Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. celebrates victory in the 33rd running of the Old Forester Turf Classic aboard Bricks and Mortar at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, May 4, 2019.
- Kentucky Derby Day in Louisville features one of the top racing cards of the year
- The $1 Million Turf Classic is the first Grade 1 race on the new $10 million grass surface at Churchill Downs
- The Run for the Roses takes two minutes, but there is money to be made all day on Saturday
The Kentucky Derby is the Super Bowl of horse racing. By all means you should learn about the top horses, the people around them, and their pedigree. Make sure to have your horse racing sites bookmarked, and remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Louisville hosts racing for 10 hours on Saturday. The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports are awesome, but Churchill Downs picks can last you all day. Why not look at the full card, see where you have a strong opinion, and use the Run for the Roses as a good reason to handicap one of the best days of the year in the Sport of Kings?
Leading up to the Kentucky Derby this year are six graded stakes races. The Turf Classic is worth $1 million and runs immediately prior to the Run for the Roses. Let’s break it down, and look at the rest of the high-end card and our Kentucky Derby undercard predictions.
2022 Turf Classic Odds
Odds as of May 6 on TVG
Last year this was one of the best races of the year.
With seven figures on the line, Domestic Spending surged at the wire and got even but not past Colonel Liam.
This year’s edition will take place on the brand new Churchill Downs turf course, completely re-done for the cost of $10 million. Post time is scheduled for 5:27 pm EST. NBC has television coverage. The mile-and-an-eighth test features eight horses out of 10 that have won a graded stakes race, and three grade one winners.
Turf Classic Contenders
Ivar has been facing the best competition. That said, he’s gone a year-and-a-half without a victory. He was sixth in this race last year, then off until finishing fourth in a Grade 1 event at Keeneland in October, and ran third in the Breeders Cup Mile.
Bred in Brazil, and initially raced in Argentina, Ivar needs pace to set up his late run. If he gets it, he may find this group easier to track down than the competition he has faced recently.
On February 19 Cavalry Charge stole the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes going wire-to-wire at +3530. He beat Adhamo and Santin, who both are seeking revenge today.
Adhamo stormed home and just missed despite the slow early tempo. It was his first race in America after facing top-quality foes and running pretty well against them in France.
Santin was the favorite that day but settled for fourth. He returned to finish second, a spot ahead of Cavalry Charge in a Grade 2 event at the Fair Grounds in March.
Chad Brown is the top turfer trainer in America. Not only does he condition Adhamo, he has Public Sector and Tribhuvan in this race.
Public Sector has not run this year but won three graded stakes races in 2021.
Santin finished just over a length ahead of Public Sector in December. It is reasonable to expect Public Sector to move forward in his four-year-old debut.
Tribhuvan went too fast early on in the Breeders Cup Turf and perhaps was outclassed, but won a Grade 1 last year, and his best looks as good as anybody in this race.
His earnings of just under $700,000 are the second most in this field, with Ivar at 900k.
Shirl’s Speight has won three straight including a super impressive seasonal debut.
That was Shirl’s Speight’s first race against top competition. A repeat of that effort would make him tough on Saturday.
Turf Classic Best Bet
While Ivar is the most battle-tested in this country, Adhamo’s competition across the pond has been every bit as good. While up-and-comers like Shirl’s Speight and Santin are very viable, Adhamo is only four years old too, second off a layoff, and was rolling down the stretch in February. It feels like his time.
Pick: Adhamo (+450)
Saturday’s Other Graded Stakes Races
There is something for everyone Saturday afternoon on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Dirt or grass racing, sprints or routes, and the quality throughout the day is extremely high in the different types of horse races taking place.
Distaff Turf Mile Prediction
Similar to the Turf Classic, Brown and jockey Flavian Prat have a big chance with European invader Speak of the Devil. She is coming off back-to-back wins in France. Before that, she was racing against top-caliber competition and holding her own at the top tracks near Paris. She has faced boys several times and run well.
In Italian and Wakanaka ran first and second at Gulfstream Park in March.
Wakanaka was rolling late but In Italian held on to wire gate-to-wire. Could In Italian be the only speed horse here, and dictate a slow pace on the front?
Pick: Speak of the Devil
Pat Day Mile Prediction
While this race has a handful of horses who failed to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, the one-turn mile test is all about Jack Christopher. He is two-for-two and appeared headed for the Triple Crown before having to go to the sidelines because of injuries.
While Jack Christopher may be a monster, and his best appears better than this group, there is value in picking against him.
Major General started two-for-two, stumbled out of the gate in the Tampa Bay Derby, and was second in last month’s Lexington Stakes.
Pappacap has been facing Triple Crown competition throughout his eight-race career. Cutting back to a mile, and taking on a field without Epicenter and White Abarrio should help.
Pick: Major General
Derby City Distaff Prediction
Six of the eight horses in this seven-furlong dirt test faced off in last month’s Madison Stakes at Keeneland.
Lady Rocket led most of the way, and then Bell’s the One looked home free in the late stages, but Just One Time got up to win in the final strides. The favorite, Kimari finished third.
That race was run in the mud. Kimari and Just One Time have a strong history in off conditions. Bell’s the One prefers a dry surface. The pace should again be quick, helping those who come from behind.
Pick: Bell’s the One
American Turf Prediction
Only two of the 11 three-year-olds going a-mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf have won a graded stakes race. Unbeaten Sy Dog took the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland last month.
Coinage was third in the race. He won a graded stakes at Saratoga last summer and should be near the front from the start.
Brown’s Portfolio Company could be the pacesetter. This is his first race since running poorly in the Breeders Cup. He finished second to Coinage in that graded stakes at the Spa, and then just missed in a Grade 2 at Belmont in October.
Balnikhov was racing in France before losing by a nose in a stakes race at Santa Anita in April. His speed figure in that race is as high as anyone in this field has achieved.
Pick: Portfolio Company
Churchill Downs Stakes Prediction
In the Breeders Cup Sprint Aloha West came from behind to nip Jackie’s Warrior going six furlongs. Now we get the rematch, but this time with an extra eighth of a mile to run.
Aloha West has won three of his last four and they are the three best races of his career. Jackie’s Warrior, who can go over $2 million in earnings on Saturday, has won four of his last five. However, his last two races have not been as fast as the previous three.
Reinvestment Risk has never beaten this caliber of competition but is running really well.
Prevalence has won back-to-back races and should sit right off of Jackie’s Warrior and get the first run at the pacesetter.
Pick: Jackie’s Warrior
After betting the day races at Churchill Downs, you’ll be ready for the main course that is the Kentucky Derby. Zandon and Epicenter are the top favorites, but who are the best bets? See all of our Kentucky Derby predictions below.