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Corniche & Jack Christopher Enter 2022 as Leading Kentucky Derby Favorites

Dave Friedman

by Dave Friedman in Horse Racing News

Updated Jan 1, 2022 · 6:51 AM PST

Corniche racing at Breeders' Cup
Nov 5, 2021; Del Mar, CA, USA; Corniche finishes in first place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race during the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar Race track. Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports
  • Thoroughbred race horses celebrate birthday’s on January 1
  • For those turning three years old on Saturday, the Road to the Kentucky Derby is well underway
  • Before major derby prep races begin, you can lock in Run for the Roses betting value now

At this time last year Medina Spirit was +2500 to win the Kentucky Derby. When he entered the starting gate his price was less than half of that.

While 2021 was a wild year for trainer Bob Baffert, and the repercussions from the year cloud what his involvement in the Triple Crown will look like going forward, there is no doubt betting Derby futures now can provide value.

If you can choose the winner, or even significantly narrow down the field at this juncture, 2022 Kentucky Derby odds are very much worth considering because every horse is a square price. The reason there is no strong favorite is because horses mature a great deal between the age of two and three, and prep races will narrow down the contenders. That said, if you have a notion or really dig in now, you can score big on the first Saturday in May.

Let’s glance at the latest odds to win the 2022 Kentucky Derby, consider several of the top contenders, and see where a bet may be worthwhile.

2022 Kentucky Derby Odds

Horse Odds
Corniche +1400
Jack Christopher +1400
Slow Down Andy +2000
Echo Zulu +2000
Mo Donegal +2000
Tiz The Bomb +2000
Smile Happy +2500
Messier +2500
Zandon +2500
Doppelganger +2500
Pappacap +2500
Rattle N Roll +2500
Pinehurst +2500
Giant Game +3300
Commandperformance +3300
Winning Map +3300
Gunite +4000
God of Love +4000

Odds taken December 29th

Understanding the Field

There are a handful of reminders before we start evaluating individual horses. First, none of the contenders have run remotely close to the Derby distance of a-mile-and-a-quarter.

While previous races matter, at this stage breeding and who may excel in distance racing is worth factoring in.

Second, Baffert is currently banned in Kentucky. This continues to be in litigation and could change. Finally, horses frequently get injured. Arguably the best two three-year-olds in 2021, Life is Good and Flightline, did not run in the Triple Crown races.

While the future prices are juicy, there is no guarantee your horse who looks great now is going to be make it to the starting gate.

And now, on to the horses.

Favorites: Corniche & Jack Christopher

Baffert has dominated the Triple Crown in recent years. He has won the Kentucky Derby a record seven times, including in three of the last four years. Horses competing in prep races under his care cannot earn Derby qualifying points. However, at any moment the rules could change, or top candidates could be transferred to other conditioners.

Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Corniche is trained by Baffert, and has begun his career three-for-three.

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Corniche has won each of his three races easily, and you can’t really knock anything we have seen on the track. His father, Quality Road, was a four-time Grade 1 winner, but has produced good not great colts.

Jack Christopher was likely going to be the Juvenile favorite, but was scratched after suffering a stress fracture. The two-for-two winner of the Champagne Stakes is a horse many are eagerly waiting to watch again.

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There is a real debate among handicappers about whether the son of Munnings will eventually like extra distance, or could be best running a mile or less.

Contenders: Echo Zulu, Messier, Slow Down Andy

Echo Zulu has won four races by a combined 22 lengths. Absolutely dominating. That said, it is very rare a filly runs against the boys in the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Oaks is run the day before the Derby, and is a lucrative option reserved for the girls.

To give you an idea of how fast Echo Zulu has been, she ran a quarter of a second quicker than Corniche did in the Juvenile when she triumphed in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies. That means theoretically she would have beat him by over a length.

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It has been more than a decade since a filly ran in the Derby. Winning Colors (1988), Genuine Risk (1980) and Regret (1915) are the only girls to win the Run for the Roses.

Messier is another Baffert trainee. He has won two of his four career starts including November’s Bob Hope Stakes. He has never finished worse than second.

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He was upset by Slow Down Andy in December’s Los Alamitos Futurity. But remember, Medina Spirit was Baffert’s third or fourth or fifth best Derby horse at this point last year.


Slow Down Andy has won two races in three tries and the son of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist would seemingly do well running longer distances.

Longshots: Mo Donegal, Zandon, Smile Happy

Mo Donegal and Zandon went at each other in early December at the Remsen Stakes in New York. The two favorites were much better than the rest of the competition, and both are worthy of early Kentucky Derby consideration.

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Mo Donegal won his second race in three tries, and trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Kentucky Derby twice. Mo Donegal’s dad, Uncle Mo, has produced 11 Grade 1 winners, including Nyquist.

Zandon is 1-for-2 in his career. While trainer Chad Brown has never won the Derby, he has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer four times. Brown won the Preakness Stakes with Cloud Computing in 2017, and has won 15 Breeders Cup races.

Smile Happy debuted with a win at Keeneland in late October, and a month later looked awfully strong against stakes company at Churchill Downs.

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Knowing a horse likes the track where the Derby will be run is a serious plus. His father, Runhappy, was a champion sprinter who has produced a lot of good young horses, but not many great ones at this point. His grandfather, Super Saver, won the 2010 Kentucky Derby.

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