2022 Kentucky Derby Contenders
This Saturday is the Kentucky Derby, the 148th Run for the Roses, and it’s time to make those mint juleps and fill out those betting slips and hope you don’t have to drown your sorrows.
By all accounts, Zandon (3-1 odds) and Epicenter (7-2) are deserving favorites, but they are not the only two horses that are attracting attention. Because the Kentucky Derby has such a large field of 20 horses, the best horse does not always win. Though that could be true of any horse race, the fact is when you have this many thoroughbreds running, a jockey could get stuck in a logjam, which means the horse could get uncomfortable and not want to run, or he has to go outside and that makes a long trip to gain ground, which could cut his horse’s stamina.
Nevertheless, to the victors go the spoils, and let’s look at some 2022 Kentucky Derby contenders for Saturday at 6:57 ET on NBC.
Zandon was seemingly stuck in the mud in the Blue Grass Stakes at dead last. Jockey Flavien Prat asked his ride for more speed, and Zandon responded with a huge surge and won by two lengths. Award-winning trainer Chad Brown has been here 15 times (0-15) and might have the right horse.
Epicenter took the Louisiana Derby, which was a continuation of his progress. His workouts have been focused and purposeful, and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will have his best horse to finally break his 0-15 mark with Derby entrants. Epicenter is in the modestly unfavorable 3-position, so he will need to break well.
Messier (8-1) might be the most misunderstood among any of the contenders. In six starts, he’s won three and finished second in a trio of times. Tied with the best speed rating in the race, he seems like a logical choice, but bettors witnessed an uneven performance in a second-place finish to stablemate Taiba (12-1) at the Santa Anita Derby.
White Abarrio (10-1) and Mo Donegal (10-1) have the same odds yet are viewed somewhat differently because of their post positions. White Abarrio is out at No. 15, which has generated three Derby champs since 2013. The Florida Derby winner looks great. However, all four victories came in Florida. Mo Donegal is the full package as the Wood Memorial winner and has Todd Pletcher as his trainer and arguably the finest jockey in Irad Ortiz, Jr.. The problem, coming out of the gate in the first slot, as the last winner to come out of that spot was 1986.
Taiba won the Santa Anita Derby and enters with two best back-to-back speed ratings at 102-103. The concern here is his lack of experience and only having raced against five and six horses for a total of 11. Out of the gate will be 19 other horses, plus a grandstand full of people. You have to wonder how he’ll react in that environment.
I initially liked Smile Happy (20-1) coming out No. 5 spot, a favorable location. He had the lead before being run down by Zandon in the Blue Grass and has won at Churchill before. The biggest conundrum is handling the 10 furlongs, especially if caught in traffic early.
The Long Shots
Charge It (20-1) came in second in the Florida Derby and showed immaturity and a lack of experience. With Pletcher as the trainer, he’s worked well since and one can assume he’s been brought along properly and is capable of engineering an upset.
Simplification (20-1) was third in the Florida Derby and briefly held the lead before being passed by better horses on that day. His preferred style is a stalking position when coming around the final turn. And if jockey Jose Ortiz can find or create an open lane, we could have a shocker.
Final Kentucky Derby Analysis
I will have my picks at Doc’s Saturday morning, and you can assume I will be using most of the favorites in this race, sprinkling in other combinations.
Any of the listed favorites are solid bets for the Win. And if you are after a bigger payday, the long shots I mentioned are worth consideration.
If you want options for a bigger payday, you could think about an Exacta or Trifecta Box. Here you can reduce your cost, while still giving yourself multiple chances to win.
For the Exacta Box (Have to finish 1st and 2nd in exact order), three horses give you six separate wagers and you can bet them at $1 apiece which would total $6. If you want to go after a larger payout, you could bump it up to $10 or $20 and that would cost you $60 or $120, respectively.
A Trifecta Box means you are picking who will finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in that precise order. In this case, I’d choose four horses, and a $1 Trifecta Box will cost $24 and you can go to whatever amount you feel comfortable with.
As far as horses, look over any mentioned in this article and have fun!
Doug Upstone of Doc’s Sports won all three Triple Crown races in 2021 and uses a conservative style, realizing many bettors only bet on the Kentucky Derby and a few other races.
Doug Upstone of Doc’s Sports has - 23 Documented No. 1 Titles - 97 Documented Top 10 Finishes - 28 Handicapper of the Month Awards. (Latest: NBA March 2022) Doug as a professional handicapper/writer has written for various well-known sports betting websites and several football newsletters.
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