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2022 Kentucky Derby Championship Series: Horse Racing Madness Begins In March

2022 Kentucky Derby Championship Series: Horse Racing Madness Begins In March

The arrival of March means longer days, warmer temperatures, and more basketball games than you have television sets. For horse racing fans and bettors, the month also ushers in the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1) Championship Series.

Beginning this weekend and extending through April, the horse racing world showcases its own version of the ‘Elite Eight’ held this time of year, with possible point totals doubling as horses look to confirm their spot in the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7 in Louisville. Pure ‘Madness,’ indeed.

The 8 races of this final leg, each offering points to the top four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 basis, are: the Louisiana Derby, UAE Derby, Arkansas Derby, Florida Derby, Jeff Ruby Steaks, Blue Grass Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Wood Memorial.

With enough points on the line to guarantee anyone a trip to Kentucky, wins and places are crucial. Even finishing third or fourth in one of these major races could propel a horse into the Derby, depending on the year.

Of the 8 races mentioned, 6 have historically been meaningful and productive prep races for the Kentucky Derby. I don’t count the UAE Derby as a relevant prep because no foreign-bred horse has made any impact in the Kentucky Derby without also having started in at least one American-based prep as a 3-year-old. 

As for the Jeff Ruby, which is in its second year as a 100-point event and in its 40th different name, the race is not contested on conventional dirt, but rather over a synthetic surface at Turfway Park. That track is now owned by Churchill Downs, who as owner of the Derby rules can do whatever it wants with the race. Upping the points for the Jeff Ruby indicates Churchill wants to restore the race back to the prominent stepping-stone that it once enjoyed when Animal Kingdom rolled through town in 2013. That would certainly be a logical and practical reason, as no Jeff Ruby winner since Animal Kingdom has hit the Derby board.

Here’s how horses from each major prep race fared in the Kentucky Derby, using data from 2013-2021:


Derby Winners (3): Justify, I’ll Have Another, California Chrome, 

Derby Tri Finishers (3): Battle of Midway, Exaggerator, Dortmund,

Unplaced in Derby: Rock Your World, Game Winner, Roadster, Bolt d’Oro, Gormley, Mor Spirit, Bolo, Candy Boy, Goldencents

Note: In the pandemic year of 2020, Authentic won the Santa Anita Derby, but his final prep was in the Haskell Stakes in July at Monmouth Park before winning the Kentucky Derby which was moved to September.


Derby Winners (3): Orb, Nyquist, Always Dreaming

Derby Tri Finishers (2): Code of Honor, Audible

Unplaced in Derby: Greatest Honour, Soup and Sandwich, Bodexpress, Hofburg, Gunnavera, State of Honor, Majesto, Upstart, Materiality, General a Rod, Wildcat Red, Itsmyluckyday


Derby Winners (2): *Country House, American Pharoah

*Finished second in the Kentucky Derby and placed first via disqualification

Derby Tri Finishers (3): Lookin at Lee, Bodemeister, Danza,

Unplaced in Derby: Super Stock, Improbable, Magnum Monn, Solomini, Classic Empire, Suddenbreakingnews, Creator, Whitmore, Mr. Z, Far Right, Ride on Curlin, Overanalyze, Frac Daddy


Derby Winners (1): *Mandaloun, 

*Finished second in the Kentucky Derby and placed first via disqualification

Derby Tri Finishers (5): Hot Rod Charlie, Gun Runner, Commanding Curve, Golden Soul, Revolutionary,

Unplaced in Derby: Midnight Bourbon, O Besos, By My Standards, Spinoff, Lone Sailor, Noble Indy, Girvin, Patch, Tom’s Ready, War Story, Intense Holiday, Vicar’s in Trouble, Mylute


Derby Winners (0) 

Derby Tri Finishers (4): Essential Quality, Mr. Big News, Good Magic, Dullahan

Unplaced in Derby: Highly Motivated, Win Win Win, Vekoma, Flameaway, Practical Joke, McCraken, Irap, Brody’s Cause, My Man Sam, Carpe Diem, Danzig Moon, Ocho Ocho Ocho, Dance with Fate, Medal Count, Charming Kitten, Palace Malice, Java’s War


Derby Winners (0) 

Derby Tri Finishers (1): Tacitus

Unplaced in Derby: Bourbonic, Brooklyn Strong, Dynamic One, Tax, Vino Rosso, Enticed, Irish War Cry, Outwork, Trojan Nation, Frosted, Tencendur, Wicked, Strong, Samraat, Uncle Sigh, Normandy Invasion, Verrazano, Vyjack


Derby Winners: (0)

Derby Tri Finishers: (0)

Unplaced in Derby: Plus Que Parfait, Gray Magician, Mendelssohn, Thunder Snow, Lani, Mubtaahij, Lines of Battle


Derby Winners (0)

Derby Tri Finishers (0)

Unplaced in Derby: Like the King, Sainthood, Fast and Accurate, Oscar Nominated, We Miss Artie, Giant Game 


Since 2013, the Santa Anita Derby and Florida Derby are tied with 3 Kentucky Derby winners each. 

The first 5 major preps listed above combined to send 26 eventual top-three finishers in the Kentucky Derby.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, horses that finished first, second or third in the Blue Grass and Wood Memorial failed a combined 34 times on the first Saturday in May.

Only 1 horse exiting the Wood Memorial hit the Derby board, and that has an asterisk because it came in 2019 when Tacitus was moved up from fourth to third following the disqualification of the winner. 

When making your Kentucky Derby picks this year, consider where a horse has been. It might give a good hint as to where they’ll go.

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