Kentucky Derby scouting report: 30 Midwest horses to watch

Kentucky Derby scouting report: 30 Midwest horses to watch
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The Midwest contenders for the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby are numerous at this point in the year, as juveniles continue to show up on the scene and Derby points races have begun. Here is a look at possible contenders for the 2022 Run for the Roses.

Central Division
(Best odds - sire - trainer - owner - Derby points if applicable)

The leader

Pappacap (30-1 - Gun Runner - M . Casse - Rustlewood Farm - 12). The Gun Runner colt has not yet won a Derby points race. But he leads in the points standings off the strength of runner-up efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the American Pharoah (G1). Pappacap is set to make his next appearance in the Lecomte (G3) on Jan. 22 at Fair Grounds.

Top tier

Epicenter (32-1 - Not This Time - S. Asmussen - Winchell Thoroughbreds - 10). The Epicenter colt flew up the Derby points leaderboard with a win in the inaugural Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds on Dec. 26. He closed at 52-1 in the first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

Rattle N Roll (26-1 - Connect - K. McPeek - Lucky Seven Stable - 10). After not finishing in his second attempt to break his maiden, a race at Saratoga, Rattle N Roll came roaring onto the scene with a win at Churchill Downs. He followed that with a score in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland in October, which earned him 10 Derby points.

Smile Happy (20-1 - Runhappy - K. McPeek - Lucky Seven Stable - 10). The Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) was supposed to be the dirt coming-out party for another McPeek trainee, Tiz the Bomb, who was favored on the morning line. But that colt scratched before the race and Smile Happy made up for it, winning the race to earn 10 Derby points. Smile Happy finished the opening edition of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager at 8-1. He could run next in the Southwest (G3).

Dash Attack (75-1 - Munnings - K. McPeek - Catalyst Stable, et al). Another out of the McPeek barn, the Munnings colt sprang onto the scene by winning the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn. He broke his maiden at that same track in December.

Second tier

Kevin’s Folly (275-1 - Distorted Humor - T. Amoss - Michael McLoughlin - 1). After breaking his maiden on debut at Saratoga, the Distorted Humor colt has not found the winner’s circle, but he finished third in Grade 1 company in the Hopeful. He finished fourth in the Gun Runner to earn a single Derby point.

Kavod (250-1 - Lea - C. Hartman - James Rogers and Michael Robinson - 1). Kavod earned his Derby point by finishing fourth in the Smarty Jones. He previously had won the Advent Stakes at Oaklawn.

Classic Causeway (70-1 - Giant’s Causeway -  B. Lynch - Kentucky West Racing and Cooper M. Clarke - 6). The colt finished third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and second in the Kentucky Jockey Club to earn his six Derby points. Lynch has said that he will point Classic Causeway toward the Holy Bull (G3) on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream.

Ignitis (250-1 - Nyquist - D. Lukas - Holy Cow Stable - 2). After a sixth place finish in the Lively Shively, the Nyquist colt’s connections tried him on the Derby trail. He finished third in the Smarty Jones to earn two points.

Osbourne (200-1 - Tapiture - R. Moquett – Southern Springs Stables, the estate of Floyd Sagely and Mark Tauber - 4). The Tapiture colt finished second in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park on Dec. 17. After breaking his maiden on second asking Nov. 17 at Churchill Downs, the gelding moved to Oaklawn Park. In his first race he finished second, losing to Howling Time.

Giant Game (70-1 - Giant’s Causeway - D. Romans - West Point Thoroughbred and Albaugh Family Stables - 4). Giant Game put in a fierce effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to earn a third-place finish. Trainer Dale Romans said he does not have a race set in stone for the colt’s next appearance, but the Holy Bull (G3) is a possibility.

Red Knobs (275-1 - Union Rags - D. Romans - Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister - 2). Another talented 2-year-old in the Romans barn, Red Knobs finished third in the first Kentucky Derby prep of the season, the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs. After that, he finished eighth in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Ben Diesel (150-1 - Will Take Charge - D. Stewart - Willis Horton Racing - 1). After breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs on Oct. 31, the Will Take Charge colt came back for the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), where he finished fourth. Most recently, he finished seventh in the Smarty Jones. He closed the first pool of the KDFW at 66-1.

Surfer Dude (250-1 - Curlin - D. Stewart - Mark and Nancy Stanley - 2). After breaking his maiden going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs, Surfer Dude moved to Fair Grounds, where he finished third in the Gun Runner.

Bourbon Heist (150-1 - Practical Joke - I. Wilkes – E. Woolsey and K. Asmussen – 1). Despite not yet having won a race, Bourbon Heist earned a single Kentucky Derby point by finishing fourth in the Iroquois. In his most recent trip, a maiden special weight race at Churchill Downs on Oct. 31, he finished second.

Others to watch

Gunite (125-1 – Gun Runner – S. Asmussen – Winchell Thoroughbreds). After earning his diploma at Churchill Downs in June it was off to Saratoga for the Gun Runner colt, where he finished second in the Saratoga Special (G2) before earning a Grade 1 win in the Hopeful. He finished fifth in his most recent race, the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park. Gunite closed the first KDFW pool at 25-1

Stellar Tap (150 -1 - Tapit - S. Asmussen – L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds). After breaking his maiden at Saratoga in August, Stellar Tap has not managed to hit the board in either of his two appearances. He finished fifth in the Iroquois and seventh in the Breeders' Futurity.

Echo Zulu (75-1 - Gun Runner - S. Asmussen – L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds). The current points system makes things difficult for a filly to find her way into the Derby, but if Asmussen opted to go that route with her, it could make sense. Echo Zulu is undefeated through four races, with Grade 1 wins in the Spinaway (G1), Frizette (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Classic Moment (275-1 - Classic Empire - S. Asmussen – L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds). Classic Moment, a $350,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September yearling sale, broke his maiden on second asking on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. He finished fourth in the Springboard Mile.

Golden Glider (85-1 - Ghostzapper - M. Casse - Conrad Farms). A $375,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland November sale, Golden Glider has won in both of his starts, including a Tampa Bay Downs allowance. He could run next in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa.

God of Love (300-1 - Cupid - M. Casse - Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber). God of Love broke his maiden at Woodbine in the Cup and Saucer Stakes in October. He earned a graded victory in the Grey (G3), also at Woodbine. He could run next in the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct.

Cyberknife (50-1 - Gun Runner - B. Cox – Gold Square). Another from Gun Runner’s first sire crop, Cyberknife has finished second in two maiden races at Churchill Downs. He was a $400,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton selected yearlings showcase. Cox has said the colt could target the Southwest or Lecomte, though he did not rule out another allowance race.

Rocket Dawg (45-1 - Classic Empire - B. Cox – Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and Ten Strike Racing). The Classic Empire colt impressed on debut at Churchill Downs, winning by 5 1/2 lengths on Nov. 19. He finished sixth in the Gun Runner at Fair Grounds. He was a $375,000 purchase at the same sale as Cyberknife.

Tiz the Bomb (100-1 - Hit It a Bomb - K. McPeek – Phoenix Thoroughbred). Tiz the Bomb was set to run in his first dirt stakes race at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club as the morning-line favorite, but race-day inflammation kept him out of that race. He is a graded-stakes winner on turf from the Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland and finished second in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf.

Texas Red Hot (275-1 - Texas Red - R. Morse – D D Stables). The Texas Red colt tried his luck in graded-stakes company on Nov. 27 in the Kentucky Jockey Club, where he finished 10th and was never a factor. He had performed well in his previous race, winning an allowance event at Churchill Downs.

Roger McQueen (250-1 - Unified - L. Rivelli – Carolyn Wilson). Roger McQueen took a bump in the Iroquois and gave way late, finishing ninth. He had showed out in his previous race, winning the Ellis Park Juvenile.

Howling Time (125-1 - Not This Time - D. Romans – Albaugh Family Stable). After breaking his maiden on debut at Churchill Downs, Howling Time went on to win the Street Sense there on Oct. 31. He ran back on Nov. 27 in the Kentucky Jockey Club, finishing in fifth place, just outside of the Derby points payout.

Bueno Bueno (200-1 - Lord Nelson - J. Sisterson – Calumet Farm). The Lord Nelson colt had a strong showing over the summer at Ellis Park, breaking his maiden and winning an allowance race, both in July. He most recently finished sixth in the Limehouse Stakes at Gulfstream.

Trafalgar (135-1 - Lord Nelson - A. Stall Jr. – Columbine Stables). Trafalgar broke his maiden in October at Churchill Downs before making his way to Fair Grounds for the winter, where he won an allowance race. He finished the first pool of the KDFW at 98-1. 

Apprehend (175-1 - Arrogate - R. Amescua - Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd.). After two attempts at Del Mar, the Arrogate colt broke his maiden by a nose at Oaklawn, going six furlongs. He was a $185,000 purchase at the June 2021 Ocala Breeders’ 2-year-olds and horses of racing age sale.

Remaining Midwest Division preps

Lecomte (G3) – Fair Grounds – Jan. 22 – 10-4-2-1

Southwest (G3) – Oaklawn – Jan. 29 – 10-4-2-1

Risen Star (G2) — Fair Grounds – Feb. 19 – 50-20-10-5

Rebel (G2) — Oaklawn – Feb. 26 – 50-20-10-5

John Battaglia Memorial — Turfway Park – March 5 – 10-4-2-1

Louisiana Derby (G2) — Fair Grounds – March 26 – 100-40-20-10

Arkansas Derby (G1) — Oaklawn – April 2 – 100-40-20-10

Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) — Turfway Park – April 2 – 100-40-20-10

Blue Grass (G2) — Keeneland – April 9 – 100-40-20-10

Lexington (G3) — Keeneland – April 16 – 20-8-4-2

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