this one’s talent was just downright impressive, especially concerning the speed fig in the Champagne S. (G1) @BEL. His conditioner has promised that we will see him this spring, but no published works are available at this point. Wait and see …

#5 Rattle N Roll (24/1): Here is another McPeek-Lucky Seven colt, and this one is by Connect. He came into Keeneland’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) with a rather mixed bag of efforts. However, in the end, he broke away nicely, winning by 4+ lengths. This one has to be considered a “contender” based on that signature score. The last horse to win that race … Essential Quality. What will be really interesting is to see where McPeek spots this one … he has options and decisions to make!

#6 Slow Down Andy (60/1): The purple and white of Reddam Racing and trainer Doug O’Neill are looking to return to Churchill for more Derby glory. They celebrated in 2016 with Nyquist, and are looking to go again with this son of the Champ. He was excellent late in the game against a pair of Baffert runners in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) back in mid-December. It was not the easiest of trips, but Mario Gutierrez guided him home. This California-born racer looks promising for O’Neill after he enjoyed marked success with Hot Rod Charlie. Look for this one to take the Santa Anita road … he is training there as we speak.

#7 Pappacap (50/1): This Top Ten recipient, who is leading the Derby Points Standings with 12, gets the award for the strongest class rating. HOF trainer Mark Casse knows what to do, and he has clearly wanted the Rustlewood Farm homebred entered against the very best in the then-2-yr-old Division. Competing primarily at Del Mar, he came in 2nd to Corniche on a pair of occasions (G1 Am.Phar and G1 BC Juv.). There is no doubt this son of Gun Runner has experience and the ability to face adversity. Currently, he is working well at the Fair Grounds; planning to make his next start in the Lecomte (G3). Could we be looking at the KYD148 winner for Gun Runner (a race he finished 3rd). Not bad for a Florida bred? The last one to win the Derby, Medina Spirit, was pretty good too.

#8 Zandon (38/1): Chad Brown’s colt by Upstart should have won the Remsen S. (G2) @AQU back in December. The stewards instead kept his rival Mo Donegal up … disappointing. Irad Ortiz fouled John Velazquez and created what could have been a dangerous situation. Ortiz was suspended for another ride, but the damage was done. How good is Jeff Drown’s colt … full of ability is the answer! What will be interesting is to see where he makes his next start. Now, working well down in Florida, he could be routing through the Gulfstream Series. Stay tuned … one to watch.

#9 Courvoisier (125/1): We cannot have a Derby Top Ten List without a son of Tapit. Trainer Kelly Breen enjoyed a New Year’s Day present when he watched his colt roll on home in the slop in the Jerome S. @AQU. Jose Ortiz controlled his mount perfectly, and he steadied himself before making a nice run down the lane. The weather may have not cooperated that day, but the result puts this one in the Derby conversation. What a sire! More to come from this one, as the Withers S. to the Wood Memorial develops …

#10 Dash Attack (65/1): If you picked the Munnings colt that is trained by Kenny McPeek in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn last weekend you were rewarded with a tidy sum (odds 8/1). It was a well-matched field under some tough conditions, but rider David Cohen showed off his mount’s power in the 4-path. McPeek’s own Magdalena Racing is involved with this runner, and we will see if he enters him in the Southwest S. (G3), or saves him for the Rebel S. (G2). Just another example of how you can have a strong hand along the Derby Trail.


Others to consider … too many to count, but Saffie Joseph’s Make It Big, Todd Pletcher’s Commandperformance, Double Thunder and Mo Donegal, Bob Baffert’s Newgrange and Messier, and Brad Cox’s Rocket Dawg … look promising!


Join us next week as we continue to rundown our Top Ten KYD148 Contenders! The 1st Saturday in May will be here before you know it!

Kentucky Derby 2022
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