Kentucky Derby Contenders, Point Leaders & Top Horses to Watch in 2022

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Last updated: May 8, 2022 at 11:35 a.m. EDT

2022 Kentucky Derby Contenders

As horses enter the Derby trail, they get one shot to run in the Kentucky Derby in their lifetime.

Discover how horses earn the chance to run in the Kentucky Derby with information below; Information such as contender lists, race entries and point accumulation.

2021-2022 Kentucky Derby Contender Point Leaders

Check out the latest standings of contenders who are hopeful to start the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Positions based on points earned along the Road to the Kentucky Derby trail and non-restricted stakes earnings.

PointsHorseNon-Restricted Stakes EarningsRTKD Races Won
164Epicenter$940,000Gun Runner Stakes, Risen Star Stakes, Louisiana Derby
114Zandon$663,500Blue Grass Stakes
112White Abarrio$769,650Holy Bull Stakes, Florida Derby
112Mo Donegal$561,500Remsen Stakes, Wood Memorial
110Tiz the Bomb$1,012,210John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, Jeff Ruby Steaks
100Cyberknife$752,000Arkansas Derby
100Crown Pride (JPN)$671,544UAE Derby
100Tabia$450,000Santa Anita Derby
74Simplification$482,150Fountain of Youth Stakes
70Smile Happy$499,410Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
60Tawny Port$351,400Lexington Stakes
58Barber Road$589,700
54Un Ojo$661,250Rebel Stakes
50Early Voting$277,500Withers Stakes
50Morello$220,000Gotham Stakes
40Messier$390,000
40Zozos$200,000
40Summer Is Tomorrow$200,000
40Charge It$188,000
30Happy Jack$142,000
25 Pioneer of Medina$116,000
24In Due Time$113,800
22Ethereal Road$231,000
21Red Strike$74,500
20Rattle N Roll$344,000Breeders' Futurity
20Skippylongstocking$86,350
18Major General$251,525Iroqouis Stakes
15Golden Glider$87,250

*Corniche (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner), Messier (2nd at Los Alamitos Futurity), Barossa (3rd at Los Alamitos Futurity), Newgrange (Sham Stakes & Southwest Stakes winner), Rockefeller (2nd at Sham Stakes), and Blackadder (1st at El Camino Real Derby) did not receive any qualification points due to trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension by Churchill Downs Inc. through 2023.

**Horses that ran with medication (Lasix) do not receive any points towards qualification. Concept and Classic Moment received no points from the Springboard Mile.

***Before the Santa Anita Derby, Messier was trained by Bob Baffert and thus did not earn any points for his earlier starts.

****Summer Is Tomorrow was a late nominee. He is ranked behind Zozos based on career earnings, the third tie-breaker

2021-2022 European Road to the Kentucky Derby Point Leaders

Check out the latest standings of contenders from the Euro series who are hopeful to start the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Positions based on points earned along the European Road to the Kentucky Derby trail and non-restricted stakes earnings.

PointsHorseRTKD Races Won
30Dark Moon Rising (IRE)Cardinal Stakes
23Blue Trail (IRE)Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes
20Luxembourg (IRE)Beresford Stakes, Vertem Futurity Trophy
20Juncture (GB)Patton Stakes
20Harrow (IRE)n/a
10Angel Bleu (FR)Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère
10Royal Patronage (FR)Juddmonte Royal Lodge
10Find (GB)n/a
8Morning Soldier (IRE)n/a
4Noble Truth (FR)n/a
4Coroebus (IRE)n/a
4Sissoko (IRE)n/a
4Manu Et Corde (IRE)n/a
4Sister Bridget (IRE)n/a
2Bayside Boy (IRE)n/a
2Ancient Romen/a
2Unconquerable (IRE)n/a
2Tuwaiq (IRE)n/a
2In Ecstasy (IRE)n/a
2Havana Goldrush (GB)n/a
1Accakaba (IRE)n/a
1Masakela (IRE)n/a
1Hannibal Barca (IRE)n/a
1Swan Bay (IRE)n/a

2021-2022 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby Point Leaders

Check out the latest standings of contenders from the Japan series who are hopeful to start the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Positions based on points earned along the Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby trail and non-restricted stakes earnings.

PointsHorseRTKD Races Won
14Geraldo Barows
10Consigliere Cattleya Sho
4Café Karma
3El Paso
2Sekifu

2022 Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profiles

Prevailing in the Run for the Roses requires a perfect blend of both stamina and speed, plus an early-maturing profile sufficient to deliver a winning effort on the first Saturday in May. Learn more about the pedigree profiles of the leading contenders for the 2022 Kentucky Derby below. Use the quicklinks to jump to a specific horse:

MAJOR GENERAL | JACK CHRISTOPHER | RATTLE N ROLL | SMILE HAPPY | MO DONEGAL | SLOW DOWN ANDY | MAKE IT BIG | EPICENTER | DASH ATTACK | COURVOISIER | NEWGRANGE | CALL ME MIDNIGHT | WHITE ABARRIO | EARLY VOTING | MESSIER | CLASSIC CAUSEWAY | BLACKADDER | FORBIDDEN KINGDOM | MORELLO | SIMPLIFICATION | TIZ THE BOMB | CROWN PRIDE | CYBERKNIFE | TAIBA | ZANDON | TAWNY PORT


Major General

“The first horse to strike on the 2021-22 Road to the Kentucky Derby was Major General, who displayed an affinity for Churchill Downs and battled to a tenacious victory in the Iroquois S. It’s easy to understand the source of Major General’s speed and talent. The dark bay colt boasts an elite pedigree, geared top and bottom toward success in the spring classics, which stamps the Todd Pletcher trainee as a key player for the 2022 Triple Crown.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Major General


Jack Christopher

“With a 2 & ¾-length victory in the Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont Park, Jack Christopher was one of the first horses to strike on the 2021-2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby. But whether his success on the prep trail can translate to victory in the 1 & ¼-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) is a key question handicapper must consider. Speed is Jack Christopher’s greatest weapon, which isn’t surprising, since his pedigree contains abundant speed.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Jack Christopher


Rattle n Roll

“When Rattle N Roll joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a powerful 4 1/4-length romp in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), racing fans were left with an interesting question to ponder—does he have the pedigree to handle the Kentucky Derby’s testing 1 1/4-mile distance? At first glance, one might conclude Rattle N Roll is bred more like a miler than a classic type.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Rattle N Roll


smile happy

Smile Happy

“Smile Happy put smiles on the faces of his supporters when he rallied to a decisive victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. at Churchill Downs, in the process joining the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The question is, will Smile Happy’s success on the Kentucky Derby trail translate to glory on the first Saturday in May? He’s proven his class, and he’s shown his affinity for the Churchill Downs main track. But can he handle the Derby’s testing 1 1/4-mile distance?”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Smile Happy


Mo Donegal

“From a pedigree perspective, Mo Donegal has the breeding to relish the Kentucky Derby’s 1 1/4-mile distance. While Uncle Mo was a brilliant miler who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Champagne S. (G1), his progeny have consistently shown the ability to run long across multiple surfaces. Clearly, Mo Donegal’s pedigree contains enough stamina for the Kentucky Derby. But importantly, it also contains speed and early precocity courtesy of Uncle Mo.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Mo Donegal


Kentucky Derby contender Slow Down Andy

Slow Down Andy

“There’s nothing slow about Slow Down Andy, the latest star colt from the team of owner Reddam Racing, trainer Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez. Slow Down Andy joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a tenacious victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) at Los Alamitos, where he rallied from the back of a small field to prevail by a length. His talent is undeniable, but a key question remains: Does Slow Down Andy have a pedigree geared toward success in the Kentucky Derby?”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Slow Down Andy


make it big - Kentucky Derby hopeful

Make it Big

“Make It Big has a chance to make it big on the first Saturday in May. The dark bay colt emerged as a Kentucky Derby contender when battling to a tenacious victory in the Remington Springboard Mile, setting the stage for a trip to Churchill Downs. But does Make It Big have the pedigree to handle the Derby’s testing 1 1/4-mile distance? There isn’t an easy answer, but the evidence is more encouraging than you might first assume.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Make It Big


kentucky derby contender, epicenter

Epicenter

“On the surface, Epicenter boasts a perfect pedigree for success in the Kentucky Derby. Racing 1 1/4 miles shouldn’t be an obstacle for the Gun Runner winner, who is bred top and bottom for stamina. There’s only one problem: Epicenter’s pedigree doesn’t contain a single U.S. classic winner in the first four generations. This doesn’t necessarily mean Epicenter can’t win the Kentucky Derby, but it does suggest his pedigree—while stout—isn’t tried-and-true Derby material.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Epicenter


Dash Attack

“Can a son of a sprinter win the Kentucky Derby (G1) racing 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs? It’s happened before, and it could happen again when Smarty Jones S. winner Dash Attack tackles the 2022 “Run for the Roses.” Normally when handicappers analyze the pedigrees of Kentucky Derby contenders, they look for horses obviously bred to excel over classic distances.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Dash Attack


Courvoisier

“Of all the contenders for the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1), arguably none is as regally bred as Courvoisier. The Jerome Stakes winner boasts an extraordinarily productive pedigree… but will it translate to success in the Derby? That’s an interesting question. Certainly stamina won’t be an issue for Courvoisier, who is bred top and bottom to relish racing 1 1/4 miles.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Courvoisier


Newgrange

“Sometimes, bettors can examine a racehorse pedigree and immediately conclude, ‘Yes—this horse is bred to excel in the Triple Crown.’ Such is the case with Newgrange, winner of the Sham Stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Granted, Newgrange’s sire, Violence, hasn’t been a source of Triple Crown types so far. Winner of the 1 1/16-mile CashCall Futurity, Violence retired with an injury prior to the Kentucky Derby, and his progeny at stud have largely excelled as sprinters. “

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Newgrange


call me midnight - 2022 kentucky derby contender

Call Me Midnight

“Call Me Midnight burst onto the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a late-surging victory in the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. But can he maintain his finishing speed over the Kentucky Derby’s testing 1 1/4-mile journey? That’s a tough question. At first glance, Call Me Midnight’s pedigree is all about speed. His sire, Midnight Lute, won back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and was voted champion male sprinter at the 2007 Eclipse Awards.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Call Me Midnight


white abarrio kentucky derby contender for 2022

White Abarrio

“Pedigree handicapping can be a challenge, particularly when there’s limited data to interpret. Such is the case with White Abarrio, the runaway winner of the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull Stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Does White Abarrio have the breeding to race 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May? It’s hard to answer with certainty because his sire and dam are both young and largely unproven. But on the bright side, the little data available is encouraging.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of White Abarrio


Early Voting - Kentucky Derby Hopeful for 2022

Early Voting

“A favorable pedigree isn’t the only requirement to win the Kentucky Derby. But it’s a good place to start, and runaway Withers Stakes winner Early Voting can check that particular box. From a Derby perspective, it’s hard to knock Early Voting’s breeding. The dark bay colt is a son of Gun Runner, who matured early enough to finish third in the 2016 Kentucky Derby before earning Horse of the Year honors in 2017.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Early Voting


Messier Kentucky Derby contender

Messier

“The runaway victory by Messier in Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes has racing fans buzzing with excitement about his future. Rest assured, he has the pedigree to be a serious player in the spring classics. From top to bottom, Messier’s pedigree is stacked with Triple Crown-caliber bloodlines. It all starts with his sire, Empire Maker. Winner of the Belmont Stakes and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, Empire Maker is a son of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Messier


Classic Causeway - Contender for 2022 Run for the Roses

Classic Causeway

“The late, great Giant’s Causeway was a sensational racehorse, winning half a dozen Group 1 races and leading the North American sire rankings on three occasions. The progeny of Giant’s Causeway have won many major races through the years, but an American classic has proven elusive. Giant’s Causeway died in 2018, but perhaps his son Classic Causeway can change the equation and give his sire a posthumous Kentucky Derby winner.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Classic Causeway


Blackadder

“It’s easy to peg Blackadder as a synthetic specialist following his stretch-running victory in the El Camino Real Derby over the Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields. But such a conclusion might be premature. Yes, Blackadder handles Tapeta just fine. But the talented three-year-old broke his maiden on dirt and has the pedigree of a dirt horse, so he’ll have no shortage of options for his spring campaign.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Blackadder


forbidden kingdom horse

Forbidden Kingdom

“Speed is the name of the game for Forbidden Kingdom, who joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a tour-de-force victory in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Forbidden Kingdom is a pure pacesetter who has shown the ability to stretch his blinding speed over 1 1/16 miles. But can his frontrunning style translate to success over 1 1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby?”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Forbidden Kingdom


morello kentucky derby contender

Morello

“The early successes of Morello may have come in sprints and short routes, including the one-mile Gotham Stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. But this exciting Kentucky Derby contender has the pedigree to run much farther. From top to bottom, Morello is bred to be a player in the spring classics. Remember his sire, 2016 champion two-year-old and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire?”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Morello


simplification thoroughbred

Simplification

“When Simplification rallied to a convincing victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, he cemented his credentials as a serious player for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. But does Simplification have the breeding to shine on the first Saturday in May? Certainly his pedigree holds promise overall. But Simplification’s bloodlines aren’t necessarily proven for success in the spring classics.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Simplification


kentucky derby hopeful tiz the bomb

Tiz the Bomb

“A blowout maiden victory on dirt. Two stakes wins on turf. A gallant score in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on Tapeta at Turfway Park. Is there any racing surface Tiz the Bomb can’t handle? So far, the answer is no. But whether Tiz the Bomb can handle every surface equally is a key question to answer if Tiz the Bomb pursues a start in the Kentucky Derby racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Tiz the Bomb


Crown Pride

“After driving to a 2 3/4-length triumph in the UAE Derby at Meydan in Dubai, Crown Pride is poised to become only the 2nd Japanese-bred horse to compete in the Kentucky Derby This makes things challenging for American pedigree handicappers unfamiliar with Crown Pride’s immediate lineage. But rest assured, there’s no reason to doubt Crown Pride’s ability to handle the dirt surface and 1 1/4-mile distance of the Run for the Roses.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Crown Pride


Cyberknife race horse

Cyberknife

“Although Cyberknife showed promise at age two, the chestnut colt has improved by leaps and bounds as a three-year-old. Never was this more apparent than in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby, in which Cyberknife drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths and qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Cyberknife’s improvement as a sophomore isn’t surprising from a pedigree perspective.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Cyberknife


Taiba - 2022 Kentucky Derby hopeful

Taiba

“It’s been remarkable to witness the rapid transformation of Taiba from an unraced three-year-old into a serious Kentucky Derby contender. The chestnut colt didn’t debut until March 5, when he dominated a six-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita. One month later, he upset the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby in a powerful performance, qualifying to compete in the Run for the Roses.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Taiba


Zandon - 2022 winner of the Blue Grass Stakes

Zandon

“The third time was the charm for Zandon. After placing in his first two starts on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Zandon unleashed an explosive rally to dominate Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes and stamp his credentials as a serious Kentucky Derby threat. From a pedigree perspective, Zandon hails from bloodlines that are largely unproven in the Run for the Roses.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Zandon


Tawny Port

“Versatility has been a strong suit for Tawny Port. The up-and-coming sophomore qualified to the Kentucky Derby via a runner-up effort in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on synthetic and a victory in the Lexington Stakes on dirt. Tawny Port’s multi-surface adaptability is easy to understand when you review his pedigree. From top to bottom, Tawny Port is bred to thrive on multiple surfaces.”

Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Tawny Port



Quick Kentucky Derby Contender Answers

  • Q: How many total horses can run in the Kentucky Derby?
    • A: 20 horses can be placed inside the Churchill Downs starting gate, which means 20 horses can run in the Kentucky Derby. There are typically two Also Eligible ‘AE’ horses who can find a chance to compete, if one of the original 20 horses scratches and cannot run in the race.
  • Q: How do horses get to run in the Kentucky Derby?
    • A: 18 entries are initially reserved for the top Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race point earners. These prep races are per-determined and if a horse is tied in points, then a specific type of purse earnings are used to assist.
    • A: 2 entries in the Kentucky Derby are ‘reserved’ for runners from the European Road to the Kentucky Derby and the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby Hopeful Point Accumulation Process

One of the fascinating things about the build-up to the Kentucky Derby is watching the development of young Thoroughbreds. Still babyish as two-year-olds, the Derby hopefuls begin to grow up as three-year-olds — a process often compared to junior high kids morphing into high school athletes.

Fans can track the horses’ progress during the “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” traditionally a series of 35 races that take place from the fall of their two-year-old campaign through the spring of their three-year-old year, culminating in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. Horses earn their way into the Derby by scoring points in these 35 races (the full schedule, along with the sliding scale of points available for a top-four finish in each race, is available at kentuckyderby.com). 2020 did see a unique change to this process, which resulted in the Kentucky Derby running in September and a few uniquely sanctioned Derby prep-races. The Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby returned to a more normal season and schedule.

Just as major sports teams advance through playoffs, meeting stiffer competition as they get closer to the championship event, so do Derby aspirants aim to climb through each successive prep race. They might not have to win, but they do have to perform well enough — and stay healthy — to remain on the trail.

Because the competition gets tougher as the trail unfolds, the Derby points system awards the most points for the marquee preps in late March or April. The winners of the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, UAE Derby (in Dubai), Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, and Arkansas Derby each bank 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby, clinching a spot in the field.

So hop onto the Derby trail — you might find a hot prospect!