Kentucky Derby 2022 Odds, Picks and Betting Guide

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Kentucky Derby 2022 Odds, Picks and Betting Guide
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The Kentucky Derby is billed as the most exciting two minutes in sports. For handicappers, it’s always a good betting race, too.

That will be the case again on Saturday with a full field of 20 set to contest Kentucky Derby 148 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. There is no obvious standout and likely betting favorites Zandon and Epicenter will probably be sent off at 4-1 or higher. Lightly-raced Taiba adds plenty of intrigue as the only unbeaten horse in the field and would become the first horse since the 1880s to win the Kentucky Derby in just his third lifetime start.

Here’s a comprehensive look at the first jewel of the 2022 Triple Crown, with odds, storylines, analysis and selections.

2022 Kentucky Derby field

Position HorseTrainer RiderOdds
1 Mo Donegal Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz, Jr.10-1
2 Happy JackDoug O'NeillRafael Bejarano30-1
3 Epicenter Steve AsmussenJoel Rosario7-2
4 Summer Is Tomorrow Bhupat Seemar Mickael Barzalona30-1
5 Smile Happy Ken McPeekCorey J. Lanerie20-1
6 Messier Koichi Shintani John R. Velazquez8-1
7 Crown Pride Todd Pletcher Christophe Lemaire20-1
8 Charge It Todd Pletcher Luis Saez20-1
9 Tiz the Bomb Ken McPeek Brian J. Hernandez, Jr.30-1
10 Zandon Chad BrownFlavien Prat3-1
11 Pioneer of Medina Todd PletcherJoe Bravo30-1
12 Taiba Tim Yakteen Mike Smith12-1
13 Simplification Antonio SanoJose L. Ortiz20-1
14 Barber Road John OrtizRey Luis Gutierrez 30-1
15 White Abarrio Saffie Joseph, Jr. Tyler Gaffalione10-1
16 Cyberknife Brad Cox Florent Geroux20-1
17 Classic Causway Brian Lynch Julien Leparoux30-1
18 Tawny Port Brad Cox Ricardo Santana30-1
19 Zozos Brad Cox Manuel Franco20-1
20 Ethereal Road D. Wayne LukasLuis Contreras30-1

Kentucky Derby TV Info

Post Time: 6:57 p.m.(ET), Saturday

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.


Analysis of 2022 Kentucky Derby Field

In order of morning-line odds

Zandon (3-1): His rally from back in the pack to win the Blue Grass was perhaps the most visually impressive Derby prep. Workouts at Churchill have been strong and his bandwagon is growing. Would benefit from a rapid early pace and trouble-free trip.

Epicenter (7-2): Won Risen Star and Louisiana Derby in convincing fashion, and proved in the latter he doesn’t need the early lead to win. Has already won at Churchill Downs. Strong speed figures, logical favorite, but a few others have run just as fast.

Messier (8-1): One of two horses (with Taiba) transferred from barn of suspended trainer Bob Baffert to former assistant Tim Yakteen. Three wins, three seconds in six career starts. Run down by Taiba in Santa Anita Derby, which will boost his odds on Saturday.

Mo Donegal (10-1): A horse to watch if the early pace melts down. Rallied to win the Wood Memorial last month and beat Zandon last year in lone meeting between the two. Issues at the start in four of his five career races a concern. So is Post 1.

White Abarrio (10-1): Has four wins, including the Florida Derby, in five career starts, yet gray colt flying under the radar. Speed figures are competitive. The issue: All four wins were at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. Lone loss was last year at Churchill Downs.

Taiba (12-1): The wild card in the field. Santa Anita Derby winner is unbeaten in two starts and has posted the fastest speed figures in the field. But light on experience and hasn’t faced a field close to this size. Derby history hasn’t been kind to these type of runners, which makes him so polarizing.

Charge It (20-1): Second of three entries (with Mo Donegal and Pioneer of Medina) from two-time Derby winning trainer Todd Pletcher. Florida Derby runner-up has only three lifetime starts and is short on seasoning. Plenty of talent, but big ask here.

Crown Pride (20-1): Japan-based horse was winner of UAE Derby in Dubai, a prep race which has never produced a horse that hit the board in the Kentucky Derby. Seems to have adapted well to new surroundings and has generated a little workout buzz at Churchill Downs.

Cyberknife (20-1): One of three horses from top trainer Brad Cox, who belatedly won last year’s Derby with Mandaloun when Medina Spirit was disqualified for drug violation. Arkansas Derby winner is getting good at the right time. Another step forward not out of the question.

Simplification (20-1): Fountain of Youth winner has versatile running style — has won stakes races on the lead and from off the pace. Took minor step back with third-place finish in Florida Derby, but his best effort fits with these.

Smile Happy (20-1): Victory in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last year stamped him as early Kentucky Derby favorite. But yet to take big step forward this year with runner-up finishes in both Blue Grass and Risen Star.

Zozos (20-1): Another horse long on talent but short on experience with only three lifetime starts, none as a 2-year-old. Lone loss was solid runner-up finish to Epicenter in Louisiana Derby. Likely to vie for early lead from outside post.

Barber Road (30-1): Can’t knock him for consistency — finished second or third in all four Oaklawn Park prep races. Likely to be passing horses late, but is 0-for-his-last-5 and has never won a stakes race. 

Classic Causeway (30-1): Appeared off the Derby trail after dismal last-place finish in Florida Derby, but owners caught case of Derby fever. Quick out of the gate and will be early pace presence. Hard to see him lasting.

Ethereal Road (30-1): Final horse to qualify for Derby field and 50th Kentucky Derby starter for veteran trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won this race four times. Win No. 5 not likely this year — Ethereal Road was non-factor in Blue Grass and Lexington Stakes. 

Happy Jack (30-1): Only one lifetime win and his third-place finishes in the Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe Stakes were both double-digit lengths behind the winner. Faces tall order here.

Pioneer of Medina (30-1): Seems a notch below top contenders, but capable of hitting the board at long odds. Finished just three and four lengths behind Epicenter in Louisiana Derby and Risen Star. Joe Bravo is seventh different rider in horse’s seven lifetime starts.

Summer Is Tomorrow (30-1): UAE Derby runner-up could be sent off as longest shot in the field. All but one of his seven starts were in sprint races. Will have more of an impact early in race than late.

Tawny Port (30-1): Two of his three wins are on synthetic tracks, but was impressive winning Lexington Stakes on dirt at Keeneland last time out. Late runner would benefit from fast early pace and could spice up exotic tickets.

Tiz the Bomb (30-1): Five lifetime wins are the most in the field. Has already earned over $1 million. He’s long odds because four of those five wins were on turf or synthetic tracks. Last start on dirt was non-threatening seventh in Holy Bull Stakes. Still, there are worse 30-1 shots.

2022 Kentucky Derby Storylines

Winningest but Winless: Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen is the winningest trainer in the history of North American thoroughbred racing, but his nearly 10,000 victories does not include a Kentucky Derby. Asmussen has two seconds and two thirds in 23 Kentucky Derby starters. He has an excellent chance to finally end that skid with Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter. 

Racing vs. History: Taiba is attempting to become the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby in just his third lifetime start since Leonatus in 1883 (Chester A. Arthur was president). Taiba’s’ not easily dismissed — his speed figures are among the fastest in the field and he ran down highly-regarded Messier to win Santa Anita Derby. But his two wins were against a combined 11 horses. On Saturday, he faces 19.

Inherit the Win?: With six-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert suspended from Churchill Downs through next year’s race, his top two contenders, Taiba and Messier, are now in the barn of his former assistant Tim Yakteen. If one of the two wins, Baffert will likely get some of the credit. If both lose, unfairly or not, Yakteen can expect his share of criticism.

Aging Well: Mike Smith, 56, has a chance to become the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Smith, who won the Derby in 2005 (Giacamo) and 2018 (Justify) is aboard Taiba. Bill Shoemaker was 54 when he won the 1986 Derby aboard Ferdinand.

Kentucky Derby Betting Trends

  • Horse racing bettors of the last three Kentucky Derby winners were well-rewarded. Country House ($132.40) in 2019; Authentic ($18.80) in 2020; and Medina Spirit ($26.20) in 2021. Medina Spirit’s eventual disqualification did not impact winning payouts.
  • Early speed dominated the past three runnings. Authentic and Medina Spirit won the last two in gate-to-wire fashion. Maximum Security used the same tactics to cross the finish line first in 2019, but was disqualified for interference.
  • Mo Donegal is up against it from post 1. No horse has won the Kentucky Derby from the No. 1 post since Ferdinand in 1986.
  • In each of the past three runnings and four of the past five, a horse sent off at 26-1 or higher finished in the top three.
  • The Kentucky Derby is race No. 12 on a 14-race card.

Our 2022 Kentucky Derby Picks

1. Zandon checks all the necessary boxes. He’s moving in the right direction — each of his four career races was faster than the last. He nimbly maneuvered his way through traffic to win the 11-horse Blue Grass, and it’s not hard to see a similar scenario unfolding here. His solid pre-race workouts add to the appeal. Will be mid-pack to far back early, so is somewhat dependent on clean, trouble-free trip from capable jockey Flavien Prat.  

2. Messier, sent off at about even money or less in all six career races, offers solid value at his 8-1 morning-line odds or higher. The West Coast-based colt has lost a little luster after second-place finishes in two of his past three races, including the Santa Anita Derby. But his stalking style plays well in the Kentucky Derby and he could be on the lead heading into the final furlong. Pedigree indicates Derby distance shouldn’t be a problem,

3. Taiba is the fastest horse in the race based on speed figures. But with only two lifetime starts and no races as a 2-year-old, nearly all the historic trends are against him. He also has just one workout since winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. But talent goes a long way and he’s hard to ignore at potentially double-digit odds.

4. It’s hard to have a lot of confidence in Crown Pride, but the Japanese-based UAE Derby winner is worth a look at long odds. He appears to have adapted well to his new surroundings at Churchill Downs with a series of energetic workouts. Stamina will not be a problem. Foreign-based horses have historically fared poorly in the Run for the Roses, but Japan-based horses are winning more on the worldwide stage and Crown Pride has the credentials to contend. 

Epicenter has done nothing wrong and dominated his two recent prep races. But he had ideal trips in both and may have to use a lot early speed to gain early position from No. 3 post. … Barber Road and Pioneer of Medina are long shots that always show up and are worth including on the bottom of exotic tickets. …  Mo Donegal would have earned a higher rating if he hadn’t drawn the disadvantageous No. 1 post. With a clear trip, he’s capable.

Our Kentucky Derby 2022 Betting Strategy

Win and place bets on Zandon. Exotic bets with Zandon and Messier on top, with a few tickets to include Taiba in the first or second spots. Will use long shots Crown Pride, Barber Road and Pioneer of Medina as prominent underneath horses, along with Mo Donegal, on trifecta/superfecta tickets. 

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Chet Fussman

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