The Top 5 – A Look at the Points Leaders Heading to the Derby

We know there’s going to be 20 entered for the Kentucky Derby, maybe more. The post draw will help dictate the outcome of the race. One tweak that could be beneficial for the Derby in future years is to allow the points standings to determine the order of post position draw. Until then it is luck of the draw that has a major factor in the race. Here’s a look at the five horses atop the Derby points leaderboard.

Epicenter – Standing alone atop the leaderboard with 164 points, Epicenter has taken the Louisiana route to the Derby. This path worked quite well for last year’s eventual Derby champ Mandaloun, although Epicenter won’t provide nearly the value if he were to win the race. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Epicenter was a one dimensional horse through his first five career starts. He raced on the lead in his early races, a style that worked well in victories in the Gun Runner and Risen Star at Fair Grounds. He showed a new style in his most recent start, tracking the pace in the Louisiana Derby, before taking over in the stretch. He will be one of the Derby favorites.

Zandon – Second on the list with 114 points, Zandon is well traveled, making four starts at four different tracks. Sprinting to a maiden score at Belmont in his debut, he narrowly missed behind eventual Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal in the Remsen in his final start of 2021. If Epicenter is as good as we think, Zandon may be too, as his third-place effort to Epicenter in the Risen Star was a huge performance. He hopped at the start in that race before closing strongly late. He stepped up in the Blue Grass at Keeneland in his final prep, weaving through traffic to win going away. If the pace is swift early in the Derby his chances to win will greatly increase.

White Abarrio – If the Derby were held at Gulfstream Park, White Abarrio would be the likely favorite as he’s never lost over that track. Standing in third with 112 points, his only defeat came last fall at Churchill Downs behind two talented horses in Smile Happy and Classic Causeway. Despite missing some training time prior to both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby, White Abarrio showed the ability to settle behind the pace and close well in the lane. He may be overlooked a bit in the Derby but must be considered in all gimmick wagers.

Mo Donegal – With 112 points, Mo Donegal heads to Churchill via New York for the Derby. He got the best of Zandon in the Remsen to close out his two-year-old campaign, battling through the lane to prevail. A slow start in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream was costly as he was no better than third behind White Abarrio and Simplification. Returning to New York, Mo Donegal saved ground in the Wood Memorial, closing strongly late to get up at the wire for a victory. The concern for Mo Donegal is the start as he’s had trouble early in four of five career races. With 20 in the gate for the Derby his race could be won or lost in the first two strides.

Tiz the Bomb – Just over 10 years ago, Animal Kingdom showed that a horse can go from a prep over a synthetic surface to a win in the Derby. It hasn’t happened again since, but with 110 points, Tiz the Bomb will try to match what Animal Kingdom did for trainer Kenny McPeek. A five-time winner on his career, Tiz the Bomb broke his maiden over at dirt surface in a race taken off the turf last summer at Ellis Park. Since that win he has two turf victories and two synthetic wins. His most recent score came in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway, a race that initially didn’t look that strong but may be better than it appears as second-place finisher from the race, Tawny Port came back to win the Lexington. He’s going to be a Derby longshot as his dirt record provides some question.

Tomorrow we take a look at horses 6-10 on the leaderboard.

A reminder, seats are filling up quickly at Hawthorne Race Course and all of our Club Hawthorne OTB locations for the Derby. Make sure you make your reservations now!