Kentucky Derby and Oaks Roundup: April 11, 2022

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April 12th, 2022

They say April showers bring May flowers. That could certainly prove true if a participant from last week’s downpour of Kentucky Derby qualifiers claims the roses in the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Less than four weeks remain until the fabled first Saturday in May, and action on the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks trails has been intense. Let’s catch up on the latest news and notes:

Changes on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard

A trio of important Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers took place across the country last weekend. All three races had significant impacts on the qualification leaderboard, so let’s recap how the results unfolded:

  • In the Blue Grass S. (G1) at Keeneland, Zandon (114 points, second place on the leaderboard) unleashed an explosive rally from the back of the pack to surge past Smile Happy (70 points, 10th place) to win by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths. The Chad Brown trainee took a big step forward off his third-place finish in the Risen Star S. (G2) to kick off 2022 and heads to the Kentucky Derby with an improving profile.
  • In the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita, Taiba (100 points, eighth place) turned heads by unfurling a determined rally to defeat favored stablemate Messier (40 points, 16th place) by 2 1/4 lengths. Happy Jack (30 points, 21st place) finished another 10 lengths back in third place. Winning the Santa Anita Derby was a remarkable achievement for Taiba, whose only previous run yielded a debut victory sprinting six furlongs on March 5 at Santa Anita.
  • In the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, Mo Donegal (112 points, fourth place) unleashed a terrific burst of acceleration to sprint the final three furlongs in :35.61 and win by a neck over Early Voting (50 points, 14th place). It’s rare to see a Kentucky Derby contender finish so fast, and Mo Donegal’s winning time of 1:47.96 ranks as the fastest Wood Memorial since 2005.

In addition, Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Classic Causeway (66 points) and San Felipe S. (G2) hero Forbidden Kingdom (50 points) have been removed from Kentucky Derby consideration following disappointing efforts in the Florida Derby (G1) and Santa Anita Derby, respectively. This has allowed Charge It (40 points, 19th place) and Tawny Port (40 points, 20th place) to enter the leaderboard Top 20.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 5 wraps up

The fifth and final Kentucky Derby Future Wager of 2021-22 closed on Saturday with Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Epicenter favored at 9-2. Messier closed as the 6-1 second choice shortly before his defeat in the Santa Anita Derby, while “All Other Three-Year-Olds” (which includes Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba) drifted to the enticing price of 18-1.

For a complete list of betting interests and odds, check out our recap of Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 5.

On the work tab

Call Me Midnight: Breezed four furlongs in :49.60 over a good track at Keeneland on Saturday.

Dash Attack: Took a slow spin over the Churchill Downs main track on Saturday, getting half a mile in :50.60.

Epicenter: In his first workout since arriving at Churchill Downs, the Louisiana Derby (G2) winner traveled five furlongs in 1:01.00 on Sunday.

In Due Time: Cruised four furlongs in :52.00 over a good track at Keeneland on Saturday.

Major General: Clocked an easy half-mile in :50.13 on Friday at Palm Beach Downs.

Road to the Kentucky Oaks updates

The Road to the Kentucky Oaks concluded last week with a quartet of prep races conducted Friday through Sunday. Here’s how the action affected the qualification leaderboard:

  • In the Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland, Nest (120 points, third place) trounced Cocktail Moments (52 points, 12th place) by 8 1/4 lengths to record her third win on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. The daughter of Curlin is improving by leaps and bounds and can’t be overlooked as a threat for victory on May 6.
  • In the Gazelle S. (G2) at Aqueduct, Nostalgic (101 points, sixth place) unleashed a strong inside rally from midfield to upset pacesetting Venti Valentine (94 points, seventh place) by 1 1/4 lengths. Shotgun Hottie (41 points, 15th place) gained ground mildly to finish third and is currently ranked just outside the cutoff mark for Kentucky Oaks qualification.
  • In the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita, Desert Dawn (108 points, fifth place) sprung a significant surprise, outdueling Adare Manor (40 points, not a Kentucky Oaks nominee) to win by a neck at odds of 14-1. Ain’t Easy (40 points, 16th place) finished 7 1/2 lengths behind the top pair in third place, a testament to how well the top-two finishers performed.
  • In the Beaumont S. (G3) at Keeneland, Matareya (10 points) drew off powerfully down the homestretch to win by 8 1/2 lengths, bringing her record this year to a perfect 2-for-2. Trainer Brad Cox indicated Matareya will stick to sprinting for the foreseeable future, so a Kentucky Oaks bid isn’t under consideration.

Looking ahead

After seven months of action, the Road to the Kentucky Derby concludes on Saturday with the Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland, a 1 1/16-mile event worth 20-8-4-2 points to the top four finishers. It’s a last-minute opportunity for horses on the qualification bubble to sneak into the Kentucky Derby field.

Entries for the Lexington won’t be drawn until Wednesday, but Keeneland lists Lecomte S. (G3) winner Call Me Midnight, Iroquois S. (G3) hero Major General, Smarty Jones S. winner Dash Attack, Sunland Derby (G3) runner-up Bye Bye Bobby, Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) second-place finisher Tawny Port, and Fountain of Youth S. (G2) runner-up In Due Time among the possible starters.