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Louisiana Derby Odds & Preview: Can Epicenter Prove He Should Be the Kentucky Derby Favorite?

Dave Friedman

by Dave Friedman in Horse Racing News

Updated Apr 30, 2022 · 7:00 PM UTC

Pants on Fire
Pants on Fire, front center, with Rosie Napravnik aboard, turns for home at the top of stretch and goes on to win the Louisiana Derby horse race at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, Saturday, March 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Barkoff)
  • Saturday’s Louisiana Derby is the first of seven major Kentucky Derby prep races this year
  • If Epicenter wins he will among the top betting choices in the Run for the Roses
  • What are the best wagering options Saturday in New Orleans

To think that some people identify New Orleans with Mardi Gras.

Saturday in the Big Easy the first major Kentucky Derby prep race of the year takes place. Seven days after the Louisiana Derby the Final Four comes to town. Get out your gumbo and etouffee, it’s time for a full-tasting menu of big-time sports.

The most recent Kentucky Derby odds still offer an attractive price on Epicenter. If you think he is going to win on Saturday, the time to act is now.

Let’s dig in on Epicenter, his eight rivals, and consider how to bet the longest Derby prep of the year.

2022 Louisiana Derby Odds

Horse Odds
Epicenter +100
Zozos +475
Rattle N Roll +650
Pioneer of Medina +800
Call Me Midnight +1000
Kupuna +1400
Galt +2000
Curly Tail +2500
Silent Power +5000

Odds as of March 23


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First run in 1894, the Louisiana Derby is the first of seven races in the United States that awards 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. The runner-up receives 40 points, with third place earning 20 points, and the fourth-place finisher getting 10 points. In other words, the first two horses across the line are just about locks to go to Louisville if they want.

Unlike most Derby preps this time of year which are a-mile-and-an-eighth, in New Orleans they travel a-mile-and-three-sixteenths. The purse is $1 million. Only two Louisana Derby winners have gone on to capture the roses, Black Gold in 1924, and Grindstone in 1996.

Particularly with a big favorite, understanding horse racing bet types is important to consider your options when wagering. Post time is scheduled for 6:44 pm ET. CNBC has television coverage. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid ’70s with no rain.

How Good is Epicenter?

Three of the first four races of Epicenter’s career were good. Two of them were victories, and in January he was a close second to Call Me Midnight. That resume gets you an opportunity or two to prove that you are a Kentucky Derby caliber horse, but not much more. Last month in the Risen Star Stakes, Epicenter looked special.

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Not only did Epicenter run great last time out, he beat Smile Happy and Zandon, two legitimate Derby contenders. Epicenter already has enough Derby qualifying points to be in the starting gate at Churchill Downs in six weeks. Will we see the same sort of effort on Saturday? If so, he will be difficult to beat.

There Is Money to Be Made If Epicenter Loses, So Who Can Beat Him?

It was only two starts back that Epicenter lost at Fair Grounds. Who beat him? Call Me Midnight.

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At +2850 Call Me Midnight rolled home the quickest. He hasn’t run since. Sure, he had one win in six tries before that race, but if we are willing to believe Epicenter’s one huge race, why not a much bigger price who has a win over that rival?

Zozos is two-for-two lifetime and while neither race has come against monster competition, he sure has been impressive.

Trainer Brad Cox has been the top conditioner in the country the last two years, and Zozos has done nothing in two races to suggest he isn’t a contender here.

Rattle N Roll ran a disappointing sixth on March 5 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in Florida, but he is working well and took a grade one to end last year.

YouTube video

While that race was more than five months ago, he looked great and beat a couple of good ones. Can he make a leap second off the layoff?

If you like Epicenter, Pioneer of Medina deserves consideration too. He finished three lengths behind the favorite in the Risen Star Stakes but took a step forward, and another one here could make him interesting.

Louisiana Derby Best Bet

Epicenter is the most likely winner, but even money isn’t exciting, and if you think he is going to win here, pick him in a Derby futures bet and secure a good price now.

Zozos has the most upside of the eight horses trying to beat Epicenter. He is two-for-two, and has a trainer who has proven he can win the big one. Also, unlike Epicenter, he must run well to get into the Kentucky Derby.

Pick: Zozos (+475)

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