Al Bernstein

History reveals clues to 2023 Pegasus World Cup

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The 149th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on May 6th, 2023. By contrast, the Pegasus World Cup will have its 7th running on January 28th, 2023, on NBC and Peacock. While attempts to analyze the history of the Kentucky Derby are usually big broad strokes that look for trends, a race with only 6 previous runnings allows for a “micro” examination of each one of those runnings. My hope is that by looking at the six previous runnings, we can derive an understanding of the importance of this race and its winners. It might also give a sense of the type of horse that is most likely to succeed in the Pegasus.

First, a brief bit of history. Beginning in 2017, the Pegasus took the place of the Donn Handicap as a 9 furlong race for older horses on the schedule at Gulfstream Park. In its final year as the Donn, the race carried a purse of $500,000. By contrast, the Pegasus has had its purse as high as $16,300,000 and seems to have settled at its current purse value of $3 million. When it had inflated purse values, it was because of entry fees as high as $1 million that were put up by the owners of each horse. Currently, it is run as an invitational race, with all the money coming from the purse fund at Gulfstream. With that historical background, here is a look at each of the six previous runnings:

RELATED: How to watch Pegasus World Cup 2023: TV channel, live stream, start time

Pegasus World Cup – Year-by-Year History

1. 2017 Pegasus World Cup

Winner: Arrogate

This looked like a 2-horse race on paper. Coming off wins in the Travers Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Arrogate was sent off at ninety cents on the dollar, a deserving odds-on favorite. His main challenger was California Chrome, the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, who’d had a very strong 5-year-old season, posting wins in the Pacific Classic and the Awesome Again Stakes prior to finishing 2nd to Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. “Chrome” was sent off as a very solid 6/5 second choice, and the third choice was 2015 Travers Stakes winner Keen Ice at 16-1.

On this day, everything broke in favor of Arrogate, while California Chrome had an unfortunate trip around the Gulfstream oval. Breaking from the outside post is never good at Gulfstream when going 9 furlongs, and California Chrome, breaking from the 12-post, was forced 6-wide into the first turn. The strain of an outside trip was too much for him on this day, as he faded entering the far turn to finish 9th.

Meanwhile, Mike Smith had a perfect trip on Arrogate. Breaking from the rail, he sat behind longshot pacesetters Noble Bird and Neolithic. Smith brought him around the pacesetters on the far turn, and he went on to romp to a 4 ¾ length victory. His time of 1:46.83 still stands as the Gulfstream track record for a mile and an eighth. It may not have been California Chrome’s best day, but it’s doubtful that any horse could’ve properly challenged Arrogate on this day. It was a spectacular performance as he took the winner’s share of the $12 million purse and provided a remarkable inaugural for the Pegasus World Cup.

2. 2018 Pegasus World Cup

Winner: Gun Runner

Gun Runner was a deserving even-money favorite, and he ran to his form in capturing the winner’s share of the purse of over $16 million. He came into the race off of consecutive wins in the Stephen Foster Stakes, the Whitney Stakes, The Woodward Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He had a stalking trip in the Pegasus, taking over with three-eighths of a mile to go and winning by 2 ½ lengths over West Coast (a very strong horse in his own right). Gun Runner went to stud at Three Chimneys Farm after the Pegasus, and his offspring have proven to be first-rate. Among them is Cyberknife, a winner of the Haskell Stakes and the Arkansas Derby and a likely top choice in this year’s Pegasus.  Gun Runner retired with career earnings of nearly $16 million, placing him 4th all-time among horses who have raced in North America.

3. 2019 Pegasus World Cup

Winner: City of Light

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate was attempting to become the third consecutive horse to win the Classic and the Pegasus in back-to-back fashion. He was sent off as the 3/2 favorite, but the close 2nd choice at 9/5 was Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light.  As things turned out, Accelerate might’ve fired his best shot in the Breeders’ Cup, while City of Light trained wonderfully coming into the Pegasus and had the mark of a horse who was reaching his peak. He took over the race entering the far turn and went on to win by 5 ¾ lengths over the late closing Seeking The Soul. In the Dirt Mile, Seeking The Soul completed the exacta at 10-1 odds, but in the Pegasus he was 34-1. If you simply bet back the winning exacta from the Dirt Mile, you captured an exacta that paid $82.20 for a $2 ticket. Accelerate finished 3rd, soundly beaten by over 7 lengths. City of Light went to stud at Lane’s End Farm after the Pegasus, and is off to a promising career as a stallion.

4. 2020 Pegasus World Cup 

Winner: Mucho Gusto

This race might’ve been as notable for the horses that didn’t run as it was for those that did. The week of the race, key contenders Omaha Beach and Spun To Run were scratched, Omaha Beach with a minor leg injury and Spun To Run with a skin rash. These were the 1-2 finishers from the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, with Spun To Run winning wire-to-wire and Omaha Beach closing for 2nd. That was the only loss for Omaha Beach in his previous 6 starts, and he had 4 graded stakes wins in that group, including three Grade 1 races. Had he run, he would’ve been the likely favorite.

The absence of these two set up a situation where a horse with a high cruising speed could dominate, and that was exactly what happened. Mucho Gusto was clearly one of the top remaining horses, and he got a brilliant trip under Irad Ortiz, Jr. He sat a few lengths behind front-runner Mr. Freeze, and when Ortiz asked him on the far turn, he took over the race, going on to win by 4 ½ lengths, with Mr. Freeze holding on for second. Hindsight is always 20-20, and the $8.80 win price on Mucho Gusto turned out to be an absolute steal. It reinforced the importance of looking at the entire field and seeing how the pace scenario was likely to play out. In this case, the race played right into the strengths of Mucho Gusto, and he was much the best.

5. 2021 Pegasus World Cup

Winner: Knicks Go

Dominant speed often dominates absolutely, and that was the case in this edition of the Pegasus with Knicks Go. He was coming off a wire-to-wire score in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, winning by 3 ½ lengths over 62-1 shot Jesus’ Team. In the Pegasus, for the second time in three years, the 1-2 finishers from the Dirt Mile repeated their result. This time, Knicks Go was the 6/5 favorite, with Jesus’ Team going off at nearly 12-1.  As expected, Knicks Go dominated on the front end, and Jesus’ Team closed to narrowly capture second. The Pegasus win was one of the highlights of an incredible 2021 season for Knicks Go, as later that year he would post consecutive wins in the Cornhusker Handicap, Whitney Stakes, Lukas Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, leading to his 2021 Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.

6. 2022 Pegasus World Cup

Winner: Life Is Good

On the odds board, 2021 winner Knicks Go (.90-to-1) and the red-hot Life Is Good (.80-to-1) were virtually co-favorites. The word around Gulfstream that week, however, was that Life Is Good was training magnificently, and he performed accordingly. Life Is Good went wire-to-wire and won by 3 ¼ lengths, with the non-threatening Knicks Go finishing 2nd and 26-1 shot Stiletto Boy finishing 3rd. The top two finishers, however, illustrated the type of matchup that the Pegasus can offer. Not only was it a great matchup of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner against the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, but it represented the third time that the Dirt Mile winner (in this case, Life Is Good) was successful stretching out an extra furlong to win the Pegasus. Both horses entered the race in fine form, as well. Knicks Go had won 8 of his previous 10 starts, and Life Is Good had posted 8 wins in 11 career starts. While the Breeders’ Cup Classic usually provides fields with incredible depth, the Pegasus, in 6 runnings, has shown the ability to produce some amazing head-to-head matchups.

RELATED: Cyberknife picked as early favorite for $3 million Pegasus

Pegasus World Cup historical trends

A look at the charts of all 6 runnings of the Pegasus combined with a look at the lifetime records of the winners have produced some handicapping angles as we look forward to this year’s running:

  1. Favorites do well – In 6 runnings, the odds of the winning horse have averaged $1.56-to-1, which would produce a $2 win ticket paying about $5.10. There is money to be made, however, with horses that run “underneath” in exotic wagers. The average odds on the 2nd place finishers have been nearly 13-1, and the average odds of the 3rd place finishers have averaged just over 18-1.
  2. You need to be close up to win – Five of the six Pegasus winners had the lead with 3/8 of a mile to go. The one outlier was Mucho Gusto, who was 2 ½ lengths behind entering the far turn and then took over at the top of the stretch.
  3. Go with the hot horse – Take a look at the records of all 6 winners going into the Pegasus:

2017 – Arrogate entered the race on a 5-race win streak

2018 – Gun Runner had won his last 4 starts

2019 – City Of Light had won 4 of his last 6

2020 – Mucho Gusto had 2 wins, a second and a third in his previous 5 starts

2021 – Knicks Go had won his last 3 starts

2022 – Life Is Good had 5 wins and 1 second in his last 6 starts

Applying these criteria to the 2023 Pegasus World Cup field

  1. Favorites do well – The likely top 4 horses in the wagering this year should be Proxy (rail post will help), White Abarrio (4-for-4 lifetime at Gulfstream will draw serious betting money), Defunded (the Baffert factor and running style work in his favor) and Cyberknife (clearly one of the fastest here, and his flexible running style should help him get positioning and stay out of trouble).
  2. You need to be close up to win – Defunded looks to be the best front runner in a group that features a lot of stalkers and mid-pack runners. The only other front runner of some quality is Art Collector, although this group may be tough for him. Speedsters who are likely to quit include Ridin With Biden and Stilleto Boy. Dangerous stalkers include Simplification, White Abarrio, Skippylongstocking and Cyberknife.
  3. Go with the hot horse – Proxy won the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill in his last, so he fits this category. Defunded has won his last 2 (both graded stakes) out in California. Skippylongstocking exits a win in the Harlan’s Holiday, which is the traditional prep for this race at Gulfstream.  Cyberknife was defeated by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in his last, and he’s a very consistent performer, finishing 1st or 2nd in 9 of 12 lifetime.

Final notes

Favoritism should be a bit more wide open than it has been in previous runnings of this race.  Defunded looks the best of the front-runners. I would not be surprised to see him get a clear lead with a large pack scrambling just behind him for positioning. Don’t discount White Abarrio’s 4-for-4 record at Gulfstream. Of the “hot horse” group, give a good look at Proxy. His win in the Clark had the mark of an improving type, and the rail could help his positioning.

This look at the history of the race and how it can be applied to the 2023 edition draws no clear conclusions, although it does make an effort to point in the right direction. A large field with no dominant favorite could lead to strong payoffs. Make your wagers and enjoy the telecast from 4:30-6:00 pm ET on NBC and Peacock this Saturday.

How to Watch the 2023 Pegasus World Cup

NBC Sports is home to the 2023 Pegasus World Cup, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV, in the NBC Sports app, on and on Peacock before, during and after the two headlining races. The 2023 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Series will take place on Saturday, January 28 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET.

America’s Day to Wager: The experts weigh in on betting the 2022 Kentucky Derby


Betting is a big part of the Kentucky Derby annually and this year’s Run for the Roses is no different. Visit NBC Sports EDGE for a full breakdown of the 1st Leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, including actionable information, the definition of betting terminology, and odds for each horse.   

The Kentucky Derby presents what could be the most complex and difficult wagering situation in the American landscape. Think of all the unknowns:

  • It is the only time these horses will run in a 20-horse field
  • It is the first time they will run a mile and a quarter, and for many, it is the only time they will ever run that distance
  • Not only do horses go through a rapid maturation process from age 2 to 3, but they can also show major leaps forward or backward from start to start in their early 3-year-old season

We have little to no idea of how these horses will handle adversity. About the only thing we know is that with a large field, it is likely that some of the field will have to cope with bumping and other forms of bad trips.

Despite all this complexity, around $300 million in all-sources money will be wagered on Oaks Day and Derby Day combined. Some of the money wagered doesn’t even count into that total.  For example, people who are holding house parties to watch the Derby might have a pool where people put up ten bucks each to pick a horse number out of a hat, with the winner getting all $200 in the pool. It’s a fun bet that requires no expertise and gives everyone a rooting interest in the most important race in the country.

RELATED: How to watch Kentucky Derby 2022: TV channel, start time, live stream online, full race schedule

For serious handicappers, however, the Derby represents a chance at a big score, in great part due to the field size. Their attraction to this race is underscored by some numbers uncovered from the past 25 runnings of the race:

  • The average $2 Win payoff was $30.70. 12 of the 25 winners paid under $15, while 6 paid at odds of 20-1 or more
  • The average $1 Exacta payoff was $494.08. 10 of 25 paid $90 or less, but 5 paid $500 or more.
  • The average $1 Trifecta payoff was $930.37. 8 of 25 paid $500 or less, but 6 paid $5000 or more.

In order to properly tackle the Derby betting situation, I’ve consulted with some of the best handicappers I know. They’ve provided some great stories and some solid advice.

Matt Bernier: Swing for the Fences
I’ll begin with one of the best longshot players I know in NBC’s Matt Bernier. He made two memorable scores on the Derby, but he didn’t bet them on Derby day, as both were bets he made in future pools. In 2012, I’ll Have Another won the Derby at 15-1 odds, but Matt had him locked in several weeks before at 85-1. After a score like that, the following year he went to the Derby in person for the first time. Given his success with a future bet the year before, he topped himself with his 2013 selection. Orb won as a 5-1 shot that year, but Matt had zeroed in on him as early as January. His future bet was at 75-1 odds, and from his vantage point at Churchill Downs, he didn’t see the horse making his move. Then, one of his friends spotted the mud-covered silks of Joel Rosario and hit Matt with an elbow in the ribs and the words “he’s running”. Matt says he will never forget those words and what they meant at that time.

Matt’s advice for Derby bettors is to swing for the fences (like a superfecta bet covering several horses) or go with basic win-place-show betting, where the large field size tends to inflate prices. For example, Orb paid $12.80 to win, but he paid $7.40 to place and $5.40 to show. The larger prices for place and show are definitely a factor of the 20-horse field.

RELATED: What to know about the 2022 Kentucky Derby

Randy Moss: Bet on the Best
For a historical perspective, I went for sage advice from Randy Moss. He pointed out that from 1970 to the present, the best horse won the Derby about 80% of the time. As examples, he pointed to two extreme longshot Derby winners in Canonero II (1971) and Mine That Bird (2009). Canonero II went off at 19-1 that year, but only because he was part of a 6-horse mutuel field, as betting machines at that time could not handle more than 12 betting interests. If he had been an individual entry, experts say he could have gone off as high as 100-1.

After winning the Derby, he went on to win the Preakness and finished 4th in the Belmont Stakes, proving that he was the best horse in that year’s Triple Crown. Mine That Bird was 50-1 in the Derby, but he followed that win with a 2nd in the Preakness and a 3rd place finish in the Belmont Stakes, proving that he was the best horse in the 2009 Triple Crown races. Once again, young 3-year-olds can change quickly in their abilities, and a longshot on Derby Day can emerge as the best of his crop. Randy says that the relative inexperience of these 3-year-olds and their first experience going a mile and a quarter sometimes makes it difficult to identify the best horses, but history has proven that most Kentucky Derby winners, even if they are longshots, are not flukes.

Kenny Rice: Go With Your Gut
Lexington-based Kenny Rice is a reporter for several sports, including horse racing. One of his closest friends is the former University of Kentucky and NBA star Rex Chapman. Kenny covered him as an athlete since his high school days, but most of their discussions are usually about horses instead of hoops. Each year, they exchange their Derby picks, and at 6 am on Derby day in 2005, Rex called Kenny to let him know that he was going with a longshot by the name of Giacomo. Kenny liked the eventual 3rd place horse (Afleet Alex), who went off at 9/2 odds. As handicapping buddies often do, they supported each other’s picks at the windows.  When Giacomo paid $102.60 to win, they both made a nice score. Afterward, Rex told Kenny that he noticed him smiling as he was conducting his post-race interviews.

Kenny’s advice to people wagering on the big race it to go with your gut instinct, as he’s seen too many people change from their original selections on Derby day and end up regretting it. He also says to pay attention to established trainers who don’t send horses to the Derby unless they think they have a chance. As examples, he points out Charlie Whittingham with Ferdinand in 1986, Mack Miller with Sea Hero in 1993, and Art Sherman with California Chrome in 2014.

RELATED: Kentucky Derby: Explaining a Win Bet

Eddie Olczyk: Don’t Forget Your Straight Bets
Next up was the man of hockey and horses, Eddie Olczyk. He feels that one of the factors that led to his being hired on horse racing for NBC was something he did on a hockey telecast. The great Mike Emrick was doing a promo for the Derby on a hockey telecast in 2013, and they put up a graphic showing the Derby field.  He asked Edzo who he liked, and Edzo named 4 horses in the field of 20. If you boxed them, you would’ve hit the win ticket, the exacta and the trifecta. With the 34-1 shot Golden Soul running 2nd to Orb, there were some very large payoffs at the windows. He says that one of the camera guys on the hockey telecast followed his advice and had a large 5-figure payout.

Edzo’s advice for bettors is in sync with his handicapping pal, Matt Bernier. He says that win-place-show wagering is an “under-the-radar” value in the Derby. He says that some serious players that he knows only bet win-place-show on the Derby because of the generous prices.

RELATED: Key Storylines to Watch as 148th Kentucky Derby Comes Into Focus

Peter Rotondo: Pace Makes the Race
The last of the people I spoke to had the greatest story of all. Peter Rotondo has been an executive for the Breeders’ Cup, and he currently works for the 1st corporation, which owns several race tracks, including Santa Anita and Gulfstream. Pete is a whiz on social media and he has lots of friends. For the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he posts approximately $100 worth of bets for his friends to follow and wager on. He made a lot of people very happy when Country House was put up on a disqualification to win the 2019 Derby at 65-1 odds. If you followed him to the letter, you cashed on a $10 win and place bets on Country House, as well as a $2 Exacta and a $1 Trifecta. The $100 investment returned $15,429.90. One friend of Pete’s multiplied each of the suggested bets by 10, investing $1,000 and returning over $154,000. Pete estimates that between the people he knew of that cashed on his wagering strategy and the people they passed it on to who made the same bets, they all cashed for somewhere between a half-million and a million dollars.

Betting Strategy
Pete Rotondo’s betting strategy for the 2019 Kentucky Derby featured the #20 horse, Country House, who paid off at 65-1 odds

Pete says that in the Derby, pace makes the race. He points out that in some runnings of the Derby, there are only a couple of legitimate front-runners, and they could run 1-2 around the track. In 2019, he felt that there were several horses with front-end ability, and if a horse like Country House made a late run, he had a legitimate chance to close into the pace and hit the board, even at odds like 65-1. He took a swing for the fences, and he hit a home run for himself and a lot of his friends. Remarkable!

Country House
In 2019, $10 win tickets on Country House returned $662

Finally, a personal note. I have two examples out of my past that represent the extremes of wagering strategy on the Derby. In 2000, I knew that the favorite, Fusaichi Pegasus, was the dominant horse in the race. I also was impressed by the closing finish of a horse named Aptitude in the Wood Memorial. I only made one bet on the race, and it cost me $42. It was a $1 key superfecta that had Fusaichi Pegasus in the first hole, Aptitude in the second hole, and boxed 7 different horses for 3rd and 4th.

My two big horses ran 1-2, and I managed to nail 3rd and 4th from the 7 horses I had boxed in those positions. The payoff was $1635 for a $42 investment. The other example comes from the same 2019 Derby that Pete and his friends got rich on. I was asked on a broadcast outlet for a relatively inexpensive bet that would give novices a good run for their money. I suggested a $1 exacta box of ten horses, a bet which would cost $90. It was a bet on half the horses in the field, but I also had to eliminate 10 horses. The last horse I eliminated was Country House, as I proved that even with a bet involving 10 of the 20 horses, I couldn’t hit the exacta.

So, if you’re wondering who I like this year, the answer is Epicenter, who will be my key horse in a lot of different types of wagers. I’m targeting Zandon, Messier, Taiba, Charge It, Zozos and Smile Happy as the horses I will place underneath the favored Epicenter. The Kentucky Derby only happens once a year. Wagering on this race is not really gambling…it is participating in an American tradition.

Key Storylines to Watch as 148th Kentucky Derby Comes Into Focus

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For years it has been said that thoroughbreds go through their biggest changes, in terms of growth and maturity, between the ages of 2 and 3. It is a primary reason why several 2-year-old champions have fizzled out when facing the rigors of the Triple Crown trail. In addition, the prep races for the Triple Crown provide tests that allow some 3-year-olds to emerge as major players while others prove that they cannot handle the competition as the waters get deeper.

Now that the prep races have been completed, there is some clarity to the storylines that have emerged for this Kentucky Derby. However, a detailed assessment of an 8-horse field is vastly different from an assessment of a 20-horse field, so a review of these storylines may help to bring this year’s Derby into focus. Here are some of those key Kentucky Derby storylines, as I see it

1. The Man Who Isn’t There

We cannot get away from the story of Bob Baffert. The fact that he has trained 3 of the last 7 winners of the Derby makes his absence a major factor. Two of his trainees, now in the hands of Tim Yakteen, will probably be in the field.  Nobody knows, however, what the import of not having a hands-on Baffert approach in the weeks leading up to the Derby will mean for Messier and Taiba.

2. Is this the year of Asmussen?

In the aftermath of the year in which he became the winningest trainer of all time, the Steve Asmussen machine just keeps on churning out winners. He is leading the nation in wins this year by a runaway margin and is close to Todd Pletcher for the lead in purse earnings. He trains the Derby points leader and probable favorite in Epicenter, and Echo Zulu is 2nd in points for the Kentucky Oaks. Both horses will have a 6-week span between their previous races and their big dates in Kentucky, which should give the trainer plenty of time to have them tweaked for their peak performances. The only major blot on the trainer’s record is an 0-for-23 mark in the Derby, and this could be the best chance he’s ever had to become a Derby-winning trainer.

RELATED: When is the 2022 Kentucky Derby? Date, start time, distance, race coverage info

3. Will Brad Cox win back-to-back Kentucky Derbies?

The final adjudication of the 2021 Derby made the Cox-trained Mandaloun the winner and disqualified Medina Spirit. There’s no question that Cox would like to win the race by crossing the finish line first, and he has three chances to do so. Zozos was 2nd to Epicenter in the Louisiana Derby, which was only the 3rd race of his career, so he is likely to improve from that experience. Cox also trains Cyberknife, who was dominant against a questionable field in the Arkansas Derby.  As a son of Gun Runner, he will appreciate the extra furlong of the Kentucky Derby. His 3rd entrant is Tawny Port, whose best races prior to this past Saturday were on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park. His win on Saturday in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland showed that he can handle the dirt surface, so he is likely to be entered in the Derby.

4. Will Chad Brown add the Kentucky Derby to his resume?

He has won 4 Eclipse Awards as the top trainer in the U.S., but Chad has never won the Derby in 6 tries. This year he has two horses that have a legitimate shot to win the big one. Zandon, the Blue Grass Stakes winner, closed from last in that race to win by 2 ½ lengths. A strong pace in the Derby could set things up for his running style. His other horse is Early Voting, who led on the front end in the Wood Memorial only to be nailed at the wire by Mo Donegal. It was his first race in two months, and he should be sharper in Louisville.

5. Will Saffie Joseph, Jr. emerge on top?

 In his mid-30’s, Joseph was the dominant trainer of the ultra-competitive Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park this year. The accomplishments of the man from Barbados were led by Florida Derby winner White Abarrio, a horse who was sold for $7,500 as a yearling and then for $40,000 as a 2-year-old. He beat a lot of high-priced and highly-regarded colts in winning the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby, and it remains to be seen if this overachiever can succeed in the most competitive race of all.

RELATED: How to watch Kentucky Derby 2022: TV channel, start time, live stream online, full race schedule

6. Will Todd Pletcher be an under-the-radar threat in the Derby?

His Kentucky Derby record of 2-for-59 says that many of his high-priced colts were entered into the Derby based on the wishes of their owners, and not the judgment of their trainer. After all, he has won 23% of his races in his career with over 5,300 wins. Both of his horses this year, however, are entering off excellent prep races. Mo Donegal put on a big closing effort to win the Wood Memorial, and he will like the mile-and-a-quarter distance of the Derby. In just the third race of his career, Charge It was an impressive 2nd to White Abarrio in the Florida Derby. The chart notes tell the story, indicating that he hit the gate at the start, had a wide trip throughout the race, and lugged in in the stretch. It was a race that indicated he has a world of potential.

7. Can Ken McPeek pull off an upset in his home state?

Lexington-born and Kentucky-based McPeek came very close with his first Kentucky Derby starter, finishing 2nd in 1995 with Tejano Run. He’s started 5 others in the Derby since then, and he hasn’t come close. His two probable entrants this year have a legitimate chance. Smile Happy was a solid stalking 2nd in the Blue Grass Stakes when he was overcome in the stretch by the late-closing Zandon. The drying-out track condition that day probably favored closers, and he could improve on a fast track. McPeek is also taking a chance with Tiz The Bomb, who won the Jeff Ruby Stakes on a synthetic surface at Turfway Park. His performances thus far have shown a preference for running on grass and synthetics, but you only get one chance to run in the Kentucky Derby.

8. Will Derby Day be Old Timer’s Day?

56-year-old Mike Smith should have the mount on Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba. He will use his lifetime of experience to guide the lightly raced colt in the biggest race of his career. In that Santa Anita Derby, Messier was a game 2nd after fighting for the lead most of the way with Forbidden Kingdom. Messier is likely to be the mount of 50-year-old John Velazquez, who is always on top of his game in the big races. Smith is a 2-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and Velazquez has won the race 3 times. In a 20-horse field in the biggest race of all, experience is an invaluable factor to have on your side.

RELATED: What to know about the 2022 Kentucky Derby

9. “Battle of the Young Sires”

Gun Runner is the leading 2nd-year sire in North America, and his offspring in this Derby will be Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba, Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife and Early Voting, who was a close 2nd in the Wood Memorial. Not This Time, the leading 3rd-year sire in North America, is a son of the great sire Giant’s Causeway, who died in 2018. He will be represented by Epicenter, the likely Derby favorite, as well as Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Simplification and possibly In Due Time, who could draw into the field. Trained by the always dangerous Kelly Breen, In Due Time was 2nd to Simplification in the Fountain of Youth.

10. Will an 0-fer streak be broken?

Some of these have already been mentioned in this article, but here is a recap of some key 0-fer records.

  • Trainers: Steve Asmussen (his 0-for-23 is the longest active streak among trainers), Chad Brown (0-for-6), Ken McPeek (0-for-6)
  • Jockeys: Javier Castellano (0-for-15), Jose Ortiz (0-for-6), Irad Ortiz, Jr. (0-for-5), Tyler Gaffalione (0-for-4)
  • First-time Derby winners are odds-on favorites to produce tears in their post-race interviews.

The 20-horse Kentucky Derby is always an adventure. Storylines abound, but the only certainty is that the connections of one horse will experience the pinnacle of achievement in the sport, while the other 19 will experience some level of disappointment. It’s “nervous time” for all involved as May 7th draws closer.

Al Bernstein has worked as a statistician on NBC’s horse racing telecasts since the inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 1984.