2022 Kentucky Derby Betting Tips and Advice
Looks like we’re going muddin’.
Rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast in Lexington, Kentucky, on Friday and Saturday. That means that the track at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, should be a sloppy, muddy mess by the time the 20-horse field finds the post Saturday evening.
The 148th Kentucky Derby will be run in front of a full capacity crowd on Saturday. The 12th race on Saturday is the first jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, and post time in Lexington is set for 6:52 p.m.
Horse racing is already tough enough. You must consider the horse’s breed, its current form, its running style, its jockey, its post position, and about a half-dozen other factors. Now, on top of that, we have to consider the weather and how these horses will perform in swampy conditions.
In general, I like to take one of two tracks when betting on the Kentucky Derby. If there is dominating, overwhelming favorite in the field – like a Big Brown or American Pharoah – then it makes sense to load up on that one horse and let it ride. Obviously, the payouts aren’t great because these horses are usually listed around 3-to-1 or better. But if you lean into it with your full stack, you can make it pay.
The second track is to “spray and pray”, leaning into the underdogs and looking for a low odds horse to come through and cash a big ticket. This can be especially lucrative if you get a horse at 10-to-1 or lower to come through and you have that horse in some exotics (exacta, trifecta, etc.).
So that brings us to this year’s race. We don’t have a dominating horse. Add in a full 20-mount field, the rain, and the poor conditions of the track – remember, there are going to be 11 races run prior to the Derby – I think that things are setting up well for a surprise winner in the Run for the Roses.
This year’s Derby is shaping up just like the 2019 Derby. That year there was a lot of parity and no dominating horse. The favorite following the post draw, Omaha Beach, was scratched midweek, further muddling the field. Then, the downpour. That Saturday it rained all afternoon, turning the track into a mess.
The result: 30-to-1 long shot Country House finishes second but is elevated to the winner’s circle after Maximum Security was disqualified following a post-race objection. The whole thing was a mess, really. But at the end of the day, Country House was the winner, a $2 exacta paid out $3,000, a $2 trifecta paid out $23,000 and a $2 superfecta paid out over $100,000 thanks to three long shots filling out the top three slots.
That said, the Derby was run in wet track conditions and in the rain in 2016, 2017 and 2018 as well, and the morning line favorites won all three races.
So, what does that mean for this weekend?
The rain and poor track conditions are definitely an X-factor in what is already a tricky field. The favorites, Zandon (3-to-1) and Epicenter (3.5-to-1), are hardly dominating, and, in my opinion, overvalued. The third favorite, Messier (8-to-1), could benefit from a muddy track, since sloppy conditions usually favor front runners. (The Derby is usually a race for closers.)
Of the 20 horses currently in the field, 12 have never raced in adverse conditions. It should be noted that Epicenter has actually won at Churchill Downs on a wet track back in November. Barber Road had one of his best rides on a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park in January. And Japanese-bred horse Crown Pride took his only loss on a muddy track back in February. So it can cut both ways, and it is nearly impossible to predict how these horses are going to react to the conditions.
At the end of the day, Kentucky Derby betting is as much about feel and value as it is about technical handicapping aspects. The rainy conditions are going to be a storyline in this year’s race. And I do feel like the less-than-ideal conditions could open the door for a sleeper (or two) to sneak into the top four slots.
But I’ll refer to my initial approach to the Derby and that is my suggestion to any bettors out there. If you like the top two or three favorites, then load up on them and let it ride. Stick with the top three at the head of your exactas and trifectas but be sure to sneak some low odds horses into those exotics.
If you think the favorites are soft or that the track conditions are going to create a wild race, then lean into that. Don’t forget about the favorites – especially in those exotics – but don’t be afraid to grab a handful of 20-to-1 and 30-to-1 horses and put together some small tickets on them. As you saw in 2019, one lucky $2 bet could make for a big day.
Carpe diem. Good luck.
ROBERT FERRINGO has posted four of six winning Kentucky Derbies and has picked the winner in 22 of 32 Triple Crown races. He is one of the best and most accomplished Triple Crown handicappers in the industry and he will have an 8-Unit Head-to-Head Matchup Saturday that you don’t want to miss! Get expert sports picks on every game, or if you want our very best bet Kentucky Derby premium picks by the experts, sign up for your free $60 account with a guarantee.
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