Kentucky Derby Top Horses, Favorites and Profiles

Written By Fairway Jay on April 30, 2022
kentucky derby

We’re one week away from America’s most popular horse race – the Kentucky Derby! Known as “The most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby generates massive betting action, so let’s look at key betting indicators and the leading favorites who will generate the most bets and interest.

The 2022 Kentucky Derby is May 7, and the 148th running of the Run for Roses features 20 horses that will break from the starting gate at 6:57 p.m. EDT at Churchill Downs.

Keys Indicators to Winning the Kentucky Derby

A key indicator when handicapping the Kentucky Derby is to account for pace and determine how a horse’s energy is distributed against that pace. The Derby requires recent sharp form displayed over a distance of ground in preparation for each 3-year-olds race at 1 1/4 miles. It’s also important to understand and evaluate how a horse has run leading up to the Kentucky Derby rather than the far less important where the horse finished and in what time he completed his prior races.

Our contacts at HorseRacingNation and its Super Screener report provide research with proven, reliable methodologies. The data identifies top-rated horses you can count on with a better chance to win, place or show. In addition, you can see potential longshots that can outrun their odds and provide payoffs. The Super Screener uses BRIS Pace and Speed Ratings, referenced in the horse analysis below.

No race generates more interest and wagering action than the Kentucky Derby when it comes to horse race betting. TVG offers pari-mutuel betting and provides the perfect online destination with live streaming capabilities for racing enthusiasts following and betting the races.

Top 2022 Kentucky Derby Runners

The top 6 horses that best meet Super Screener criteria and expected value include two horses formerly trained by Bob Baffert, who was suspended 90 days last month by Churchill Downs. So Baffert transferred Messier and Taiba to trainer Tim Yakteen, and the colts are eligible to run in the 2022 Derby and are among the leading favorites.

  • Messier – jockey John Velazquez. Messier laid out mind-blowing 100+ BRIS Pace/Speed Rating figures throughout his recent 2nd place finish in the Santa Anita Derby. He won a Derby prep his previous race. His elevated and balanced Energy Distribution Profile fits perfectly with the pace/presser running style that has defined the past several Kentucky Derby winners.
  • Zandon – jockey Flavien Prat. Trained by Chad Brown and winner of the Blue Grass Stakes last race, Zandon will be closing from well off the pace as he did winning the Blue Grass and hitting the board in his two previous Derby prep races. He meets nearly all Super Screener criteria and had a 100+ BRIS Late Pace figure. His recent workout over the Churchill Downs track was stellar.
  • Smile Happy – jockey Corey Lanerie. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Smile Happy has finished runner-up in his Derby prep races this year, including the last race as the favorite in the Blue Grass. Smile Happy did win over the Churchill Downs track last Nov. in a strong edition of the Kentucky Jockey Club. He falls one point short on the Super Screener BRIS Speed Rating = 102+ criterion but projects to move forward and handle the added distance. Smile Happy will sit a great mid-pack trip in the Derby and offer some value off his last race finish.
  • Mo Donegal – jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Mo Donegal came from off the pace to win the recent Wood Memorial by a neck. Only Maximum Security scored a higher BRIS Late Pace figure (123) than what this colt submitted in his final prep in the Wood Memorial. In addition, Mo Donegal posted a stunning BRIS Final Speed Rating of 111, the highest Speed Rating figure earned by any Kentucky Derby starter. However, no horse in the past 30+ years has won the Derby when there was an 11+ points difference in their BRIS Speed Rating figures between their final two prep races, and Mo Donegal finished 3rd in his previous prep in the Holy Bull Stakes.
  • Epicenter – jockey Joel Rosario. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Epicenter became the Derby favorite after winning the Louisiana Derby; his second straight Derby prep victory after winning the Risen Star wire-to-wire in front of Smile Happy and Zandon. He is tactical, which has become a very beneficial asset ever since the Kentucky Derby points system was implemented. In winning the longer 1 3/16 Louisiana Derby, Epicenter tracked a slower pace but unfurled a very strong BRIS Late Pace figure of 106.
  • Taiba – jockey Mike Smith. Taiba was in the Baffert barn, and Tim Yakteen now trains the lightly-raced colt. He’s 2-for-2 after overtaking Messier in the stretch and winning the Santa Anita Derby in his stakes debut. Taiba produced a stunning BRIS Speed Rating figure of 110 in winning the Santa Anita Derby, the second-best speed rating figure produced in a Derby prep. However, the fast, unforgiving fractions allowed him to run down Messier after pacesetter, and the favorite Forbidden Kingdom faded in the stretch. Another special horse to consider with a lack of foundation is his concern.

The post-position draw and morning line odds for the Kentucky Derby is Tuesday, May 2. Currently, you can bet fixed-rate odds. The four favorites with odds from +450 to +500 (5/1) are Epicenter, Messier, Zandon and Taiba. Follow additional horse racing news and Kentucky Derby updates on Playfecta.

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Fairway Jay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports and betting analyst and provides insight and information you can bet on to engage and assist the avid fan. His tee-to-green coverage and racing contributions have been provided to Churchill Downs, Twinspires, TVG, Forbes, TheLines, numberFire and PlayUSA platforms. Follow on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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