By James Millar:
HOW HE GOT HERE
The appropriately named Un Ojo earned his spot in the Kentucky Derby field largely on the back of a shocking upset in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Those 50 points were coupled with his 4 points previously earned from his second-place finish in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct. The one-eyed gelding raced four times as a two-year old, improving with each start. However, his races did little to spark Kentucky Derby enthusiasm. His connections decided to take a shot in the Grade 3 Withers and Un Ojo did not disappoint. He sat up to 17 lengths back before rallying for second at 28-1, behind front-running winner Early Voting. He earned a career best 80 Beyer Speed Figure in the effort and his connections decided to continue on the Derby Trail.
After the strong run in the Withers, Un Ojo transferred back into the barn of Ricky Courville (his conditioner outside of New York) and headed south to Arkansas for the Rebel. Sitting much closer to the early pace, Un Ojo closed strongly in the stretch to win at an outrageous 75-1. Still considered by many to be a longshot on the Derby Trail, Un Ojo was then sent off at 19-1 in the Arkansas Derby. However, his luck had run out as he finished an uninspiring 8th behind a group of horses that speed figures say is slow.
HOW HE FITS HERE
While Un Ojo won a Grade 2 race and sits at 13th on the leaderboard of Kentucky Derby points, it is hard to imagine he makes a large impact on the Kentucky Derby. Early Voting set a blistering pace in the Withers and the race set up very well for Un Ojo to close. Additionally, though his Rebel win yielded an improvement and career best Beyer number, the 84 he earned is significantly lower than his contemporaries. An argument could’ve been made for an improving type like Un Ojo to make a run in Kentucky but his most recent effort in the Arkansas Derby does not inspire confidence. He regressed back to a 71 without showing much of an excuse.
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 23, 2022
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
Un Ojo races for Louisiana-based trainer Ricky Courville, and will be his first Kentucky Derby starter. To this point in 2022, Courville is 2/47 with one of those wins being his first graded stakes win in the Rebel. The dark bay gelding is a son of Laoban and the A.P. Indy mare Risk a Chance. Laoban has had some progeny success in the Triple Crown with Keepmeinmind who ran 6th in the 2021 Kentucky Derby and 4th in the 2021 Preakness Stakes.
It is possible that Un Ojo takes money in the Derby given what happened to Patch, another one-eyed horse whom the public fell in love with back in 2017. Patch, a seemingly overmatched longshot was bet down to 14-1 before finishing 14th. Patch had more high-profile connections though, owned by Calumet Farm and trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.
Un Ojo has shown a bit of versatility in his races to this point. He closed well in the Withers and ran a tactical race in the Rebel. That versatility will need to serve him well in Kentucky and several things will have to break his way for him to make a strong run. Given his large step back in his most recent race and the significant talent gap from the leaders in his class, Un Ojo does not figure to make an impact in the 2022 Kentucky Derby. However, he already showed he is capable of shocking bettors with his 75-1 upset in late February.