EPICENTER has been well backed this week to win the Run for the Roses and gets the nod in our Kentucky Derby predictions.
Steven Asmussen’s charge was an impressive scorer at Churchill Downs on his second start as a juvenile and has since gone on to shine with three wins from four at Fair Grounds.
The $260,000 yearling was narrowly beaten on his first outing of 2022 but then made a big impression when claiming the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes in February.
Joel Rosario was able to sit motionless as Epicenter powered home well clear of Smile Happy and Zandon.
That pair reoppose here after going on to be first and second in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, where Zandon won going away.
Asmussen said: “It couldn’t have gone any smoother for him in the Risen Star, was away cleanly and had everything his own way.
“Taking on a slightly longer trip next time should have helped set him up for this and with six weeks to prepare, we’d expect him to be very sharp for the Kentucky Derby.”
North America’s leading trainer in terms of race wins is still searching for his first success in this iconic contest after 23 previous attempts.
However, the Hall of Fame handler does have Breeders’ Cup Classic, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Kentucky Oaks and Dubai World Cup victories on his CV.
He added: “We’re Derby dreamers and for him to have checked off all the boxes in the way that he has and the build-up he’s had, it is extremely exciting.”
Warrior worth support
On a superb supporting card, there are three other Grade 1 events worth looking at in our Kentucky Derby preview.
Asmussen and Rosario team up again with JACKIE’S WARRIOR in the Churchill Downs Stakes.
He has a score to settle with Aloha West after flopping when odds-on for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November.
However, the four-year-old had impressed in three previous wins and showed his well-being with an Oaklawn Park strike on last month’s seasonal bow.
ADHAMO ran in some hot races for Freddie Head in France last year and appeals in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic.
The four-year-old was only beaten a head on his debut for Chad Brown and should go well again after a little break.
JUST ONE TIME made it four straight victories when staying on strongly to land the Grade 1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland and can continue her hot streak.
Bell’s The One, Kamari, Lady Rocket and Four Graces filled the next four places that day and we can see no reason for any to turn the tables in the Derby City Distaff Stakes.
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