The biggest race on the American calendar takes place this weekend, as the first Triple Crown race of 2022 takes place at Churchill Downs. The 2022 Kentucky Derby will be run over 1 ¼ miles on the dirt, and has attracted a very talented field of 20 runners. You can find out more about the leading contenders in the BetXchange betting markets right here.
Churchill Downs hosts the prestigious opening leg of the Triple Crown in the U.S. this weekend, as the world-famous Kentucky Derby is run. This race pits the best three-year-olds on the dirt against each other over a distance of 1 ¼ miles. Entries earn their spot in the 20-strong field by winning prep races throughout the season, with the top 20 on the leaderboard making up the final field.
Legendary horses such as Secretariat, American Pharoah, and Affirmed are among some of the most famous winners. However, the 2022 Kentucky Derby promises to be one of the more competitive in recent memory, with no shortage of live chances expected to be lining up this weekend.
Steven Asmussen is yet to win the Kentucky Derby, but his leading chance in the BetXchange markets this weekend is Epicenter, who topped the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. This three-year-old hasn’t put a foot wrong since defeat earlier in the campaign, and has won back-to-back graded races before heading to Churchill Downs. His latest win came in the G2 Louisiana Derby, where he hit a Beyer Speed Figure of 102. It’s also encouraging that he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last year.
I’ll be honest, Zandon for trainer Chad Brown is a horse that doesn’t interest me a great deal this weekend. But, he could go off favourite at Churchill Downs. This three-year-old hit a career-best speed figure of 98 when winning the G1 Blue Grass on his previous start, but has already been beaten by both Mo Donegal and Epicenter to this point. His running style also isn’t likely to favour the conditions at Churchill Downs, as he will be looking to stalk the leaders from far back.
Taiba has been a horse widely touted for the Derby this year for trainer Tim Yakteen. He will be looking to join the likes of Apollo and Justify as horses to win the race without having raced as a two-year-old. However, no previous Derby winner has won the Triple Career opener on their third career start. While he was impressive when winning the G1 Santa Anita Derby, his inexperience in big fields is a big concern.
Messier could easily be the class of this field, as he has posted the joint-best Beyer Speed Figure of 103 during his career. That run came in graded company, as he won the G3 Robert B. Lewis earlier in the year. He did finish behind Taiba in the G1 Santa Anita Derby, but the Yakteen-trained horse still has a lot of factors in his favour, and his extra experience coupled with strong running style makes him my pick for the Derby at very good odds.
White Abarrio is a horse that I really like for the Derby this weekend for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. This three-year-old won over 1 1/8 miles on his latest start as he won the Florida Derby in impressive fashion. That race has produced 20 winners of Triple Crown races, and his chances have certainly been improved after drawing stall 15, which has a 10% strike rate in the Derby.
My selection at a bigger price comes in the form of Smile Happy for Kenny McPeek. This three-year-old won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last year, and has been involved in some high-quality prep races. While he hasn’t won, his seconds behind Epicenter and Zandon in the G2 Risen Star and G1 Blue Grass deserve all the respect, and a big run looks on the cards.
Kentucky Derby 2022 Picks:
- WIN: Messier
- WIN: White Abarrio
- Each-Way: Smile Happy