Who are the 2022 Kentucky Derby contenders?

March 21, 2022

As the date for one of the biggest horse races in the world, the Kentucky Derby is approaching, handicappers or casual horse racing enthusiasts are analyzing every factor of the race.

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most wagered horse racing events in the world, and the best place to start building your strategy is by getting to know the contenders.

So, before we dig a bit deeper into what horses are running in the 2022 Kentucky Derby, it is important to know how the participants are selected for the race.

Qualifying for the Kentucky Derby

Since we are talking about a huge event that only the fastest horses in the world get to participate in, it is obvious that they must go through a process of selection.  The Kentucky Derby features many qualifying races called prep races before the main event. The top four finishers of the prep races receive points.

As the big event comes closer, the points increase giving more significant points to the top four winners. With that said, the horses who reached a minimum of 40 points will enter the Kentucky Derby race.

There are 35 races on the Road to Kentucky in different states from New York, Louisiana, Florida, California, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Horses who want to participate in the Kentucky Derby need to pay an entry fee of $25,000 and a starting fee of the same amount. There is also a nomination fee of $600 and $6,000 for a late nomination.

Who are This Year’s Contenders?

Even though there are still a few races up ahead that might change the leaderboard, there are some horses that already met the minimum point mark for racing in the Kentucky Derby. Let’s highlight the leaderboard and find out which are the horses with the best chances for appearing at the Kentucky Derby.

1. Epicenter – 64 Points

Epicenter is an absolute leader for now, and definitely a favorite for winning the big event. If we look at data, we can see that horses that acquired the most points in the Road to Kentucky usually end up winning the big race in more than 30% of the races.

Epicenter is trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Joel Rosario. He managed to win Grade 2 Risen Star not too long ago, and I scheduled for racing at Louisiana Derby by the end of March.

2. Un Ojo – 54 Points

Here we have another horse that is definitely making headlines. Thanks to its trainer Ricky Courville, and the amazing appearances of Ramon Vazquez, Un Ojo managed to win many races in the Road to Kentucky.

He managed to win the Grade 1 Rebel in late February, and his next scheduled race is only a month before the Kentucky Derby on the Blue Grass at Keeneland.

3. Simplification – 54 Points

Simplification has true champion roots, in fact, the same as Epicenter with Not This Time as a sire. With that said, it is fair enough to say that Simplification has a real chance of winning the race.

On top of that, this horse is not hyped due to its roots, but also has the performance to back it up on the track. Trained by Antonio Sano and ridden by Javier Castellano, Simplification managed to win Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 5th and his next race is scheduled on April 2 at the Florida Derby at Gulfstream.

4. Forbidden Kingdom – 50 Points

The Forbidden Kingdom is another high-performance horse that had an exceptional run in the prep races meeting the lowest point requirement for entering the Kentucky Derby months before the main event.

The horse is trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by Juan Hernandez. It managed to win the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 5th and its next race is scheduled for April 9 at the Santa Anita Derby.

5. Morello – 50 Points

Morello actually surprised many people with his impressive run acquiring 50 points. With Trainer Steve Asmussen, same as Epicenter, it is on a good path to not just appear in the Kentucky Derby but also get a chance to win it.

6. Smile Happy – 30 Points

Now we are down the list of horses who still haven’t met the lowest requirement in terms of points. However, Smile Happy is on the right path, winning a few races in the past like the Grade 2 Risen Star.

7. Ethernal Road -20 Points

Many people think that Ethernal Road will surprise everyone on race day, but we have to wait to see if he manages to enter the race. With 20 points, Ethernal Road still has to run the second half of the Road to Kentucky.

With D. Wayne Lukas as the trainer and Luis Contreras as the rider, Ethernal Road would probably appear on the Kentucky Derby and possibly end up with a good result even though the competition is really tough.

“For a unique and real perspective on horse racing, I read Jonathan Stettin’s column Past the Wire.” Bob Baffert, Multiple Triple Crown winner, Eclipse Award winner, Hall of Fame Champion Trainer

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