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Back to Normal, Kentucky Derby Draws Full Field

Kentucky Derby
A full field of 20 go in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on Saturday (Photo credit: Churchill Downs).

After the pandemic pushed the 2020 Kentucky Derby to September and last year’s edition having a limited crowd, things are back to normal in 2022 highlighted by a competitive full field of 20 that will head to the starting gate.

The Chad Brown trained Zandon was installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite. The colt won the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland in his last outing. The eventual betting favorite could be Epicenter, the 7-2 second choice on the morning line who has won three in a row including the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his final prep.

He is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen who is trying to break a 0 for 23 record in the Run for the Roses.

For horseplayers that don’t like chalk there are no shortage of good options. Wood Memorial (G2) winner Mo Donegal and Florida Derby (G1) winner are 10-1, while Santa Anita Derby (G1) victor Taiba is 12-1.

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There is rain in the forecast for Friday and into Saturday morning, but then the skies are expected to clear. The Churchill Downs main track dries out quickly and it appears we will have a fast track by post time.

The Derby is one of eight stakes on a 14-race card that gets underway at 10:30am ET.

We scored with my top pick Medina Spirit last year at $26.20 (Sorry Mandaloun fans). That was the best payoff for my top pick in the Derby since Animal Kingdom got us flush at $43.80 in 2011. It was a tough run from 2013 to 2018 as the favorite won six years in a row.

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Let’s head out to Churchill Downs for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

Churchill Downs Race 12 The Kentucky Derby G1 Post time 6:57 ET

1 Mo Donegal   10-1

7 Crown Pride   20-1

10 Zandon   3-1

3 Epicenter   7-2

15 White Abarrio   10-1

Mo Donegal

This colt is one of three sent out by the Todd Pletcher barn that is a two-time Derby winner but just 2 for 59 overall in the race. While Asmussen is getting reminded he is 0 for 23 in the Derby don’t forget Pletcher came into the 2010 Derby 0 for 24 and won with my top pick Super Saver ($18.00). Mo Donegal has shown improvement with each outing and is coming off a career top winning the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct going nine furlongs. He got a good trip, saving ground early and coming with a good late rally to run down Early Voting in the stretch. He was third two back in the Holy Bull (G3) in his first start this year. The winner White Abarrio came back to win the Florida Derby (G1) and the runner up Simplification won the Fountain of Youth (G2) and then was third in the Florida Derby. Tiz the Bomb exited the Holy Bull to win the John Battaglia and Jeff Ruby (G3). The colt is going to get a solid early pace to run at and just needs to work out a trip breaking from the “dreaded” one post. The colt is by Uncle Mo out of a Pulpit mare and looks as if he will be able to handle the extra ground.

Crown Pride

The Japan based Crown Pride has made quite an impression this week at Churchill Downs with rather unconventional morning routines. He popped a sharp final work on Thursday. The colt comes in off a victory in the UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai which has not been a productive final prep. A total of 16 horses prepped in the UAE Derby and the best finish was a fifth by Master of Hounds in the 2011 Derby. The colt earned a 104 Timeform and his Beyer would have been 93 according to Andy Beyer in an interview this week. Those numbers are a couple of lengths short. However, this colt came with a late rally and was on the wrong lead in the stretch while drifting in slightly. He drew clear from pacesetter Summer Is Tomorrow to win by 2 3/4 lengths. He looks capable of moving forward off that effort although he is in much deeper waters here. Japan based horses are on a tear, winning four races on Dubai World Cup Night back in March. He is getting some buzz this week but still should be a solid price here.

Zandon

I thought this guy’s Blue Grass (G1) win was one of the most visually impressive final Derby preps. The colt raced near the back of the pack and came with a good late run and drew clear late to win by 2 ½ lengths over runner up Smile Happy. Two back he made a mild late bid to finish third in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds. The winner of that race was Epicenter, who won the Louisiana Derby (G2) next out. He showed some real promise as a juvenile last year, missing in the Remsen to our top pick by just a nose. Trainer Chad Brown is 0 for 6 in the Derby with the best finish a second by Good Magic in 2018. The colt is going to get some pace to run at but in recent years we have seen horses closer to the pace have the best of it. The 3-1 morning line seems light, his price may drift up a bit, but still seems on the short side.

Epicenter

This colt was a smart winner of the Louisiana Derby which overall has not been a productive prep but has crowned two recent champs, Country House in 2019 and Mandaloun last year. They both actually crossed the wire second and were placed first thanks to DQ’s. This colt checks just about every box, having a good foundation last year and earning a figure last out good enough to win here. Asmussen is 0 for 23 in the race but has not had many that are this good. The colt has the advantage of a win over the main track, his maiden breaker as a juvenile. He fits well but again is not going to offer much bang for the buck for the top spot.

Wagering

Win: Mo Donegal to win at 8-1 or better. Crown Pride to win at 12-1 or better.

EXACTA: 1 / 3,7,10,15 and 1,7 / 1,3,7,10,15

TRIFECTA: 1,7 / 1,3,7,10,15 / 1,3,7,8,10,15,16


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