HOW HE GOT HERE
I’m not sure he was on anyone’s Derby radar back in January, when he was a solid winner in a six furlong maiden special weight at the Fair Grounds. The race did prove to produce some quality runners as both the runner up and third place finisher came back to win in their next start. Two other runners from that race have also gone on to break their maidens recently.
His allowance win in his next start at Oaklawn was when he caught the eye of many. He was a much the best winner in his second start and his first at two turns. He earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort and earned a spot in a Derby Points Race.
He made that start against Epicenter in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby back in March, and he ended up setting the pace that day. Epicenter, who does have very good early foot, conceded the lead to him, while rating off the leader in third. At the top of the stretch, Zozos could not match strides with the Risen Star winner, but he was able to hold off Pioneer of Medina for second, earning 40 Derby Points and qualifying for a spot in the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby. He earned a 98 Beyer Speed figure for that race, which certainly puts him on par with some of the other heavy hitters in this race.
HOW HE FITS HERE
This will certainly be a strong test for this three year old making only his 4th career start. He figures to be in the first flight with this field, which recent history will tell you, is a good thing. However, Epicenter was much better than him in Louisiana. Rosario was able to wrap up the winner in the late stages of that race, thus making the final margin of victory smaller than what it could have been. Outside of Epicenter, I don’t think that field was as deep as some of the other prep races. I also don’t think much of the field that he trounced at Oaklawn when clearing the N1X condition. While it looked better on paper going into that race, some of the other horses that appeared to be contenders didn’t show up, and horses coming out of that race haven’t done much in their subsequent starts.
He’s one that could certainly benefit from a good post position, somewhere in the 4-7 territory. He’s been able to have things his own way in his last two, and he might be quick enough to dictate the terms if he is inside of some of the other speed types. I worry about him being posted outside of some of the other speed though. I’m not convinced he’s good enough right now to concede a lot of ground to his rivals.
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 22, 2022
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
While his trainer, Brad Cox, goes into the books as the winner of the 2021 Derby, it certainly wasn’t the way that I’m sure we would have wanted to win. Regardless, he did a great job getting Mandaloun to rebound from a dull effort in the Louisiana Derby to cross the wire second in an ultra-game performance. Zozos will start off the same six week layoff that Mandaloun did last year. His rider, Florent Geroux opted to ride Cyberknife instead, which is a bit of a concern for me. Manny Franco, who was the runner-up to Authentic in the September Derby when piloting Tiz The Law, gets the call.
From a pedigree standpoint, I would definitely expect him to be better at one turn. He’s sired by Munnings out of a Forestry mare, so there’s definitely some speed influences there. He continues to improve at longer distances though, so I can’t fault anyone for thinking that he could get the 1 1/4 mile distance that he’ll have to travel in the Derby.
While I’ll have a few dollars on him to win as a hunch bet, since Zozos is the family name of some of my cousins through marriage, I’ll be trying to beat him in this race, especially if he winds up breaking from the outer part of the starting gate. I think he’ll be a pace presence, and with the re-emergence of Classic Causeway, who is an excellent gate horse, I feel like he’ll have definite company. While I like playing horses that are trending upward, with Beyer figures improving in each start, I’m not yet convinced that he’s good enough to win at this level at this point in his career. Geroux, having first refusal, opting to ride Cyberknife, tells me that he feels this horse might have some limitations.
If he starts to float into Mandaloun territory in terms of odds (25-1), I might be willing to invest a little more than a few bucks, but at shorter odds, he’ll be a pass for me.