2022 Kentucky Derby Horses: Field Of Contenders Finalized

Written By Dave Bontempo on May 3, 2022
kentucky derby horses

The invitation list of Kentucky Derby horses is complete. Now it’s simply a matter of who accepts those invitations for the May 7 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

Twenty post positions in the starting gate are available, with the field determined by a 48-race qualifying schedule that ran from the Iroquois on Sept. 18, 2021 at Churchill Downs until the April 16, 2022 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Check back for more as Kentucky Derby betting odds will soon be finalized.

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Kentucky Derby Post Positions and Morning Line Odds

PostHorseLatest odds (6:30 p.m. ETMorning Line OddsTrainerJockeyW-P-S (Races)
1Mo Donegal9-110-1Todd PletcherIrad Ortiz Jr.3-0-2 (5)
2Happy Jack20-130-1Doug O'NeillRafael Bejarano0-0-2 (3)
3Epicenter5-17-2Steve AsmussenJoel Rosario4-1-0 (6)
4Summer Is Tomorrow33-130-1Bhupat SeemarMickael Barzalona2-3-0 (7)
5Smile Happy14-120-1Kenny McPeekCorey Lanerie2-2-0 (4)
6Messier (CAN)6-18-1Tim Yakteen*John Velazquez3-3-0 (6)
7Crown Pride (JPN)17-120-1Koichi ShintaniChristophe Lemaire3-0-0 (4)
8Charge It15-120-1Todd PletcherLuis Saez1-2-0 (3)
9Tiz the Bomb27-130-1Kenny McPeekBrian Hernandez Jr.5-1-0 (8)
10Zandon6-13-1Chad BrownFlavien Prat2-1-1 (4)
11Pioneer of Medina53-130-1Todd PletcherJoe Bravo2-1-2 (6)
12Taiba5-112-1Tim Yakteen*Mike Smith2-0-0 (2)
13Simplification35-120-1Antionio SanoJose Ortiz3-1-2 (7)
14Barber Road54-130-1John OrtizRey Gutierrez2-4-1 (8)
15White Abarrio14-110-1Saffie Joseph Jr.Tyler Gaffalione4-0-1 (5)
16Cyberknife15-120-1Brad CoxFlorent Geroux3-2-0 (6)
17Classic Causway75-130-1Brian LynchJulien Leparoux3-1-1 (6)
18Tawny Port74-130-1Brad CoxRicardo Santana Jr.3-1-0 (5)
19Zozos43-120-1Brad CoxManny Franco2-1-0 (3)
21Rich Strike80-130-1Eric ReedSonny Leon1-0-3 (7)

Final Kentucky Derby Point Standings

164Steven M. Asmussen
2Zandon114Chad Brown
3White Abarrio
112Saffie Joseph, Jr.
4Mo Donegal112Todd Pletcher
5Tiz the Bomb110Kenny McPeek
6Cyberknife100Brad Cox
7Crown Pride (JPN)100Koichi Shintani
8Taiba100Tim Yakteen
74Antonio Sano
10Smile Happy
70Kenny McPeek
11Classic Causway66Brian Lynch
12Tawny Port60Brad Cox
13Barber Road
58John Ortiz
14Un Ojo
54Anthony W. Dutrow
15Messier40Tim Yakteen
16Zozos40Brad Cox
17Summer Is Tomorrow40Bhupat Seemar
18Charge It40Todd Pletcher
19Happy Jack30Doug O'Neill
20Pioneer of Medina25Todd Pletcher
21In Due Time24Kelly Breen
22Ethereal Road22D. Wayne Lukas
23Rich Strike21Eric Reed
24Rattle N Roll20Kenny McPeek

From Epicenter at the top of the list to Happy Jack in 20th, owners of horses with the top 20-point totals are invited to the Derby.

If a horse’s connections decide not to run, it is removed from the standings with all those behind bumped up. That happens either when trainers believing the horse isn’t ready or owners believing their horse can’t compete well at the Derby.

This has already been the case with Forbidden Kingdom and Classic Causeway, high-profile qualifying-race winners who had enough points to reach enter the Derby. But their connections did not like how the horses handled recent races and their names were withdrawn.

Owners of a few entries outside the top 20 will be watching to see if anyone else won’t appear, opening the door for them.

Pioneer of Medina has 25 points and In Due Time shows 24. They would be the next positions given an invitation if others decline. Both were beaten decisively enough in major races, however, and their connections might decline an invitation as well.

Triple Crown Schedule

Prep Race Highlights From Kentucky Derby Horses

The 2022 prep-race circuit was compelling right down to its finale. After Taiba, Mo Donegal and Zandon reaped headlines with 100-point victories in the respective Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes on April 9, Tawny Port made the most of the final Derby-qualifying event.

Winning the 20-point Lexington, he moved up to 11th, breaking the logjam at 40 points for what was then the final position. The qualifying system thus added significant clout to the final race on the campaign and impacted strategy for trainers and owners.

Here are some things handicappers will keep their eyes on leading up to the Derby.

Final Fractions Theory

A popular handicapping method for the Derby, this theory looks at which horses were running fastest in the final furlongs of their most recent prep race. We have the Kentucky Derby final furlong times here.

Which Kentucky Derby horses won the biggest races?

Each of these races were worth 100 points to the winner:

  • Louisiana Derby: Epicenter
  • Florida Derby: White Abarrio
  • Arkansas Derby: Cyberknife
  • Wood Memorial: Mo Donegal
  • Blue Grass Stakes: Zandon
  • Santa Anita Derby: Taiba
  • UAE Derby: Crown Pride (JPN)
  • Jeff Ruby Steaks: Tiz the Bomb

Top Beyer Speed Figures

There were three Kentucky Derby horses that posted 100+ BSFs. Messier and Taiba recorded a 103, tops on the list. Messier notched his 103 in the Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 6. Taiba broke his maiden with that impressive number in a six-furlong race on March 5. Taiba also notched a 102 in winning the Santa Anita Derby April 9. He defeated Messier, who had a 99 in that race.

Epicenter earned a 102 in the Louisiana Derby on March 26.

10 of the previous 12 Kentucky Derby winners posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or more. Seven of the 12 earned a BSF in the Kentucky Derby of 103 or higher. A horse doesn’t have to have earned a triple-digit BSF before the Derby to win, but it’s also difficult to make an enormous leap of 10+ from a career-best in a prep race and win the Derby.

The Bob Baffert Suspension Factor

Baffert’s suspension from and ongoing battle with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Racing Commission resulted in him switching several horses to trainer Tim Yakteen in March. This enabled the horses to earn qualifying points they otherwise would not have been able to.

Two horses were positively impacted by this move. Messier, denied 10 points in the Robert B. Lewis under Baffert, gained the 40 qualifying points to reach the Kentucky Derby under Yakteen in securing second in the Santa Anita Derby. Taiba, a live Derby threat and former Baffert trainee, notched 100 points for Yakteen at the Santa Anita Derby.



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Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

View all posts by Dave Bontempo