Horse racing’s most iconic event is around the corner. The $3 million Kentucky Derby, unfolding Saturday at 6:57 p.m. ET from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., does more than attract the world’s top 3-year-old thoroughbreds.
It brings horse racing center stage, capturing the interest of casual fans along with serious bettors.
Garden State gamblers can access the action via 4NJBETS, powered by TVG.For New Jersey residents, the Derby has extra spark this year.
Monmouth Park in Oceanport times its opening day to a 2 p.m. card that will lead into the Derby, which caps a long preparation circuit.
The thoroughbreds already participated in a months-long Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of qualifying races that produced the 2022 draw on Monday.
2022 Kentucky Derby odds for NJ bettors
|1||Mo Donegal||10-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Happy Jack||30-1||Rafael Bejarano||Doug O'Neill|
|3||Epicenter||7-2||Joel Rosario||Steve Asmussen|
|4||Summer Is Tomorrow||30-1||Mickael Barzalona||Bhupat Seemar|
|5||Smile Happy||20-1||Corey Lanerie||Ken McPeek|
|6||Messier||8-1||John Velazquez||Tim Yakteen|
|7||Crown Pride||20-1||Christophe Lemaire||Koichi Shintani|
|8||Charge It||20-1||Luis Saez||Todd Pletcher|
|9||Tiz the Bomb||30-1||Brian Hernandez||Ken McPeeek|
|10||Zandon||3-1||Flavien Prat||Chad Brown|
|11||Pioneer of Medina||30-1||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher|
|12||Taiba||12-1||Tim Yakteen||Mike Smith|
|13||Simplification||20-1||Antonio Sano||Jose Ortiz|
|14||Barber Road||30-1||John Ortiz||Reylu Gutierrez|
|15||White Abarrio||10-1||Tyler Gaffalione||Saffie Joseph Jr.|
|16||Cyberknife||20-1||Florent Geroux||Brad Cox|
|17||Classic Causeway||30-1||Julien Leparoux||Brian Lynch|
|18||Tawny Port||30-1||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Brad Cox|
|19||Zozos||20-1||Manny Franco||Brad Cox|
|20||Ethereal Road||30-1||Luis Contreras||D. Wayne Lukas|
Top contenders to win Kentucky Derby
All of the horses in this field are trying 1 1 -4 miles for the first time in the largest field they have ever faced. Traffic problems and racing luck are inevitable. There are thus no absolutes regarding the Kentucky Derby.
Here is a look at some major contenders and why either can or cannot win.
The 7-2 choice has been on the money with recent dominant victories in the Risen Star Stakes the Louisiana Derby.
He has a desirable pattern bettors embrace. Epicenter was nipped at the wire in the 1 1–16-mile Lecompte and then prevailed handily in the 1 1 8 mile Risen Star.
He passed another test, winning the 1 3–16-mile Louisiana Derby with little more than a hand ride.
This has been a nice progression: 1 1-16th miles, 1 1-8 and 1 1 3-16 in consecutive races.
He is showing that he runs better the longer the race goes. He has the shortest distance to stretch out, just 1-16 of a mile, to reach the 1 1–4-mile requirement.
What could stop him: A speed duel.
He breaks from the No. 3 post. Summer is Tomorrow (4) and Messier (6) also will want to break alertly. He must establish position early and then hope not to be in a contentious early battle.
The 3-1 early-line favorite may go off at higher betting odds. He’s an excellent closer, overcoming wicked traffic problems to definitively run down Smile Happy and win the Blue Grass Stakes.
What could stop him: He came from next-to-last to win the Blue Grass.
If he is too far back in this pack early, he may not be able to make up the ground.
One of the most interesting stories in this race. He won the Santa Anita Derby in only his second race. Taiba ran down Messier, regarded as the fastest horse in the country, to capture the Santa Anita.
Taiba’s ability to stretch from a six-furlong debut into a 1 1–8-mile stakes triumph in his second outing was astounding. Skeptics say that type of improvement can’t be expected on another major stage. Especially after he ships from Santa Anita, site of those two races, to Churchill Downs.
Oddsmakers backed that up early. But this horse is going to get played. He will be the first horse to win the Derby in just his third race if he is able to pull it off.
Other prep-race winners in this field include White Abarrio from the Florida Derby, Mo Donegal from the Wood Memorial and Cyberknife from the Arkansas Derby.
Kentucky Derby bettors are analyzing pace and positioning
Who is improving? That’s the nature of three-year-old thoroughbreds.
The great Secretariat had 12 races before running in the 1973 Kentucky Derby.
In this field, Epicenter has six, Zandon four and Taiba two. That’s a far more limited handicapping sample.
Owners generally run their horses far less these days because of lucrative purses and stud fees.
The thoroughbreds are thus constantly evolving and unpredictable.
Pace and positioning will be crucial in a large field.
You will get an inkling about how the race is developing at the half-mile mark. The track announcer will likely make a comment on the pace. A clocking of 46 3-5 seconds to 47 seconds is the range one might expect. Faster than that is good for closers. Slower than that is good news for the horses up front.
You should hear a quick assessment of how Epicenter and Zandon broke from the gate.
The Haskell connection
Kentucky Derby graduates invariably find their way to Monmouth Park for the $ 1 million Haskell Stakes on July 23.
Reigning Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun took the 2021 Haskell after initial winner Hot Rod Charlie was disqualified for clicking heels with Midnight Bourbon.
American Pharoah, fresh off being the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, later produced the largest crowd in Monmouth Park History (60,903) to win the Haskell in 2015.
And some could not wait until Haskell Day to come.
Fans started lining up outside the front gate at midnight, nine hours before the track opened. When it did, there was a mad dash for tables in the general admission area.
Monmouth Park becomes fixed-odds pioneer
The revolutionary Fixed-Odds betting segment makes its national debut at Monmouth Park on opening day.
For the first time in America, bettors can lock in the odds of a race at least a couple of days beforehand.
The initial rollout concerns live racing at Monmouth Park, but is expected to grow like wildfire into the simulcast and online-betting realms.
Monmouth Park’s 62-day meet runs through Sept. 18.
And it will feature 52 stakes races, 10 graded stakes, worth $8.305 million.