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⭐ What to watch for in the 2022 Kentucky Derby

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What to watch for in the 2022 Kentucky Derby

According to Churchill Downs’ Mike Battaglia’s opening odds, thoroughbred contender Cyberknife is a 20-1 shot for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Even if he doesn’t win, his owner deserves a bouquet of roses or at least a glass of champagne. You see, Al Gold had more important things on his mind when he named his Chestnut colt. The prostate cancer he was diagnosed with in December 2020 has been put into remission using the “cyberknife” technique.

“I am using this to get the word out that when you have prostate cancer you are afraid – but this is a form of cancer that is treatable,” Gold told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Gold went through a series of five cyberknife radiation treatments – no cutting is involved, and it’s essentially painless. It’s been a life-changing 16 months for the owner, and he’s hoping the greatest horse he’s ever had keeps the karma flowing forward.

Cyberknife (the horse) has run three times this year, his last two ending in the winner’s circle. He won the Arkansas Derby on April 2 by nearly three lengths, and an allowance race at Fairgrounds in February by nearly the same margin.

Whether he finishes first or 20th on Saturday, Gold is hoping the message spreads. Get checked, and don’t be afraid of what comes next.

“If this changes one person’s life where they aren’t as nervous when they are told they have prostate cancer,” he explained, “then it’s worth it.”

Kentucky Derby essentials
What: 148th Kentucky Derby

When: Saturday, 6:57 p.m., Race 12 of 14

Where: Churchill Downs/Louisville, Ky.

Distance: 1 1/4 miles.

TV: USA Network, 12-2:30 p.m.; NBC 2:30-7:30 p.m.

Streaming: PeacockTV.com.

The weather

Other Triple Crown races: Preakness Stakes (May 21), Belmont Stakes (June 11).

Predictions
Ed Barkowitz, sports writer: 3-Epicenter, 6-Messier, 15-White Abarrio, 10-Zandon

Luke Reasoner, Inquirer news designer: 2-Epicenter, 10-Zandon, 12-Talba, 6-Messier

Horsing Around
They’ll have a new starting gate at Churchill Downs which, most notably, will make it less of a burden for the horse in the first post position. In order to previously squeeze in 20 horses at the start, whoever was the No. 1 had to veer right out of the gate to avoid the pole. Mo Donegal is this year’s 1-horse.

Summer Is Tomorrow’s breeder was Brereton Jones, who was governor of the state of Kentucky from 1991-95. His trainer, Bhupat Seemar, is one of five trainers making their Derby debuts.

Seemar gained control of the horses at Zabeel Stables in Dubai when his uncle, Satish Seemar, had his U.S. license suspended because of a connection to Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic.

Satish Seemar said in November that he’s no longer training the horse in question and that the horse has been exported from the United Arab Emirates. In December 2020, the U.S. Treasury called Satish Seemar “a prominent member of Kadyrov’s network.”

Steve Asmussen, who has the second favorite with Epicenter, is the winningest thoroughbred trainer in U.S. history. He entered the week with 9,727 victories in 47.574 (20.4%), but he’s winless in 23 previous tries at the Derby. He’s had two second-place finishes here: Nehro in 2011 and Lookin’ At Lee in 2017.

”I think we’ve got the right (horse) and I’ve got the rider for it,” said Barber Road trainer John Ortiz. He and jockey Rey Gutierrez are both competing in their first Kentucky Derby.

Classic Causeway won the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 as the odds-on favorite, then finished last three weeks later at the Florida Derby. “I just have to put a line through his last race,” trainer Brian Lynch said.

Lynch, an Australian who moved to the U.S. in 1986, used to ride bulls on the rodeo circuit. This is his first Derby. He turned 58 on Sunday, and is a protégé of Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who himself was 0 for 8 in Derby tries.

The Florida Derby has produced 24 Kentucky Derby winners, including recently Always Dreaming (2017), Nyquist (2016) and Orb (2013). Last year’s Florida Derby winner, Known Agenda, finished 9th at the Kentucky Derby. White Abarrio, the No. 15 on Saturday, won this year’s Florida Derby.

Ethereal Road will be the 50th horse trained by D. Wayne Lukas to run in the Kentucky Derby. He’s won here four times, but not since Charismatic in 1999. Only one of the 14 horses he’s had this century have hit the tote board: Proud Citizen ran second to War Emblem in 2002.

“I’ve sort of had a lottery ticket dropped in my lap,” trainer Tim Yakteen told the Louisville Courier-Journal. Yakteen has taken over Messier (No. 6) and Taiba (No. 12) for Bob Baffert. “I’m trying to go to the window and cash it.”

Zandon and Zozos are the eighth and ninth horses to start with the letter Z to run in the Kentucky Derby. The only winner was Zev in 1923.

Purse
Total: $3,000,000. First place: $1,860,000. Second place: $600,000. Third place: $300,000. Fourth place: $150,000. Fifth place: $90,000.

Run for the Derby Standings
Horses accumulated points by finishing in the top four of 36 prep races.

Epicenter, 164 points – Saturday’s post: 3

Zandon, 114 points – Saturday’s post: 10

White Abarrio, 112 points – Saturday’s post: 15

Mo Donegal, 112 points – Saturday’s post: 1

Tiz the Bomb, 110 points – Saturday’s post: 9

Cyberknife, 100 points – Saturday’s post: 16

Crown Pride, 100 points – Saturday’s post: 7

Taiba, 100 points – Saturday’s post: 12

Simplification, 74 points – Saturday’s post: 13

Smile Happy, 70 points – Saturday’s post: 5

Classic Causeway, 66 points – Saturday’s post: 17

Tawny Port, 60 points – Saturday’s post: 18

Barber Road, 58 points – Saturday’s post: 14

Messier, 40 points – Saturday’s post: 6

Zozos, 40 points – Saturday’s post: 19

Summer Is Tomorrow, 40 points – Saturday’s post: 4

Charge It, 40 points – Saturday’s post: 8

Happy Jack, 30 points – Saturday’s post: 2

Pioneer of Medina, 25 points – Saturday’s post: 11

Ethereal Road, 22 points – Saturday’s post: 20

The field
1 – Mo Donegal (10-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Career earnings: $621,800

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-1-0-1

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd-4th: 5-3-0-2

Last three: Wood Memorial (1st), Holy Bull Stakes (3rd), Remsen Stakes (1st).

Notable: Sired by Uncle Mo and runs for Donegal Racing stables, hence the name. Won the Wood Memorial with Joel Rosario, who is aboard Epicenter here.

2 – Happy Jack (30-1)

Trainer: Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

Career earnings: $182,200

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-1-0-2

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd-4th: 4-1-0-2

Last three: Santa Anita Derby (3rd), San Felipe Stakes (3rd), Robert Lewis Stakes (5th).

Notable: Sire of Oxbow who, in 2013, won the Preakness, finished second in the Belmont and sixth in the Kentucky Derby. This will be Happy Jack’s first race outside of Santa Anita.

3 – Epicenter (7-2)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Joel Rosario

Career earnings: $1,010,639

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-2-1-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 6-4-1-0

Last three: Louisiana Derby (1st), Risen Star Stakes (1st), Lecomte Stakes (2nd).

Notable: Asmussen, the winningest trainer in North American history, has never won the Kentucky Derby. His 23 starts without a win are the most by any trainer (Dale Romans, 11, is next).

4 – Summer Is Tomorrow (30-1)

Trainer: Bhupat Seemar. Jockey: Mickael Barzalona

Career earnings: $267,606

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-1-2-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 7-2-3-0

Last three: UAE Derby (2nd), Conditions/Meydan (1st), Conditions/Jebel Ali (4th).

Notable: Making his U.S. debut after racing seven times in Dubai. Finished second to Crown Pride in the UAE Derby and received a special invitation to race here. His trainer called shipping a horse 7,000 miles a logistical nightmare.

5 – Smile Happy (20-1)

Trainer: Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Career earnings: $549,810

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-0-2-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-2-2-0

Last three: Blue Grass Stakes (2nd), Risen Star Stakes (2nd), Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (1st/2021).

Notable: The No. 5 post position has 10 winners in 92 starts, the last Always Dreaming in 2017. Smile Happy has run in just four races. His only start in the 5th post was when he won his maiden at Keeneland on Oct. 29. The field was half the size he’ll see on Saturday.

6 – Messier (8-1)

Trainer: Tim Yakteen. Jockey: John Velazquez

Career earnings: $435,600

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-1-1-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 6-3-3-0

Last three: Santa Anita Derby (2nd), Robert Lewis Stakes (1st), Los Alamitos (2nd).

Notable: Canadian-bred horse is named for NHL Hall of Famer Mark Messier. Could be a good sign that he drew the No. 6 position. That’s how many Stanley Cups Messier won.

7 – Crown Pride (20-1)

Trainer: Koichi Shintani. Jockey: Christophe Lemaire

Career earnings: $734,569

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-1-0-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-3-0-0

Last three: UAE Derby (1st), Hyacinth Stakes (6th), Mochinoki Sho (1st, 2021).

Notable: Is the second Japanese-bred horse to run in the Derby. Master Fencer finished sixth in 2019.

8 – Charge It (20-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Luis Saez

Career earnings: $230,400

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-1-2-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-1-2-0

Last three: Florida Derby (2nd), Maiden/Gulfstream (1st), Maiden Gulfstream (2nd).

Notable: Saez is 0 for 8 in the Derby, including the infamous DQ aboard Maximum Security in 2019. His third-place finish last year on Essential Quality is the only time he’s hit the board.

9 – Tiz the Bomb (30-1)

Trainer: Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Career earnings: $1,044,401

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-2-0-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 8-5-1-0

Last three: Jeff Ruby Stakes (1st), John Battaglia Stakes (1st), Holy Bull Stakes (7th).

Notable: Has won at four different Kentucky tracks – Ellis Park, Kentucky Downs, Keeneland and Turfway. Hasn’t run at Churchill since finishing seventh in first career race last May 14.

10 – Zandon (3-1)

Trainer: Chad Brown. Jockey: Flavien Prat

Career earnings: $713,000

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-1-0-1

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-2-1-1

Last three: Blue Grass Stakes (1st), Risen Star Stakes (3rd), Remsen Stakes (2nd).

Notable: Zandon rallied from dead last at the three-quarter mile pole to win the Blue Grass by 2.5 lengths over Smile Happy. He’s named for a hunting guide/friend of owner Jeff Drown, who has never attended a Derby until now.

11 – Pioneer of Medina (30-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Joe Bravo

Career earnings: $181,350

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-1-0-1

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 6-2-1-2

Last three: Louisiana Derby (3rd), Risen Star Stakes (4th), Allowance/Fair Grounds (1st).

Notable: This will be the sixth time in nine years Pletcher has at least three Derby horses. Of the previous 18 entered in that span, his only winner was Always Dreaming in 2017. He’s also had two third-places finishers with the rest sixth or worse.

12 – Taiba (12-1)

Trainer: Tim Yakteen. Jockey: Mike Smith

Career earnings: $490,200

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-2-0-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-2-0-0

Last two: Santa Anita Derby (1st), Maiden/Santa Anita (1st).:

Notable: Taiba (pronounced TAY-bah) and Messier had been trained by Bob Baffert but were transferred to Yakteen while Baffert serves a 90-day suspension, which will keep him out of the Triple Crown races.

13 – Simplification (20-1)

Trainer: Antonio Sano. Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Career earnings: $515,350

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-2-1-1

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 7-3-1-2

Last three: Florida Derby (3rd), Fountain of Youth Stakes (1st), Holy Bull Stakes (2nd),

Notable: The last Florida-bred Derby winner was Silver Charm in 1997.

14 – Barber Road (30-1)

Trainer: John A. Ortiz. Jockey: Rey Gutierrez

Career earnings: $650,720

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd-4th: 4-0-3-1

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 8-2-4-1

Last three: Arkansas Derby (2nd), Rebel Stakes (3rd), Southwest Stakes (2nd).

Notable: Hasn’t won in 2022, but has hit the board in all four races. He ran twice at Churchill as a 2-year-old with one win and one second.

15 – White Abarrio (10-1)

Trainer: Saffie Joseph. Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Career earnings: $823,650

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 2-2-0-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 5-4-0-1

Last three: Florida Derby (1st), Holy Bull Stakes (1st), Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (3rd).

Notable: Gaffalione is 0 for 4 in the Derby, but he has won six consecutive riding titles at Churchill Downs. The most recent being last fall’s meet when he had 34 victories.

16 – Cyberknife (20-1)

Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux

Career earnings: $860,000

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-2-0-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 6-3-2-0

Last three: Arkansas Derby (1st), Allowance (1st), Lecomte Stakes (6th).

Notable: Named for the successful procedure owner Al Gold underwent in his fight with prostate cancer. Gold is in remission and will be at the track on Saturday.

17 – Classic Causeway (30-1)

Trainer: Brian Lynch. Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Career earnings: $521,100

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-2-0-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd-4th: 6-3-1-1

Last three: Florida Derby (11th), Tampa Bay Derby (1st), Sam F. Davis Stakes (1st).

Notable: No horse from the 17th post position has won the Kentucky Derby since starting gates were introduced in 1930. Only once in 42 starts has the No. 17 even finished second (Forty Niner, 1988).

18 – Tawny Port (30-1)

Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Career earnings: $427,000

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-2-1-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 5-3-1-0

Last three: Lexington Stakes (1st), Jeff Ruby Stakes (2nd), Risen Star Stakes (5th).

Notable: Two of his five career races have been on dirt, including a win at the Lexington Stakes on April 16 with Florent Geroux. Santana will be Tawny Port’s fourth jockey in six races.

19 – Zozos (20-1)

Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Manny Franco

Career earnings: $291,200

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-2-1-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 3-2-1-0

Last three: Louisiana Derby (2nd), Allowance/Oaklawn (1st), Maiden/Fair Grounds (1st).

Notable: One of four horses in the field who did not race as a 2-year-old. Led the Louisiana Derby up until Epicenter caught him down the stretch. Named for a restaurant at Caneel Bay in St. John, Virgin Islands. Hear the Chocolate Torte is to die for.

20 – Ethereal (30-1)

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas. Jockey: Luis Contreras

Career earnings: $294,545

2022 starts-1st-2nd-3rd: 4-1-1-0

Career starts-1st-2nd-3rd-4th: 7-1-1-1

Last three:Lexington Stakes (4th), Blue Grass Stakes (7th), Rebel Stakes (2nd).

Notable: This will be the 50th start for Lukas at the Derby. Only Todd Pletcher (62, counting Saturday) has more.

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