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2022 Kentucky Derby Rankings 2/24/2022: Epicenter Steadily Improving
Epicenter (Credit: Hodges Photography)

2022 Kentucky Derby Rankings 2/24/2022: Epicenter Steadily Improving

Welcome to the 2022 Kentucky Derby Rankings! Each week leading up to the race, we will provide our Top 20 Kentucky Derby Prospects, as well as updates with the latest news on each horse.

You can also visit our Kentucky Derby page for loads of information, including the latest news, rankings, prep race schedules, the Kentucky Derby point standings, and much more!

Let’s take a look at our latest list leading up to this weekend’s Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds:

1. Messier

Pros: Multiple graded stakes winner; 103 Beyer in recent victory

Cons: Lost to Slow Down Andy

Outlook: He put up the first “wow” performance of the year when he come home victories in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) by 15-lengths. However, he’s trained by Baffert, so who knows if he’ll even be in the Kentucky Derby when all is said on done. Regardless, he set the standard with that victory, and they all have to prove they’re up to his level as of right now.

2. Epicenter

Pros: Four solid races in a row; improving with each race; 98 beyer in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) is solid

Cons: Upset in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) by a 28-1 shot.

Outlook: He earned this spot after a gate to wire romp in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), where he was assigned a 98 beyer for the effort. This Steve Asmussen has the early speed that it takes to win the Kentucky Derby (G1), and is the best of the horses currently eligible to run.

3. Emmanuel

Pros: Solid debut effort at Gulfstream Park; followed up with an easy Tampa Bay allowance victory

Cons: Speed figure aren’t flashy; still no stakes experience

Outlook: This horse has looked ultra-impressive in both of his starts, and has the look of being Todd Pletcher’s best horse. Stakes company will definitely be next.

4. Smile Happy

Pros: Graded stakes victory over the Churchill Downs surface; horses he beat keep coming back and winning

Cons: Running style; recent loss in the Risen Star Stakes (G2)

Outlook: He suffered his first defeated in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) after what could be described as a questionable ride. Maybe he wouldn’t have beaten Epicenter on that day, but it would have been interesting to see what would have happened. He remains a player, and should move forward off of that effort.

5. Classic Causeway

Pros: Second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), which is becoming a key race; impressive win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3)

Cons: Speed figures still a tad low

Outlook: He put his early speed on display in a major way at Tampa Bay Downs in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), going fast early and still having plenty of kick late. He is a primetime contender moving forward after that performance.

6. White Abarrio

Pros: Only loss came to our second ranked horse; showed improvement in 2022 debut Holy Bull Stakes (G3) victory

Cons: All wins have come at Gulfstream Park.

Outlook: This colt stamped himself as a player with a pretty easy and dominant win in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. His early running style is what you need to win the Kentucky Derby (G1).

7. Newgrange

Pros: Three straight wins; speed figures are close to what the top group has earned

Cons: Didn’t take a step forward in the Southwest Stakes (G3)

Outlook: There is nothing wrong with being three for three, but he didn’t look flashy in the Southwest Stakes (G3), even though it was a gritty win. He did not seem to like that track at all, which played a factor. We’ll see him back at Oaklawn Park this weekend for the Rebel Stakes (G2).

8. Forbidden Kingdom

Pros: Very impressive win in the San Vicente Stakes (G2); tremendous trainer

Cons: Unproven around two turns

Outlook: There is no doubt this horse took a major step forward in his San Vicente Stakes (G2) victory. Now, he must show he can do that around two turns in his next challenge, which will likely be the San Felipe Stakes (G2).

9. Simplification

Pros: Earned solid speed figure in recent win; has a distance pedigree; showed versatility in recent start

Cons: Has been inconsistent; struggled out of the gate in last start

Outlook: He may have been the best horse in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), but we’ll never know, after a bad break from the gate found him in last. He still ran well to recover and finish second in that race, though.

10. Mo Donegal

Pros: Excellent pedigree; victory going long

Cons: Unimpressive speed figures; Remsen winner hasn’t done much in a long time on the Derby Trail; third in 2022 debut 

Outlook: Even though he was third in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), that race was a little short for him, but should set him up well for his next start. He has a bit more talent than the other recent Remsen Stakes (G2) winners, so you need to take him seriously moving forward.

11. Charge It

Pros: Extremely impressive maiden victory at Gulfstream Park

Cons: Lack of experience; timing isn’t ideal

Outlook: There is no doubt he became a major threat in this crop after an impressive maiden special weight victory at Gulfstream Park. However, he now must move right to a major prep race, which is not going to be an easy task.

12. Call Me Midnight

Pros: Solid victory in the Lecomte Stakes (G3); Solid trainer

Cons: Several losses on the resume; running style

Outlook: He threw his name into the hat with an impressive victory in the Lecomte Stakes (G3); however, his running style of coming from behind will always leave him with a lot to do.

13. Zandon

Pros: Solid in three starts so far; should continue to improve

Cons: Running style; only one victory so far

Outlook: This horse has the look of one that should improve, especially after a solid third place showing in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). However, his running style is always going to make it tougher for him to win a race like the Kentucky Derby (G1), so we’ll see if he can be more tactical in his next start.

14. Early Voting

Pros: Undefeated 2 for 2; win at 1 1/8 miles

Cons: Speed figures are low; no wins outside of Aqueduct

Outlook: His Withers Stakes (G3) victory was solid enough; however, he will have to step his game up when facing better competition.

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15. Chasing Time

Pros: Impressive win going two turns; solid pedigree

Cons: Speed figures are still low

Outlook: He made a name for himself with an impressive win against allowance runners at Oaklawn Park. Now, he will likely go to the Rebel Stakes (G2), where he will have to prove he can do it against tougher competition.

16. In Due Time

Pros: Impressive victory last time; should be good going two-turns

Cons: No stakes experience; figures a smidge below the top ones

Outlook: Let’s see if this impressive allowance winner can crank it up a notch and successfully take on stakes company next time out. He looks ready to give it a try.

17. Doppelganger

Pros: Solid debut effort at Los Alamitos

Cons: Off the board finish against stakes horses

Outlook: This horse looked pretty professional on debut, sitting a little off the pace, and then pouncing late for an easy debut victory. However, he didn’t look nearly as good in the San Vicente Stakes (G2), but that race could have been a little short for him. He’s still a player until we see him around two turns.

18. Zozos

Pros: Perfect 2 for 2 so far; improved in his second start

Cons: Behind from a timing standpoint; will get one shot in a prep race

Outlook: Brad Cox looks to have a good one here after a dominating allowance victory at Oaklawn Park. He will likely get one shot at a prep race, which is the big problem, but he has the talent to make some noise.

19. Cyberknife

Pros: Solid recent speed figure in victory; has shown a high talent level

Cons: Still very green; bad loss against stakes company; will get one more shot at a prep

Outlook: This guy has shown the ability, and finally put it all together with an ultra-impressive allowance victory at Fair Grounds. Now, can he hold it together mentally in a stakes race, and build off of that impressive effort? That’s the major question mark.

20. Corniche

Pros: Undefeated; Bob Baffert; Champion Juvenile

Cons: Speed figures are low; competition he’s faced has looked bad; still no workouts since the BC.

Outlook: He’ll be the champion 2-year-old with ease while being the clear Kentucky Derby favorite heading into 2022. However, the level of competition that he has faced isn’t great, plus he still hasn’t worked since before the Breeders’ Cup. We’ve moved him all the way down to this spot because of the lack or works.

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