A full field of 20 runners, including 17 Kentucky-breds, will decide Saturday’s 148th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The top two morning-line choices—Zandon and Epicenter—are both Kentucky-breds and both horses appear to be peaking at the right time. The field also features fellow Kentucky-breds Mo Donegal, winner of the Wood Memorial; White Abarrio, winner of the Florida Derby (G1); Arkansas Derby (G1) victor Cyberknife; and Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Taiba (pictured).
Zandon, a Kentucky-bred son of Upstart trained by Chad Brown and owned by Jeff Drown, captured the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) in his most recent start. After racing toward the back of the pack early, Zandon weaved his way through traffic under Flavien Prat and drew clear late to defeat Smile Happy by 2 ½ lengths. Prior to that impressive performance, Zandon finished third behind Epicenter in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds.
Bred in the Bluegrass by Brereton C. Jones, Zandon is produced from the Creative Cause mare Memories Prevail and was sold at Keeneland September for $170,000. He has won two of his four lifetime starts and has banked $713,000.
Epicenter has won two of his three starts this season for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Winchell Thoroughbreds. After losing the Lecomte Stakes (G3) by a head in January, Epicenter has been unbeatable since. He won the Risen Star Stakes (G2) by 2 ¾ lengths in February and the Louisiana Derby (G2) by 2 ½ lengths in March. He has trained forwardly at Churchill Downs since the Louisiana Derby.
Bred by Westwind Farms, Epicenter was a $260,000 graduate of the Keeneland September Sale. All told, he has won four of six outings and earned $1,010,639.
Donegal Racing and Repole Stables’ Mo Donegal enters the Derby off a determined victory in the Wood Memorial (G2) in his most recent start. The Todd Pletcher trainee (one of three Pletcher horses in the field) finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park prior to that and won the Remsen Stakes (G2) over Zandon last year at two.
Bred by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables, Mo Donegal is out of the Pulpit mare Callingmissbrown, and he was a $250,000 Keeneland September Sale graduate. He owns a record of 5-3-0-2 and has earned $621,800.
White Abarrio has been on a tear for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., rattling off wins in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and the Florida Derby (G1). Owned by C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa, White Abarrio sold for $40,000 at last year’s OBS March Sale. Bred by Spendthrift Farm, White Abarrio is produced from the Into Mischief mare Catching Diamonds.
Cyberknife earned his way into the Derby with an authoritative score in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Brad Cox—who like Pletcher will saddle three horses in the race—Cyberknife is owned by Gold Square LLC and was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Bought for $400,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Showcase, Cyberknife has won three of six starts and earned $860,000.
Taiba is the least experienced runner in the field, but the son of Gun Runner has been sensational in his pair of starts. He broke his maiden in his career debut on March 5 at Santa Anita, running his rivals off their feet for a 7 ¼-length win. He returned in April and won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) for trainer Tim Yakteen in just his second lifetime start. He will attempt to become the first horse since Leonatus in 1883 to win the Kentucky Derby in just his third lifetime start.
Bred in Kentucky by Bruce Ryan, Taiba was a $1.7 million purchase Gary Young, agent for Zedan Racing Stables, at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale at Gulfstream Park. Produced from the Flatter mare Needmore Flattery, Taiba has banked $490,200.