Stalking the pace for the first time, Epicenter confirmed himself as a major contender for the Kentucky Derby in the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, recording an impressive 2 1/2-length victory.
The Steve Asmussen-trained colt saved ground in third before swinging three wide at the conclusion of the far turn, and Epicenter blew past rivals in upper stretch to win in hand for Joel Rosario. Asmussen and Rosario teamed up to win five races on Saturday’s 12-race program.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Epicenter established a new track record, finishing the 1 3/16-mile distance in 1:54.38, and left the starting gate as the even-money favorite among nine runners.
The bay son of Not This Time jumped to the top of the leaderboard by winning the major qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, increasing his total to 164 points.
Epicenter earned 50 points for a convincing wire-to-wire win in the Feb. 19 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, and also garnered 10 for a win in December’s Gun Run S. and 4 points for a runner-up in January’s Lecomte (G3) at the New Orleans track.
A maiden winner at Churchill Downs last fall, Epicenter had raced on the pace in his first five starts. He’s now bankrolled $1,01,639, and his versatility should serve him well at Churchill Downs on May 7.
Zozos, who was making his stakes debut for Brad Cox following maiden and entry-level allowance wins to open his career, set the pace (:23.27, :47.35, and 1:11.69) as the 5-2 second choice, and he easily held second by two lengths over 15-1 Pioneer of Medina, who tracked in second before weakening in the stretch.
Rattle N Roll closed belatedly to edge Galt by a nose for fourth, winding up eight lengths behind the winner. Call Me Midnight was another neck back in sixth, and next came Kupuna, Curly Tail, and Silent Power.
Epicenter, a $260,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase in 2020, was bred in Kentucky by Westwind Farms. He’s out of the stakes-winning Candy Ride mare Silent Candy.