The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky Breds: Playing 'Good Trip, Bad Trip' For Each Kentucky Derby Runner - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky Breds: Playing ‘Good Trip, Bad Trip’ For Each Kentucky Derby Runner

It's Kentucky Derby week, which means it's time for detailed looks at the horses in the field 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. To view previous rankings over the season, click here.

This week's Derby Bubble has a twist. The Kentucky Derby field was locked in place at Monday's post position draw, and handicapping has begun in earnest.

With that in mind, we'll go horse-by-horse and play a game called, “Good Trip, Bad Trip.” Many things can go right or wrong in a 20-horse race, and each horse carries with it different ideal journeys from start to finish.

Let's dive in, shall we?

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: Mo Donegal

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown (by Pulpit)

Owner: Donegal Racing

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Good Trip: Mo Donegal takes his time out of the gate and avoids the traditional scrum in the first 100 yards. A very fast pace is set up front, which provides an ideal race shape. Ortiz works his way through the field aboard the Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner, who runs by them all to give Pletcher his third Derby victory.

Bad Trip: The 1-hole rears its ugly head. Mo Donegal gets crushed at the start and never gets comfortable. The pace is a modest one, which doesn't set up for him in the slightest, and he's never able to gain forward momentum.

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

#2: Happy Jack

Pedigree: Oxbow – Tapitstry (by Tapit)

Owner: Calumet Farm

Trainer: Doug O'Neill

Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

Good Trip: The pace is absurd (think Songandaprayer in 2001, when Monarchos rallied to win). As such, the pace-setters and those close to the front start retreating early. Happy Jack isn't able to win, but he does clunk up for a minor award at a big price and justify Team O'Neill sending the longshot to Kentucky.

Bad Trip: The colt that was a distant third in the G1 Santa Anita Derby runs into the top two again here, plus the best 3-year-olds from around the country. Hot pace or not, Happy Jack proves outclassed and is a non-factor at every stage.

Happy Jack is a Kentucky homebred for Calumet Farm, out of the placed Tapit mare Tapitstry. The breeder purchased Tapitstry for $100,000, pregnant to Tizway, at the 2015 Keeneland November sale.

#3: Epicenter

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

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Good Trip: With no speed to his inside, Epicenter establishes position near the lead and hugs the rail going under the wire the first time. He saves all the ground in a perfect spot, and assumes command going into the far turn. Carried to a rare Derby perfect trip by this tactical speed, Epicenter cruises home clear by open lengths and gives Asmussen his first Derby win.

Bad Trip: The post towards the inside proves problematic, and Epicenter gets shuffled back early on. He takes far more dirt than he did in the G2 Louisiana Derby and pays the price for it. He trudges home a one-paced fifth or sixth, and the whispers of, “will Asmussen ever win the Kentucky Derby?” grow a bit louder.

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.

#4: Summer Is Tomorrow

Pedigree: Summer Front – Always Tomorrow (by Badge of Silver)

Owner: Michael and Negar Burke

Trainer: Bhupat Seemar

Jockey: Mickael Barzalona

Good Trip: Summer Is Tomorrow bolts to the front in the opening strides and proves quickest of all in the early stages. He leads the field into the first turn and up the backstretch, and while he fades in the final half-mile, his connections experience the thrill they came halfway across the world to get.

Bad Trip: The UAE Derby runner-up doesn't make the lead and loses interest quickly. Barzalona's asks for more go unanswered, and he drops back through the field in fairly short order.

Summer Is Tomorrow was bred in Kentucky by Brereton Jones of Airdrie Stud, out of the winning Badge of Silver mare Always Tomorrow, who Jones bought for $20,000 at the 2015 Keeneland January Sale. The colt initially sold as a weanling for $25,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Sale, and he later brought $169,743 at the 2021 Arqana Deauville Breeze Up Sale.

#5: Smile Happy

Pedigree: Runhappy – Pleasant Smile (by Pleasant Tap)

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Good Trip: Smile Happy sits a few lengths off the pace, as he did in the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland. However, unlike that event, he's not hung wide all the way around the track. He saves some ground and has energy left when tipped out as the field turns for home. The potential he showed as a 2-year-old comes to fruition, and Mattress Mack proceeds to flood horse racing media with ads touting Smile Happy's sire as the father of a Derby winner.

Bad Trip: Smile Happy isn't sitting on a big race third off the bench. Instead, he's outed as a good 2-year-old that hasn't moved forward. The horse that got ran down by Zandon last month shows 10 furlongs is a bridge too far, and he fades after being up close early.

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.

#6: Messier

Pedigree: Empire Maker – Checkered Past (by Smart Strike)

Owner: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable, and Siena Farm

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Jockey: John Velazquez

Good Trip: Much like in the Santa Anita Derby, Messier sits just off the pace and pounces going into the far turn. Unlike in the Santa Anita Derby, though, this time he's got enough left to sustain his rally and get to the wire first. Velazquez can claim to have crossed the line first in three straight Kentucky Derbies, something no jockey has ever done.

Bad Trip: Messier's tactical speed puts him in a strong position, but they simply go too fast. When the real running starts and Velazquez asks for more, Messier comes up empty and cannot move with the closers coming from behind.

#7: Crown Pride

Japan-based Crown Pride wins UAE Derby

Pedigree: Reach the Crown – Emmy's Pride (by King Kamehameha)

Owner: Teruya Yoshida

Trainer: Koichi Shintani

Jockey: Christophe Lemaire

Good Trip: The UAE Derby winner turns the horse racing world on its ear. In addition to becoming the first winner of that race to ship to Kentucky and win the roses, Crown Pride also becomes the first Japanese-based horse to win America's most famous horse race. In doing so, America's breeding programs become forced to revisit models focused primarily on “brilliance,” and rededicate themselves to challenging Japan's stamina-focused products on the sport's biggest stages.

Bad Trip: It's a long way from Dubai to Kentucky. Crown Pride finds the waters to be too deep, and he struggles the same way prior UAE Derby winners have floundered beneath the Twin Spires.

#8: Charge It

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

Owner: Whisper Hill Farm

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Luis Saez

Good Trip: Charge It shows an affinity for going two turns in his second such try. The greenness we saw in the G1 Florida Derby is gone, replaced by a more professional Thoroughbred ready to live up to his world-class pedigree now that he's got a bit more experience. Three years after Maximum Security was DQ'd, Saez gets his Derby score (and does so at a pretty nice price).

Bad Trip: Three prior starts just isn't enough seasoning. Charge It remains green, and any traits reflecting immaturity are magnified given the field size and the crowd in attendance. He's not a factor in the Derby, and he's given time off to come into his own.

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.

#9: Tiz The Bomb

Pedigree: Hit it a Bomb – Tiz the Key (by Tiznow)

Owner: Magdalena Racing

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Jockey: Brian Hernandez, Jr.

Good Trip: Tiz The Bomb likes dirt, just not the dirt at Gulfstream Park. The winner of two races over Turfway Park's synthetic track brings that form with him to Churchill Downs. While that type of effort isn't quite good enough to win, he runs a bang-up second or third and presents his connections with a choice: Do we go overseas for the Epsom Derby, or do we stay in the U.S. for another Triple Crown race?

Bad Trip: Tiz The Bomb hates dirt. He struggles over the footing, never looks comfortable, and finishes in the bottom half of the field. His connections, who came down with an understandable case of Derby Fever, exclusively target races over the green and fake stuff moving forward.

Tiz the Bomb was bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, out of the winning Tiznow mare Tiz the Key. McPeek, acting as agent, purchased Tiz the Bomb for $330,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale. Spendthrift bought Tiz the Key as a yearling for the same price at the 2012 Keeneland September Sale.

#10: Zandon

Pedigree: Upstart – Memories Prevail (by Creative Cause)

Owner: Jeff Drown

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Good Trip: The early pace is scorching, and Zandon's in the perfect spot: Well, well behind the heat being thrown up front. One of the hottest riders in the game is able to replicate his mount's perfect Blue Grass trip with an eerily-similar move, one where he picks off his rivals one by one and pulls away in the final furlong. Brown gets his first win in the Derby, a race mentor Bobby Frankel never won.

Bad Trip: Closers need a lot to go right in order to win the Derby, and one fly in the ointment can ruin everything (even for horses as talented as this one). Zandon doesn't get the pace he needs to set up for his late kick, or he needs to surrender ground while moving wide around the far turn. Either way, his rally isn't enough.

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.

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#11: Pioneer of Medina

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Lights of Medina (by Eskendereya)

Owner: Sumaya U.S. Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Good Trip: Unlike the Louisiana Derby, Pioneer of Medina keeps his cool ahead of the race. Bravo's able to put his mount in a strong tactical position just behind the speed. He's not quite good enough to kick on with a winning rally, but the late-developing Pletcher trainee picks up a check and bumps up the trifecta or superfecta payoff considerably.

Bad Trip: Pioneer of Medina doesn't handle Derby Day well and leaves his race in the paddock or in the post parade. One of the last horses into the field runs like it, is distanced by the top finishers, and goes back down the class ladder for his next start.

Pioneer of Medina is a Kentucky homebred for Oussama Aboughazale, through his International Equities Holding, Inc., out of the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Lights of Medina. The colt is a third-generation homebred for Aboughazale, reaching back to Chilean-born fourth dam Medina Sidonia, who was a multiple Group 1 winner in her home country.

#12: Taiba

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Needmore Flattery (by Flatter)

Owner: Zedan Racing Stables

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Jockey: Mike Smith

Good Trip: Inexperience proves to not be a factor. Taiba's pure talent shines through, and he's able to replicate the trip he had in the Santa Anita Derby. Smith keeps him well off of a hot pace, and his move proves to be the winning one. The winner's circle presentation proves awkward given the events of 2021.

Bad Trip: The 139-year stretch of horses needing more than two starts to win the Derby continues. Taiba doesn't have the foundation necessary to compete against 19 other top-notch 3-year-olds in front of the Derby Day crowd. He bounces off of his big Santa Anita Derby score and heads back west to regroup.

Taiba was bred in Kentucky by Bruce Ryan, out of the 14-time stakes-winning Flatter mare Needmore Flattery. The dam was a homebred for Ryan and Tim Hamm's Blazing Meadows Farm. Taiba sold as a yearling for $140,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, and he later brought $1.7 million at the following year's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Selected 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale.

#13: Simplification

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

Owner: Tami Bobo

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Good Trip: One of the more consistent horses on the Derby trail shows up again here. Making his fifth start of the season (a grueling campaign compared to others in the field), Simplification gets a legitimate pace to rate behind and channels his form from the G2 Fountain of Youth. He rallies to hit the board at a big price.

Bad Trip: Simplification proves a bit too slow for this bunch. The Fountain of Youth hasn't come back well, and when Ortiz starts pumping, his mount's turn of foot just isn't there.

#14: Barber Road

Pedigree: Race Day – Encounter (by Southern Image)

Owner: WSS Racing, LLC

Trainer: John Ortiz

Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez

Good Trip: Lacking any semblance of a clean trip in his last several starts, Barber Road gets one in the biggest race of his career. With a hot pace in front of him, Barber Road comes flying late with a full head of steam. It's not quite enough to win the roses, but those who put him on their exotics tickets are rewarded handsomely.

Bad Trip: Old habits prove tough to break. Barber Road once again finds trouble, and that quest is far easier in this setting than it was in Arkansas. Another eventful journey (not the fault of a promising young jockey's first ride in this race, but that of the Derby and the inevitability of rough trips for many horses) compromises his chances and renders him an also-ran.

Barber Road was bred in Kentucky by Susan Forrester and Judy Curry, out of the unplaced Southern Image mare Encounter. The mare was a $1,000 purchase out of the 2015 Keeneland November Sale by Scott Conlee, who bred Encounter's future foals in partnership with Forrester and Curry until the latter two acquired full ownership. Barber Road sold as a weanling for $15,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Sale.

#15: White Abarrio

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

Owner: C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable

Trainer: Saffie Joseph, Jr.

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Good Trip: White Abarrio's Florida form comes with him. The Florida Derby winner shows off his tactical speed, and the outside post provides clear sailing for him the whole way around. Ground loss isn't an issue, and the clean trip leads to the first Kentucky Derby victory for White Abarrio's trainer and jockey.

Bad Trip: The Churchill Downs surface proves problematic, as does a pedigree that indicates he may not want to go the Derby distance. White Abarrio shows that tactical speed, but the 10-furlong trip proves a bit too far, and he's left spinning his wheels as the field turns for home.

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.

#16: Cyberknife

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Awesome Flower (by Flower Alley)

Owner: Gold Square LLC

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Good Trip: The outside draw proves beneficial, and Cyberknife is able to work out a second straight clean trip against Grade 1 company. Much like his trip in the G1 Arkansas Derby, he makes his move turning for home, and a pedigree that screams distance top and bottom ensures he stays on for a piece of it. Best of all, Cyberknife's run in the Derby spotlights a method to treat prostate cancer, which is how this colt got his name.

Bad Trip: The Arkansas Derby proves to be a negative key race. Whispers about the quality of 3-year-olds at Oaklawn this spring are validated when Cyberknife bounces off of his visually-impressive score.

Cyberknife was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, out of the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Awesome Flower, who the Ramseys claimed for $30,000 at Gulfstream Park in 2012. The colt sold for $400,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Sale.

#17: Classic Causeway

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

Owner: Kentucky West Racing and Cooper Clarke

Trainer: Brian Lynch

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Good Trip: The Tampa Bay Downs version of Classic Causeway shows up. The colt that won a pair of preps convincingly and showed some versatility while doing it stalks the pace and throws his hat into the ring around the far turn. Perhaps he's not good enough to win, but he does more than enough to wash away the bitter aftertaste of his Florida Derby dud.

Bad Trip: What we saw at Gulfstream was the real Classic Causeway. A late-April audible that got this colt back into the Derby field proves to be a case of Derby Fever, as he once again spits the bit after helping to set the early pace.

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.

#18: Tawny Port

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Livi Makenzie (by Macho Uno)

Owner: Peachtree Stable

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Good Trip: Tawny Port's win on dirt in the G3 Lexington isn't a fluke. He can indeed run on dirt, as well as synthetic, and he gets the benefit of a very fast pace in front of him. The biggest price of the Cox-trained trio outfinishes his two stablemates and earns a hefty check for his efforts (though not the winner's cut of the purse).

Bad Trip: The Lexington came back slow on figures. Tawny Port, who needs to improve off of that race, doesn't do that. The late kick mentioned in the best-case scenario doesn't materialize, and he finishes in the back half of the field.

Tawny Port was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, out of the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Livi Makenzie. The colt sold to Fort for $430,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. WinStar Farm bought Livi Makenzie as a broodmare prospect for $190,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November Sale, and the operation sold her pregnant to Always Dreaming for $30,000 at the same sale in 2020.

#19: Zozos

Pedigree: Munnings – Papa's Forest (by Forestry)

Owner: Barry and Joni Butzow

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Manuel Franco

Good Trip: The fight Zozos showed in the Louisiana Derby, when he didn't quit after being passed by Epicenter, shows up in Kentucky. He outruns a pedigree that says he doesn't want to go this far, and while the wide trip and likely pace scenario aren't ideal, he runs well enough to hit the board.

Bad Trip: Zozos doesn't make the lead and gets hung out wide around the first turn. With just three prior starts under his belt, inexperience rears its head and he bounces off of his solid try at Fair Grounds.

#20: Ethereal Road

Pedigree: Quality Road – Sustained (by War Front)

Owner: Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Jockey: Luis Contreras

Good Trip: Big Brown showed the 20-hole wasn't a death knell to a horse's Derby chances. Despite a wide run into the first turn, Ethereal Road gets some pace to rate behind. His late rally allows him to finish fourth or fifth behind several other closers, and Lukas sings the praises of Contreras just weeks after taking him off of Kentucky Oaks contender Secret Oath.

Bad Trip: Ethereal Road's no Big Brown. Still eligible for a non-winners-of-one allowance event, the longshot spins his wheels and proves to be outclassed by the 19 3-year-olds breaking to his inside.

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.

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