blood horse news editor Byron King presents his latest Derby Dozen for 2022 with a look at his leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 7th.
Last weekend there were two points preparations for the derby: the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. One is scheduled for this weekend on Saturday February 19th: the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds. The Risen Star increases the distribution of Derby points, offering 50 for winner, 20 for runner-up, 10 for third-place finisher and 5 for fourth-place finisher.
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1. Rattle N Roll
Classic Causeway’s victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on February 12 was encouraging from a form comparison standpoint as this stallion beat him by 4 ¾ lengths at the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity in Keeneland last year. Rattle N Roll, who is not yet as advanced in his conditioning as trainer Kenny McPeek’s other lead 3-year-olds, is set to return in March. His training should soon intensify after two relatively moderate half-mile works beginning this month at Gulfstream Park.
2. Smile happily
The 8.90-1 favorite among singles in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is perfect in two starts, both around two rounds. The second of those wins came at the November 27 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, where he defeated three runners-up stakes winners. We’ll see him for the first time as a 3-year-old at the Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford at the showgrounds on February 19th, where he will compete against four other horses placed in the dozen.
Another Risen Star contestant en route to Fair Grounds via Florida. He too seems poised to make his first start as a 3-year-old, showing a consistent series of moves at Payson Park for trainer Chad Brown. Encouraged by his race in the Remsen Stakes as he had a three in both corners, proved tenacious in the lane and galloped in front of Mo Donegal after being pushed by this rival approaching the wire.
4. White Abarrio
After rolling in the Holy Bull Stakes on February 5, he is scheduled to sit idle until the Curlin Florida Derby on April 2 in Gulfstream. In recent years, Holy Bull winners Audible and Tiz the Law similarly skipped the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes before winning the Florida Derby and later hitting the board in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Tiz the Law finished second in a COVID-19 postponed derby in September). The gap between races should freshen up White Abarrio not only for the Florida Derby but also for the Triple Crown.
5 Mon Donegal
As promising as he finished the course at the Holy Bull, finishing third and just missing second, he accelerated a bit slowly in the second corner so he was too busy late. Granted, the Holy Bull’s conditions didn’t suit after slow fractions and with 1 1/16 mile races at Gulfstream ending at the sixteenth pole. The Wood Memorial Stakes presented by Resorts World Casino on April 9 could be next, said Hall of Famer Coach Todd Pletcher Thoroughbred Daily News.
6. Classic dam
He climbs five places in the dozen from 11th place after his sharp comeback win in the Sam F. Davisth. Blessed with endurance in his pedigree, he also possesses natural speed – a powerful combination. He picked up pressure from a stretch-out sprinter at the Sam F. Davis and still had enough left over to hit deep field, though no group of the same quality as at the Holy Bull is seen or will compete at the Risen Stern .
Provided he breaks well, he’ll likely try to dictate conditions in the Risen Star. He’s the fastest in terms of pace numbers, and one of the other frontrunners in the lineup, Pioneer of Medina, is being dragged outside of him, which could result in this rival playing more of a chasing role. The Risen Star isn’t lacking in pace, but Epicenter doesn’t anticipate needing to throw fractions as quickly as the ones he fielded second in the Lecomte Stakes.
With White Abarrio and Mo Donegal both likely to remain idle early next month, he should go into the March 5 Fountain of Youth as one of the favorites. Five years ago, trainer Antonio Sano and jockey Javier Castellano won the FOY with Gunnevera, who also finished second in the Holy Bull. Simplification’s second place finish at the Holy Bull was a good effort, despite a slow start and a wide rally into turn two. Note that he didn’t change the lead on track, which nearly resulted in him being nailed late for second place.
A bright future awaits for this colt, who picked up a 4.5-long, two-round win at Tampa Bay Downs in an optional first stage race after his debut win at Gulfstream on Jan. 30 at Tampa Bay Downs. He did it all right, although he enjoyed a one-way ride and set soft fractions that left him energized for the track. Five weeks between his last race and the Fountain of Youth leaves that race as the leading goal.
10. Slow down Andy
After his performance in the Los Alamitos Futurity, where he lost focus midway and leaned on rival Messier, trainer Doug O’Neill considered adding Andy Blinders to Slow Down’s race kit, but he won’t for his upcoming one Start doing the Risen Star. The stallion has worked with and without blinkers in recent months. The Los Alamitos Futurity’s form was flattered by Bob Baffert-trained Messier, who won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 15 lengths.
Coming back into the Lecomte last month he threatened when jockey Joe Bravo found a seam inside leading into the track, but the colt flattened a little and settled for third place. Maybe it was idle for a few months, or maybe it was the inside ride, as some dirt horses are usually more inclined to get past horses on the outside than on the inside. Tyler Gaffalione, who teamed with Pappacap’s trainer Mark Casse in the 2019 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will, receives the Risen Star mount.
After winning an optional exemption claim at Gulfstream on February 4th and having more experience than recent first-time winner Charge It, he is clinging to last place ahead of this 3-year-old in the Dozen rankings. He is the more experienced of the two, having made three starts, the best of which was his most recent 5 ¾ length over a mile in a corner. Next, look for him at a stakes race in Florida.