2022 Kentucky Derby Preview

Updated: May 7th at 6:20 PM EST

Below are the 148th Kentucky Derby post-positions and morning line odds. Post-time is Saturday May 7th at 6:57PM EST on NBC. Note that Ethereal Road has been scratched and will be replaced by Rich Strike with morning line odds of 30-1.

The Kentucky Derby live odds can be found here: https://www.kentuckyderby.com/wager/kentucky-derby-live-odds

A more detailed entry list can be found on Equibase by clicking here: https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/CD050722USA12-EQB.html

If this is a dry race, I only see about four or five horses that have a chance of winning. So, instead of me profiling the entire field with a bunch of 30-1 longshots that have no chance of winning, I will only profile the four that I think have the best shot. These four are Epicenter, Taiba, Zandon and Mo Donegal. Messier is a horse that fits my prototype of a Derby winner but I like him in my exotic bets but not as a potential winner. His second-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby left me puzzled.

1) Epicenter (7/2) – My Kentucky Derby favorite. Although trainer Steve Asmussen has never won the Kentucky Derby, this colt provides his best chance yet. Epicenter was an impressive winner of the Louisiana Derby where he stalked the pace from the inside in 3rd position, then shifted to the outside to win by 2 1/2 lengths. I loved his sire Not This Time and will go to my grave believing that he would have been the eventual 2017 Kentucky Derby winner had he not been retired due to a soft tissue injury.


Career: 6 Starts 4-2-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Not This Time
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.03 – 2022 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2022 Lousiana Derby

2) Taiba (12/1) – Originally trained by Bob Baffert, this inexperienced colt surprised many by winning the Santa Anita Derby and beating Forbidden Kingdom and Messier in that field. I like this colt better than the 12/1 odds he was given because Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will onboard him once again. His sire is Gun Runner who placed 3rd in the 2016 Kentucky Derby and blossomed as a 4-year-old.


Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 2 starts: 1st–>1st
Sire: Gun Runner (Finished 3rd in the 2016 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Tim Yakteen
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.46 – 2022 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 111 – 2022 Santa Anita Derby

3) Zandon (3/1) – Trained by last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Brad Cox, he won impressively with a closing style in the Blue Grass Stakes. I like Zandon in my exotic bets if it is a dry race. However, if this year’s Derby is a wet race, I am concerned. In muddy races, most horses don’t like getting mud kicked up in their faces and he’ll be behind a pack of horses. So, he will see his share of mud. In wet, muddy races, I like horses that get out front early that have speed.


Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Upstart (Finished 18th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Brad Cox (2021 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavian Prat (2019 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.35 – 2022 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 103 – 2023 Blue Grass Stakes

4) Mo Donegal (10/1) – It has been a while since the Wood Memorial Stakes winner went on to win the Kentucky Derby. The last to accomplish this was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. But the Todd Pletcher trainee is a legitimate threat. By my estimates, Mo Donegal had the fastest final 3-furlong time (sub 36 seconds) in his final prep race in this year’s field. How this translates to the Churchill Downs race surface remains to be seen but I would put him in all your exotic bets.


Career: 5 Starts 3-0-2-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.96 – 2022 Wood Memorial
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 111 – 2022 Wood Memorial

5) Messier (8/1) – The other Tim Yakteen colt that was previously trained by Bob Baffert. The Ontario-bred colt was named after Hockey Hall of Fame Center Mark Messier. After an impressive 15-length win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February (shown below), Messier finished a disappointing 2nd to his stablemate Taiba in the Santa Anita Derby. As I stated earlier, I don’t like Messier’s chances of winning but finishing as runner-up in the Kentucky Derby is a possibility. His jockey John Velazquez has won the Derby three times and rode Medina Spirit to an apparent win last year before later being disqualified for a positive test for Betamethasone.


Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 2 starts: 2nd->1st–>2nd
Sire: Empire Maker (Finished 2nd in the 2003 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Tim Yakteen
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011, 2017 & 2020 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.82 (estimated) – 2022 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 108 – 2022 Santa Anita Derby

Is there a Sleeper in this Field?

Looking over the 30-1 longshots, who has the best chance of hitting the board?

Tiz the Bomb (30/1) – There is little doubt that this Kenneth McPeek-trained colt is talented but his best performances have been on a synthetic surface and on the turf. The question is…will this colt finally take to the dirt? Tiz the Bomb‘s three dirt surface appearances resulted in two 7th place finishes (Churchill Downs & Gulfstream Park) and a win in a mile race at Ellis Park. He is high-risk but will be high-reward if he pulls off the upset.


Career: 8 Starts 5-1-0-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st->1st
Sire: Hit It a Bomb
Trainer: Kenneth McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.30 – 2022 Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2022 Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes

Of the 20-1 longshots, Smile Happy is my favorite in this group. I was expecting him to receive 15-1 morning line odds.

Smile Happy (20/1) – Another Kenneth McPeek trained colt that could surprise. I don’t think he can win. However, I can see him hitting the board and building on his last performance in the Blue Grass Stakes where he finished 2nd behind Zandon. He also finished 2nd to Epicenter in the Risen Star Stakes in February. Better yet, he has won at Churchill Downs before, winning the 2021 Jockey Club Stakes as a 2-year-old. He will be ridden by jockey Corey Lanerie who is one of the top jockeys at Churchill Downs. Add all of this together and you have a very solid contender for your Superfecta bets. Especially when you have finished 2nd to the two shortest morning line odds horses in this field.


Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd->2nd
Sire: Runhappy 
Trainer: Kenneth McPeek
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.47 (estimated) – 2022 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2022 Blue Grass Stakes

Betting Strategies

I decided that I will place $50 win bets on #3 Epicenter and #12 Taiba and a $10 boxed Exacta of #1 Mo Donegal, #3 Epicenter and #12 Taiba. That is all I am doing as the odds of 5-1 on both Epicenter and Taiba are attractive enough for big win bets.

If you want to bet a Superfecta, here are the horses I think could finish in the top 4: #1 Mo Donegal, #3 Epicenter, #5 Smile Happy, #6 Messier, #9 Tiz the Bomb, #10 Zandon, #12 Taiba, #15 White Abarrio and #18 Zozos. This represents 9 of the 20 starters. #20 Ethereal Road has been scratched and replaced with #21 Rich Strike. I don’t like either of the “Also-Eligibles” as substitutes. Note that Churchill Downs does not offer 10-cent or 50-cent Superfecta wagers, you have to bet at least $1.

I will be updating this right around post-time. My betting strategies will depend on whether we get a dry race or a wet race. For the latest weather update, click HERE.

See below for Brisnet Past Performances. If you click the Download button below it, the Past Performance PDF will open up in a new window and you can download the file to your computer.

—Michael

5 comments

  1. Hi Michael!

    I love Epicenter since I hit on him twice this season after a disappoinment in the Le Comte. I should just roll with him, and you, of course

    But I have a feeling with Messier, even considering losing two of last three. He definitely checks every other box. Seems like could do the same fast fractions throughout. He won’t get caught this time. Overlay even at 6 to 1.

    I do like Taiba, too. Impressive last out.

    Hard not not like Baffert oops and the best jockeys in field.

    Wait yet and see.

    Thx,

    John

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ended up taking Epicenter and Messier, nothing else, and nothing at at all in the end

    Thought he was there. Feel bad for Asmussen.

    Can’t take anything away from the winner, but next Disney horse movie…

    Thx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought I had nailed another Derby winner as Epicenter separated from Zandon down the stretch. But then I went “Who is this damn horse flying down from the inside?” The party pooper, 80-1 longshot, Rich Strike. Holy Cow! There was no way handicapping would have discovered this horse as a potential winner because he took to the dirt extremely well and loved the extra furlong. That doesn’t usually happen with Derby contenders who prep extensively on All-Weather surfaces as Rich Strike did at Turfway Park. Oh well, a great story but most everyone lost money due to this huge underdog.

    Like

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