2022 Kentucky Derby: Choosing the Best Picks Among Top Contenders

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2022

2022 Kentucky Derby: Choosing the Best Picks Among Top Contenders

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    After the post position draw for the Kentucky Derby was held Monday and the morning line odds were updated, there's a good sense for which horses in the field are expected to contend to finish in the money at Saturday's Run for the Roses. 

    However, Mother Nature has a curveball to throw for the 148th running of the Derby. Rain is in the forecast for Louisville, Kentucky, this weekend, which could make for a sloppy, muddy race. "Even if rain has tapered to a few showers by race time, the track conditions overall could be quite sloppy," AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff said

    And according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brian Thompson, "13 out of 20 of the horses in this year's Derby have never raced on a wet track."

    How does the impending rain change the odds? Which horses have historically performed well on dirt and in weather? We'll take a look at the horses who represent the best picks among the top contenders at Churchill Downs this weekend. 

    NBC's coverage of the race will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, and post time is 6:57 p.m.

Kentucky Derby Post Positions, Odds

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    1. Mo Donegal (10-1)

    2. Happy Jack (30-1)

    3. Epicenter (7-2)

    4. Summer Is Tomorrow (30-1)

    5. Smile Happy (20-1)

    6. Messier (8-1)

    7. Crown Pride (20-1)

    8. Charge It (20-1)

    9. Tiz the Bomb (30-1)

    10. Zandon (3-1)

    11. Pioneer of Medina (30-1)

    12. Taiba (12-1)

    13. Simplification (20-1)

    14. Barber Road (30-1)

    15. White Abarrio (10-1)

    16. Cyberknife (20-1)

    17. Classic Causeway (30-1)

    18. Tawny Port (30-1)

    19. Zozos (20-1)

    20. Ethereal Road (30-1)


    Odds via KentuckyDerby.com.

Top Picks

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press


    Of the seven horses in the field for this year's Derby who have raced on a wet track, three have won in those conditions. That list includes Zandon, the chalk favorite after drawing the favorable No. 10 gate. 

    Gate 10 has produced the second-most Derby winners all-time, after No. 5. With potential muddy conditions Saturday, Zandon won't have to jostle at the inside post. 

    And if Zandon does fall behind, he's proved he can step into the closer role. 

    Zandon arrives in Louisville fresh off a Blue Grass Stakes win, a race in which he was dead last among 11 horses after three-quarters of a mile before he came back for the victory. 

    He has two wins and four finishes in the money in his four career starts; his trainer, Chad Brown, is looking for his first title. 

    Jockey Flavien Prat has two Triple Crown wins, with Country House in the 2019 Kentucky Derby and Rombauer in the 2021 Preakness Stakes.



    Another of the three horses running at Churchill Downs who has won on a wet track, Epicenter is also well positioned to contend Saturday. In fact, he may well have been the favorite after the draw, but his gate, No. 3, hasn't produced a winner since 1998's Real Quiet and does so only 5.4 percent of the time, per statistics compiled by the Derby. 

    Epicenter's previous win on a wet track, rated as good, came at none other than Churchill Downs.

    The bay colt comes into Saturday's race off back-to-back victories at the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the all-time winningest trainer in North America, the three-year-old has four wins in six starts. Despite his impressive resume, Asmussen is looking for his first Derby victory. He has two second-place and two third-place finishes. 


    Mo Donegal 

    Though Mo Donegal doesn't have a history of being a mudder, he's still one of the better dark horses to bet in this year's race. 

    Racing from the inside post with 10-1 odds, Mo Donegal has nevertheless proved that he has what it takes to upset the favorite. He bested top Derby favorite Zandon in December's Remsen Stakes and last month notched another win at the Wood Memorial Stakes. 

    The last horse to win from gate No. 1 was Ferdinand in 1986, and that post position has historically produced a winner 8.7 percent of the time. 

    The bay colt is one of three Todd Pletcher-trained horses in this year's field. 

    "From a pedigree perspective, Mo Donegal has the breeding to relish the Kentucky Derby's 1¼-mile distance," J. Keeler Johnson wrote for Twin Spires. Mo Donegal's sire, Uncle Mo, fathered Nyquist, who won the 2016 Derby. The sire of his dam, Callingmissbrown, is Pulpit, who won the 1-mile Blue Grass Stakes and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby.