Tips and Analysis for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby

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Tips and Analysis for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby
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If you haven’t found your 2022 Kentucky Derby horse yet, you may find him Saturday in one of the final three major Kentucky Derby prep races.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby all offer the maximum 170 qualifying points (100-40-20-10).

The two top finishers of each race are guaranteed a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate on May 7. It appears at least 25 points will be needed to earn Derby entry, so the third-place finishers on Saturday will already need to have some points to qualify.

The last chance to earn Kentucky Derby points is the Lexington Stakes next week at Keeneland, which offers only 34 total points.

The Toyota Blue Grass, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby are all run at 1 1/8 miles, one-eighth mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby

These race are part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Forty-eight races comprise the series, and points are awarded to the top four finishers.

This series began on Sept. 18 with the Iroquois for 2-year-old thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs. It will conclude with the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 16, three weeks before the Run for the Roses.

The field is limited to 20 horses, and we will be covering the series race by race. We will update the 2022 Kentucky Derby odds on an ongoing basis, so you should bookmark this page.

Current 2022 Kentucky Derby Qualifier Standings

Rank HorsePoints Earnings
1 Epicenter 164 $940,000
2 White Abario 112 $769,650
3 Tiz the Bomb 110 $1,012,610
4 Cyberknife 100 $752,000
5 Crown Pride 100 $671,544
6 Simplification 74 $482,150
7 Classic Causeway 66 $456,100
8 Slow Down Andy 60 $475,000
9 Barber Road 58 $589,700
10 Un Ojo 54 $655,00
11 Forbidden Kingdom 50 $392,000
12 Morello 50 $220,000
13 Zozos 40 $200,000
14 Summer Is Tomorrow 40 $200,000
15 Charge It 40 $188,000
16 Tawny Port 40 $122,000
17 Smile Happy 30 $314,410
18 Pioneer of Medina25 $116,000
19 Grantham 21 $85,000
20 Rich Strike 21 $74,500

Toyota Blue Grass Stakes Distance, Purse, Date

2022 Race Date: Saturday, April 9

Track: Keeneland, Lexington, Kentucky

Inaugural Race: 1911

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Surface: Dirt

Status: Grade 1

Purse: $1 million

2021 winner: Essential Quality

Toyota Blue Grass Preview

A full field of 12 is entered for the Toyota Blue Grass, which regained its Grade I status in 2022.

Trainer Ken McPeek holds a strong hand in the Blue Grass with graded stakes winners Smile Happy and Rattle N Roll.

Smile Happy won the Kentucky Jockey Club last year, beating White Abarrio, who won the Florida Derby last week. Rattle N Roll won the Grade I Breeders Futurity last year, but is coming off a pair of off-the-board finishes in the Louisiana Derby and Fountain of Youth.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, a three-time winner of the Blue Grass, has a pair of entries in Emmanuel and the maiden Commandperformance. The 86-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas can make it back to the Kentucky Derby with Ethereal Road, who needs a top-four finish on Saturday to qualify.

Essential Quality won the 2021 Toyota Blue Grass, was sent off the betting favorite in the Kentucky Derby and finished fourth (placed third after the disqualification of Medina Spirit). Essential Quality went on to win the Belmont Stakes, Travers and was named the 2021 Champion Three-Year-Old.

Toyota Blue Grass Stakes Field and Odds

Position HorseTrainer RiderOdds
1 Commandperformance Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz, Jr.12-1
2 Fenwick Kevin McKathan Paco Lopez20-1
3 Trademark Victoria H. Oliver Rafael Bejarano30-1
4 Zandon Chad Brown Flavien Prat5-2
5 Volcanic Mark Casse Adam Beschizza20-1
6 Emmanuel Todd Pletcher Luis Saez9-2
7 Golden Glider Mark Casse Ricardo Santana, Jr.20-1
8 Etheral Road D. Wayne Lukas Luis Contreras20-1
9 Rattle N Roll Ken McPeek Brian Joseph8-1
10 Smile Happy Ken McPeek Corey J. Lanerie9-5
11 Blackadder Rodolphe Brisset Florent Geroux20-1
12 Grantham Michael J. Maker Tyler Gaffalione20-1

Picks and Analysis for 2022 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes

Smile Happy was 2-for-2 last year and returned to the races in February with a solid second behind potential Kentucky Derby favorite Epicenter in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. Stretch-running colt would benefit from a fast early pace. Even if he doesn’t get it, he’s tactical enough to punch Derby ticket here.

At 20-1 on the morning line, Blackadder is worth a look. Scratched from the Jeff Ruby Steaks last weekend to run here, Blackadder won the El Camino Real Derby on a synthetic track in Northern California, but has also run well on dirt. Will need to improve, but the price is right.

Lightly-raced Zandon has a win, second and third in three career starts. Top connections and solid speed figures, finished a half-length behind Smile Happy in the Risen Star.

Emmanuel crushed modest competition in his first two races before finishing a wide fourth in the Fountain of Youth. Could be the controlling early speed.

Wood Memorial Preview

Between 1930 and 2000, 11 Wood Memorial winners went on to win the Kentucky Derby and four won the Triple Crown. Since 2000, the number of Wood winners to also win the Derby is zero.

Does that streak finally end this year? Could be.

The Wood Memorial has a competitive eight-horse field, led by thoroughbred racing’s winningest all-time trainer Steve Asmussen’s Morello, who is unbeaten in three lifetime starts, all at Aqueduct.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has entered three horses in the Wood, with Grade 2 stakes winner Mo Donegal the most accomplished.

Last year, Bourbonic pulled off a stunning 72-1 upset in the Wood, then finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby.

Wood Memorial Distance, Purse, Date

2022 Race Date: Saturday, April 9

Track: Aqueduct, Jamaica, New York

Inaugural Race: 1925

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Surface: Dirt

Status: Grade 2

Purse: $750,000

2021 winner: Bourbonic

Wood Memorial Field and Odds

Position HorseTrainer RiderOdds
1 Mo Donegal Todd Pletcher Joel Rosario5-2
2 Golden Code Todd Pletcher Kendrick Carmouche15-1
3 Early Voting Chad BrownJose L. Ortiz5-2
4 Long Term Todd Pletcher Javier Castellano20-1
5 Morello Steve Asmussen Jose Lezcano8-5
6 Skippylongstocking Saffie A. Joseph, Jr. Junior Alvarado15-1
7 A.P.’s Secret Saffie A. Joseph, Jr. Manuel Franco 20-1
8 Barese Michael Maker Dylan Davis8-1

Picks and Analysis for 2022 Wood Memorial

Morello is 3-for-3 lifetime by a combined 14 lengths, with each race better than the last. This is the toughest field Morello has faced, but his speed figures compare favorably. If he wins impressively, trainer Asmussen, who also has Epicenter in his barn, will have two of the top Kentucky Derby betting choices.

Lightly-raced Early Voting has won both lifetime starts, including a 4-1/2 length victory in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, a race in which several horses have come back to run well. Plenty of early speed and has already won at this distance.

Mo Donegal finished third as the betting favorite in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream, but was compromised by a slow start. Dangerous with a clean trip.

Barese is another unbeaten colt, but against softer fields of New York-breds. Takes a big step up in class here.

Santa Anita Derby Preview

Six horses are entered in the West Coast’s most important Kentucky Derby prep. Low on quantity, the field includes two leading Kentucky Derby contenders: Forbidden Kingdom and Messier.

What differentiates this Santa Anita Derby from previous runnings is the absence of suspended trainer Bob Baffert, who has won this race a record nine times.

That doesn’t mean Baffert won’t have an impact. Three horses in the field — Messier, Armagnac and Taiba— were previously trained by Baffert and have been transferred to his former assistant Tim Yakteen.

Forbidden Kingdom and Messier are coming off dominating victories and bettors will likely see the Santa Anita Derby as a two-horse race. The two colts faced each other once before, with Messier winning by three lengths in the Bob Hope States at Del Mar last November.

Ten Santa Anita Derby winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. The most recent was in 2018 when Justify claimed the Triple Crown.

Santa Anita Derby Distance, Purse, Date

2022 Race Date: Saturday, April 9

Track: Santa Anita, Arcadia, California

Inaugural Race: 1935

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Surface: Dirt

Status: Grade 1

Purse: $750,000

2021 winner: Rock Your World

Santa Anita Derby Field and Odds

Pos HorseTrainer RiderOdds
1 Happy Jack Doug F. O'Neill Abel Cedillo20-1
2 Armagnac Tim Yakteen Drayden Van Dyke20-1
3 Forbidden Kingdom Richard E. Mandella Juan J. Hernandez6-5
4 Messier Tim Yakteen John R. Velazquez1-1
5 Win the Day Doug O'Neill Umberto Rispoli20-1
6 Taiba Tim Yakteen Mike E. Smith4-1

Picks and Analysis for 2022 Santa Anita Derby

Forbidden Kingdom is coming off two wire-to-wire Grade 2 victories at Santa Anita and already has enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. This race looks like more of the same. If allowed an uncontested early lead, Forbidden Kingdom could be long gone again.

Messier was recently transferred from the barn of Baffert to Yakteen. He crushed the Robert Lewis Stakes field by 15 lengths on Feb. 8, but received no points because he was trained by Baffert. Messier needs to run second or better here. Clearly talented enough to do that, but hasn’t raced in eight weeks.

Happy Jack was a non-threatening third to Forbidden Kingdom in the San Felipe Stakes last month. Seems a cut below the top two, but best of the rest.

Final Recap

These races are key for what has been an exciting 2022 sprint to the Triple Crown.

Since you are interested in the sport of kings, you should check out our horse race betting page. It contains a lot of great information, and we will be tightly focused on the Road Kentucky Derby every step of the way, so you should come back to visit us.

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Chet Fussman

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