Whether you’re a fan for one Saturday or consume horse racing at the local OTB a few nights a week, the Kentucky Derby is the pinnacle of the sport.
The popularity of the event stretches beyond the venue, Churchill Downs. And it’s more than just a good reason to wear your finest decorative hat. This is a race that often presents tremendous betting value with ample options to pick from.
The catch? There are a number of horses to pick from, and they are young, inexperienced, and still coming into their own. That’s what makes the Derby great, a joy to bet and difficult to win.
Let’s explore the best ways to bet on the 2022 Kentucky Derby and the favorites to win at Churchill Downs.
Kentucky Derby Winner Odds & Position
All 2022 Kentucky Derby winner morning line odds are provided by TwinSpires. Field subject to change when post positions are announced.
1. Mo Donegal (10/1)
2. Happy Jack (30/1)
3. Epicenter (7/2)
4. Summer is Tomorrow (30/1)
5. Smile Happy (20/1)
6. Messier (8/1)
7. Crown Pride (20/1)
8. Charge It (20/1)
9. Tiz the Bomb (30/1)
10. Zandon (3/1)
11. Pioneer of Medina (30/1)
12. Taiba (12/1)
13. Simplification (20/1)
14. Barber Road (30/1)
15. White Abarrio (10/1)
16. Cyberknife (20/1)
17. Classic Causeway (30/1)
18. Tawny Port (30/1)
19. Zozos (20/1)
20. Ethereal Road (30/1)
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Kentucky Derby Contenders
The early favorite for Kentucky Derby betting, Epicenter has a lot to offer. Its 102 Beyer Speed Figure, a formula compiled to judge speed and performance, is one of the best a horse in the field has delivered. Plus, he has shown consistent improvement since he first ran in September of last year.
Epicenter has also run well at longer distances, including the Louisiana Derby where he seemed to look comfortable running the extra distance. These qualities are key to assessing three-year-old horses, so the odds shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The horse has run at Churchill, albeit on a limited basis, which is also a plus. A lot to like here about a horse that will be on many tickets.
White Abarrio (10/1)
A winner of four of five races, White Abarrio is a likely contender in this year’s race. It’s worth noting that the horse’s one third-place finish came in its only race at Churchill Downs. Just tuck that away.
Still, four out of five is plenty good. White Abarrio also has solid Beyer Speed Figures that are just a cut below some others in the race.
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. is one of the emerging trainers in the sport, and he’s had a brilliant start to 2022. Still, he lacks Derby experience compared to other trainers, which is something to consider.
In terms of running style, White Abarrio tends to stalk. This means he likes to sit just off the lead, which is a conducive style for this race, depending on the pace of the race.
There are others I like a bit more, although this horse could (and should) be in the mix.
This horse is intriguing on a variety of fronts. We have a grand total of two races to study. By way of comparison, there are horses in this field that have run eight races already. The lack of experience for Taiba is certainly a concern, although the two races have been incredibly impressive.
Taiba, who was purchased for a whopping $1.7 million, is 2-0. He cruised in his debut and then glided to a comfortable two-length win in the Santa Anita Derby. That $1.7 million price tag speaks to breeding and expectations; so far, this horse has matched those.
Oh, and he was previously trained by Bob Baffert. Tim Yakteen, Baffert’s former assistant, is serving as the trainer due to Baffert’s ban from the event. That’s an interesting wrinkle in a sea of wrinkles.
And this horse is lightning quick.
If you’re looking for a horse that should take to the extra distance in this race, look no further. This marks the first time many of these horses will run at 1 1/4 miles, and that could set up brilliantly for Zandon.
That’s not the only reason to like Zandon. Trainer Chad Brown, one of the best in the business, will be working behind the scenes. That alone is reason to think that Zandon’s last race, a win in the Blue Grass Stakes, is just a sign of things to come.
Zandon’s come-from-behind style is also an interesting element in this race. With so many horses, he should be able to be surging at the end with the right trip.
Kentucky Derby Sleeper Longshot
Charge It (20/1)
Like Taiba, Charge It‘s biggest knock is inexperience.
With only three races in the books, it will take a monumental leap for this horse to win the Derby. That said, inexperience is a trait shared by pretty much the entire field. And there’s enough of a foundation in place to at least consider taking a flyer.
This horse has only run since January, and he has posted multiple 93 Beyer Speed Figures. That’s a cut below the favorites (hence the value), although there’s reason to believe the horse can take a leap.
Its second-place finish at the Florida featured some good, including a nice close at the end. It will have to adapt to a longer distance in a hurry, although it’s not impossible to see.
Kentucky Derby Best Bets
Taiba: Win Place and Show
When I bet the Kentucky Derby, I value hunt. And in this instance, Taiba seems to present the best value.
The inexperience certainly is a concern, but the reality is simple for me. In what appears to be a weaker Derby field, Taiba might have the class to win this thing despite a minimal number of trips around the track.
The horse was comfortable running at a longer distance, albeit in one race. That’s enough, especially at these odds, to take a crack.
I like this horse to win, place (finish top two), or show (finish top three).
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Charge It: Show
There are a handful of long shots I believe can make a run, although Charge It, for reasons stated above, are worth a look.
The added distance appears to be a welcomed change, and I’ll take a look at the horse finishing in the top three at nice value.
Taiba + Zandon + Charge It + Epicenter: Exacta Box
This wager, which is about pegging the top two finishers in the race, features a mix of the favorites and a few longer-shot horses. My winner, Taiba, stays in. I am also including Zandon, which should take to the pace well.
Epicenter is certainly classy enough to finish first or second as well. And Charge It, my long shot, could really help push the value of the bet.
With the exacta box, the order of finish doesn’t matter. We just need two of the four horses above to finish first and second. I feel pretty good about the mix and value.
Kentucky Derby Race Notes
- Beware the No. 1 post. Although I believe Mo Donegal is a really strong horse, it’s very difficult to prevail in this race on the rail. The No. 1 post has been a historically bad place to start in the Derby, although Mo Donegal has a stalking racing style that should suit the difficult start. Tough one to figure.
- Weather matters. Many horses do better in the mud; some prefer a fast track. The weather on Saturday is calling for the possibility of rain, which is something to keep an eye on.