Posted on 8th March 2022
The biggest race on the American calendar is slowly getting closer, but the betting market for the Kentucky Derby has been open since late last year.
The first leg of the Triple Crown in the United States is one of the most bet on events from around the world, and that promises to be the case once again in 2022.
So, which horses are currently among the favorites to win the illustrious race at Churchill Downs in May? Since the odds are always changing, you can use this online platform to check current derby odds daily.
One of the biggest talking points in the build-up to the Triple Crown races this year has been Bob Baffert. The Hall of Famer was recently banned from entering any horses over the next 90 days following the failed drugs test recorded by Medina Spirit after winning the Kentucky Derby 12 months ago.
If that decision stands, Baffert will be unable to enter any horses in the race this year. That could be particularly significant for ante-post bettors, as Baffert has a couple of the names at the top of the betting in his care.
That includes Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Corniche, as well as Messier. We will go through some of the main contenders aside from the Baffert-trained chances.
Epicenter is currently seen as the leading chance in the betting aside from the Baffert-trained horses. The three-year-old is trained by Steven Asmussen, who will be looking to win the Triple Crown race for the first time in his career this year. It could certainly be seen as a strong chance in 2022.
His biggest victory to date came in the G2 Risen Star Stakes, as the three-year-old held off the late charge from Smile Happy to win over 1 1/8 miles. It furthers his chances that he has already won at Churchill Downs during his career too, as he claimed victory over a mile in November. His form in stakes company has been incredibly strong so far, as he landed the Gun Runner over 1 1/16 miles, before finishing second behind Call Me Midnight in the G3 Lecomte.
Smile Happy was listed as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby before his run in the Risen Star at the end of February. However, too much shouldn’t be read into his defeat against Epicenter.
There is every reason to believe that the extended distance at the Kentucky Derby will suit this three-year-old for trainer Kenneth McPeek. He is bred to go over longer, and that will play to all his strengths when we get to Churchill Downs in May.
Those looking for reasons to support Smile Happy shouldn’t look past his run at Churchill Downs in November over 1 1/16 miles. He was a very commanding winner of the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club from Classic Causeway, who has since won a huge race in commanding fashion on the Kentucky Derby trail.
That win is still the best form line that we have in relation to the Triple Crown race this year. But, we will learn more about Smile Happy when he returns to the track over the coming weeks.
Brad Cox trained the horse 12 months ago that many believed to be the outstanding contender for the Kentucky Derby. However, Essential Quality came up just short in his bid to land the opening Triple Crown race of the season, but did give Cox a winner in the Belmont Stakes.
Ultimately, Cox did train the winner of the race last year as Mandaloun was given the win following Medina Spirit’s disqualification, and he will be looking to become the first trainer since Baffert in 1998 to win back-to-back Derby’s.
His main contender according to the current prices is Zozos. The three-year-old is yet to run this calendar year, but does boast a perfect record from his three races so far. His latest win came back in November, as he won an allowance optional claiming race over 1 1/16 miles from Elusive Target. It will be fascinating to see how the three-year-old competes on his season reappearance over the coming weeks.
One horse that many may be looking past at present is White Abarrio. The three-year-old is trained by Saffie Joseph, and is already a stakes winner this calendar year. He claimed that victory in the G3 Holy Bull after beating Simplification and Mo Donegal over 1 1/16 miles. He was also involved in the prior mentioned G2 Kentucky Jockey Club over the same distance at Churchill Downs, where he finished third behind Classic Causeway and Smile Happy.
That is a significant form line to follow over the coming months of the season, given the performances we have seen from the two horses that finished ahead of him on that day. The three-year-old has won three of his four races so far, and looks primed for a strong bid in the G1 Florida Derby in April.
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