Betting Strategies: Kicking Off Derby Week at Churchill Downs

Written By Andrew Champagne on May 5, 2022
Churchill Downs Events and Schedule

It’s Kentucky Derby week at Churchill Downs! They’ve been running since Tuesday, but action really starts to heat up the Thursday prior to the Run for the Roses.

One note before we get started: The weather forecast doesn’t look great for Derby week. There’s a chance of rain Thursday, followed by a likelihood of significant precipitation Friday. Keep that in mind as you handicap this week!

A strong play in the opener

One of my best bets of the day comes in the very first race of the program. It’s an $8,000 claiming event, and I’ll look to start my Derby week gambling off by capitalizing on a strong opinion.

#3 Higher Authority ran well when second for a slightly-higher tag last time out at Keeneland. He’s got plenty of back class, having won a $12,500 claimer in December at Turfway Park. I also love that he’s got plenty of tactical speed. This race seems light on horses that will hunt the front early on, and that could allow Higher Authority to get very comfortable.

I’ll play Higher Authority to win, as his likely odds hit me as an overlay. I’ll also key him in exactas with #1 Estilo Peligroso and #8 Youvesaiditall, two other horses that figure to take some money.

  • $15 win: 3
  • $3 exactas: 3 w/1,8
  • $2 exactas: 1,8 w/3

Going against the chalk in the third

#5 Cove Blue is 6/5 on the morning line, but that price hits me as a ridiculous underlay. His last-out win came over a very suspect group at Fair Grounds, and it was going two turns on turf. He was also winless in his prior six starts, and most had the same story. He went to the front early and got caught.

I’ll gamble that a similar scenario unfolds in this spot, and I much prefer #2 Abuelo Nuno. His lone poor effort this season came against much better optional claiming foes two back. He was probably a bit too close to the pace when second last time out, and I think he’ll be able to rate behind a faster setup here.

If you’re playing multi-race exotics, I think there are others to use as well. Those are the ones I’ll use with Abuelo Nuno. The key is beating Cove Blue, and if we can do that, we may be in line for a nice score.

  • $3 exactas: 2 w/1,4,8
  • $2 exactas: 1,4,8 w/2

One more in the Thursday finale

We’ll finish off the 11-race program with a maiden claiming event for fillies and mares. This field…doesn’t include any monsters, to put it kindly. With that in mind, it’s a good spot to take a stand with a first-time starter.

I think there’s plenty to like when it comes to #2 Shes Greekandsleek. She’s been working consistently at Churchill and Fair Grounds, and several of those drills were pretty fast. Flavien Prat, one of the top jockeys in the country, sees fit to ride, and I see that as a great sign.

I think Shes Greekandsleek will be a square price. She’s 6-1 on the morning line, and I think that’s an overlay. I won’t get cute here: At anything close to that, I’ll happily bet her to win.

  • $20 win: 2
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Andrew Champagne

Andrew Champagne is a Content Manager at Catena Media, as well as an award-winning horse racing writer and handicapper. Originally from upstate New York, he now resides in Concord, California. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne.

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