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Jon White: Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass, Wood Memorial Picks

by Jon White

April 7, 2022

The final two Grade I races on the 2022 Kentucky Derby trail will be contested this Saturday (April 9).

Six are entered in the Grade I, $750,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. In addition to the highly anticipated rematch between Messier (No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 and pictured above) and Forbidden Kingdom (No. 9), highly regarded Taiba surprisingly has joined the party.

At Keeneland, the Grade I, $1 million Blue Grass Stakes has enticed a field of 12 headed by Smile Happy (No. 7 on my Top 10), who ran second to Epicenter in Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 19. Zandon, third in the Risen Star, also is in the Blue Grass. Another entrant is Emmanuel (No. 8 on my Top 10), who tries to rebound following a wide journey when he finished fourth in Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 5.

The Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass each have 100-40-20-10 qualifying points up for grabs toward a spot in the starting gate for the 148th running of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.

The Grade II, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct is also this Saturday. It likewise offers 100-40-20-10 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.

A pair of undefeated graded stakes-winning colts in Morello and Early Voting clash with Grade II Remsen Stakes winner Mo Donegal and five others in the Wood. Morello is coming off a 4 1/2-length victory in Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes on March 5. Early Voting makes his first start since taking the Grade III Withers Stakes at the Big A on Feb. 5.

The Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass and Wood will each be contested at 1 1/8 miles.


Making the morning-line odds for this year’s Santa Anita Derby brought back memories for me of 2018. It was a very difficult decision whether to make Justify or Bolt d’Oro the morning-line favorite. I gave it considerable thought for several days.

Ultimately, I installed Justify as the 4-5 morning-line favorite. There were those who were surprised that I opted to make him the favorite inasmuch as he had run in only two races. Even Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert, publicly expressed his belief that I should have made Bolt d’Oro the morning-line favorite.

“I can’t believe Jon White made Justify the favorite. Jon’s letting his emotions get to him,” Baffert said on the Lousville radio program “Inside Churchill Downs.”

In the Los Angeles Times, Baffert was quoted by John Cherwa as saying: “I don’t see making my horse 4-5. He’s only had two races.”

I stated in the Los Angeles Times’ horse racing newsletter that I would not have been surprised if Bolt d’Oro did end up being the Santa Anita Derby favorite. But having to make the call one way or the other, I made Justify 4-5 and Bolt d’Oro 6-5.

As it turned out, Justify was indeed sent away as the Santa Anita Derby favorite at 4-5, with Bolt d’Oro the second choice at even money.

Not only did Justify win the Santa Anita Derby by three lengths (Bolt d’Oro finished second), he went on to sweep the Triple Crown, joining Seattle Slew as the only horses to do so while undefeated.

Whether to make Messier or Forbidden Kingdom the morning-line favorite in this year’s Santa Anita was a very difficult decision for me, just as it was in having to choose between Justify and Bolt d’Oro in 2018. Once again, I gave much thought to Santa Anita Derby favoritism for a number of days. And once again, I believe race-time favoritism between Messier and Forbidden Kingdom could go either way.

Consider the different opinions I’ve read or heard regarding Santa Anita Derby favoritism.

In the April 1 Santa Anita stable notes, Ed Golden wrote: “Probable Runhappy Santa Anita Derby favorite Forbidden Kingdom had his final important breeze Thursday for the West Coast’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 6, going seven furlongs under Nestor Capitaine in 1:26.60.”

But then in the April 3 Santa Anita stable notes, Golden pointed out that Messier “has been favored in each of his five races, four times at odds-on, and will vie for favoritism with Forbidden Kingdom in the Santa Anita Derby.”

So in a matter of just two days, Golden went from Forbidden Kingdom being the “probable favorite” to saying that Messier and Forbidden Kingdom “will vie for favoritism.”

Also consider what I heard on Mike Williman’s radio program “Thoroughbred Los Angeles” last Sunday morning.

Ron Flatter of horseracingnation.com said Forbidden Kingdom is going to be the Santa Anita Derby favorite.

Bob Mieszerski, whose selections and odds appear in Los Angeles area newspapers such as the Pasadena Star News and San Gabriel Tribune, said he thought Messier is going to be the favorite.

I think handicapper Bruce Finkelstein, a regular guest on William’s radio show, got it right when he said favoritism “could be a coin flip.”

“Ron [Flatter] was definite on Forbidden Kingdom being the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby,” Finkelstein told Willman. “I’m not so sure about that. That’s a tough call. That could be a coin flip. I don’t know that one really towers over the other…I’ll tell you what. Calling the favorite is going to be tough.”

When all was said and done, I decided to make Messier the morning-line favorite at even money, with Forbidden Kingdom just a notch higher at 6-5.

Why did I decide to make Messier the favorite? A big reason, as Golden noted, is Messier has been the favorite “in each of his five races, four times at odds-on.” I consider that to be a major clue that Messier will be the Santa Anita Derby favorite.

Forbidden Kingdom? He has been the favorite in only two of his five career starts.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert trained Messier through the colt’s most recent start, a lopsided triumph in Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 6. Baffert currently is serving a suspension. Tim Yakteen now is training the Kentucky-bred colt by 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.

Fellow Hall of Famer Richard Mandella trains Forbidden Kingdom, a Kentucky-bred American Pharoah colt. American Pharoah, trained by Baffert, ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought when he swept the three-race series in 2015.

As mentioned earlier, this will be a rematch between Messier and Forbidden Kingdom. They faced each other in Del Mar’s Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at seven furlongs on Nov. 14.

What happened in the Bob Hope in terms of both the betting and the outcome is something else I took into account when making the Santa Anita Derby morning line.

Bettors sent Messier away as the 6-5 favorite. Forbidden Kingdom went off at 5-1.

Messier prevailed by 3 1/2 lengths. Forbidden Kingdom finished second, but in his defense, he stumbled at the start. That certainly did not help Forbidden Kingdom’s chances that day vis-a-vis Messier.

When Forbidden Kingdom won Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at seven furlongs on Jan. 29, he sure looked good. And then he looked even better when he rolled to a dominant 5 3/4-length victory in Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 5.

Forbidden Kingdom’s final time in the San Felipe was a solid 1:43.98.

But Messier posted an even faster clocking of 1:42.89 when he won the Lewis in splendid isolation by 15 lengths on Feb. 6.

Messier received a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for his Lewis tour de force. That’s another reason I decided to make him the favorite on the Santa Anita Derby morning line. It’s the highest Beyer by a 3-year-old in a race longer than one mile in the entire country this year. In fact, the only other triple-digit Beyer achieved by a 3-year-old in a race longer than one mile this year is the 102 by Epicenter in his Grade II Louisiana Derby triumph on March 26.

But Forbidden Kingdom’s Beyers are nothing to sneeze at. The upward trajectory of his figs in his last four starts (a 59, then a 79, then a 94, then a 98) indicates that he might run a big race this Saturday and perhaps turn the tables on Messier.

Nevertheless, I expect Messier’s 103 Beyer Speed Figure to attract a lot of wagering dollars in the Santa Anita Derby.

But hold on. It turns out that Messier is not the only Santa Anita Derby entrant sporting a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

Completely out of the blue, Taiba showed up in the entries for the Santa Anita Derby. He had not been mentioned anywhere by anyone as a possibility for the race. For me, in having to come up with the morning line for this race immediately after the draw, the task was not made any easier as a result of a major curve ball that would have made Sandy Koufax envious.

A $1.7 million auction purchase as a 2-year-old by Amr Zendan’s Zendan Racing Stable, Taiba was a scintillating 7 1/2-length debut winner in a six-furlong maiden contest at Santa Anita on March 5 for Baffert. Pounded down to 1-2 favoritism, he registered a 103 Beyer.

Taiba, like Messier, currently is being trained by Yakteen while Baffert serves a 90-day suspension.

In terms of the Santa Anita Derby morning line, I found it extremely difficult to try and forecast what Taiba’s odds will be at race time. He is a gigantic wild card.

On the one hand, Taiba certainly lived up to expectations stemming from his extravagant purchase price and sharp a.m. drills when he kicked off his racing career so impressively.

On the other hand, it’s asking a whole lot from Taibi to go from winning a maiden sprint to running in a Grade I event at 1 1/8 miles.

This will be quite an accomplishment if Taiba pulls it off. Has a horse ever won the Santa Anita Derby with just one race under his belt? Maybe someone has done this before, but I’m not aware of it.

1/ST BET analyst and handicapper Jeff Siegel raved about Taiba following his first race.

“It seems that the most impressive performance in a race for 3-year-olds over the weekend was not Simplification [winning] the Fountain of Youth Stakes, or Forbidden Kingdom [winning] the San Felipe Stakes, or Morello [winning] the Gotham Stakes, or Tiz the Bomb [winning] the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes,” Siegel wrote. “No, it was a first-time starting maiden trained by Bob Baffert.

“Taiba, purchased for $1.7 million at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old in training sale last year, finally got around to making an afternoon appearance Saturday at Santa Anita and ran to his works, his reputation and his sales price when winning his debut by 7 1/2 widening lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 103, making him the co-fastest colt on speed figures (along with stablemate Messier) in the sophomore class of 2022.

“In do so, the son of Gun Runner brought back memories of the Baffert-trained Charlatan, who was a late-developing 3-year-old two years ago when he captured his debut in similar style in February. Two races later he wired the field in the Arkansas Derby, but then missed the spring classics and most of the remainder of the year due to injury. Charlatan returned to win the Malibu Stakes the following winter, finished second to Mishriff in the Saudi World Cup, then was injured again and retired.

“Those who witnessed Taiba’s race on track were concerned that jockey John Velasquez eased him up quickly on the gallop out and then slowly walked him back to the winner’s circle, invoking memories of the Baffert-trained Mastery winning the 2017 San Felipe. That colt, an undefeated son of Candy Ride, pulled up abruptly galloping out to the seven-furlong pole, never got his picture taken and never raced again.

“Fortunately, this wasn’t that.

“We were allowed to inspect Taiba Sunday morning -- yeah, he’s magnificent, looking very much like what a $1.7 million colt should -- and spoke to Baffert about the fallout from Taiba’s post-race situation.”

Baffert told Siegel: “Johnny thought he felt something funny behind, so he pulled him up. By the time he got back to the winner’s circle, the colt was fine. I don’t know if he was put on the vet’s list, but it was nothing.”

Four published workouts, plus being entered in the Santa Anita Derby, strongly suggests that what happened with Taibi immediately after his eyebrow-raising maiden victory was indeed “nothing.”

I am going with Messier as my pick to win the Santa Anita Derby. But he had better have his running shoes on if he’s going to beat a formidable foe in Forbidden Kingdom and a sky-appears-to-be-the-limit Taiba.

Messier is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. That means at this moment is my pick to win the Run for the Roses. We shall see if he still is in the top spot next week.

My selections for the Santa Anita Derby are below:

1. Messier
2. Forbidden Kingdom
3. Taiba
4. Happy Jack


My selections for the Blue Grass Stakes are below:

1. Smile Happy
2. Emmanuel
3. Zandon
4. Ethereal Road


My selections for the Wood Memorial are below:

1. Morello
2. Early Voting
3. Mo Donegal
4. Barese


Cyberknife, winner of last Saturday’s Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, and UAE Derby victor Crown Prince are newcomers on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week.

Secret Oath and Classic Causeway drop off the Top 10. Secret Oath, No. 3 last week, had a cringeworthy trip and finished third as the 7-5 favorite in the Arkansas Derby. Classic Causeway, No. 4 last week, showed early speed, faltered badly and ended up 11th at odds of 7-2 in last Saturday’s Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream.

After Secret Oath’s Arkansas Derby defeat, she will run next in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks on May 6.

Following Classic Causeway’s Florida Derby debacle, his future plans are, not surprisingly, up in the air.

Japan’s Crown Pride already is at Churchill Downs. These days, you take any Japanese horse lightly at your own peril, as evidenced by their success at last year’s Breeders’ Cup and on both the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup cards this year.

Crown Pride will have plenty of people dismissing him. But I warn you. He just might make his presence felt on the first Saturday in May. I’d go so far as to say I would not rule out another victory by a Japanese horse in an important race on the world stage. He’s won three of four career starts, but he actually had an excuse when he finished sixth in Tokyo’s Hyacinth Stakes on Feb. 20.

The track was muddy the day that Crown Pride lost. But the main reason I believe a line can be drawn through that race is it appears to me that he got squeezed back badly in the initial strides, then has a ridiculously wide trip. Here is a link to a video of that dirt race, which actually begins on the turf (Crown Pride has saddle towel 9): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GIMPc87_lc

My Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week is below:

1. Messier
2. Epicenter
3. White Abarrio
4. Cyberknife (new)
5. Simplification
6. Morello
7. Smile Happy
8. Emmanuel
9. Forbidden Kingdom
10. Crown Pride (new)


Barber Road
Charge It
Classic Causeway
Early Voting
Ethereal Road
In Due Time
Mo Donegal
Pioneer of Medina
Tiz the Bomb


History shows that when it comes to the Derby Strikes System (DSS) that I developed in 1999, only one horse has won the Kentucky Derby with more than two strikes. That was Mine that Bird, who had four strikes.

The DSS consists of eight key factors that attempt to ascertain the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from BOTH tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the eight categories, the horse gets a strike.

A number of the categories in my DSS are tied to a Kentucky Derby being run on the first Saturday in May. As a result, when the race was switched from May 2 to Sept. 5 in 2020 due to COVID-19, it rendered my DSS unworkable for that particular year.

Stakes races in this country were not graded until 1973. Because two of the categories deal with graded stakes races, the DSS can’t go back any further than 1973.

A horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. According to the DSS as it’s now constituted and excluding the Kentucky Derby of 2020 when the race was run in September, 83% of the Kentucky Derby winners (40 out of 48) have had zero strikes or one strike going back to 1973.

The seven Kentucky Derby winners with two strikes were Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005), Justify (2018) and Country House (2019).

As mentioned earlier, Mine That Bird, with four strikes, is the lone Kentucky Derby winner with more than two strikes.

The eight categories in the DSS are listed toward the end of this column/blog/article.

After a 3-year-old makes his or her final start before the first Saturday in May, I then can determine their number of strikes.

The number of strikes for five horses on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 can’t yet be determined until after they race this Saturday. They are No. 1 Messier, No. 6 Morello, No. 7 Smile Happy and No. 8 Emmanuel and No. 9 Forbidden Kingdom.

The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20. Below are the strikes for the 20 leading point earners as listed by Churchill Downs when the leaderboard was updated on April 2.


Classic Causeway (1 strike)
Crown Pride (0 strikes)
Cyberknife (0 strikes)
Epicenter (0 strikes)
Simplification (1 strike)
Slow Down Andy (1 strike)
Tawny Port (1 strike)
Tiz the Bomb (0 strikes)
White Abarrio (0 strikes)


Barber Road (Categories 2 and 3)
Pioneer of Medina (Catgories 2 and 4)
Un Ojo (Categories 3 and 7)
Summer Is Tomorrow (Categories 2 and 4)
Zozos (Categories 2 and 7)


Charge It (Categories 1, 2 and 7)
Pappacap (Categories 3, 4 and 5)


Forbidden Kingdom
Smile Happy


Because stakes races in this country were not graded until 1973, the Derby Strikes System can’t go further back than that year. Two of my eight categories deal with graded stakes races.

Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. He had zero strikes. But the stewards disqualified Maximum Security and placed him 17th for committing a foul when he veered out sharply nearing the five-sixteenths marker to cause interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy. Country House was declared the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

Medina Spirit finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. He had zero strikes. But in terms of the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Mandaloun is now recognized as the winner following Medina Spirit’s disqualification.

The strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973 are below:

2021 Mandaloun (1 strike) Category 4*
2020 race run in September
2019 Country House (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 3**
2018 Justify (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 7
2017 Always Dreaming (1 strike) Category 1
2016 Nyquist (0 strikes)
2015 American Pharoah (0 strikes)
2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)
2013 Orb (0 strikes)
2012 I’ll Have Another (0 strikes)
2011 Animal Kingdom (0 strikes)
2010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 4
2009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 9
2008 Big Brown (0 strikes)
2007 Street Sense (0 strikes)
2006 Barbaro (0 strikes)
2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 5
2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)
2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 8
2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)
2001 Monarchos (0 strikes)
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 6
1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 5
1998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)
1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 4
1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)
1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)
1994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)
1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 5
1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)
1991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)
1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 3
1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)
1988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)
1987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 2
1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 4
1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)
1984 Swale (0 strikes)
1983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 1
1982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 3
1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 1
1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)
1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)
1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)
1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)
1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)
1975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)
1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 4
1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)

*Medina Spirit (0 strikes) finished first but was disqualified and all purse money forfeited

**Maximum Security (0 strikes) finished first but was disqualified and placed 17th


There are no newcomers in the Top 10 of this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 313 Country Grammer (22)
2. 273 Life is Good (4)
3. 272 Letruska (4)
4. 246 Hot Rod Charlie
5. 192 Express Train (4)
6. 124 Flightline
7. 90 Olympiad (1)
8. 81 Ce Ce
9. 71 Speaker’s Corner
10. 58 Mandaloun


Cyberknife, winner of last Saturday’s Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, debuts at No. 5 in the Top 10 of this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll.

Debuting at No. 8 is Charge It, runner-up to White Abarrio in last Saturday’s Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 336 Epicenter (26)
2. 261 White Abarrio
3. 247 Forbidden Kingdom (4)
4. 218 Messier (3)
5. 201 Cyberknife (2)
6. 133 Smile Happy
7. 88 Simplification
8. 86 Charge It
9. 80 Secret Oath
10. 48 Morello


What are the eight categories in my Derby Strikes System? They are listed below:

1. THE GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Going back to the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Always Dreaming in 2017 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 2 or early at 3 before March 31.)

2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions going back to the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.)

3. THE EIGHTH POLE CATEGORY. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners through 2021 have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Going back to 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second a furlong from the finish in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)

4. THE GAMENESS CATEGORY. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Going back to 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009, Super Saver in 2010 and Mandaloun in 2021, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)

5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION CATEGORY. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Going back to 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.)

6. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS CATEGORY. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Going back to 1973, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.)

7. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD CATEGORY. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018. Going back to 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old now are a combined 1 for 65 in the Kentucky Derby through 2021. During this period, the only horses to finish second or third in the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2 were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; and Battle of Midway, third in 2017.)

8. THE NOT A GELDING CATEGORY. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)


This week is your last chance to participate in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW).

Wagering in KDFW Pool 5 begins Thursday (April 7) at noon and concludes Saturday at 4:30 p.m., both ET. Keep in mind betting closes before the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes and Santa Anita Derby are run.

Pool 5 of the KDFW originally had been scheduled for last week, but Churchill officials made the decision to delay it by one week.

As usual with respect to the KDFW, Pool 5 consists of 23 individual horses, plus an “all other 3-year-olds” option.

Mike Battaglia has been making the official Kentucky Derby morning line going all the way back to 1974. This will be his 49th year in that role.

Battaglia also sets the morning line for the KDFW. He has pegged Epicenter as the 5-1 morning-line favorite in Pool 5, followed by Smile Happy at 6-1. Forbidden Kingdom, Messier and White Abarrio are next, each listed at 8-1.

The “all other 3-year-olds” option is 15-1 on Battaglia’s line.

As I have mentioned previously, what you generally want to do in future wagering is to take a swing at a possible big payoff with a horse at a really nice price. But as the Kentucky Derby gets closer, trying to find a worthwhile future bet becomes harder.

Take Simplification, for instance. He is 15-1 on Battaglia’s Pool 5 line. If you like Simplification, waiting until race day to bet him would seem the prudent way to go. Not only are you likely to get a price in that neighborhood of 15-1 on race day, the important difference is if he’s entered and doesn’t start, you get a refund. That’s not the case in future wagering.

One horse at the morning-line prices in KDFW Pool 5 that looks interesting to me is Japan’s Crown Pride at 50-1. If the UAE Derby winner stays anywhere around 50-1, I definitely will be putting some money on him. Considering Japan’s recent prowess in big races all over the globe, playing Crown Pride at around 50-1 does not seem to be a wacky idea. That’s a big enough of a price to go ahead and bet him despite not receiving a refund if it so happens that he doesn’t start.

Below are the morning-line odds for Pool 5 of the 2022 KDFW:

No. Horse (Morning Line Odds)

1. Barber Road (30-1)
2. Charge It (12-1)
3. Crown Pride (50-1)
4. Cyberknife (12-1)
5. Early Voting (20-1)
6. Emmanuel (20-1)
7. Epicenter (5-1)
8. Ethereal Road (50-1)
9; Forbidden Kingdom (8-1)
10. In Due Time (50-1)
11. Messier (8-1)
12. Mo Donegal (20-1)
13. Morello (20-1)
14. Pioneer of Medina (30-1)
15. Simplification (15-1)
16. Slow Down Andy (50-1)
17. Smile Happy (6-1)
18. Summer Is Tomorrow (50-1)
19. Tawny Port (50-1)
20. Tiz the Bomb (12-1)
21. White Abarrio (8-1)
22. Zandon (20-1)
23. Zozos (30-1)
24. “All Other 3-Year-Olds” (15-1)