2022 Louisiana Derby: Epicenter Creates Huge Kentucky Derby Rumblings

On Saturday at the Fair Grounds, Epicenter easily put away his rivals in the 2022 Louisiana Derby. But he didn’t just outrun the 2022 field. Even more impressively, he broke the track record set last year by Hot Rod Charlie.

With regular rider Joel Rosario aboard, Epicenter broke alertly and full of run. Rosario reined in the Risen Star winner and settled him, uncharacteristically, behind the early leaders. When Rosario pulled Epicenter off the rail on the stretch turn, the colt easily blew away the front runners as well as Hot Rod Charlie’s track record. And Epicenter rang up his 1:54.38 clocking with only moderate urging from Rosario.

The victory and the ease with which Epicenter accomplished it clearly pleased trainer Steve Asmussen, who saw this as a picture-perfect final prep. Epicenter proved he didn’t need the lead to win and that he could settle and wait for Rosario’s cue to go. Oh, he also proved he was very fast.

The rumble felt and heard in the racing media was immediate and pervasive. Everyone seems duly impressed. So let’s compare Epicenter to other top Derby prospects.

Epicenter vs. 2022 Prep-Race Winners

I start my analysis of Derby prospects by comparing raw half times and final times. As I point out (and statistically support) in my book The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby, approximation often outperforms precision when looking for value. For easy comparisons I convert the raw times into pace and final figures.

Here’s how this year’s top contenders stack up (each point equals one length):

  • Epicenter (LA Derby)…..85/105=190 (FG)
  • Zozos (LA Derby)………..87/100=187 (FG)
  • Epicenter (Risen Star)…84/97=181 (FG)
  • Cyberknife……………..…..87/93=180 (FG)
  • Classic Causeway……..…88/90=178 (TAM)
  • White Abarrio…………….84/94=178 (GP)
  • Simplification…………….86/88=174 (GP)
  • Forbidden Kingdom…..93/80=173 (SA)

You can see that the Fair Grounds surface probably plays fast this year. But even if you chop 5 lengths off all winning figures there, Epicenter’s resulting 185 figure towers above other top Derby prospects. And it tops the similarly adjusted 182 earned by Hot Rod Charlie in last year’s Louisiana Derby.

In other words, Epicenter ranks at least 6 lengths faster than other 2022 prospects and 3 lengths faster than Hot Rod Charlie at this point last year.

The Derby prospects outside the state of Louisiana have yet to run their final preps. Almost certainly the winners of the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby and other 9-furlong prep races will post figures closer to the one earned by Epicenter this week. But given the enormous gap between Epicenter’s figure and others, Epicenter’s Louisiana Derby performance is unlikely to be equaled. And given the ease with which Epicenter reached these heights, it’s reasonable to expect him to improve further.

Pay attention to those rumblings. Something significant is headed your way.