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Meet the 20 horses racing in Saturday's Kentucky Derby

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Meet the 20 horses racing in Saturday's Kentucky Derby
A jockey leads his horse off the track after a Monday morning workout as they prepare for the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

May 4 (UPI) -- The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby will be held Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Here are the 20 horses entered for the 1 1/4-mile Run for the Roses, by post position, with morning-line odds, jockey and trainer.

Kentucky Derby hopeful Mo Donegal gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout at Churchill Downs. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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1. Mo Donegal (10-1, Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher)

After winning the Grade II Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in December, defeating Derby favorite Zandon, Mo Donegal traveled to South Florida to finish third behind White Abarrio in the Grade III Holy Bull in February, and then returned to New York to win the Grade II Wood Memorial in April. High-profile owner Mike Repole bought a minority interest in the Uncle Mo colt from the huge Donegal Racing partnership eight days before the Derby, leading Donegal principal Jerry Crawford to say the colt "will have more support than the New York Mets."

Happy Jack won a maiden race at Santa Anita on Jan. 22 and was third in the Santa Anita Derby, which earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Photo by Benoit Photography, courtesy of Santa Anita
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2. Happy Jack (30-1, Rafael Bejarano, Doug O'Neill)

His backers would be happy indeed should this long shot hit the board on the first Saturday in May. Before finishing third in the Santa Anita Derby, 12 1/4 lengths behind winner Taiba, he was fifth in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis and third in the Grade II San Felipe.

Epicenter is shown winning the Risen Star Stakes. Hodges Photo courtesy of Fair Grounds

3. Epicenter (7-2, Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen)

Epicenter, by Not This Time, wintered in New Orleans, where he finished second in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes in his 3-year-old debut, and then won the Grade II Risen Star and the Grade II Louisiana Derby. In each, he was leading or close to the lead early -- a major asset in the Run for the Roses. Some were surprised he was not made the Derby favorite. Asmussen is one of the country's top trainers by any measure but one -- he has yet to win the Kentucky Derby despite leading over such superstars as Curlin and Gun Runner.

Summer Is Tomorrow gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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4. Summer Is Tomorrow (30-1, Mickael Barzalona, Bhupat Seemar)

If ever there's been a horse flying under the radar, it's Summer Is Tomorrow. Bred in Kentucky by former Gov. Brereton Jones, the Summer Front colt's entire career has been in Dubai. He took three tries to get his first win and the penny finally dropped in the Al Karama Stakes on Feb. 25 as he won by 8 1/4 lengths. A second behind Crown Pride in the Group 2 UAE Derby punched his ticket to Louisville. His trainer has been a top assistant in Dubai for years and formerly worked for Bob Baffert in California.

Smile Happy gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

5. Smile Happy (20-1, Corey Lanerie, Kenny McPeek)

Here's another who could be ready to peak. The Runhappy colt won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, and then finished second in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds and the Blue Grass at Keeneland. He was prominent in the late running in each of those races, but unable to get over the top. The long stretch in Louisville could be either an asset or an additional challenge.

Messier is shown winning the Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
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6. Messier (8-1, John Velazquez, Tim Yakteen)

Messier, along with Taiba, came to trainer Tim Yakteen because of the Churchill Downs banishment of his original conditioner, Bob Baffert. Until Taiba caught him and beat him in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Messier looked like the best of Baffert's 3-year-olds with victories in the Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar and the Grade III Robert Lewis at Santa Anita, sandwiching a second in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity. With a good start from the No. 6 gate, he certainly would be among the front runners and again will need to be caught.

Crown Pride works out on April 27 at Churchill Downs. Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs

7. Crown Pride (20-1, Christophe Lemiere, Koichi Shintani)

This colt is a study in how the kingpins of Japanese breeding and racing, the Yoshida family, have molded American bloodlines into an international juggernaut. With Sunday Silence on both top and bottom of his pedigree along with Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Bold Reasoning and Mr. Prospector, he has "Kentucky Derby" written all over him. His only defeat came in the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse in February, when he was shut off at the start and trailed the field. He won the Group 2 UAE Derby in Dubai to earn his way to Louisville and has worked well at Churchill Downs. Look out.

Charge It takes to the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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8. Charge It (20-1, Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher)

A Tapit colt, Charge It made it into the field with a well-backed second-place finish in the Grade I Florida Derby. Before that, he was second and then first in a pair of Gulfstream Park maiden races so seasoning might be a question. On the other hand, Pletcher knows how to train a youngster for a big day at the races.

Tiz The Bomb gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

9. Tiz the Bomb (30-1, Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek)

Tiz the Bomb is a son of Hit It a Bomb, winner of the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, and he spent most of his early career on the grass. He did get his first win in an off-the-turf event at Ellis Park but finished seventh in the Holy Bull Stakes on the Gulfstream Park dirt. He qualified for Louisville with victories in the John Battaglia Memorial and Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks on the Turfway Park all-weather course. So the unique Churchill Downs dirt course is the question.

Zandon gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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10. Zandon (3-1, Flavien Prat, Chad Brown)

A well-traveled son of Upstart, Zandon finished second in the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct in December, third in the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds in February and first in the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland in April. The Blue Grass win was particularly impressive, as Prat got him from last to first in a field of 11, apparently influencing oddsmaker Mike Battaglia's decision to make him the Derby favorite despite finishing behind Epicenter in their previous meeting. He was more forwardly placed in the Remsen, which he lost by a nose to Mo Donegal.

Pioneer of Medina trots on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

11. Pioneer of Medina (30-1, Joe Bravo, Todd Pletcher)

This Pioneerof the Nile colt took three tries to find the winner's circle as a 2-year-old, finally getting the job done Christmas week at Tampa Bay Downs. He won his first start this year at Fair Grounds, but then was a fading fourth in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at the same track, passed by Kentucky Derby favorite Zandon in the closing strides. He then tired again in the Louisiana Derby, finishing third after contesting the pace as Epicenter rallied to an authoritative win.

Taiba gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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12. Taiba (12-1, Mike Smith, Tim Yakteen)

Can a horse win the Kentucky Derby in just his third career start? That's the hill this son of Gun Runner will try to climb Saturday. He looked the part as he won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 9, driving past much better-fancied Messier in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Dealing with traffic in a 20-horse field is a different task. Taiba and Messier both were handed off from trainer Bob Baffert, who is under the Churchill Downs interdict, to his former assistant, Tim Yakteen, so they could be eligible for the Derby. His owner is a stridently vocal Baffert supporter who also owned the late Medina Spirit, who was disqualified from last year's Derby victory.

Simplification gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

13. Simplification (20-1, Jose Ortiz, Antonio Sano)

By Not This Time, Simplification fits the profile of a colt who mixed things up with the big boys in the preps with the potential to peak at just the right time. He has raced only at Gulfstream Park, where he won the Mucho Macho Man stakes on New Year's Day, finished second to White Abarrio in the Grade III Holy Bull, won the strangely run Grade II Fountain of Youth and finished third behind White Abarrio and Charge It in the Florida Derby. Sano continued to train him in Florida until Derby week.

Barber Road gallops on the track during a Monday morning workout. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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14. Barber Road (30-1, Reylu Gutierrez, John Ortiz)

He has raced four times this year at Oaklawn Park, finishing second in the Smarty Jones Stakes, second in the Grade III Southwest, third in the Grade II Rebel and second in the Arkansas Derby. The long Churchill Downs stretch could help his late-running style. His trainer saddled an Arkansas-bred to beat some big-time sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn and talked about how happy he is to run against big-time rivals in Arkansas. He'd be even happier if Barber Road could quit losing these close shaves.

Tyler Gaffalione celebrates White Abarrio's victory in the Florida Derby, which earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Photo by Lauren King, courtesy of Gulfstream Park.

15. White Abarrio (10-1, Tyler Gaffalione, Saffie Joseph Jr.)

After finishing third in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, White Abario did all that was asked of him in Florida, winning the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes in February and the Grade I Florida Derby in April. The son of Race Day, despite his name, is officially classified as "gray or roan."

Cyberknife wins the Arkansas Derby and qualifies for the Kentucky Derby. Coady Photography, courtesy of Oaklawn Park
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16. Cyberknife (20-1, Florent Geroux, Brad Cox)

On the plus side, Cyberknife is by Gun Runner, who is enjoying a bang-up first season as a sire. On the flip side, he hadn't shown Derby-quality ability until he lined up for the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. There, he seized the lead at mid-stretch and ran on to win by 2 3/4 lengths, but still lugged out late, indicating he has more learning to do. The Run for the Roses is a tough school.

Classic Causeway wins the Tampa Bay Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. SV Photography, courtesy of Tampa Bay Downs

17. Classic Causeway (30-1, Julien Leparoux, Brian Lynch)

After running second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club to complete his 2-year-old season, Lynch took the Florida Gulf Coast route and the Giant's Causeway colt proceeded to win the Grade III Sam F. Davis and the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby. Then he tossed in a clunker in the Florida Derby, finishing last, beaten more than 21 lengths, and Lynch took him out of consideration for the Run for the Roses. Two weeks before the Derby, the trainer put him back into the field. Real improvement? Pressure from the owners?

Tawny Port, with Florent Geroux up, wins the 2022 Stonestreet Lexington for trainer Brad Cox and owner John Fort. Photo courtesy of Keeneland
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18. Tawny Port (30-1, Ricardo Santana Jr., Brad Cox)

Tawny Port, a Pioneerof the Nile colt, was a latecomer to the party. After finishing fifth in the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds in his first stakes bid, it looked unlikely he'd be making a Louisville appearance Saturday. But a second-place finish in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park and a victory in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland were enough to boost him into the field.

Zozos was second in the Louisiana Derby and earned a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Coady Photography, courtesy of Oaklawn Park

19. Zozos (20-1, Manny Franco, Brad Cox)

A Munnings colt, Zozos earned his way to the Run for the Roses with a second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, fading from the early lead to get home 2 1/2 lengths adrift of Epicenter. That was his first loss in only his third start, and he's had a full six weeks to recover. But the Churchill Downs stretch is no shorter than Fair Grounds', and the race is furlong and one-half longer. Clockers and general "wise guys" have been oozing confident reports on his training in Louisville.

Rich Strike walks on the track during a early morning workout Thursday. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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20. Rich Strike (30-1, Sonny Leon, Eric Reed)

This son of Keen Ice has just one win from seven starts, that in a maiden affair at Churchill Downs last September. His last three races came on the Turfway Park all-weather course, where he earned this spot with a third-place finish in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks.

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