AGOS Horses to Watch: Kentucky Derby Favorite Epicenter

Will Trainer Steve Asmussen Win the KY Derby?

Hall of Fame horseman Steve Asmussen capped off a 5-win day with Epicenter’s impressive victory in the 1 3/16 miles Louisiana Derby.  The talented colt rode the rail while sitting in third.  Second choice Zozos, trained by Brad Cox, dictated the pace with mild pressure from the longshot Pioneer Of Medina behind him. Epicenter took over at the top of the lane and drew off with Rosario at one point looking under his arms for any competition.  The pacesetters hung on gamely for second and third respectively.  [Note that so far, two also rans from this race have returned in stakes company to run off the board.]

Prior to this start, Epicenter led gate to wire in the Risen Star Stakes.  He set a modest but consistent pace throughout and again won as much the best under jockey Joel Rosario.  The third place finisher Zandon returned to win the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland impressively, and the runner-up in the Risen Star placed in this same stakes.  Fifth place finisher Tawny Port won the Lexington Stakes two races later.  The Risen Star has turned out to be a key race on the 2022 Kentucky Derby trail.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #28 – Who Can Win the KY Derby?

2013 KY Derby contender Verrazanoby Art Parker

In the last several decades over 80% of the Derby winners finished either first or second in one of the following major prep races: Spiral Stakes, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes.

On occasion there will be exceptions to this rule but it is hard to ignore the Derby results these races have posted.

There are a couple of reasons for these races being so important to the Derby. First, most of these races serve as the last “big prep” before the Derby and almost all serious contenders will run in one of these, plus the purses of these races are very appealing. Secondly, the cream of the crop shows up at these races, which are generally held four to five weeks before the Derby making these races the best indicator of current form.

It’s unlikely the winner on the first Saturday in May will exit a race other than one these major preps.