- The Kentucky Derby is slated for May 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY
- Epicenter is the tepid early Run for the Roses favorite in a wide open field
- Where is there betting value as the countdown to the Kentucky Derby continues?
The Kentucky Derby is less than a month away. The major prep races are over, but a lot can still happen between now and the Run for the Roses. While the primary candidates look clear, injuries and weather are variables that remain.
This year’s Derby crop is deeper than in most recent editions. While Epicenter and White Abarrio are probably the most accomplished runners, Mo Donegal and Zandon have been very impressive, and the best of the west coast is both intriguing and unclear.
Kentucky Derby odds vary based on where you look, and shopping is recommended. They will jump on news that trickles out over the next few weeks. Let’s look at the current numbers, and see if there are some prices worth locking in.
2022 Kentucky Derby Odds
|Tiz The Bomb||+2500|
|Pioneer Of Medina||+2500|
|Slow Down Andy||+3300|
Odds taken April 11th
As always the Kentucky Derby will be a-mile-and-a-quarter challenge on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. None of these horses have ever run that far. The odds have shifted dramatically from our first look at the field around New Years.
Also, since we first started discussing this year’s event, trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended and seemingly his legal maneuvering to get out of that penalty has been denied. Baffert has trained six Derby winners and appeared to have a seventh when Medina Spirt crossed the finish line first last year. However, he tested positive for a banned substance leading to being disqualified and Baffert’s suspension. Former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen has taken over managing Bob’s top three year olds.
Prep Races Help Identify the Favorite: Epicenter
When Corniche won the Breeders Cup Juvenile in early November he became the early Kentucky Derby favorite. While the Breeders Cup has not been a good indicator of what will happen six months later in Louisville, it is a starting point. Corniche hasn’t run since, and because of injuries is not in the Run for the Roses conversation.
While the primary Derby preps have taken place over the last few weeks, important warm-ups got going in February, and even before then there were some preliminary races that allocated a small number of qualifying points.
Epicenter began his career with two wins in four starts. His last two races have been dominant and impressive. On February 19 he beat Smile Happy and Zandon rather handily in a loaded Risen Star Stakes.
Epicenter backed up that win with a decisive victory in last month’s Louisiana Derby.
The field in the Louisiana Derby wasn’t as proven as in the Risen Star, but Zozos is a talented inexperienced runner, and Epicenter has shown he can win in a variety of ways.
The Resume Says They Are Contenders: Zandon, Mo Donegal, White Abarrio, Smile Happy
Do you like the restaurant with consistent food for years, or the hot new place with the long line? Several horses jump out in a traditional manner as contenders.
Zandon and Mo Donegal faced off in December and both ran well.
Since then Mo Donegal finished third to White Abarrio in the Holy Bull Stakes, and then won the Wood Memorial. Zandon was third behind Epicenter and Smile Happy in the Risen Star before winning the Blue Grass Stakes. Both have the steady progress that has been a trait of Derby winners for years.
White Abarrio has arguably been even more impressive. After finishing third behind Smile Happy in November, he has won the two biggest Florida prep races this year, the Holy Bull Stakes and Florida Derby.
As for Smile Happy, after beating several likely Derby entrants in November, he was second to Epicenter in the Risen Star, and ran right behind Zandon in the Blue Grass.
All four resumes are sound. You can argue each of their merits, but they fit and should be respected.
Unicorns? These Contenders Might Be Special: Taiba, Messier, Charge It, Zozos
There is an old Kentucky Derby adage about horses that don’t debut until after they turn three. Don’t bet on them.
In 1882 Apollo didn’t debut until April and a month later won the Roses. It didn’t happen again until Justify in 2018. Country House is documented as the Derby winner in 2019, and he didn’t run as a two year old, but he was awarded the victory when Maximum Security was disqualified, and never raced again.
That said, Zozos has two wins in three starts and ran well to be the runner up at Louisiana Derby. Charge It looked perfectly capable rallying to finish second in the Florida Derby. And then there is Taiba. The $1.7 million son of Gun Runner wasn’t supposed to attempt the Santa Anita Derby in his second start. Good thing he did.
Taiba beat Messier, an out of the ordinary Derby contender himself. Messier is the rare Canadian bred who is in the Triple Crown picture. He impressively won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February. While losing to Taiba doesn’t sound great, Messier contested the quick tempo, and still was within range of a very fast final time. Remember, horses who have prepped in California have won the Kentucky Derby way more than their fair share over the past decade. A lot of that is because of Baffert. Messier and Taiba are his horses, who are now being trained by Yakteen.