Six Days and Counting: Kentucky Derby Preview

April 30, 2022

Videos of contenders, interviews with trainers, the Leaderboard, PTW Tips and much more!

With the Kentucky Derby six days away and all of the workouts wrapping up lets take a look at who’s in and who’s on the bubble. 

Be sure to take a look at the workout videos below graciously provided by the Kentucky HBPA produced by Jennie Rees. Also, check out Past The Wire’s Early Kentucky Derby run-down by Keeneland Dan and Jimmy Mcnerney. And, take PTW’s Annual Kentucky Derby/Kentucky Oaks Seminar

Now for the Kentucky Derby Leaders.

Sitting at number one is Epicenter with 164 points. The colt is trained by Steve Asmussen, the leading all-time leader in wins in North America. A win not on Asmussen’s resumé is the Kentucky Derby. Epicenter could give the top conditioner his chance. 

By Not This Time, a son of Giant’s Causeway, Epicenter was a $260,000 purchase for Winchell Thoroughbreds at the Keeneland 2020 September Yearling Sale. 

The bay colt has skills required for a successful Derby run. Getting his stamina from his dam, Silent Candy (by Candy Ride {ARG}), Epicenter also has the mindset needed for a crowded Derby field, the tenacity to go over a mile with a turn-of-foot for a sprint to the finish. 

Epicenter started his Derby trail on December 26, 2021, at the Fair Grounds winning the Gun Runner and collecting 10 points. He followed up in January 2022 with a second in the Lecomte with four points, the Risen Star with 50 points and the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds for a whopping 100 points March 26.

Zandon in a work at Keeneland. (Keeneland Photo)

Moving up to number two after his April 9th victory in the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) is Zandon. Nabbing 100 point in the Blue Grass at Keeneland added to his four points for second in the Remsen at Aqueduct Dec. 4, 2021, and two points in the Lacomte at the Fair Grounds Feb. 19, 2022. 

The Chad Brown-trainee is a contender especially for his speed.  

Zandon is out of the unraced Creative Cause mare Memories Prevail. The bay colt gets a good chunk of his speed from his damsire who ran in all graded stakes after winning on debut with a career record of 10: 4-3-2 and a weakest performance of a 5th place in the 2012 Derby. 

A share in Zandon’s sire, Upstart, was purchased at the Keeneland April Horses of Racing Age Sale for $450,000. Upstart is also the sire of Kathleen O., who won the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) on April 2. 

For complete 148th Kentucky Derby Leaderboard click here

Kentucky HBPA Videos

These videos are available for media or social media use as part of the Kentucky HBPA’s initiative to promote Kentucky horses, horsemen and racing by providing supplemental racing content to news outlets and others. Videos produced by Jennie Rees, Kentucky HBPA communications specialist, unless otherwise noted.

Videos: Brad Cox on Cyberknife, Zozos works; Florent Geroux on Cyberknife’s progression; Brian Hernandez (Tiz the Bomb), Corey Lanerie (Smile Happy); Kenny McPeek on Tiz the Bomb, Smile Happy; Todd Pletcher on Charge It, Pioneer of Medina and Mo Donegal; and, much more! 

Trainer Brad Cox after Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife and Louisiana Derby runner-up Zozos worked five-eighths of a mile together at 5:15 a.m. in preparation for next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. (Note: Video was shot before the Cox-trained Tawny Port worked.)

Jockey Florent Geroux (aboard Cyberknife for the work and who rides him in the Derby)

Jockeys Brian Hernandez (Jeff Ruby winner Tiz the Bomb) and Corey Lanerie (Blue Grass runner-up Smile Happy) after they worked a half-mile (more or less) together in 48 seconds flat. Video starts out with b-roll of work, followed by interview with Hernandez and then Lanerie. “He worked fabulous,” Lanerie said of Smile Happy. “… I’m getting excited.”

Trainer Kenny McPeek after Tiz the Bomb and Smile Happy worked.

Todd Pletcher after working his Kentucky Derby trio Saturday, with Florida Derby runner-up Charge It and Louisiana Derby third-place finisher Pioneer of Medina working a half-mile together in 47.40 seconds, while Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal worked inside of stablemate My Prankster in 48.60. It was an adventurous work for Charge It and Pioneer of Medina, with a horse getting loose during the work.

Chad Brown on Zandon, Early Voting (likely to train up to Preakness), trying to win his first Kentucky Derby, his Derby Week stakes horses – and more

Bret Calhoun on Kentucky Oaks contender Hidden Connection and her work this morning

Tim Yakteen, trainer of 1-2 Santa Anita Derby finishers Taiba and Messier

Trainer Johnny Ortiz and owner Bill Simon, who have Arkansas Derby runner-up Barber Road in the Kentucky Derby

Saffie Joseph, trainer of Florida Derby winner White Abarrio

Mike Smith, rider of Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba in his second career start.

D. Wayne Lukas on works by Secret Oath for the Kentucky Oaks and Ethereal Road for the Kentucky Derby (if he can get in).

Todd Pletcher after Pioneer of Medina turns in a strong workout that enhanced his chances of running in the Kentucky Derby, although no final decision will be made until after the colt works next week.

Steve Asmussen on a variety of subjects after Echo Zulu worked inside King Ottoman, six furlongs in 1:11.80. Complete splits: 12.20, 23.80, 35.60, 47.40, 1:11.80 out in 1:25.20, 1:39.80. Epicenter worked outside Gun It: 13, 24.40, 35.80, 47.20 for six furlongs in 1:12.20 and galloping out in 1:26.20, 1:41.

Ron Winchell, owner of Epicenter and Echo Zulu (in partnership with L and N Racing), was on hand for the works. Here’s what he said afterward (including good background on his dad, Verne Winchell, who started the racing operation and told his son that while he probably couldn’t win the Derby that Ron would.

David Fiske, longtime racing and bloodstock manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds dating back more than 40 years, talks about purchasing Epicenter – the first Warren County-bred he recalls the operation having. Fiske talks about the late Verne Winchell and how the racing and breeding operation have not just carried on but expanded under his son.

Echo Zulu and Epicenters works.

Zandon and Chad Brown

Kenny McPeek on Tiz the Bomb, Smile Happy

Jockey Florent Geroux on Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife after 6F work in 1:12.20 in company

Trainer Brad Cox on Cyberknife‘s work and more

Corey Lanerie on Smile Happy‘s work and trying to win the Derby at his adopted hometown track.

Mike Mackin, who with his four siblings campaigns Smile Happy under their Lucky7 Stables. Smile Happy in his second start won Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club last fall then was second this year in the Risen Star won by Derby favorite Epicenter and Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass won by Zandon. This is a long video but includes a lot of background for media wanting to do a story on the Mackin family of Louisville.

Clay Courville – groom, exercise rider and assistant trainer to his dad Ricky – is a one-man band at Churchill Downs, here from Louisiana with Oaklawn Park’s 75-1 Rebel Stakes winner Un Ojo, who is missing his left eye after a mishap as a baby. Un Ojo worked five-eighths of a mile in 59.40 seconds (second-fastest of the morning) with jockey Colby Hernandez filling in for race jockey Ramon Vazquez. (Another long video, but lots of good background for a really fun story.)

Brad Cox on Louisiana Derby runner-up Zozos‘ work (6F in 1:12.40), with comments on Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife (who is to work Saturday morning) and Keeneland’s Stonestreet Lexington winner Tawny Port.

Todd Pletcher: The media catches up with Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher after he worked several of his Kentucky Derby and Oaks contenders at Churchill Downs on April 22. Florida Derby runner-up Charge it worked 5F in 1:00.40 in company of Cezanne at 7:30, while Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal (with jockey Irad Ortiz up) worked an easy half-mile in 50.20 with My Prankster, also at 7:30 a.m. Keeneland’s G1 Ashland winner Nest (Ortiz up) worked a half-mile in 49.80 seconds outside of Inventing at 6 a.m. Pletcher’s other two Oaks contenders, UAE Derby winner Shahama worked with Goddess of Fire (inside horse) five-eighths in 1:00.80.

Jockey Irad Ortiz after working Ashland winner Nest and Wood winner Mo Donegal for trainer Todd Pletcher. Begins with b-roll of Mo Donegal’s work, as well as stablemate Charge It. (No Nest video, at least I don’t think. She didn’t have on an Oaks saddle towel).

Jerry Crawford, president of Donegal Racing, the syndicate that owns Mo Donegal, was on hand for the Wood Memorial winner’s work.

Trainer John Ortiz on Arkansas Derby runner-up Barber Road, who worked six furlongs in 1:16.40 under Reylu Gutierrez. Barber Road, the late-running Arkansas Derby runner-up, has put Ortiz into the Kentucky Derby in his sixth year as a trainer. We catch up with Ortiz at his Churchill Downs barn, just outside the playful Barber Road’s stall. Barber Road, a $15,000 weanling purchase, is owned by Bill Simon, former CEO of WalMart – who knows a barga

Trainer Steve Asmussen after Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter and Fair Grounds Oaks winner Echo Zulu work for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, respectively, on Sunday April 17morning at Churchill Downs.

Echo Zulu‘s work (five-eighths of a mile in 1:00 with stablemate King Ottoman) at 5:30 a.m. and Epicenter (five-eighths of a mile in 1:00 4/5 with stablemate Gun It) about 6 a.m.

Stonestreet Lexington Stakes: Brad Cox did not have a horse with a single Derby qualifying point just a few weeks ago. Now he has three horses in the 20-horse field. Tawny Port further entrenched his spot by taking Keeneland’s Grade 2, $400,000 Stonestreet Lexington by a length over Major General.

Chad Brown on Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon and Wood Memorial runner-up Early Voting

Shug McGaughey on 4-for-4 Kathleen O., who worked half-mile at Keeneland in 48.3 seconds

Grade 1, $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (Zandon): Jockey Flavien Prat (on the fly, so only use is as audio), winning owner Jeff Drown (note: winning trainer Chad Brown was in New York), runner-up (Smile Happy) jockey Corey Lanerie, runner-up trainer Kenny McPeek, third-place (Emmanuel) trainer Todd Pletcher (includes comment on winning Wood Memorial with Mo Donegal)

Ky Oaks: Nest wins G1 Ashland

Jeff Ruby Steaks: Tiz the Bomb is the bomb (Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez)

Videos courtesy of Kentucky HBPA; Produced by Jennie Rees
Written by Maribeth Kalinich, compiled by Ashlee Marcy

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