The 148th Kentucky Derby stories in the stories

May 3, 2022

The stories within the stories in the 148th Kentucky Derby

Interesting things to watch in the 148th Kentucky Derby, the draw and more

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It’s the Kentucky Derby. There are always a lot of storylines leading up to the Run For The Roses on the First Saturday in May. This year I found particularly interesting.

I’ll try and touch on all the bullet points in my book. Sometimes the masses miss the good stuff. For example, a few years ago jockey Luca Panici rode Sole Volante (Karanontie {JPN}) in the Derby. Not all that long before that he arrived at Calder Race Course in Miami speaking not only not a word of English, but also not a word of Spanish. He also didn’t know a soul in Florida. Just riding in the Kentucky Derby was an American Dream story for Luca. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the only mention was on that top shelf website Past the Wire. If you haven’t seen it check it out. They are often ahead of the curve or behind the eight ball.

I’ll start with the French, unless you count Luca than I already started with the Italian. According to the record books, which some say are all that counts, Flavien Prat and Florent Geroux are already Kentucky Derby winning jockeys. I don’t know, do you consider them Derby winners? Neither finished first and both are in the books. is the Kentucky Derby lucky or unlucky for the French jockeys? It depends how you look at it I guess, but if I was a rider I’d want my Kentucky Derby win by actually finishing first. Prat and Geroux will both have a chance to do that this year if things stay as they are. Prat rides Zandon for Chad Brown. Geroux rides Cyberknife for Brad Cox.

Speaking of Brad Cox, he is a Kentucky Derby winner himself, well according to the record books at least. He got his win with Mandaloun, as did Florent. The thing is Mandaloun and Flo could not get past Medina Spirit on the racetrack only in the courtroom and hearing room. Cox will try and get his finish first Kentucky Derby win with Cyberknife, which would be interesting as Flo would get his finish first Derby win also. Cox has the edge on Florent Geroux though. He also has Tawny Port and Zozos. Flo can only ride one in the race.

How about D. Wayne Lukas. Not only does he at 88 years old have a serious Kentucky Oaks threat in Secret Oath, he has Ethereal Road in the Kentucky Derby. There was a time not all that long ago when Wayne was the man in The Triple Crown races. He changed the game with the Wayne off The Plane angle shipping all over the country to run in the big stakes. Things change as much as they don’t. Wayne has been quiet for a while but here he is. Should he win one or both races it would be quite the story. At 88, just looking sharp in that suit is a win.

Secret Oath is by Upstart. Zandon is by Upstart. Upstart stands for $10,000. That might seem like a bargain soon. Race Day has two in the Derby. Gun Runner and Not This Time have two. Gun Runner is off to a running start in the shed. What would a Derby win so soon do for him? Oxbow has one in against his trainer, Wayne Lukas. That would also be interesting to see.

So Mattress mack is reportedly betting 3 mil on either Epicenter or maybe someone else. Why isn’t he betting the Runhappy colt Smile Happy. With al those commercials you would think he would be. I mean does anyone in racing not know where to find him? Stall one at Clairborne Farm. If he wins will it become The Runhappy Kentucky Derby?

Prat will try and get Chad Brown his first Kentucky Derby win on Zandon. He got Bill Mott his on Country House, another horse who benefited from a Derby DQ but who was not going to win the race. It would also be Prat’s first finish first Derby win. Which trophy do you think will have the better spot on the mantle? Chad is one of the best in the business turf or dirt. I think there is at least one and maybe more Kentucky Derbies with his name on it.

Steve Asmussen like Chad Brown, is going for his first Kentucky Derby after winning just about everything else. This is the best shot at the roses for both trainers.

A lot of people get hung up on a lot of statistics in the Kentucky Derby. I’m not one of them. I am more of an on any given first Saturday in may kind of guy. Horses will humble everybody at some point. I don’t believe you have to be first or second turning for home or at the eighth pole to win this race. I think you can win it from anywhere if you are the right horse and things go right. All the new point system did was keep the sprinters out. It didn’t change the winning requirements. We have had a lot of logical shorter priced winners lately. Like all of horse racing, The Triple Crown included, things get streaky. Mike Smith who has won a Kentucky Derby on the pace and from way off the pace. He agrees with me. How do I know? I asked him.

Mike Smith is in a very unique position come Derby Day. He rides Taiba, a horse with only two starts. Not since 1883 when Leonatus did it has a horse won the Kentucky Derby with just two starts. Does that even mean anything nowadays? Statistically sure, but how many horses with just two starts have run in the Kentucky Derby and how many were actually live or running with a legit chance to win? I’m not even going to look that up. I’ll go with not many. That said, Mike is not opposed to breaking trends or as they say curses. You remember that whole Apollo curse thing? Mike knocked that right out with Justify who win ton to win The Triple Crown. Apollo won the Kentucky Derby in 1882, the year before Leonatus. Too bad Justify wasn’t last year as it would have made it even more interesting than it is.

Tim Yakteen. Talk about a no win situation. Tim was fortunate enough to get two Kentucky Derby contenders in Messier and Taiba due to the unfortunate circumstances leading to the Bob Baffert suspension. How does he win for winning? If one of his horses win, people will point to Bob who unquestionably put the foundation into both horses. If they don’t win, people will say they needed Bob. I think the best thing Tim can do is block out the noise and remember “what they say” doesn’t matter. Enjoy the opportunity and make the most of it.

Churchill Downs did their absolute best to keep Bob Baffert out of the Kentucky Derby at least this year and next. I’d have to say this year they failed. Two of Bob’s horses are set to be in the gate. Both look live. Bob is getting plenty of media attention, even locally in Louisville. They took one of his Derbies away, he has plenty of others, and removed all of his signs. They couldn’t quite get rid of him though. We’ll see what happens next year. For now, the king is dead, long live the king.

On the Past the Wire Breeders’ Cup seminar show last year I talked about how Japanese horses need to be taken seriously nowadays and soon one is going to win a big race. I then proceeded to make a significant bet on Dunbar Road in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff only to lose a gut wrenching not for the faint photo. Who’d I lost to? A Japanese horse. They have been winning. I have not caught one of them yet. The Kentucky Derby won’t be the first one I catch. I respect Crown Pride (Japan) but I am probably not going to bet on him. After all, he prepped in Dubai and we all know the Kentucky Derby winner can’t prep in Dubai. Godolphin has spent millions if not billions trying to prove it. Should Crown Pride win, will it make some consider our training and breeding programs? Probably not.

Speaking of prep races that don’t work, one of the top contenders, Zandon prepped in the Blue Grass at Keeneland. Maybe nobody told Chad Brown that is a bad prep. Chad did pretty well with Good Magic prepping in the Blue Grass, which if you bo back far enough was a good Derby prep race. Didn’t someone say something about racing, The Derby and Triple Crown being streaky? The Blue Grass is fine and Chad knows it.

Same can be said for the Wood Memorial. Yes it has been a while but on any give first Saturday in May that can change. Don’t believe the hype. Todd Pletcher sends Mo Donegal to Louisville off a Wood Memorial win. Obviously he doesn’t believe the Wood Memorial can’t produce a winner.

Nobody knows today what if any track bias there will be come post time for the big dance. That can be affected significantly by the weather. There might not be any bias at all. Churchill Downs main track dries out and handles water as good as any track I know, but weather indeed affects it. If you are handicapping now, on Tuesday, before any scratches, and with a daily changing weather report, I’d suggest not locking into anything. If you are already structuring tickets, you might be in trouble.

Saffie Joseph constantly hears how he can’t strike at the same rate away from Gulfstream Park as he does at Gulfstream Park. He brings in White Abarrio off a win in the Florida Derby, a race “they say” is a good prep.

We have a lot of lightly races horses competing this year. You used to need bottom and the dosage index. Today a lot of players don’t know what the dosage index is and bottom is not a requirement. The average number of starts is definitely trending downward. In 1982 the average number of starts for a horse in the Kentucky Derby was 10. This year it is 5. If the average number of starts is 5, having only 2, 3, or 4 is not as much of a disadvantage if any at all then it would have been back when.

Do you have to have any specific number or speed figure to win the Kentucky Derby? A 100 Beyer Number, or Bris Figure or any number on Thorograph or Rags (Ragozins)? Obviously it helps to be fast, but trip and pace are more important in my book.

The draw. The 1 post is not as bad as it used to be with the two gates. Now we have one long gate. It allows for a straighter run down the stretch the first time. We used to have that little duck towards the rail. That said with 20 horses if you don’t get out you run the risk of getting crowded and if you drop back you may get bottled up and never get out. For Mo Donegal the rail means little. He was dropping back regardless of where he drew. Irad was going to have to be the big race rider he has become and work out an aggressive trip.

Zandon is not in an ideal spot. He is mid pack. He will load late into the 10 hole, and that may help him come out clean. The thing is mid pack and sitting off the pace it is easy to get into all sorts of traffic. He has more speed than he has shown and he has Prat. Prat won’t be able to ride this one like he can ride some of those 4-5 shots in 5 horse fields out west. He will have to hustle but he is as good as any in the game right now so he probably will be alright.

Epicenter gets his hand forced a bit from the 3 hole. Joel Rosario might even be tempted to try for the lead if he can get it. It is dangerous to try and stalk from the rail in The Derby. It is hard to get outside and get that catbird trip as well.

Messier and Charge It had nice draws outside for both their styles and experience levels.

Enjoy the two great days of racing at Churchill Downs. There are some great races both days and maybe we will get lucky with the weather.

PHOTO: We can’t tell you, they snuck in……

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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Thanks for the great pick. Played the 10 to win and place based on your description and got the exacta. Fantastic!

Jon Bercher @JBercher View testimonials