Ranking the major 2022 Kentucky Derby prep races

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 1st, 2022

In advance of the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1), eight top-tier prep races were contested, each awarding 100 qualification points to the winner.

But not all 100-point prep races are created equal. Each year, some come up stronger than others and exert a greater influence on the Run for the Roses.

Let’s rank this year’s top-tier preps from eighth to first, in accordance with their perceived likelihood of producing the Kentucky Derby winner.

8. UAE Derby (G2)

The UAE Derby saw Japanese raider Crown Pride rally to defeat pacesetter Summer Is Tomorrow by 2 3/4 lengths. Both will start in the Kentucky Derby, but the UAE Derby has yet to produce a Run for the Roses superfecta finisher from 16 starters, and the 2022 UAE Derby wasn’t the fastest race on paper.

7. Arkansas Derby (G1)

Cyberknife was a visually impressive winner of the Arkansas Derby, settling a few lengths off the pace before pouncing to defeat Barber Road by 2 3/4 lengths. But Rebel S. (G2) winner Un Ojo had a rough trip while finishing eighth, and Cyberknife’s 94 Brisnet Speed rating indicates the Arkansas Derby was among the slower major prep races.

6. Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3)

Tiz the Bomb left no doubt about his superiority in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, rallying strongly from midpack to defeat next-out Lexington S. (G3) winner Tawny Port by 2 1/4 lengths with a 101 Brisnet Speed rating. But the Jeff Ruby took place over a synthetic Tapeta track, and it’s uncertain how Tiz the Bomb’s form will translate to dirt at Churchill Downs.

5. Florida Derby (G1)

Capitalizing on a fast pace, White Abarrio rallied smartly from fifth place to defeat Charge It (who raced greenly) and Simplification (who dueled for the lead) by 1 1/4 lengths. But the Florida Derby pace fell apart late with slow finishing fractions, and the winning 96 Brisnet Speed rating is a little on the light side.

4. Louisiana Derby (G2)

Risen Star S. (G2) winner Epicenter was much the best in the Louisiana Derby, showing a new dimension rating off the lead before taking charge to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Zozos and Pioneer of Medina. But the competition was arguably a bit lighter than in some of the other final-tier preps, and Epicenter’s 101 Brisnet Speed rating—while solid—is lower than the winning figures from the Blue Grass, Wood Memorial, and Santa Anita Derby.

3. Blue Grass S. (G1)

Zandon looked great when unleashing a bold rally through traffic to catch Smile Happy and win the Blue Grass by 2 1/2 lengths. Zandon’s last-to-first charge produced a 103 Brisnet Speed rating, and Smile Happy earned a solid 101 after racing closer to the early pace than usual and arguably challenging too soon. This was a solid race all the way around.

2. Wood Memorial (G2)

With runner-up Early Voting and troubled sixth-place finisher Morello skipping the Kentucky Derby, it appears the Wood Memorial will only produce one Derby starter: the victorious Mo Donegal. But we’re ranking the Wood Memorial as the second-best prep because it was a terrific race on paper. The early pace was solid, and Mo Donegal was full of run down the homestretch, sprinting the final three furlongs in :35.61 (earning a massive 121 Brisnet Late Pace rating) to win by a neck with a 111 Brisnet Speed rating. Mo Donegal should have every chance to prevail in the Kentucky Derby.

1. Santa Anita Derby (G1)

In terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba ran just as fast as Mo Donegal, charging from third place to win by 2 1/4 lengths with a figure of 111. We’re giving a nod to the Santa Anita Derby as the best Kentucky Derby prep race since runner-up Messier (who posted a 108) and distant third-place finisher Happy Jack (who received a 97) are also slated to start on the first Saturday in May.