There are two different ways to handicap and wager in the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
The easiest way to analyze the race would be to frame everything around Zandon and Epicenter, two horses on a different level from the rest of the field, which should be involved in all wagers. However, if the favorites finish 1-2, their chances of scoring a significant financial score are diminished.
As another viewpoint, this Derby could be viewed as a free-for-all where 10 or 12 horses could legitimately win, offering huge payouts.
Hopefully, we can turn a $100 bankroll for the race into a nice profit if we pick the right one.
Let’s begin by eliminating the horses we don’t want to use.
No. 2 Happy Jack hasn’t shown enough ability to compete in this race. Toss.
This might be too much for the No. 4 Summer Is Tomorrow, who has beaten down the stretch in the UAE Derby.
No. 9 On grass and synthetic surfaces, Tiz the Bomb has demonstrated promise, but he was a no-show on dirt in the Holy Bull in February.
No. 11 Despite being a pace factor, Pioneer of Medina never really challenged Epicenter in his last two Louisiana races.
No. 13 Although Simplicity is a nice horse, White Abarrio soundly defeated him twice in Florida.
No. 14 Barber Road has been consistent in his career, but he will need much different gear to compete here than what he has demonstrated so far.
No. 17 While Classic Causeway is expected to finish at or near the top of the Florida Derby, his drop to 11th is concerning.
It looks like a stretch for No. 18 Tawny Port, who made the Derby after winning the Lexington Stakes via a weak field a couple of weeks ago.
No. 21 Rich Strike drew into the race after Ethereal Road scratched. His trainer, Eric Reed, says: “We are entering and hoping and praying.”
There are still 11 horses left, too many to bet on. These will be the toughest cuts.
No. 5 Smile Happy finished a well-beaten second against Zandon and Epicenter in his last two races. He just got out-finished. That’s a pretty good indication that he’s not good enough.
Also, we’ll throw out No. 6 Messier, who looked like a complete outlier when he won the Bob Lewis Stakes against a mediocre field on February 6. I didn’t love the way he finished in the Santa Anita Derby.
No. 16 Cyberknife caught a soft field in the Arkansas Derby, and his speed figures are not suitable for this field.
Zozos has a lot of potentials, but getting stuck in that deep outside post could make things difficult for him if he’s committed to running upfront as he has done in the Louisiana Derby. He’s probably not ready for this assignment.
The final cut is most controversial: No. 12 Taiba, a 2-for-2 and has a lot of talent. Nevertheless, going from a six-furlong debut on March 5 to the Kentucky Derby on May 7 seems impossible. It’s possible he wins and becomes horse racing’s next big star, but he’s up against a lot of history.
So we are left with six horses in play, which can be separated into three categories.
Top tier/most likely to win: Epicenter, White Abarrio, Zandon
Wildcards who could finish anywhere: Crown Pride, Charge It
Unlikely to win but could hit the board: Mo Donegal
Given that setup, it’s hard to overlook Epicenter, who showed everything you’d expect from a Derby contender this winter. As for our first ticket, let’s key him on top of a $4 trifecta with White Abarrio and Zandon second, White Abarrio, Zandon, Crown Pride, Charge It, and Mo Donegal in third place. That’s a $32 ticket.
Let’s also place a $1 trifecta with Epicenter on top and the other five horses in second and third. That’s another $20.
The morning line is 10-1 for White Abarrio, who is a better bet than Zandon if he runs as he did in the Florida Derby. Let’s put $12 to win on him and add a $3 exacta with White Abarrio over the other five horses for another $15.
That leaves us with $21 to play with.
Japan’s Crown Pride is one of the long shots in the race and has been training exceptionally well. Until the gates open on Saturday, there’s no way to know whether the gates open on Saturday or whether he’s good enough.
In the Florida Derby, Charge It finished an excellent but troubled second to White Abarrio following his first win on February 12.
Although he struggled to keep a straight line in the stretch, he still closed to within a length of the winner. However, if Charge It makes a giant leap forward, he can win this race for a considerable price.
We’ll bet $11 on him and add an exact $2 over the other five.
It will exhaust our bankroll, but hopefully, one of those bets will win and turn Derby Day into a profitable event.