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2022 Kentucky Derby Rankings 4/21/2022: The Waiting Game Begins
Epicenter (Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir)

2022 Kentucky Derby Rankings 4/21/2022: The Waiting Game Begins

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.

Visit our Kentucky Derby page for the latest news, rankings, prep race schedules, the Kentucky Derby point standings, and much more!

1. Epicenter

Pros: Five solid races in a row; improving with each race as distances get longer; 102 Beyer in the Louisana Derby (G2); showed he can rate and still be effective

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

Outlook: This horse just keeps improving with each race, and is currently the leader in the clubhouse in my eyes with two weeks to go. There is no doubt a horse like Messier could take over the #1 spot on April 9, but as of right now, this would be my pick to win the Kentucky Derby (G1). His ability to rate off the speed, take dirt in his face, and still kick on to an easy Louisiana Derby (G2) victory was very impressive.

2. Taiba

Pros: Back to back 100+ beyer speed figures; won a Grade 1 race in his second start; immense talent

Cons: Must win the Kentucky Derby (G1) after 2 starts; no races as a 2-year-old.

Outlook: He sure did make things complicated with his win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Despite having only one race under his belt, he was able to defeat an established horse in Messier, putting him away in late stretch. It will be tough to beat him if he can repeat that effort.

3. Zandon

Pros: Improving with each start; speed figures are close to the top two; Flavien Prat/Chad Brown

Cons: Running style; lightly races with only four starts.

Outlook: Chad Brown always has his best horses ready to fire in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), which was no different with this horse, as he went from last to first after a perfect ride from Flavien Prat. His running is not ideal for the Kentucky Derby (G1); however, he goes to Kentucky with a shot.

4. Messier

Pros: Multiple graded stakes winner; 103 Beyer in Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) win; solid second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1)

Cons: Lost to Slow Down Andy at age 2; lost to a horse with only one start under his belt in the Santa Anita Derby (G1)

Outlook: He ran well in the Santa Anita Derby (G1); however, there is no doubt it was a tough loss to suffer against a horse that had just one race under his belt. He also was defeated pretty soundly by the winner, which is not great. He must improve in the Kentucky Derby (G1) to have a chance.

5. White Abarrio

Pros: Only loss came to Smile Happy at age 2; showed improvement in 2022 debut Holy Bull Stakes (G3) victory; looked just as impressive in the Florida Derby (G1).

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, followed by another impressive victory in the Florida Derby (G1). His early running style is what you need to win the Kentucky Derby (G1), and he showed he can finish well despite a wide trip.

6. Simplification

Pros: Won despite a poor trip in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2); has a distance pedigree; showed versatility in three two starts

Cons: Has been inconsistent; struggles out of the gate will cost him in a large field; speed figures a bit low

Outlook: It’s very difficult to win as a closer going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park, but he did it in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) after enduring yet another rough trip. He had a better trip in the Florida Derby (G1) but was unable to defeat tougher horses, yet still has a shot to make an impact in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after showing toughness all year long.

7. Mo Donegal

Pros: Excellent pedigree; 2 victories going 1 1/8 miles; fires every time

Cons: Running style not ideal; speed figures still a tad low

Outlook: There is no doubt his Wood Memorial (G2) victory was impressive; however, his running style will put him behind the eight ball in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Still, he is very consistent, and should show up with a solid effort at Churchill Downs.

8. Smile Happy

Pros: Graded stakes victory over the Churchill Downs surface; consistent runner

Cons: Zero wins as a 3-year-old; questionable going longer; connections

Outlook: He was solid in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), but was no match for the winner, which is the second time in a row he didn’t really threaten to win. This horse still possesses a lot of talent but might be a cut below the best.

9. Cyberknife

Pros: Solid recent speed figure in victory; has shown a high talent level; picked up first stakes win in the Arkansas Derby (G1)

Cons: Still very green even in his stakes win; inconsistent; was assigned a fairly low 92 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory

Outlook: It’s nice to see him coming together nicely with each race, which was put on display with a nice win in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He still has some improving to do to make an impact in Kentucky, but his early running style will put him in the game early.

10. Charge It

Pros: Second in his first stakes effort; showed heart despite a less than ideal trip; room to improve

Cons: Was very green in the stretch of the Florida Derby (G1); asking him to do a lot in a little amount of time

Outlook: His Florida Derby (G1) effort was impressive, especially for his first match up against stakes company, but he was pretty green in the stretch. There is a lot to straighten out with him heading to Kentucky, and that will only be his fourth career start.

11. Zozos

Pros: Improved again in his third start; running second to Epicenter is solid for his stakes debut

Cons: Lightly raced could lead to a tough trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1)

Outlook: Brad Cox looks to have a good developing horses here, who ran well to finish second in his stakes debut in the Louisiana Derby (G2). His early running style at least gives him a shot at making an impact in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

12. Barber Road

Pros: Ultra-consistent in each start this year

Cons: Speed figures are low; hasn’t faced much; has failed to win all season long

Outlook: He looks to be your typical “hit the board” type that come running strongly at the end, but can’t finish the deal. Still, he has earned his way into the race, and might hit the board again with a good trip.

13. Early Voting

Pros: Solid early speed; win at 1 1/8 miles; a neck away from being 3 for 3

Cons: Speed figures are low; no wins outside of Aqueduct; lost despite a solid trip in the Wood Memorial (G2).

Outlook: His Withers Stakes (G3) victory was solid enough; however, he just couldn’t quite hold on in the Wood Memorial (G2), running second to Mo Donegal. His early running style will give him a shot to hit the board, though.

14. Tiz the Bomb

Pros: Has won two races in a row; earned a solid speed figure in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3)

Cons: Has not been good on the dirt; the Kentucky Derby (G1) is still run on the dirt

Outlook: If the surface changes to turf or synthetic before the first Saturday in May for the Kentucky Derby (G1), this horse has a big chance. If it doesn’t, it probably won’t go well for him.

15. Crown Pride

Pros: Japan is dominating on a world stage

Cons: The UAE Derby winner has struggled in the Kentucky Derby (G1); his UAE Derby (G2) win looked slow visually

Outlook: He earned his shot by winning the UAE Derby (G2), but that race has not produced much as far as the Kentucky Derby (G1) goes. However, we’ll see what happens as the Japanese horses have been dominating as of late.

16. Tawny Port

Pros: Brad Cox; recent victory on the dirt

Cons: Dirt win still produced a low beyer speed figure; was a clear second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3).

Outlook: There is no doubt we can think a little higher of him now after a nice win in the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. Still, the beyer came back light, while the race was not visually impressive. He will have to move forward to have a chance.

17. Happy Jack

Pros: Late closing kick could be effective for underneath spots

Cons: He has even been close to winning a prep race.

Outlook: This one is basically in by taking advantage of the short fields out in California. He might make a run down the lane, but shouldn’t be good enough to make an impact.

18. Un Ojo

Pros: Nice win in the Rebel Stakes (G2)

Cons: Speed figures are low; he’s faced questionable competition; struggled in the Arkansas Derby (G1)

Outlook: He’s in the Derby with a win in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and a second in the Withers Stakes (G3). Nothing went right in the Arkansas Derby (G1), though, as he cut his shoulder after hitting the rail. Hopefully he recovers in time to run better in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

19. Morello

Pros: Has been solid other than one race; speed figures are decent

Cons: Not good in his only two turn race; no wins outside of Aqueduct

Outlook: Nothing went right in the Wood Memorial (G2), as he broke last, and hit his head leaving the gate. So, we still don’t know how good he might be around two turns; however, it’ll be tough to move forward to the Kentucky Derby (G1) off of that effort.

20. Summer Is Tomorrow

Pros: None

Cons: Several

Outlook: The horse got into the race by finishing second in the UAE Derby (G2), which never seems to produce much for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

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