The last Kentucky Derby prep race — the Lexington, held three weeks before the Kentucky Derby —
awards just 20 points to its winner for the Derby Standings, confirming the 20 horses who qualify to Run for the Roses.
Sometimes that alone is not enough to crack the board. Last week, the winner, Tawny Port, added to his existing 40-point total and made the list at No. 11 with 60 points.
Some were calling the 11-horse field at Keeneland for that Grade 3 race the deepest Derby prep run this spring. Maybe so. Tawny Port was impressive, finishing ahead of Major General and third-place finisher In Due Time, who went off as the favorite.
Tawny Port’s trainer, Brad Cox, certainly knows enough about graded stakes racing, especially around
Kentucky. So, credit to him for having his horse in the right spot. We’ll see what he can do on May 7.
See the final standings on the road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
The Derby Dozen, week 11
- (No Change) Epicenter (trainer Steve Asmussen): Epicenter worked five furlongs at 1:00.80 on Sunday morning, according to a Churchill Downs news release. It was the seventh fastest of 26 works at the distance. His previous work was seven days prior, when he went five furlongs at Churchill Downs.
- (NC) Zandon (Chad Brown): Zandon has raced only four times but did so impressively each time. His most recent, the Grade 1 Blue Grass, has some calling him an emerging star. His powerful rally at Keeneland was a head-turner.
- (NC) White Abarrio (Saffie Joseph Jr.): White Abarrio turned in the first of his three scheduled works leading up to the Kentucky Derby with an easy three furlongs in 34.49 followed by a very impressive-looking gallop out. “That was super,” Joseph said immediately after the work, reported by Horse Racing Nation. “I wanted a decent three-eighths with an extended gallop out, and that’s what we got.”
- (NC) Messier (Tim Hakteen): While Messier will have more experience and race miles in the foundation than rival Taiba, he may be the pair’s more complete Kentucky Derby prospect, horse racing analyst Jeremy Plonk writes, “even if you think Taiba could beat him in a two-horse drag race nine out of 10 times.”
- (NC) Simplification (Antonio Sano): Simplification, ranked ninth on the Derby Scoreboard, breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:01.83 on Friday morning at Gulfstream Park (his first workout since placing third in the Florida Derby) in preparation for the Kentucky Derby. Sano described the work as “excellent,” reported Horse Racing Nation.
- (NC) Mo Donegal (Todd Pletcher): Racing analyst Jeremy Plonk also pointed out that Mo Donegal “did what most Remsen winners have failed to do — improve at age 3. It’s not enough [just] to win the stamina carousel at age 2 over the 1 1/8-mile trip. By the following spring, it takes some brilliance to win these kinds of races,” and the horse did so in the Wood Memorial. Pletcher has now won three of the past four Woods and four of the past six.
- (NC) Cyberknife (Brad Cox): Jockey Flo Geroux is committed to riding Cyberknife, said Cox, who expects to have three starters at Churchill on the first Saturday in May. Cyberknife worked five furlongs at 1:00 on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
- (Not ranked) Tawny Port (Brad Cox): Tawny Port’s win in Saturday’s Lexington Stakes was his first run on the dirt. Geroux has ridden all three of Cox’s Derby contenders, including Tawny Port, but will be on Cyberknife next month.
- (NC) Taiba (Yakteen): Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith picked up the mount on Taiba just before the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, when his previous rider John Velazquez opted to stick with the more seasoned Messier, wrote the Paulick Report. After pulling away from Messier to win the Santa Anita Derby, Smith told the Los Angeles Daily News: “He gave me another gear and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ I mean, he’s supposed to be getting tired and not giving me another gear. That’s what really blew my mind. That was impressive, that last eighth of a mile.” Taiba is looking to take the path of Triple Crown winner Justify, who won the Santa Anita Derby in his third-lifetime start and then became the 13th winner of the Triple Crown.
- (NC) Smile Happy (Kenny McPeek): Smile Happy was second-best two weeks ago in the Blue Grass Stakes. He now presents the most challenging Kentucky Derby question for handicappers: Was Smile Happy out for a ride then, having already qualified for the Derby? Or is he simply regressing off an early peak? This horse should present attractive odds for his believers when he runs on May 7 at Churchill.
- (NC) Zozos (Cox): He’s No. 17 on the Derby Standings board with his second-place finish a few weeks back in the Louisiana Derby. With Geroux in the saddle, Zozos started about one length behind his stablemate Turnerloose and worked through early fractions of :24 and :48 2/5, wrote HorseRacingNation. The duo began their five-furlong move at the half-mile pole, and Zozos finished even with Turnerloose at the seven-furlong marker. Zozos galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 3/5. Cox will need to find a rider for Zozos.
- (NC) Tiz the Bomb (McPeek): Saturday at Churchill Downs, Tiz the Bomb worked with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., clipped an opening quarter-mile in :24.2 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.2.
Dropped out: No. 8 Early Voting