Featured in this article:
  • Three qualifying races taking place Saturday
  • Kentucky Derby hopefuls need points here
  • All three horse races available to watch live

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Epicenter is on the Road to Kentucky Derby 2022

The road to the Kentucky Derby 2024 is almost over with three final races scheduled for this Saturday across the United States.

The American horse racing season is now firmly upon us as we count down to the Kentucky Derby. Before then, owners wishing to get a lucky ticket for the Churchill Downs race must ensure their horses earn enough qualifying points.

Right now the likes of Epicenter, White Abarrio, Tis The Bomb, and Classic Causeway look likely to be in the starting gates for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. But who is likely to join them?

Saturday sees three grade races – the Blue Grass Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Wood Memorial – take place, with Road to the Kentucky Derby points available in each meeting. This is the last chance, bar a wildcard race for horses to earn ranking points for the Fastest Two Minutes In Sports, so who will claim victory this weekend?

Here, we look at the potential runners and favorites for each race…

Blue Grass Stakes – Keeneland

There are few more prestigious races in the US horse racing calendar than the Blue Grass Stakes. This 1 1/8 mile sprint round Kentucky’s Keeneland Race Course has produced some remarkable winners of the years. None more so than Essential Quality, who last year charged to victory before going on to win the Belmont Stakes.

Both Epicenter and Smile Happy are tipped to be in the 11 runners here, with the former currently leading the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Epicenter has won the Gun Runner Stakes, Risen Star Stakes and placed in the Lecomte Stakes behind Call Me Midnight this season. And he’s used to running alongside Smile Happy, who placed behind Steven Asmussen’s horse at Fair Grounds in February.

Outside of these two contenders, punters are likely to be looking at Classic Causeway as a viable winner here. Classic Causeway’s place in the Kentucky Derby is all but secure after he won the Tampa Bay Derby but another run here would certainly give trainer Brian Lynch a better understanding of his raw speed potential.

Road to Kentucky Derby points

  • 1st – 100
  • 2nd – 40
  • 3rd – 20
  • 4th – 10

Race to be shown live at 5:10 PM ET on NBC this Saturday.

Santa Anita Derby – Santa Anita

Another Grade 1 race this weekend comes from Arcadia, California, where a $750,000 prize pot is up for grabs. Perhaps more importantly, Kentucky Derby points are also being contested here. Justify won the 2018 Triple Crown after claiming victory in the Santa Anita Derby, so there’s plenty of pedigree to this meeting.

Forbidden Kingdom and Messier are both expected to be raced here. For Forbidden Kingdom, he needs to pick up at least a show finish here to earn the points necessary to sneak into the Kentucky Derby.

Meanwhile, trainer Doug O’Neill is hoping to field both Win the Day and Happy Jack in this contest. A win for Happy Jack would catapult him into Churchill Downs contention, but right now that appears unlikely considering Forbidden Kingdom beat third-placed Happy Jack in the San Felipe Stakes.

“He came back great and is doing very well,” said Richard Mandella after Forbidden Kingdom’s victory in March. “We had big expectations for him and he’s never let us down. He’s a gorgeous horse, a very smart horse, and has a lot of class about him.”

Road to Kentucky Derby points

  • 1st – 100
  • 2nd – 40
  • 3rd – 20
  • 4th – 10

Race to be shown live on NBC this Saturday afternoon.

Road to Kentucky Derby

Horses competing in Saturday’s three Grade races will receive Road to Kentucky Derby points if they finish in the top four

Wood Memorial – Aqueduct

Of all the horses vying for a place in the Kentucky Derby draw, one name continues to be talked about with caution: Morello. This three-year-old wasn’t expected to do as well as he has this season. A win at the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes means he has a chance of making it to Kentucky come May. But first he needs a good run in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial – and his jockey Jose Lezcano believes the 1 1/8 miles track will be pose no issue for the horse.

“The last time, he went seven-eighths, he struggled a little bit the first three-eighths and after that he jumped into the bridle and take me and win easy,” Lezcano said after winning the Gotham. “And today he was very comfortable the whole way.”

Morello’s biggest rival here will likely be Skippylongstocking, a horse that hasn’t yet claimed any Derby points. However, a top-two finish here could well be enough to slide into the Kentucky horse racing odds. Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr also has AP’s Secret to run the Wood Memorial, but Skippylongstocking is the horse everyone’s talking about.

“He’s seasoned; if that’s what you need to be on the Derby trail, he’s seasoned,” Joseph said. “If he runs similar to last time, I would say he has a chance at finishing in the top three and picking up points.”

Perhaps, then, Morello has a genuine challenger for this contest Saturday.

Road to Kentucky Derby points

  • 1st – 100
  • 2nd – 40
  • 3rd – 20
  • 4th – 10

Race is to be shown live on NBC this Saturday afternoon.

Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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