2022 Kentucky Derby Contender Profile – Zandon

HOW HE GOT HERE

“I guess we brought the bear…” 

That’s what Chad Brown tweeted shortly after Zandon’s definitive score in the G1-Blue Grass Stakes that cemented his spot as one of the Derby favorites. The tweet was in response to a quote by Kenny McPeek, the trainer of fellow Kentucky Derby hopeful Smile Happy, essentially saying that a bear is what it would take to knock off his colt in the upcoming major Derby prep. As Zandon found room in the lane and leveled off, powering past Smile Happy in the process, it became clear that this promising colt has quite a few ursine qualities. 

Let’s take a step back however and trace how this guy vaulted to near the top of every Kentucky Derby Top 10 list. He broke his maiden at first asking at Belmont in the fall in a performance that drove his trainer to enter him in the G2-Remsen Stakes in just his second career start. Bet down to favoritism at 6-5, Zandon tracked the pace that day and locked eyes with future Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal down the lane ultimately succumbing to that rival in the final strides. There was however a case to be made that a disqualification could be in order after some significant contact was made between the two participants, but the stewards eventually decided to let the result stand. Zandon made his three-year-old return in the G2-Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds, but suffered a tumultuous journey that began at the break and continued behind a less than honest pace ultimately leading to a third place finish. That education served him wonders in the G1-Blue Grass Stakes where he had a similar journey near the back of the pack, but split horses and powered home to a convincing win when the real running began. 

 

HOW HE FITS HERE

Zandon received a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Blue Grass Stakes which puts him just 4-5 points behind the best figures earned by his fellow Derby hopefuls. As a resounding winner of one of the five major Kentucky Derby prep races, he is sure to get his well-deserved support at the windows. 

CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE 

Some of that wagering support will be due in large part to his human connections. While his trainer Chad Brown has yet to saddle a Kentucky Derby winner, he has tasted success on the Triple Crown trail before with 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Meanwhile, Zandon will be ridden by Flavien Prat who has risen to stardom over the past few seasons and has become familiar with riding some of this barn’s top stock in recent months. He will look to cross the wire in front in the Derby for the first time to go along with the Derby win he earned via disqualification with Country House in 2019. 

Zandon falls within just the second crop of three-year-old’s for his sire Upstart who has already tasted some significant early success at stud. He’s produced stakes runners like Reinvestment Risk and Masqueparade from his first crop as well as Kathleen O from his second crop who is likely to be among the Kentucky Oaks favorites. Zandon’s dam Memories Prevail was unraced but she was by 2011 Kentucky Derby entrant Creative Cause as well as a half sister to turf stakes runners Cariba and Cairo Memories. 

 

OVERALL CHANCE

Zandon is likely to vie for favoritism in the Kentucky Derby with horses like Epicenter, Taiba, and Messier. With his recent form and human connections, he deserves to be listed among the most likely winners of this year’s Run for the Roses. The key to his chances will be what kind of trip he is able to work out on the first Saturday in May. With the big field the Kentucky Derby assembles annually, Zandon can ill-afford to break poorly and would be best served to get his early position in the first half of the field. It will be a tough task to maneuver through that many horses down the lane at Churchill Downs, but this colt has shown the agility to do just that and has a pilot on board that has been pressing all the right buttons lately. 

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