The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: How Much Did The Rebel Shake Up The Rankings? - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: How Much Did The Rebel Shake Up The Rankings?

We're less than three months away from the first Saturday in May, which means it's time for detailed looks at the horses that could fill the Kentucky Derby starting gate with Andrew Champagne of Catena Media and The Saratogian's Pink Sheet.

Check the Paulick Report every week for updated rankings that include news, notes, and opinions on the 3-year-olds that figure to take center stage.

It's week two of these rankings, and we've got some housekeeping to take care of before we dive in.

First of all, I want to stress that these rankings are a hybrid of sorts. Yes, we're striving to keep an accurate list of top Kentucky Derby contenders. However, there will be instances where horses I'm not crazy about are on this list simply because they have too many Kentucky Derby points to ignore. They'll be ranked accordingly, but even if I think 40 horses are more plausible Derby winners, we can't keep a runner with 40 or more Derby points off of the list entirely.

Also, Secret Oath made headlines with a head-turning victory Saturday at Oaklawn Park. There are rumblings she may take on the boys in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, and if she is indeed pointed there, she'll make this list (if she was definitively headed there now, she'd be somewhere between eighth and 12th). For now, though, I can't put her in, simply because there's a chance her connections keep her against fillies. If that changes, she'll make this list.

Now that that's all out of the way, let's move on to the list!

Kentucky-bred contenders will be highlighted in red, and will receive additional analysis into their breeders, broodmares, and auction histories. Pedigree notes are written by Joe Nevills.

#1: Epicenter

Pedigree: Not This Time – Silent Candy (by Candy Ride)

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Kentucky Derby points: 64

Epicenter suffered a hard-luck loss in the Grade 3 Lecomte, when he did all the dirty work up front and got nailed on the wire. However, the G2 Risen Star was a totally different story. He demolished what certainly appeared to be one of the stronger fields we've seen to this point on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Smile Happy might've needed the race, but even so, that was an exceptional effort, one that stamps this front-running type as a major player.

Epicenter was bred in Kentucky by Westwind Farms, out of the Grade 3-placed stakes winner Silent Candy. He sold for $260,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Westwind Farms bought Silent Candy pregnant to Scat Daddy for $130,000 in 2014.

#2: Smile Happy

Pedigree: Runhappy – Pleasant Smile (by Pleasant Tap)

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Kentucky Derby points: 30

Hopes were high for Smile Happy's 3-year-old unveiling in the G2 Risen Star. He was a pretty distant second that day, but I think there's reason for optimism. He hadn't run in nearly three months, and he was pretty far behind a moderate early pace. That race wasn't the goal, and I think there's reason to believe he'll take a big step forward wherever he runs next.

Smile Happy was bred in Kentucky by Moreau Bloodstock International Inc. and White Bloodstock LLC, out of the winning Pleasant Tap mare Pleasant Smile, whose four starters are all winners, also including the stakes-placed Wilko Rum, by Wilko. Smile Happy sold as a weanling for $175,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Sale, and later brought $185,000 at the Keeneland September Sale.

#3: Classic Causeway

Pedigree: Giant's Causeway – Private World (by Thunder Gulch)

Owner: Kentucky West Racing and Cooper Clarke

Trainer: Brian Lynch

Kentucky Derby points: 16

It's tough to poke too many holes here. He cruised to an easy win in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, and he's taken steps forward in each of his four starts. Add in that he's bred to go as far as he's asked to run, and it's not hard to see Lynch heading to Kentucky with a real chance to record his first Derby triumph.

Classic Causeway is a homebred for Kentucky West Racing LLC  and the Clarke M. Cooper Family Living Trust, out of the stakes winner Private World, who is the dam of five winners from eight runners. Private World is herself a Kentucky West homebred.

#4: White Abarrio

Pedigree: Race Day – Catching Diamonds (by Into Mischief)

Owner: C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable

Trainer: Saffie Joseph, Jr.

Kentucky Derby points: 12

Saffie Joseph has emerged as one of the winningest trainers in Florida over the past few years, so it was only a matter of time before he found a serious Derby hopeful on his hands. In this case, White Abarrio stamped himself as one to watch with an authoritative score in the G3 Holy Bull. His lone loss came under the Twin Spires, when he was third in last year's Kentucky Jockey Club behind Smile Happy and Classic Causeway. White Abarrio won't run in Saturday's G2 Fountain of Youth, but may still be the top Derby prospect at Gulfstream regardless of that race's outcome.

White Abarrio was bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, and he is the first foal out of the Into Mischief mare Catching Diamonds. He sold as a newly-turned yearling for $7,500 at the 2020 OBS Winter Mixed Sale. Spendthrift purchased Catching Diamonds as a yearling for $425,000.

#5: Mo Donegal

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown (by Pulpit)

Owner: Donegal Racing

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 12

Much has been made over the past few years about the decline of the G2 Remsen. Mo Donegal, however, topped Zandon in that event and was sent away the 8/5 favorite in the Holy Bull. He ran in spurts that day and showed some signs of inexperience, but he was moving best of all late and nearly got up for second despite conceding plenty of ground around the turn. Everything about him says he'll mature with distance and experience, and there's no denying Pletcher can move horses along very quickly. We'll learn more in Saturday's Fountain of Youth, where he'll have to overcome a far-outside draw against a full field.

Mo Donegal was bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables. He brought $250,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September sale.

#6: Rattle N Roll

Pedigree: Connect – Jazz Tune (by Johannesburg)

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Kentucky Derby points: 10

The same owner/trainer combination behind Smile Happy also teams up with Rattle N Roll, who hasn't run since a score in the G1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in October. He's set to return Saturday in the Fountain of Youth, though, and if he's ready to run, he stands a big chance. We know there's talent here, as the field he beat in his signature win to date included Classic Causeway, among others.

Rattle N Roll was bred in Kentucky by St. Simon Place. The colt sold as a weanling for $55,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Sale, then brought $210,000 as a yearling. St. Simon Place acquired Jazz Tune pregnant to Mineshaft for $20,000 in 2016, and sold her for $585,000 pregnant to Liam's Map at the 2021 Keeneland November Sale.

#7: Call Me Midnight

Pedigree: Midnight Lute – Overseen (by First Defence)

Owner: Peter Cantrell

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Call Me Midnight was sent away at odds of 28-1 in the G3 Lecomte and proceeded to light up the tote board. In doing so, he rallied from last to first, and while the early pace was solid, it's not like they were flying, either. This pedigree doesn't exactly scream “two turns,” but Call Me Midnight beat some legitimate horses that day and showed maturity doing it. It sure seems like the faster they go early, the better his chances in any race figure to be.

Call Me Midnight was bred in Kentucky by Hartwell Farm, out of the Juddmonte Farms-bred Overseen. His siblings include the stakes-placed Bayerly Seen, by Bayern. Call Me Midnight sold as a weanling for $25,000, while Hartwell Farm bought the unraced Overseen as a broodmare prospect for $16,000.

#8: Simplification

Pedigree: Not This Time – Simply Confection (by Candy Ride)

Owner: Tami Bobo

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Kentucky Derby points: 4

Simplification earned a shot against tougher company with a wire-to-wire score in the Mucho Macho Man on New Year's Day. When he got that shot in the Holy Bull, he held his own, finishing second and holding off the fast-closing Mo Donegal. The waters are deep in Florida this time of year, but running second behind White Abarrio is nothing to scoff at. That one will skip Saturday's Fountain of Youth, which perhaps opens a door for Simplification to secure his spot in the Derby starting gate.

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#9: Early Voting

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Amour d'Ete (by Tiznow)

Owner: Klaravich Stables

Trainer: Chad Brown

Kentucky Derby points: 10

While the G3 Withers didn't move the needle on first viewing, that day's runner-up, Un Ojo, came back to pull off a shocking upset in the G2 Rebel. That may mean there's more than what meets the eye when it comes to that early-season prep at Aqueduct, which this son of Gun Runner won in convincing fashion, and that's why he moves up two spots this week. There's still a chance Early Voting moves forward with another start or two under his belt, and Aqueduct's road to the Derby could provide a low-resistance route.

Early Voting was bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm, and he sold as a yearling for $200,000. Three Chimneys bought Amour d'Ete, a half-sister to top sire Speightstown, as a yearling for $1.75 million.

#10: Charge It

Pedigree: Tapit – I'll Take Charge (by Indian Charlie)

Owner: Whisper Hill Farm

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Our first zero-point runner on this list shouldn't stay that way for very long. He was incredibly impressive in breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park by nearly nine lengths earlier this month. While Charge It may be a bit late to the party, there's plenty of time for him to rack up Derby points with just one or two starts. Pletcher took a similar route with Always Dreaming, who had zero Kentucky Derby points on the morning of the Florida Derby and was wearing roses just five weeks later.

Charge It is a Kentucky homebred for Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm, out of the Indian Charlie mare I'll Take Charge. Pope bought the dam as a yearling for $2.2 million at the 2013 Keeneland September sale.

#11: In Due Time

Pedigree: Not This Time – Sweet Sweet Annie (by Curlin)

Owner: Edge Racing

Trainer: Kelly Breen

Kentucky Derby points: 0

In Due Time won what sure seemed like a loaded allowance race in early-February at Gulfstream Park and did so impressively. He drew off to win by nearly six lengths over a pair of Todd Pletcher-trained prospects, and any win like that early in a 3-year-old season is bound to attract attention. We'll see just how good he is on Saturday, when he takes on a cast of heavy hitters in the Fountain of Youth.

In Due Time was bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West Stables Inc., and he is the first foal out of the unraced Sweet Sweet Annie. The Wests bought Sweet Sweet Annie with In Due Time in utero for $115,000.

#12: Zandon

Pedigree: Upstart – Memories Prevail (by Creative Cause)

Owner: Jeff Drown

Trainer: Chad Brown

Kentucky Derby points: 14

Zandon ran Mo Donegal to a photo finish in the Remsen before finishing third in the Risen Star. If nothing else, we know that distance shouldn't be what gets him beat, as both of those races were contested at nine furlongs.

Zandon was bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones of Airdrie Stud, and the colt is the first foal to race out of the unraced dam. Zandon sold as a yearling for $170,000 from the Airdrie Stud consignment.

#13: Shipsational

Pedigree: Midshipman – Regal Approach (by Thunder Gulch)

Owner: Iris Smith Stable

Trainer: Edward Barker

Kentucky Derby points: 4

A New York-bred, Shipsational won a pair of restricted stakes races at Belmont last fall before going to the sidelines for more than three months. He came back in the Sam F. Davis, and while no other runner was touching Classic Causeway, he picked up enough pieces to run second behind that much-the-best winner. If nothing else, Barker provides a fun story to root for. He's trained for nearly 30 years, and Shipsational is already his third-highest earner.

#14: Forbidden Kingdom

Pedigree: American Pharoah – Just Louise (by Five Star Day)

Owner: MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Someone forgot to tell Forbidden Kingdom that Bob Baffert was supposed to win the G2 San Vicente. Instead of that scenario unfolding, this one ran a career-best race to top a trio of Baffert trainees (say THAT five times fast). The lingering questions here are stamina-related. American Pharoah was a Triple Crown winner, but the presence of sprinter Five Star Day on the bottom of the pedigree makes one wonder if this talented colt truly wants to go two turns. We should get a better gauge of his gas tank on Saturday, when he headlines a seven-horse field in the G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita.

Forbidden Kingdom was bred in Kentucky by Springhouse Farm, out of the Grade 3 winner Just Louise. He sold to his current ownership for $300,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Sale. Springhouse Farm acquired Just Louise pregnant to Malibu Moon for $150,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton November sale.

#15: Pappacap

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Pappascat (by Scat Daddy)

Owner: Rustlewood Farm

Trainer: Mark Casse

Kentucky Derby points: 14

Pappacap showed a lot during a busy 2-year-old campaign, when he was second in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and American Pharoah Stakes out west. He then ran third in the Lecomte behind Call Me Midnight and Epicenter, but flopped when eighth in the Risen Star. Perhaps that dud is an outlier, but it's worth noting that he's winless since being stretched out to two turns last fall.

#16: Un Ojo

Pedigree: Laoban – Risk a Chance (by A.P. Indy)

Owner: Cypress Creek Equine

Trainer: Ricky Courville

Kentucky Derby points: 54

The one-eyed New York-bred lit up the tote board by winning the Rebel and paying $152.80 to win. In doing so, he secured enough points to ensure a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate provided he stays healthy. Initial impressions from Saturday's feature at Oaklawn aren't great, as heavy favorite Newgrange failed to fire and the race didn't stack up well from a speed figure standpoint. The question is, can he channel that form moving forward when the waters get even deeper?

#17: Major General

Pedigree: Constitution – No Mo Lemons (by Uncle Mo)

Owner: WinStar Farm and Siena Farm

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 10

One of Pletcher's most promising 2-year-olds last year, Major General broke his maiden in his debut at Saratoga and followed up with a win in the G3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs. He's been away from the races since September, but is working consistently at Palm Beach Downs ahead of his 3-year-old debut, which figures to come in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby.

Major General was bred in Kentucky by Circular Road Breeders, who also bred the unraced dam, No Mo Lemons. Major General sold as a newly-turned yearling for $265,000 at the 2020 Keeneland January Sale, then he brought $420,000 later that year at the Keeneland September sale.

#18: Slow Down Andy

Pedigree: Nyquist – Edwina E (by Square Eddie)

Owner: Reddam Racing

Trainer: Doug O'Neill

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Slow Down Andy's claim to fame is a win over Messier in the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity. That matters, and I'm not totally willing to toss him after his sixth-place finish in the Risen Star. He was wide that day, and perhaps a return to California will get him back to his best form. His full brother, Team Merchants, is a stakes-winning router, and he's already shown an ability to get a distance of ground himself.

#19: Ethereal Road

Pedigree: Quality Road – Sustained (by War Front)

Owner: Aaron Sones

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Kentucky Derby points: 20

D. Wayne Lukas had himself a day on Saturday, when he saddled runaway Honeybee winner Secret Oath and hard-luck Rebel runner-up Ethereal Road. In his first start against winners, the latter runner did everything but get the job done and may have been compromised by a wider trip than the winner. We'll see how legitimate that race is moving forward, but in a year where 20 points may be enough to punch a horse's ticket to the Derby, this one earned a mention.

Ethereal Road was bred in Kentucky by Paul Pompa Jr., out of the Grade 3-placed Sustained. He is a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Turned Aside, by American Pharoah. Ethereal Road sold for $90,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September sale. Pompa acquired Sustained as a yearling for $300,000, and she sold as part of the late breeder's dispersal, pregnant to Connect, for $320,000 at the 2021 Keeneland January sale.

#20: My Prankster

Pedigree: Into Mischief – My Wandy's Girl (by Flower Alley)

Owner: Robert and Lawana Low

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 1

A winter trip to Florida seems to have done My Prankster a world of good. After running fourth in the G1 Champagne and second in the Bowman Mill, he's strung together back-to-back wins, including one in the G3 Swale. Distance remains a question mark here, but My Prankster's flashed plenty of talent going shorter and may have earned another swing at Kentucky Derby points between now and May.

My Prankster was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, out of the Grade 2 winner and Puerto Rican champion My Wandy's Girl. He sold for $600,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Sale. Stonestreet purchased My Wandy's Girl as a broodmare prospect for $700,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale.

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