It appears that Saturday’s 148th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby is loaded with viable candidates that possess the credentials to be posing in the winner’s circle.
The way it’s shaping up in terms of competition, I think the 2022 Kentucky Derby is something for horseplayers to savor beforehand. I see it as an absolutely fascinating handicapping puzzle that presents quite a challenge to try and solve.
No doubt many bettors are going to be supporting Zandon and Epicenter. Zandon has been pegged as the 3-1 favorite on Mike Battaglia’s morning line for the 2022 edition of this Grade I event that serves the first leg of the coveted Triple Crown. Epicenter is the 7-2 second choice.
Speaking of Battaglia, he has been crafting the Kentucky Derby morning-line odds from 1974 to the present. He installed the coupled entry of Cannonade and Judger as the 8-5 favorite in the 1974 Derby.
Cannonade won what became a roughly run race with its record 23 starters. The Cannonade and Judger combo was sent off favored, returning $5 for each $2 win ticket after Cannonade won, thanks in large part to a brilliant ride on the part of Angel Cordero Jr.
Little Current rallied from 21st to finish fifth, which was remarkable under the circumstances. A horrendous trip likely kept him from a Triple Crown sweep. Little Current then won the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths, followed by a victory in the Belmont Stakes by the same emphatic margin.
What happened in 1974 is a prime example of the best horse not winning the Kentucky Derby. There are myriad other instances of that occurring. This is something you really ought to keep in mind as you try to pick the winner of the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Even if you do correctly figure out who the best horse is, it doesn’t necessarily mean that horse is going to win. Your horse could have a Little Current-like trip from hell. Or your horse could be all but eliminated right away, like what happened to Lookin At Lucky in 2010 and Rock Your World in 2021. Or your horse could pull a Point Given.
Point Given finished fifth in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. It was the only time he did not win or finish second in his 13-race career. Point Given rebounded to take the 1 3/16-mile Preakness by 2 1/4 lengths. He then won the Belmont by 12 1/4 lengths in one of the best performances in the long history of that 1 1/2-mile classic by anyone not named Secretariat. Point Given did not win the Kentucky Derby, yet he was voted 2001 Horse of the Year.
I believe a couple of California shippers -- Taiba and Messier -- both merit contender status Saturday. In fact, one of those two from California is my choice to win and continue the recent Kentucky Derby success of runners based in that state.
A California-based starter has finished first in the Kentucky Derby in seven of the last 10 years. Those seven were I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Nyquist (2016), Justify (2018), Authentic (2020) and Medina Spirit (2021). Medina Spirit, as you no doubt know, was disqualified earlier this year due to a medication violation.
American Pharoah and Justify did not just win the Kentucky Derby. They are the only two Triple Crown winners since Affirmed all the way back in 1978.
Which one of the two colts from California is my top choice? My selections for this year’s Kentucky Derby are below:
1. Taiba (12-1 morning line)
2. Messier (8-1)
3. Zandon (3-1)
4. Epicenter (7-2)
Rounding out my final Kentucky Derby Top 10:
5. Crown Pride (20-1)
6. Simplification (20-1)
7. White Abarrio (10-1)
8. Mo Donegal (10-1)
9. Cyberknife (20-1)
10. Tawny Port (30-1)