2022 Kentucky Derby
|Grade I stakes race|
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
|Date||May 7, 2022|
|Distance||1+1⁄4 mi (10 furlongs; 2,012 m)|
|Winning horse||Rich Strike|
The 2022 Kentucky Derby (officially, the 2022 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve) was the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. It took place on May 7, 2022, the first Saturday in May, in Louisville, Kentucky. The race was open to 20 horses, who qualified for the race by earning points on the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of 1+1⁄4 miles (2.0 km) and has been run at Churchill Downs racetrack since its inception in 1875. The purse for 2022 was US$3 million. The race was won by Rich Strike, a longshot at odds of 80-1.
The race was broadcast by NBC, with coverage of undercard races beginning at 12:30 pm EDT on USA Network and main network coverage of pre-race activities starting at 2:30 pm EDT. It was also livestreamed on NBCSports.com. The post time was 6:57 pm.
The Kentucky Derby is only open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds, thus entrants in the 2022 race were foaled in 2019, mostly as part of the North American foal crop of 19,037.[a] The field is limited to twenty horses who qualified based on points earned in the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of designated races that was first introduced in 2013. This point system replaced the previous graded stakes race earnings system.
Most positions in the Derby starting gate are earned on the main Road, consisting of 36 races in North America plus one in Dubai. The major preps for the Kentucky Derby are the UAE Derby, Louisiana Derby, Jeff Ruby Steaks, Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, and Santa Anita Derby. Each of these races provided the winner with 100 qualifying points, essentially guaranteeing that horse a berth in the Derby provided the owner paid the required nomination and entry fees. The first two of these major preps were run on March 26 and were won by Crown Pride and Epicenter. The next three major preps were run on April 2 and were won by Tiz the Bomb, White Albarrio and Cyberknife. The last three major preps were run on April 9 and were won by Mo Donegal, Zandon and Taiba.
One qualification position was also available via the European Road to the Kentucky Derby and another via the Japan Road. Due in part to ongoing restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, none of these offers were accepted in 2022; these two positions reverted to qualifiers on the main Road. Note that Crown Pride, bred and trained in Japan, qualified via the main Road after winning the UAE Derby.
Entries were taken on May 2 followed by the post position draw. The field was considered one of the deepest in recent history, with leading contenders coming from several different racing circuits across the country:
- Epicenter – Winner of the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby. Top point earner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Drew an inside post position, potentially a tactical disadvantage in the large field of the Derby.
- Zandon – Winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, second in the Risen Star and Remsen Stakes
- Taiba – Winner of the Santa Anita Derby; the Kentucky Derby became his third lifetime start
- Smile Happy – Second in the Blue Grass Stakes; won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at age two
- White Abarrio – Winner of the Holy Bull Stakes and Florida Derby
- Mo Donegal – Winner of the Wood Memorial and Remsen Stakes
- Messier – Second in the Santa Anita Derby
- Cyberknife – Winner of the Arkansas Derby
The eventual winner, Rich Strike, only drew into the field when another horse, Ethereal Road, was scratched the day before the race. Rich Strike's only previous win came in a maiden race, and he had been claimed for $30,000 in September 2021. He earned his qualifying points by finishing third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks.
Summer is Tomorrow went to the early lead, closely pressed by Crown Pride. The opening quarter mile split of 21.78 seconds was the fastest ever recorded for a Kentucky Derby, and the half mile at 45.36 would still log in the top ten fastest. As the race passed the three-quarter mile mark, Summer is Tomorrow faded and eventually finished last. Messier took the lead at this point, with Crown Pride still in second. Messier maintained the lead going into the final turn, but was passed near the head of the stretch by Epicenter.
Meanwhile, Rich Strike broke poorly from the outside post position and raced well back; he was in eighteenth place after the first half mile, seventeen lengths behind the leaders. He began to make up ground on the final turn, while shifting out four wide; Rich Strike was only 4+3⁄4 lengths behind leader Epicenter at the one mile mark but was in heavy traffic. In the stretch, he found racing room near the rail, weaved around a tiring Messier and then launched a sustained drive to the inside of Epicenter, drawing clear in the final strides to win by three-quarters of a length.
It was the first Kentucky Derby win for trainer Eric Reed. Running a small stable, Reed said, "I never dreamed I would be here. I never thought I'd have a Derby horse. I never tried to go to the yearling sale and buy a Derby horse. So this was never in my plans. Everybody would love to win the Derby. I always would, but I never thought I would be here, ever. It's a horse race, and anybody can win. And the tote board doesn't mean a thing."
It was also jockey Sonny Leon's first Derby win, who was widely praised for an excellent ride. "You know we had a difficult post but I know the horse", said Leon. "I didn't know if he could win but I had a good feeling with him. I had to wait until the stretch and that's what I did. I waited and then the rail opened up. I wasn't nervous, I was excited. Nobody knows my horse like I know my horse."
Rich Strike became the first horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby after having been claimed. "We’re always looking for horses that we feel could get better," said owner Rick Dawson. "Rich Strike had the pedigree and as Eric said his workouts had been very impressive. I'm a Keen Ice fan [Rich Strike's sire] so that's how we really got there."
|1||21[b]||Rich Strike||21||Eric Reed||Sonny Leon||30-1||80.80||$1,860,000|
|2||3||Epicenter||164||Steve Asmussen||Joel Rosario||7-2||4.10||3⁄4||$600,000|
|3||10||Zandon||114||Chad C. Brown||Flavien Prat||3-1||6.10||1+1⁄2||$300,000|
|4||13||Simplification||74||Antonio Sano||José Ortiz||20-1||35.30||3+1⁄2||$150,000|
|5||1||Mo Donegal||112||Todd A. Pletcher||Irad Ortiz Jr.||10-1||10.10||5+3⁄4||$90,000|
|6||14||Barber Road||58||John Ortiz||Reylu Gutierrez||30-1||60.40||4+3⁄4|
|7||18||Tawny Port||60||Brad H. Cox||Ricardo Santana Jr.||30-1||80.50||4+3⁄4|
|8||5||Smile Happy||70||Kenneth G. McPeek||Corey Lanerie||20-1||14.10||10|
|9||9||Tiz the Bomb||110||Kenneth G. McPeek||Brian Hernandez Jr.||30-1||31.00||12+1⁄2|
|10||19||Zozos||40||Brad H. Cox||Manuel Franco||20-1||48.70||15+3⁄4|
|11||17||Classic Causeway||66||Brian A. Lynch||Julien Leparoux||30-1||78.90||17|
|12||12||Taiba||100||Tim Yakteen||Mike E. Smith||12-1||5.80||17+3⁄4|
|13||7||Crown Pride||100||Koichi Shintani||Christophe Lemaire||20-1||17.50||18+1⁄4|
|14||2||Happy Jack||30||Doug F. O'Neill||Rafael Bejarano||30-1||23.20||19|
|15||6||Messier||40||Tim Yakteen||John Velazquez||8-1||7.10||19|
|16||15||White Abarrio||112||Saffie Joseph Jr.||Tyler Gaffalione||10-1||15.40||19+3⁄4|
|17||8||Charge It||40||Todd A. Pletcher||Luis Saez||20-1||16.00||27+3⁄4|
|18||16||Cyberknife||100||Brad H. Cox||Florent Geroux||20-1||14.90||42+1⁄2|
|19||11||Pioneer of Medina||25||Todd A. Pletcher||Joe Bravo||30-1||55.90||56+3⁄4|
|20||4||Summer Is Tomorrow||40||Bhupat Seemar||Mickael Barzalona||30-1||36.80||64+1⁄2|
|scratched||22||D. Wayne Lukas||Luis Contreras||30-1||n/a|
|20||Kenneth G. McPeek||James Graham||30-1||n/a|
Track condition: fast
Times: 1⁄4 mile – 21.78; 1⁄2 mile – 45.36; 3⁄4 mile – 1:10.34; mile – 1:36.96; final – 2:02.61.
Splits for each quarter-mile: (21.78) (23.58) (24.98) (26.62) (25.65)
- $2 exacta: $4,101.20
- $0.50 trifecta: $7,435.35
- $1 superfecta: $321,500.10
- $1 Super High Five: $741,018.90
- Horses from Europe and Japan are also eligible for the race, but proportionally fewer of them are pointed towards the Kentucky Derby.
- Rich Strike drew in from the also eligible list when Ethereal Road was scratched.
- Rattle N Roll was second on the also eligible list. He did not draw into the race as there was only one scratch.
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