Kentucky Derby Predictions, Picks, Betting Odds Churchill Downs 2022

Kentucky Derby Odds and Post Position

Check out our predictions and odds for the 2022 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 MO DONEGAL 10/1
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I Ortiz Jr T Pletcher
2 HAPPY JACK 30/1
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R Bejarano D O’Neill
3 EPICENTER 7/2
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J Rosario S Asmussen
4 SUMMER IS TOMORROW 30/1
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M Barzalona B Seemar
5 SMILE HAPPY 20/1
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C Lanerie K McPeek
6 MESSIER 8/1
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J Velazquez T Yakteen
7 CROWN PRIDE 20/1
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C Lemaire K Shintani
8 CHARGE IT 20/1
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L Saez T Pletcher
9 TIZ THE BOMB 30/1
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B J Hernandez Jr K McPeek
10 ZANDON 3/1
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F Prat C Brown
11 PIONEER OF MEDINA 30/1
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J Bravo T Pletcher
12 TAIBA 12/1
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M Smith T Yakteen
13 SIMPLIFICATION 20/1
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J Ortiz A Sano
14 BARBER ROAD 30/1
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R Gutierrez J A Ortiz
15 WHITE ABARRIO 10/1
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T Gaffalione S Joseph Jr
16 CYBERKNIFE 20/1
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F Geroux B Cox
17 CLASSIC CAUSEWAY 30/1
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J Leparoux B Lynch
18 TAWNY PORT 30/1
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R Santana Jr B Cox
19 ZOZOS 20/1
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M Franco B Cox
20 ETHEREAL ROAD 30/1
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L Contreras D W Lukas

Kentucky Derby Picks and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($120 in total)

$10 Exacta Box – Zandon, Simplification and Epicenter = $60

$10 Exacta Box – Zandon, Simplification and Smile Happy = $60

If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick Zandon (3/1).

Kentucky Derby Predictions 2022

Zandon, a strong come-from-behind winner of the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, and Epicenter, the streaking hero of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, will vie for favoritism in Saturday’s 148th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Chad Brown, Zandon was made a slight morning-line favorite at 3/1 on the morning line. A son of Upstart, he had finished a troubled third behind Epicenter in the Risen Star prior to the Blue Grass victory.

Right behind him at 7/2 on the morning line for the 1 ¼ mile classic is the Steve Asmussen-trained Epicenter.

The Not This Time colt broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last November before winning three stakes at Fair Grounds, with only a narrow defeat in January’s Lecomte preventing a five-race winning streak.

The runaway winner of the Grade Robert B. Lewis Stakes two starts back, Messier is the third choice on the Kentucky Derby morning line at 8/1.

Trained by Tim Yakteen, who replaced the suspended Bob Baffert, Messier was second to his stablemate Taiba most recently in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Next on the morning line at 10/1 are the co-fourth choices Mo Donegal, trained by Todd Pletcher, and the Saffie Joseph, Jr.-trained White Abarrio.

Mo Donegal was a come-from-behind winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial most recently, while White Abarrio has won two straight graded stakes at Gulfstream Park, most recently taking down the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

Kentucky Derby Predictions and Race Analysis

Zandon

This son of Upstart greatly impressed me last fall when he battled down the stretch with Mo Donegal in the Grade 2 Remsen, with only a 6 furlong maiden race under his belt. He looked talented and brave while repeatedly getting bumped by his more experienced foe.

From a potential star at 2, I believe he is growing into the horse I thought he could become. A bad break, and an easy pace, clearly cost him while third in the Risen Star, but he rebounded from that loss with a statement win in the Blue Grass.

The powerful stride he displayed in running by Smile Happy has me believing that he is a Kentucky Derby winner waiting to happen. A repeat of that performance and only bad luck would prevent him from making it to the winner’s circle on Saturday. He is the top pick.

Epicenter

No 3-year-old in the nation has done more than this son of Not This Time. In four consecutive stakes races in New Orleans, the Louisiana Derby ran big to win three times and just missed in the other.

The Steve Asmussen trainee also showed a new dimension last time, by relaxing in third early before sweeping by for the win. He also has experience over the track and has one of the nation’s best riders in Joel Rosario in the saddle.

There’s clearly a lot to like, and he deserves to be one of the favorites. In fact, the only thing that prevents me from making him a top pick is just how good Zandon looked down the Keeneland stretch last time.

Messier

It’s a little hard to know what to expect from this good-looking son of Empire Maker. In two of his last three starts he was out finished to the wire, while in between the two, he looked like the best 3-year-old in the country when winning by a pole in the Robert B. Lewis.

One of many in the field with good early speed, it will be up to Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez to keep him from expending too much energy early. If he can, this horse can potentially win.

Still, with a running style very much like Epicenter, who I like a bit better, and after a steady diet of small fields in California, I am going to take a small stand against him as the morning line third choice.

Mo Donegal

If any horse needs to work out a good trip on Saturday, it will be this late-running son of Uncle Mo. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he looked like a potential Derby winner, coming from well back to win the Grade 2 Wood Memorial last time.

On a shortlist of the top contenders for the Kentucky Derby, he is not blessed with much early speed, so traffic was always going to be a concern, but when he drew the rail, the concern became even greater.

Rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. will need to save some ground on the first turn and then do his level best to find clear sailing when it’s time to go. It worked for him in the Wood Memorial, but not when third in the Holy Bull. Most likely he runs late to work into the exotics.

White Abarrio

This racy gray son of Race Day has done very little wrong so far, with four wins from five career starts. It is worth noting that all four of his wins came at Gulfstream Park, while his lone defeat came behind Smile Happy late last year at Churchill Downs.

Still, he did not run badly that day when finishing third. He’s perfect in two starts this year, where in both the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby, he was well placed early and made the most of his good trips.

Coming back to Churchill Downs is a small question, so is whether he can overcome the traffic of a Kentucky Derby. He’s a real threat in here, but one that I will take a shot to beat.

Taiba

What this son of Gun Runner has been able to accomplish in two starts is quite remarkable. Going from an easy victory against maidens at 6 furlongs to winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby a month later is unheard of. He clearly has a world of talent.

Having said that, he is going to need to be something truly special to win the 10 furlong, 20-horse Kentucky Derby with such little experience.

He beat two small fields with nice trips in California. My guess is that this test, just four weeks after the last one, will prove to be just a little too much too soon for the expensive chestnut.

Cyberknife

The Arkansas Derby winner does not seem to be getting much respect after the Grade 1 win. It may not have been the strongest of this year’s preps, but the son of Gun Runner showed some good turn of foot and looks to be an improving horse.

I do worry that he is still not the strongest mentally, but his moves in the mornings have impressed. Like several in here, it would not be a surprise to see him run a very good race on Saturday. I am going to side with a few others, but this Brad Cox-trainee must be considered a threat.

Smile Happy

Coming back to Churchill Downs could be the tonic this son of Runhappy needs to get over the hump in 2022. Last year he finished off his 2-year-old season over a very strong field in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.

While he is 0-for-2 this year, neither race was poor First, he weaved through traffic in a paceless Risen Star to split Epicenter and Zandon for second, and then he came back to stalk and forge to the lead in the Blue Grass, before being passed by Zandon.

If he can run his best in his third start of the year, at a track we know he likes, he can once again be a major player in the division. With the change in odds this time, he offers solid value.

Simplification

This longshot from the barn of Antonio Sano was a smart, rallying winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth two starts back, but failed to repeat that win when third in the Florida Derby.

He pressed the pace of Classic Causeway that afternoon and got involved in a pretty tough speed duel which likely hurt his chances. Still, of the two, he was the one still in contention in the stretch. Bred to handle any surface and distance, I do believe that the 10 furlongs of the Kentucky Derby will be to his liking.

A two-time stakes winner, he had excuses in his two losses in stakes company. I believe he can bounce back with a big effort on Saturday. He is my top longshot.

Crown Pride

Japan’s fortunes in major international races have never been better, and this year they send a good winner of the UAE Derby over in this son of Reach the Crown. A winner of 3-of-4 lifetime starts, note that his only defeat came over a wet track in Tokyo.

A sharp winner of his first two starts last year, he already has three wins at 1 ⅛ miles or longer. UAE Derby winners have not fared well in the Kentucky Derby, but this one might be capable of ending the streak. I am siding with Americans for my top picks here, but this one is a threat and one to fear.

Charge It

This young buck from the Pletcher barn showed off some real ability when finishing well in his second-place result in the Florida Derby. Coming off a maiden win, it was a very nice performance for a horse who looks to have a real future.

Talented but green, this son of Tapit looks to be a horse well suited for a race like the Belmont Stakes. There he will find a much smaller field and more room to operate. I suspect his inexperience will do him no favors in the large field of the Kentucky Derby.

Zozos

Clearly, a talented colt, this son of Munnings was a game second to Epicenter last time in the Louisiana Derby while making only his third career start. It was a very good effort for a colt with such little experience, but things only get tougher for him on Saturday.

He has good speed and it would be no surprise to see him out there among the early leaders from his outside post, but all things considered, I think he will have a much better shot at actually winning a big race a little bit later in the season.

Barber Road

On the surface, Barber Road deserves to be a long shot. He has been beaten in five consecutive stakes races, and obviously, none of them measure up to the Kentucky Derby. Still, the son of Race Day has been a consistent late runner, who has picked up a nice check each time.

Can he do it again in the Kentucky Derby? Chances are he has finally found a field a little too good for him and his late run will only get him a top ten finish, but I would not talk anyone out of using him in the lower places of the exotics.

Tiz the Bomb

A bit of a wildcard in the field, this son of Hit it a Bomb has run several good races in his career, including a pair of stakes victories at Turfway Park in his last two. However, his four career stakes wins have either come on turf or a synthetic surface, so the question of his fondness for dirt lingers.

It’s a surface where he broke his maiden easily, but did not fare well in the other two tries. He’s obviously a nice horse, but dirt or not, my guess is that he is not quite good enough to beat the best in here, but he does scare me just a little.

Pioneer of Medina

The third from the barn of Todd Pletcher, this one has been chasing Epicenter of late. After a maiden and an allowance victory over the winter, he finished fourth in the Risen Star and then third in the Louisiana Derby.

Not bad results, but he never looked like a legitimate threat to the winner in either race. If you love Epicenter on Saturday, this one makes sense as a longshot possibility, but there are just too many I like better in this 20-horse field.

Tawny Port

One of nine horses in the field to have won a stakes race in their most recent outing, this son of Pioneerof the Nile was able to get the job done in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland three weeks ago. Before that, he had finished second best behind Tiz the Bomb in the Jeff Ruby.

Both were solid efforts, but likely a cut below the top ones in here. Well beaten by Epicenter and company earlier this year in the Risen Star, he deserves to be a longshot. He is improving, but my guess is that he is still a little too slow to make a serious dent in the Derby.

Classic Causeway

This son of the late, great Giant’s Causeway looked like a legitimate threat for the Run for the Roses before his last start. If you can forgive his 11th-place finish in the Florida Derby, then you will see consecutive stakes wins at Tampa Bay Downs to begin the season.

Having said that, he did not defeat much there, and off day or not, he was likely exposed last time at Gulfstream Park. A pretty late edition to the field, he will likely only be heard from for the first mile or so on Saturday.

Summer is Tomorrow

Based in Dubai, this son of Summer Front has flashed plenty of speed while finishing first or second in five of seven career starts. His last two were his best yet, but still he was no match for Crown Pride down the stretch of the Grade 2 UAE Derby.

Granted it was his first try at a distance, but things will only get that much tougher in the Kentucky Derby. He looks like a prospective pace presence only in this loaded field.

Ethereal Road

A winner of 1-of-7 lifetime, this D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Quality Road has run in three graded stakes since breaking his maiden nicely in January.

A second-place finish in the Grade 2 Rebel showed some potential, but subsequent starts in the Blue Grass and Lexington were less than promising. If he gets a clean trip, he does look like the type who could be passing horses, but as far as one of the top spots, it seems very unlikely.

Happy Jack

This son of Oxbow was a first out winner for trainer Doug O’Neill but has since been overmatched after moving right up into graded stakes competition.

Unable to ever contend with Messier, Forbidden Kingdom, or Taiba in his last three makes me wonder why he’s in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, as he looks like a hopeless longshot.

How to Watch the Kentucky Derby 2022

Kentucky Derby Race Information
What Kentucky Derby (Grade 1)
Location Churchill Downs
Time Saturday, May 7 — 6:57 pm Eastern time
How to Watch NBC
Purse $3,000,000

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]