The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: White Abarrio, Cyberknife Rocket Up The Charts - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: White Abarrio, Cyberknife Rocket Up The Charts

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.

Three major Kentucky Derby preps came and went on Saturday. With those races came sweeping changes in the points standings and these rankings, and more of those are still in store with several 100-point races yet to be run.

As a reminder, this list serves as a hybrid of sorts. If a horse has earned enough Derby points to make the field, he'll be on this list. However, that doesn't mean an exceptionally-talented 3-year-old without sufficient points will be ignored if it's eyeing a race that could serve as a springboard to the first Saturday in May.

Without further ado, 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: 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: 112

White Abarrio jumps up a few spots after his win in the G1 Florida Derby, where he topped Charge It, Simplification, and Classic Causeway, among others. He's never lost at Gulfstream Park, and if his Florida form travels to Kentucky with him, he'll have every chance to give his young trainer his first Kentucky Derby victory.

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.

#4: 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.

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.

#5: Charge It

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

Owner: Whisper Hill Farm

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Charge It made just the third start of his young career in the Florida Derby, which doubled as his first try around two turns. He ran in spurts, but did enough to finish second and sew up a spot in the Kentucky Derby field. Several accomplished horses finished behind him on Saturday, and given his inexperience, he's certainly got the potential to move forward. Add in the presence of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, and you have a runner that merits plenty of attention.

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.

#6: Cyberknife

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

Owner: Gold Square LLC

Trainer: Brad Cox

Kentucky Derby points: 100

New to the rankings, Cyberknife punched his ticket to Kentucky with a win in Saturday's G1 Arkansas Derby. Unlike heavy favorite Secret Oath and runner-up Barber Road, Cyberknife had a clean trip and made the most of it. His record looks far better if you toss the dud he ran in the G3 Lecomte, and just a few weeks after having no 3-year-olds on the Derby leaderboard, trainer Brad Cox now has a pair in the field.

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.

#7: Simplification

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

Owner: Tami Bobo

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Kentucky Derby points: 74

Simplification finished third behind White Abarrio and Charge It in the Florida Derby, and in an age where many top 3-year-olds will have two preps under their belts, it's impressive to see four here. He won the G2 Fountain of Youth and Mucho Macho Man and was second in the G3 Holy Bull.

#8: 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.

#9: 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.

#10: 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

It's concerning that Classic Causeway misfired in such a big way in the Florida Derby. He led early but dropped anchor going around the far turn. The good news is that he apparently came out of the race in good order, and his connections haven't ruled out a run in the Derby. For that reason, he maintains a spot on this list (though one that's a significant downgrade from where he's been most of the spring).

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.

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#11: 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.

#12: Zozos

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

Owner: Barry and Joni Butzow

Trainer: Brad Cox

Kentucky Derby points: 40

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.

#13: In Due Time

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

Owner: Edge Racing

Trainer: Kelly Breen

Kentucky Derby points: 20

In Due Time missed the Florida Derby, and 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.

#14: 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.

#15: Barber Road

Pedigree: Race Day – Encounter (by Southern Image)

Owner: WSS Racing, LLC

Trainer: John Ortiz

Kentucky Derby points: 58

There's something to be said for a horse that just doesn't run a bad race. With the exception of his debut, he's never been worse than third, and that includes five starts in stakes company. He salvaged second behind Cyberknife in the Arkansas Derby, and in doing so, he earned enough Derby points to make the field.

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.

#16: Tiz the Bomb

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

Owner: Magdalena Racing

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Kentucky Derby points: 110

We're still not sure which Derby Tiz the Bomb will run in. After a misfire on dirt, the connections said the Group 1 Epsom Derby was the primary target. However, he's since won a pair of Kentucky Derby preps, including the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks. He's got tons of talent, and the distance shouldn't be an issue given his pedigree…but can he run on dirt?

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.

#17: Un Ojo

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

Owner: Cypress Creek Equine

Trainer: Ricky Courville

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Un Ojo had a very rough trip in the Arkansas Derby, and he's got a set of staples in his left shoulder to show for it. His connections are still hopeful he'll be ready for the Derby. Should he be in good shape leading up to the race, his upset win in the G2 Rebel means he'll have more than enough points to go postward.

#18: 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.

#19: 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.

#20: Summer Is Tomorrow

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

Owner: Michael and Negar Burke

Trainer: Bhupat Seemar

Kentucky Derby points: 40

The connections of the UAE Derby runner-up have said they're planning to ship to Kentucky, since their colt has enough points to make the field. He's won two of seven starts in Dubai ahead of his trip to the U.S., and based on his current resume, it's tough to see him as anything other than the longest of longshots.

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.

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