The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: Seismic Changes And Settling Waters - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: Seismic Changes And Settling Waters

The Kentucky Derby is fast approaching, which means it's time for detailed looks at the horses that could fill the 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.

The final round of Kentucky Derby preps are officially in full swing. These are where we'll learn a lot about some horses, and this past week provided plenty of education (plus a few key news items that have led to significant changes to this list).

Let's take a look!

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: 164

Epicenter didn't just win the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. He did it in exactly the right way. He showed he could rate just off the speed, even taking some dirt in his face going up the backstretch. When called upon, he swooped past the front-runners and had plenty left late. It was as perfect a final prep as the connections could've hoped for, and he may very well be your Kentucky Derby favorite.

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: 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

Kentucky Derby points: 0

We know the story here. Unable to earn Kentucky Derby points in the care of Bob Baffert, and with time ticking away, the owners of Messier (and a few other horses) moved three runners to Yakteen and one to Rodolphe Brisset. Messier certainly has the talent to be a factor in Kentucky. His romp in the G3 Bob Lewis was exceptional, and he's on a collision course with Forbidden Kingdom in the G1 Santa Anita Derby.

#3: Smile Happy

Pedigree: Runhappy – Pleasant Smile (by Pleasant Tap)

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Kentucky Derby points: 30

Smile Happy was certainly flattered by the Louisiana Derby. He was second to Epicenter in the G2 Risen Star, which doubles as this one's lone 2022 race to date. He may already have enough Derby points to qualify for a spot in the field, but we'll see him again in the G2 Blue Grass at Keeneland next month.

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.

#4: Classic Causeway

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

Owner: Kentucky West Racing and Cooper Clarke

Trainer: Brian Lynch

Kentucky Derby points: 66

We've got an audible here, as the winner of the G2 Tampa Bay Derby and G3 Sam F. Davis will face White Abarrio and Simplification (among others) in Saturday's G1 Florida Derby. It's a pretty quick wheel-back, as this one ran three weeks ago and coasted home to an easy score. The going gets significantly tougher, however, on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

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.

#5: 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

White Abarrio's win in the G3 Holy Bull was incredibly sharp. However, it carried just 10 Kentucky Derby points, meaning his connections can't afford a misfire on Saturday against what's shaping up to be an excellent group. If he can improve upon what we saw in February, he's got a big chance, but he may have to do just that.

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.

#6: Simplification

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

Owner: Tami Bobo

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Second in the Holy Bull and first in the G2 Fountain of Youth, Simplification stayed out of trouble in the latter race and proved much the best. He was a distant second behind White Abarrio in his first Kentucky Derby prep, and Classic Causeway looms large as well, but there's every chance that this one is coming into form at the right time.

#7: Mo Donegal

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown (by Pulpit)

Owner: Donegal Racing

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 12

Mo Donegal ran in spurts when third in the Holy Bull, and was beaten just a sliver by Simplification that day. He runs like a horse that will get better with experience and maturity, not to mention one that shouldn't be bothered by more distance. The G2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct is up next, and it's likely he'll be favored in that spot.

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

#8: Forbidden Kingdom

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

Owner: MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Kentucky Derby points: 50

It's tough to see the Santa Anita Derby as anything other than a two-horse race. Forbidden Kingdom and Messier stand head and shoulders above the rest of the 3-year-old males in California. The big question: Can Forbidden Kingdom replicate his G2 San Felipe effort if he's challenged up front early on? We'll find out sooner rather than later in California's biggest Kentucky Derby prep.

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.

#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, and fourth-place finisher Grantham ran second in the Tampa Bay Derby. 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. He'll take on Mo Donegal (among others) in the Wood Memorial.

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: Zozos

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

Owner: Barry and Joni Butzow

Trainer: Brad Cox

Kentucky Derby points: 40

New to the rankings, Zozos ran well when second in the Louisiana Derby. He set a legitimate pace under pressure, and while he was no match for Epicenter, he held second and secured enough points to get him to Kentucky. The pedigree doesn't exactly scream “a mile and a quarter,” but the 1 3/16-mile distance of the Louisiana Derby didn't seem like too much of a problem. With only three starts under his belt, he may have more room to improve.

Zozos is a Kentucky homebred for Barry and Joni Butzow, out of the winning Forestry mare Papa's Forest. The Butzows purchased Papa's Forest as a yearling for $57,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September sale, and she made $233,593 on the racetrack.

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#11: In Due Time

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

Owner: Edge Racing

Trainer: Kelly Breen

Kentucky Derby points: 20

A lot of familiar names will contest the Florida Derby, but In Due Time isn't on that list. Per DRF, he'll be pointed to a later prep after needing extra time following the chaotic Fountain of Youth. He, of course, was second in that race, with some believing jockey Paco Lopez caused a chain reaction that ended with two horses falling and dropping their riders.

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: Morello

Pedigree: Classic Empire – Stop the Wedding (by Congrats)

Owner: Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Craig Taylor, and Diamond T Racing

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Morello moved to 3-for-3 with a professional score in the G3 Gotham at Aqueduct. It's entirely possible he didn't beat much in that effort, but he did it the right way. There are still some stamina questions here, as he hasn't gone two turns yet, but he was moving away from that field late and doing so pretty easily. Much like with Forbidden Kingdom, Morello's next start will likely come in deeper waters, and we'll see if he sinks or swims.

Morello was bred in Kentucky by Robert B. Tillyer and Dr. Chet Blackey, out of the Congrats mare Stop the Wedding. The colt sold as a weanling for $140,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Sale, then he brought $200,000 at the following year's Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Sale. In 2021, Morello sold for $250,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Stop the Wedding was an $11,000 purchase, pregnant to Cairo Prince, by Tillyer at the 2020 Keeneland January Sale.

#13: Secret Oath

Pedigree: Arrogate – Absinthe Minded (by Quiet American)

Owner: Briland Farm

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Okay, let's see what the filly's made of. She'll go up against the boys in this weekend's G1 Arkansas Derby, and it sure doesn't seem like any monsters are set to line up against her. If she can channel her form from her two stakes wins at Oaklawn Park, she'll be a handful, and a top-two finish would make for a very popular storyline heading into the first Saturday in May.

Secret Oath was homebred in Kentucky by Briland Farm, Robert Mitchell, and Stacy Mitchell. She is out of the multiple Grade 1-placed stakes winner Absinthe Minded, who is also a homebred for the same connections. 

#14: Charge It

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

Owner: Whisper Hill Farm

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 0

This is another runner set to face a significant class test. Last seen breaking his maiden in eye-catching fashion, Charge It will tackle Grade 1 company in the Florida Derby. There were a number of places Charge It could have gone for his first try against winners. Rather than a first-level allowance, he's trained right up to the biggest spot of his career.

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.

#15: Zandon

Pedigree: Upstart – Memories Prevail (by Creative Cause)

Owner: Jeff Drown

Trainer: Chad Brown

Kentucky Derby points: 14

Zandon hasn't been seen since running third in the Risen Star behind Epicenter and Smile Happy. Prior to that, he ran Mo Donegal to a photo finish in the Remsen, so we know two turns won't be an issue. His next start is set for the Blue Grass at Keeneland, where he'll once again meet up with Smile Happy.

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.

#16: Rattle N Roll

Pedigree: Connect – Jazz Tune (by Johannesburg)

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Kentucky Derby points: 20

Rattle N Roll showed a bit of improvement second off the bench. That step forward, though, wasn't enough to challenge the top three in the Louisiana Derby, and he settled for fourth and only 10 more Derby points. Perhaps the track played a bit kind to early speed that day, and the quick run-back means a run in a race like the G3 Lexington is a possibility. However, he's still got some going to do to run to the potential he showed as a 2-year-old.

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.

#17: 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 upset winner of the G2 Rebel will be back in action in the Arkansas Derby. He's already got enough points for a spot in the Kentucky Derby, but it'll be interesting to see if the New York-bred can repeat the race we saw last time out. If Secret Oath shows up and puts forth the type of effort we've come to expect, this gelding may have to step up in order to run with her.

#18: Pioneer of Medina

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

Owner: Sumaya U.S. Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 25

Pioneer of Medina enters this list after checking in third in the Louisiana Derby. He got loose prior to the race, but showed no ill effects once the gates were sprung (though he was no threat to Epicenter and couldn't get past Zozos for second). That effort, combined with a fourth-place finish in the Risen Star, may have given him enough Derby points to qualify for the race.

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.

#19: Slow Down Andy

Pedigree: Nyquist – Edwina E (by Square Eddie)

Owner: Reddam Racing

Trainer: Doug O'Neill

Kentucky Derby points: 60

Best known for topping Messier in the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity last year, Slow Down Andy punched his ticket to Kentucky with a win in the G3 Sunland Park Derby. As such, he returns to this list, even though, “who did he beat in New Mexico?,” is a very valid question. O'Neill has won the Derby twice, and he conditioned Hot Rod Charlie to a second-place finish a season ago.

#20: Crown Pride

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

Owner: Teruya Yoshida

Trainer: Koichi Shintani

Kentucky Derby points: 100

With his win in the Group 2 UAE Derby, Crown Pride ensured himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby field. Given the focus on stamina and longevity within the Japanese breeding program, it seems likely they'll win a Derby at some point. I'm just not sure this is the year that happens.

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