Taiba A $1.7 million son of 2017 Horse of the Year and promising young sire Gun Runner, Taiba had great expectations before he first raced. He made his first start in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Santa Anita Park on Mar. 5, 2022, and impressively won by 7 1/2 lengths. He covered six furlongs in a sharp 1:09.97. Taiba made his graded stakes debut in the Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on Apr. 9. He rated off the pace in the early stages, then moved three-wide on the turn and battled with fellow Tim Yakteen trainee Messier in the stretch. Taiba pulled clear late for the victory, earning 100 qualifying points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Yakteen sent Taiba to Churchill Downs for the May 7 Derby. . The colt went off as the second betting choice but tired to finish 12th of 20. Taiba did not start again until July 23, when he was shipped to Monmouth Park for the $1 million, Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Stakes He rallied in the stretch and closed with a rush but settled for second by a head to Cyberknife in a fine return to the track.Photo by: Breeders' Cup Life Is Good Life Is Good made a sparkling debut Nov. 22, 2020 at Del Mar, where he led from start to finish on his was to a runaway 9 ½-length romp for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The bay Into Mischief colt made his stakes debut in his first race as a 3-year-old Jan. 2 in the one-mile Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. A points race on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the Grade 3 Sham shaped up similarly to Life Is Good’s debut as he seized command and opened a clear lead entering the first turn. He maintained a clear advantage until deep stretch where stablemate Medina Spirit rallied belatedly to cut Life Is Good’s winning margin to a three-quarters of a length. Life Is Good improved to 2-for-2 and earned 10 qualifying points toward the Derby with the Sham victory. On Mar. 6, Life Is Good further affirmed his status as one of the Derby favorites with an emphatic eight-length score in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. He went out to the early lead, then set the pace and drew off in the stretch. Despite lugging out in the stretch, he remained clear of the rest, not encountering any serious challenges. Not long after that race, Life Is Good was diagnosed with an ankle chip, and subsequently missed the Triple Crown series. He returned to the races with a strong performance in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 28. He set very fast fractions early on, then dueled with Jackie's Warrior down the stretch. Despite showing great heart, he finished second to that rival, beaten a length. In his next start, Life Is Good faced three other rivals in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on Sept. 25. Under very confident handling from Irad Ortiz Jr, he won by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:34.47, in his first win since the San Felipe. Off that performance, Life Is Good was the odds-on choice in the Grade 1 Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar on Nov. 6. He lived up to expectations with a commanding gate-to-wire win, running away to a dominant 5 3/4-length victory. He covered the mile in 1:34.12. Life Is Good made his 4-year-old debut in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Presented by 1/ST BET at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29, 2022. He set the early pace, opened up a big advantage up the backstretch, and did not look back as he coasted to an impressive victory. On the strength of that victory, Life Is Good was considered a very likely winner of the Group 1 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline at Meydan on Mar. 26. He had the lead turning for home, but flattened out in the last eighth of a mile and ended up finishing fourth. Life Is Good is out of the Distorted Humor mare Beach Walk. His grandam (maternal grandmother) is Grade 1-placed stakes winner Bonnie Blue Flag.Photo by: Breeders' Cup Happy Saver Happy Saver began his career on an impressive winning streak for trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Gerard and Alain Wertheimer. He did not make his first start until June 20, 2020, at Belmont Park, and won a seven-furlong maiden race by an impressive 5 ½ lengths. He next raced at Saratoga in a 1 1/8-mile allowance, and again was dominant, stretching out to a route of ground with no difficulty whatsoever and romping by four lengths. On Sept. 7, Happy Saver shipped to Laurel Park in Maryland and won the local prep for the Preakness Stakes, the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio Stakes, by a comfortable 1 ½ lengths as the 1-5 favorite. He skipped the third leg of the Triple Crown in favor of the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 10, and in that race he stepped up to graded stakes competition and also to face older horses and outfinished Mystic Guide and multiple graded stakes winner Tacitus for a breakthrough victory in a Grade 1 race. The Jockey Club Gold Cup victory earned Happy Saver an expenses-paid berth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic. Happy Saver did not compete in the Breeders' Cup that year, and did not return to the races until May 28, 2021. He won an allowance optional claiming race at Belmont Park that day by a length. Next out, he finished third in the Suburban Stakes at the same track on July 3. In his final two starts of the year, he finished second in both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Clark Handicap. Happy Saver came back in fine form for his 5-year-old season in 2022 but had trouble scoring a second top-level win as the ‘seconditis’ continued. He finished second in the first three starts of the year – behind Olympiad in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes Presented by Sentient Jet, behind Flightline in the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, and behind Life Is Good in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes. Multiple stakes-placed winner Happy Week, by Distorted Humor, is the dam (mother) of Happy Saver.Photo by: Breeders' Cup Flightline Flightline made his career debut in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita Park on Apr. 24, 2021. Sent off as the 9-10 favorite, he blew the field away, winning by 13 1/4 lengths while covering six furlongs in 1:08.75. After a few months off, Flightline returned to the races in a first-level allowance optional claiming race at Del Mar on Sept. 5. Although he was making his first start off a long layoff, bettors had plenty of respect for him, sending him off as the 1-5 favorite. If anything, he was even more impressive second time out. He smashed the field by 12 3/4 lengths. The final time for six furlongs was 1:08.05, just 0.45 seconds off a 48-year-old track record. Flightline made his stakes debut in the Grade 1 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, 2021. He won by 11 1/2 lengths, going seven furlongs in a blazing 1:21.37. He was never asked to run at any point by Flavien Prat, but raced powerfully down the stretch and was never in serious danger of being defeated. Flightline did not race again until June 11, 2022, due to a strained hock. Trainer John Sadler was patient in bringing his charge back and did not do so until he was fit. But his return was ambitious: the Grade 1, $1 million Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, where Flightline would face East Coast-based Speaker’s Corner, winner of the Carter Handicap in April, and the 2021 Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West. Still, Flightline was sent off as the 0.45-1 favorite in a five-horse field. He immediately encountered trouble after a slow start from the inside post as his path to engage Speaker’s Corner in the early pace closed up and he was forced to steady and then angle outside of that foe. After making that move, jockey Flavien Prat urged Flightline up next to Speaker’s Corner and then the colt moved to the lead rapidly entering the stretch. He was never threatened after that and coasted to the finish, defeating Grade 1 winner Happy Saver by six lengths and finishing the one-turn mile in 1:33.59. Flightline gained an automatic berth to the Nov. 5 Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland via the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. Flightline sold for $1 million at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale in 2019. His sire (father) is top stallion Tapit, while his dam (mother), Feathered, was a graded stakes winner.Photo by: Breeders' Cup Hot Rod Charlie Hot Rod Charlie began his career in a pair of sprints, one on dirt and the other on grass, finishing third as the favorite in the latter. He remained on turf for his third start and was unplaced when stretching out to a mile. The Oxbow colt secured his first career win Oct. 2, 2020, when he won a one-mile maiden special weight race on the main track by a neck. Trainer Doug O’Neill sent Hot Rod Charlie to Keeneland for the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Nov. 6 at Keeneland. He made a bold move on the far turn and finished second to Essential Quality at 94.40-1 odds. In his 3-year-old debut, Hot Rod Charlie finished third in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 30. With that win, he earned two points on the road to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Hot Rod Charlie finally got his breakthrough win on Mar. 20, taking the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby. He set the early pace, then fended off a challenge in the stretch from Midnight Bourbon for the win. He covered 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.06. With that win, Hot Rod Charlie earned 100 more Derby qualifying points. In the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 1, Hot Rod Charlie battled on in the stretch after stalking the pace and finished third, beaten by about a length behind Medina Spirit. He was elevated to second nearly 10 months later after first-place finisher Medina Spirit was disqualified by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for a medication positive. Five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, Hot Rod Charlie finished second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, hanging in gamely after setting fast fractions on the inside. In his next start, Hot Rod Charlie was the odds-on favorite in the Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 17. He raced wide most of the way, then moved to challenge the leaders at the top of the stretch. As they neared the eighth pole, he came in on Midnight Bourbon, causing that rival to check and unseat his jockey. Although Hot Rod Charlie crossed the wire first, he was disqualified for interference. Hot Rod Charlie made his next start in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Sept. 25. He finally broke through for his first Grade 1 win, prevailing in gate-to-wire fashion by 2 1/4 lengths. Hot Rod Charlie concluded his 3-year-old season with a fourth-place effort in the Grade 1 Longines Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 6 and the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 26. In between, he was voted the winner of the 2021 Vox Populi Award on Dec. 11. In 2022, Hot Rod Charlie began his 4-year-old campaign half a world away from his usual haunts. He debuted Feb. 4 in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 Presented by the Longines Record, a Group 2 stakes on dirt at Meydan Raceourse in Dubai, and won the 1 1/8-mile race by 5 ¼ lengths. That race served as a prep for the $12 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline on March 26, and Hot Rod Charlie ran a strong second in the lucrative event, losing by 1 ¾ lengths to Country Grammer. Hot Rod Charlie returned to the races on June 18, 2022, in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile. He went off as the overwhelming odds-on choice in the five-horse field, under new rider Mike Smith. He rated off the early pace, then battled with Mind Control in an exciting stretch duel. Ultimately, Hot Rod Charlie finished second by a nose to his classy rival. Dennis O’Neill, Doug O’Neill’s brother and a bloodstock agent, bought Hot Rod Charlie for $110,000 as a yearling. Among his ownership collective is Boat Racing, a group of former Brown University fraternity brothers turned young owners including Patrick O’Neill, nephew of Doug and Dennis. Hot Rod Charlie is out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Miss and is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to champion sprinter Mitole.Photo by: Breeders' Cup Epicenter Epicenter made his debut at Churchill Downs on Sept. 18, 2021. He set the pace and flattened out to finish sixth, beaten by 7 3/4 lengths. In his next start, Epicenter broke his maiden with a 3 1/2-length win at Churchill on Nov. 13. He was pressed on the pace, but withstood all challenges and drew off to victory. Epicenter began his road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve with an impressive victory in the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds on Dec. 26. He rated off the pace and drew away impressively to win by 6 1/2 lengths, earning 10 qualifying points for the Derby in the process. Off that win, Epicenter went off as the second choice in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 22, 2022. He set the early pace and fended off Pappacap down the stretch, but could not withstand the closing rally of longshot Call Me Midnight and got nailed on the wire. Epicenter earned four qualifying points with that performance. Epicenter bounced back in a big way in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford on Feb. 19. Once again, he set the early pace, but this time, he just kept going on the lead, and crossed the line 2 3/4 lengths in front. He earned 50 Derby qualifying points with that win. In his final prep for the Kentucky Derby, Epicenter raced in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Mar. 26. In a change of tactics from his usual style, he rated off the early lead and made his move on the turn. The strategy worked like a charm, as he took the lead entering the stretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths. That race earned him 100 more Derby qualifying points, although he had already earned a spot in the starting gate. Epicenter went off as the favorite in the May 7 Derby. He rated off a fast pace and struck the front at the top of the stretch. He looked primed to give his trainer, Steve Asmussen, his first-ever Derby win, but longshot Rich Strike came up the inside and pulled off a shocking upset. Epicenter ended up finishing second. Two weeks later with Derby winner Rich Strike sitting out the Preakness Stakes, Epicenter was sent off as the heavy favorite in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Bottled up nearing the top of the stretch, Epicenter made a late rally but again had to settle for second behind Early Voting. Epicenter sold for $260,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2020.Photo by: Breeders' Cup Olympiad Olympiad broke his maiden in his second career start at Saratoga on Sept. 5, 2020. He rated off the pace and drew away to win by 2 3/4 lengths, covering seven furlongs in 1:22.78 under Junior Alvarado. Following that performance, Olympiad went to the sidelines, and did not return to the races for almost a year. He made his comeback in a first-level allowance race at Saratoga on Sept. 4, 2021. He finished second, beaten 4 1/4 lengths. He bounced back with a win in a first-level allowance at Keeneland on Oct. 14. Olympiad made his graded stakes debut in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct on Dec. 4. He finished fourth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths, but bounced back with an impressive victory in a second-level allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 15, 2022. He added a graded stakes win to his credentials on Feb. 19, when he won the Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes at Fair Grounds by 2 1/4 lengths. He rated off the pace and wore down Silver Prospector late for the win. His time for 1 1/16 miles of 1:42.01 set a new track record. Olympiad turned in another impressive performance in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic Stakes at Fair Grounds on Mar. 26. Once again, he rated right off the pace in the early stages. He took control entering the stretch and drew off to win by two lengths. He ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.74, missing the track record by a tenth of a second. Olympiad went for his fourth consecutive win of 2022 in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes Presented by Sentient Jet on the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs. Sent off as the 9-10 favorite, he stalked the pace through the second turn and moved out for a closing run at the top of the stretch, joined by Grade 1 winner Happy Saver to his outside. That rival took a small lead as the duel commenced, and crowded Olympiad closer to the rail, but Olympiad responded gamely and put Happy Saver away in the final sixteenth, winning by 2 ½ lengths. After almost two months off, Olympiad returned to the races in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill on July 2. He rated off early leader Caddo River, then moved to the front at the top of the stretch and pulled clear. He crossed the wire 2 1/4 lengths in front while running 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.66. That time narrowly missed Victory Gallop's track record mark of 1:47.28. With that win, Olympiad earned a spot in the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5. Olympiad’s perfect 2022 came to an abrupt end when he failed to fire in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, finishing fourth of five. Thankfully for Olympiad, redemption was just around the corner. He returned late in the Saratoga meet to win the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 3. Racing as the 8-5 favorite in a field of eight, Olympiad sat a length or two off the pace much of the way and struck the front just before the top of the stretch. He cruised home to victory for a two-length decision in a time of 2:02.11. The Jockey Club Gold Cup was a Breeders' Cup "win and you're in" race for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic, which Olympiad had already qualified for with his victory earlier in the summer in the Stephen Foster. A son of Speightstown, Olympiad was bred by Emory Hamilton and sold for $700,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2019. He is owned by Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable and LNJ Foxwoods and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.Photo by: Breeders' Cup Rich Strike Rich Strike broke his maiden in impressive fashion at Churchill Downs on Sept. 17, 2021, his second career start. The Keen Ice colt won a $30,000 maiden claiming race by 17 1/4 lengths, covering a mile in 1:36.84. Rich Strike was claimed out of that race by owner Richard Dawson on trainer Eric Reed’s recommendation. In his next four starts during late 2021 and early 2022, he finished no better than third and was decisively defeated in each race. He did earn 1 Kentucky Derby qualifying point when finishing fourth in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park. Rich Strike made his graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway on Apr. 2, 2022. He made up ground on the inside late and finished third, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by the victorious Tiz the Bomb. That performance earned Rich Strike 20 more qualifying points towards the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Originally on the also-eligible list with 21 total points, Rich Strike drew into the Kentucky Derby the day before when Ethereal Road was scratched. That scratch turned out to be the break of the century for Rich Strike, as he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the storied event. He found his way to the rail from the extreme outside post under jockey Sonny Leon and took advantage of a very fast pace and a wide-open rail to shoot through on the inside and win at 80.80-1. Dawson and Reed skipped a start in the May 21 Preakness Stakes in favor of bringing Rich Strike back for the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on June 11. Just like in the Kentucky Derby, he rated towards the back of the pack in the early stages. However, unlike the Derby, he had no closing punch off a moderate early pace and ended up sixth, beaten 13 1/4 lengths. Rich Strike’s Derby win was one of the top stories in horse racing during spring-summer 2022. He brought owner Dawson of RED TR-Racing, Kentucky-based trainer Reed, and jockey Leon to the national spotlight after they competed mainly in the claiming and allowance levels at tracks such as Belterra Park and Mahoning Valley. The Kentucky-bred colt is out of the Smart Strike mare Gold Strike, a champion filly in Canada during her racing days.Photo by: Breeders' Cup