The 2022 Kentucky Derby Betting Preview: Let’s Get A Longshot

Our staffers like a trio of 20/1 shots in Saturday's "Run for the Roses"
Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is not only the most important contest in American horse racing each year, but it also presents an enticing betting opportunity.

The reasons are straightforward. The field is huge, with 20 horses, so that means even the favorites can be worth betting if you like them enough, and mid-range prices, which usually are around 5/1-10/1 in a standard Saturday stakes field, are in the 20s. There is also the aspect of the unknown. You can use pedigree to get hints, but nobody really knows if these colts can get a mile and a quarter until they do it.

Here at US Bets, we have three writers who particularly love to bet and cover horse racing, and the time has come for us to give out our Derby picks. We’ll also throw in some undercard selections to spice things up.

But before we get to that, we want to make sure that everyone who bets with online horse betting sites gets the best deal possible. Shop around, because there are some great promotions out there, and you should take advantage of them. I know my favorite — the “bet back” or “money back” promotion, where win bets are refunded if your horse finishes second or third — is available at TVG, XpressBet, and TwinSpires. TVG is offering the promotion on most races at Churchill Downs on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks and Saturday’s Kentucky Derby card, while XpressBet and TwinSpires have the offer live on all races Friday and Saturday at Churchill.

Now, let’s get to the picks.

Matt Rybaltowski: #8 Charge It (20/1 morning line)

Over the past three decades, 11 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, including two since 2015 that have captured all three, a rare feat only achieved by 13 horses in the span of 150 years.

Those two, Justify and American Pharoah, possessed speed out of the gate, the ability to wire a field at 10 furlongs, and the stamina to last the grueling 1½ miles at the Belmont Stakes. But there isn’t a Justify or an American Pharoah in this year’s Kentucky Derby. In fact, there might not even be a horse with the talent of California Chrome, Smarty Jones, or Silver Charm.

Without a superstar in the field of 20, the 148th Kentucky Derby reminds me of years like 2005 and 2009, when two longshots, Giacomo and Mine That Bird, returned more than $100 on a $2 win bet. Given the lack of star power, you would be foolish not to take a shot on a horse in the neighborhood of 15/1 to 20/1.

So, my choice on Saturday is Charge It, the runner-up to White Abarrio in the Florida Derby.

Ridden by Luis Saez, Charge It drifted toward the grandstand in the final furlong of the Florida Derby, when Saez went to the right-handed whip in attempts to straighten him out. Instead, Charge It lugged in toward White Abarrio on two separate occasions, which may have cost him the race. While Charge It appeared extremely green in the top Kentucky Derby prep at Gulfstream Park, he could benefit from an extra month of seasoning.

Charge It is one of three horses in the field trained by Todd Pletcher, a Hall of Famer who has won the Derby twice. After Charge It received the No. 8 post in Monday’s draw, Pletcher told reporters that he was happy with the position. Charge It has the tactical speed to race off the leaders on the backstretch before making his move on the final turn.

At 20/1, I will put $20 on Charge It across the board, then hope he isn’t bet down. I also plan to play a small superfecta, with Zandon and Taiba on top.

Undercard play: #5 Jack Christopher (Race 7, Pat Day Mile)

I’m going to go with the chalk, Jack Christopher (2/1 morning line), in the Pat Day Mile.

Despite a seven-month layoff, Jack Christopher still recorded a 102 Beyer speed figure when he won the Champagne Stakes at the same distance in October. Only two other horses in the field have notched Beyers of at least 90.

Mike Seely: #16 Cyberknife (20/1 morning line)

What’s the best Kentucky Derby betting advice a horseplayer can receive? Don’t overthink things. Figure out your precise bankroll for the race, don’t look at past performances and other equine data until a day or two before the race, don’t indulge in too many (if any) “expert” predictions, and limit the amount of runners you choose to back. Because most years — and definitely this year — you can talk yourself into betting half the field.

The extreme parity in this year’s race is the best and worst thing about it — best because there are a lot of thoroughbreds who have a legitimate chance to win, and worst because it’s pretty dang hard to handicap a 20-horse race with so many prospective victors.

If there’s a freak in the field, it may be the lightly raced Taiba, who won the Santa Anita Derby in impressive form in just his second race. The son of Gun Runner will be ridden by two-time Derby winner Mike Smith and is trained by Bob Baffert proxy Tim Yakteen.

But it’s another son of Gun Runner, the Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife, that I’ll be playing across the board, if he goes off at anywhere near his morning line odds of 20/1.

Cyberknife is a handy runner who can stalk the leaders, but he doesn’t need a ton of pace to run into. He has improved steadily, could be sitting on a big race, and the price figures to be right. In one of the sport’s biggest crapshoots, he’s got about as much going for him as any of his rivals.

Undercard play: #6 Prevalence (Race 10, Churchill Downs Stakes)

My value play is Prevalence in the track’s eponymous grade 1 sprint. The 4-year-old colt has won two straight races, including the Commonwealth Stakes a month ago at Keeneland, and figures to get a good stalking trip under quality jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

Jeremy Balan: #13 Simplification (20/1 morning line)

I wish I had a stronger opinion in the Derby, but I do not, and if the odds don’t break the way I want them to, I may not even play a win bet on the race. I probably like morning-line favorite Zandon the best, who has looked the part in training and has the progression this year that appears to be leading to a top effort, but I’m not going to play chalk in the Derby. Not gonna happen. And I really wanted to like Charge It, but I feel like I’m getting suckered in on upside. What are the chances he’s going to have all his “green” issues figured out a race later, in a 20-horse scramble? I also think Charge It is going to get bet down.

So, the best I can commit to at this point is to play the board for value, and I’m going to guess the best value will be Simplification, the third-place finisher in the Florida Derby who won Gulfstream Park’s second Kentucky Derby prep, the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

This Florida-bred is not flashy, and he doesn’t have a tremendous turn of foot, but he doesn’t have any quit in him. I don’t know why they sent him toward the lead in the Florida Derby, but it probably wasn’t the ideal spot for him, and he still tried all the way to the wire when he had every reason to stop.

If he floats up to 25/1 or 30/1, like I hope he will, that’s where my win bet will go.

Undercard play: #2 Flower Point (Race 5, Distaff Turf Mile)

I like this race much more, from a gambling perspective, than the Derby. Flower Point returned from a nearly five-month layoff in April, where she looked like a horse who needed a race in the Plenty of Grace Stakes at Aqueduct. But even though she lacked a noticeable late kick, she still almost sprung a big upset in a short field. This time, with jockey Joel Rosario, the best finisher in the game, she’ll get the job done in her second start off the layoff.

Photo: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal


Related Posts