Epicenter

Kentucky Derby favorite, Epicenter, works out with a stable mate before dawn at Churchill Downs. April 24, 2022

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  • The 148th Kentucky Derby takes place Saturday at Churchill Downs
  • Epicenter and Zandon are the early favorites in what appears to be a wide open field
  • What early Kentucky Derby wager may provide betting value after today’s Post Position Draw?

While the Kentucky Derby takes only two minutes to run, the lead-up seems to last forever.

As soon as the Breeders Cup ends in early November we begin to seriously handicap the Run for the Roses. After the major prep races concluded we assessed where things stood. Yet three weeks later, Kentucky Derby odds have shifted.

Today’s post position draw was bad news for Mo Donegal. It’s been more than 35 years since a horse won the Derby from the rail, though Mo Donegal is reasonably happy to let the speed horses do their thing while saving ground. Scratches and weather can impact the race too. That said, baring major unexpected news, the field is more or less set.

2022 Kentucky Derby Odds

Horse Odds
Zandon +300
Epicenter +350
Messier +800
White Abarrio +1000
Mo Donegal +1000
Taiba +1200
Smile Happy +2000
Charge It +2000
Cyberknife +2000
Simplification +2000
Zozos +2000
Crown Pride +2000
Tawny Port +3000
Tiz The Bomb +3000
Pioneer Of Medina +3000
Classic Causeway +3000
Barber Road +3000
Summer Is Tomorrow +3000
Happy Jack +3000
Ethereal Road +3000

Odds taken May 2 at TVG

Now is a great time to consider Kentucky Derby betting sites. At this stage odds can vary at different sites, and shopping for a price is worthwhile. If you can get +1200 instead of +1000, and are betting $50, that’s an extra $100 if you hit.

At this stage the weather looks decent for Saturday, with temperatures in the low 70’s. Rain is always possible in Louisville this time of year. The horses will each go a-mile-and-a-quarter for the first time in their careers.

Let’s discuss several groups of Kentucky Derby favorites and contenders as we approach the race.

The Tepid Favorites

The horses listed in this section are deserving and reasonable, but only marginally more likely winners than the longer next two groups. It appears to be one of those years where there will not be a huge convincing favorite, and the number of reasonable options under +2500 is lengthy.

Epicenter has the best resume. He has four wins in six tries, and backed up his impressive Risen Star Stakes victory in the Louisiana Derby.

The Louisiana Derby is the longest Run for the Roses prep race. Stretching out and looking strong is excellent. So too is beating Zandon and Smile Happy in his penultimate prep.

Zandon’s work in the Blue Grass Stakes flatters Epicenter, but also makes him look like a real comer.

Recent runnings of the Kentucky Derby have been won up front. Zandon’s style is more as a deep closer. However, this race could feature a lot of pace that in theory would set up a late runner well.

The Vast Second Tier – Part I

There is kind of something for everyone among the secondary Kentucky Derby contenders.

Taiba’s running style is unclear, because we just haven’t seen a lot of him. The extremely lightly raced pricey colt pounced from just off the pace in the Santa Anita Derby.

Taiba cost $1.7 million, has only run three times, and was trained by Bob Baffert before being transferred to Tim Yakteen because Baffert is currently banned at Churchill Downs.

Mo Donegal beat Zandon in December, and has done nothing wrong since including his impressive win in the Wood Memorial.

White Abarrio beat Mo Donegal in the Holy Bull Stakes. There is some thought that Mo Donegal did not like the track in Florida. Meanwhile, White Abarrio loves Gulfstream Park. He backed up the Holy Bull victory by taking the Florida Derby.

Smile Happy was second to Epicenter in the Risen Star, and ran right behind Zandon in the Blue Grass. He beat White Abarrio, Classic Causeway, and Call Me Midnight in November in Louisville.

Knowing a horse likes Churchill Downs can be very beneficial on Derby Day.

More Reasonable Options – Tier 2, Section 2

If Taiba is a legitimate contender, then so too is Messier. He also was previously trained by Baffert, and had the harder trip in LA because of the pace pressure early on. He dominated February’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

Messier was among the Kentucky Derby favorites prior to the Santa Anita Derby. Does he offer value now?

If Taiba, who is lightly raced and didn’t debut until this year is among the top contenders, then throw out the old narrative about needing months of experience to win the Derby. That should open the door for Zozos and Charge It among your options. Zozos was second in the Louisiana Derby and may take another leap forward in his fourth career race, seeking a third victory. Charge It has just one win in three tries, but sure looked strong down the stretch to be the runner up at the Florida Derby.

Simplification was third in the Florida Derby, but won the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

And then there is Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife. It may have taken him a handful of races to get going, but the last two are dandies.

Jockey Florent Geroux chose to ride Cyberknife over Zozos in the Kentucky Derby, and while his level of competition in back-to-back wins is questionable, he sure has seemed to turn the page.

Kentucky Derby Pick

Taiba may be a super horse and if he actually goes off at double digit odds then also offers considerable value. It is more likely he’ll be around +600 at post time. Epicenter could be the most battle tested and emerge victorious, but this year feels like an opportunity to find a longer price. Zandon and Mo Donegal have been impressive since late last year. Mo Donegal is the bigger price, and was crazy fast down the lane last time out. If anyone can overcome the dreaded rail, a horse that wants no part of the early racing is it.

Pick: Mo Donegal (+1000)

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