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Kentucky Derby Best Bets: Messier Provides Strong Betting Opportunity

Best Bets and analysis for Saturday’s 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. Messier is a strong betting option for the Run for the Roses.

The “Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” is only one day away. The prestigious race will feature three horses with single-digit odds and 17 other contenders at potentially double-digit odds in a wide-open betting affair.

Zandon for trainer Chad Brown was installed as the morning-line favorite (3-1), just slightly ahead of Steve Asmussen’s attempt at a first-ever Kentucky Derby victory with Epicenter (7-2).  Epicenter, who drew post No. 3, is one of the two biggest ‘losers’ of the draw alongside Todd Pletcher’s Mo Donegal (10-1), who drew the dreaded rail.

The entrants who benefited the most from the draw were Tim Yakteen’s Messier (8-1), who drew No. 6, and Zandon, who drew post No. 10. Messier and Taiba (12-1) could sit just off the opening speed duel between Summer Is Tomorrow or Epicenter, which sets up perfectly for their stalking running styles drawing in these slots.

As we saw last year when we nailed the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit ($26.20) as well as the exacta at whopping odds of 251-1, horses that are forwardly placed from the start have done extremely well in this race.

Odds courtesy of

Odds courtesy of

  • The post-time favorite has won six of the least nine runnings of the Kentucky Derby. However, the last three post-time favorites have all been defeated.
  • No horse in the history of the race has ever won the Kentucky Derby breaking from post No. 17. This year that dubious honor falls upon Classic Causeway.
  • The last horse to win from the No. 1 post position was Ferdinand in 1986. This year, the dreaded rail falls up Mo Donegal.
  • No horse has won the Kentucky Derby breaking from post No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 since Real Quiet in 1998. Those looking to back the second betting choice Epicenter to win need to take note.


Screen Shot 2022-05-06 at 10.04.39 AM

The pace of this race could be an extremely contested one, but the question is: Whom will be able to gain the early lead and become the pace setter?

On paper, Summer Is Tomorrow, Classic Causeway and Epicenter appear to be the likeliest contenders to vie for that position.

The question then becomes: Can Epicenter and Classic Causeway fire clean and fast enough to accomplish their preferred stalking running styles and not get shuffled too far back behind the first flight?

Who will cross the finish line first? Let’s take a look at the odds and dive deeper into this race.

Kentucky Derby (G1)

Racetrack: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.
Date: Saturday, May 7, 2022
Purse: $3,000,000
Distance: 1 ¼ mile, Dirt
Race: 12
Post Time: 6:57 p.m. ET / NBC

HORSES OF NOTE (Listed by post number, name and odds)

No. 6 Messier (8-1): Named after NHL legend Mark Messier, the son of Empire Maker will try to deliver the same way his namesake did in 1994 for the Rangers. Messier drew into the Derby perfectly, breaking from the No. 6 hole, which should set up nicely for John Velazquez to utilize his strong front running style. The major knock is he came up short in the Santa Anita Derby in his last race, being passed by stablemate Tabia. However, the numbers and the workouts say this former Bob Baffert trainee, now in the hands of Tim Yakteen, could be sitting on an absolute monster effort. PICK

Kentucky Derby entrant Messier works out at Churchill Downs Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Louisville, Ky. The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 7.

No. 10 Zandon (3-1): It is really difficult to fade the betting favorite for the 148th Run for the Roses, who just posted a career-best effort in winning the Blue Grass Stakes. Zandon lost to Mo Donegal by a nose in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct last December, but ‘Mo drew the dreaded rail Saturday. Chad Brown’s entry has posed bullets in his workouts and drew an ideal post to try to hit the board for the fifth straight time. Let’s hope for at least 6-1 or higher to offer the best value. CONTENDER

No. 12 Taiba (12-1): The true wild card of this year’s Kentucky Derby is this lightly raced California colt. He upset Messier in the Santa Anita Derby and did so in impressive fashion, passing him easily in the deep stretch. He has looked spectacular in his only two starts, but that’s the issue - only two lifetime races under his belt. Taiba does not have history on his side as he is looking to become the first horse since Leonatus in 1883 to win the Kentucky Derby in only his third career start. At double-digit odds he could be ‘live’ but his inexperience conjures up thoughts of Rock Your World from last year’s race - many were high on only to see a 17th place finish. Boom or bust. SNEAKY

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No. 15 White Abarrio (10-1): This son of Race Day heads into the Derby off a solid score in the Florida Derby. Tyler Gaffalione will look to make it three straight wins after a career best effort in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream park in February. INTERESTING

No. 1  Mo Donegal (10-1): The talented son of Uncle Mo was the clear loser of the post-position draw, earning the dreaded rail. Mo Donegal was last seen closing from the clouds in the Wood Memorial on March 9, in a race where I backed him heavily in and keyed in the trifecta at 105-1 odds! If he can avoid serious traffic, ‘Mo could be the first horse since Ferndidand in 1986 to win from the No. 1 post. This Todd Pletcher colt was my top-ranked Derby horse prior to the post-position draw, so despite the rail I can’t completely toss him but he does take a tumble down the rankings. THREAT

No. 3 Epicenter (7/2): Epicenter has found the winners circle in four of his six starts. He already owns a victory at Churchill Downs and has defeated the morning-line favorite Zandon. He will have to be forwardly placed after drawing inside and that potentially could lead to him being used up more than he would like on the front end. At likely short odds, Epicenter is a horse bettors should try and beat and only use defensively on the bottom rung of exotics. UNDERNEATH

Kentucky Derby entrant Epicenter works out at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Louisville, Ky. The race scheduled for Saturday, May 7.

No. 16 Cyberknife (20-1): As we know, every year there is a wise-guy horse in the days leading up to the Run for the Roses and this year that honor belongs to Brad Cox’s Cyberknife. This son of Gun Runner has won three of his last four races, including most recently a solid victory in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. LONG SHOT

No. 8 Charge It (20-1): This talented son of Tapit has posted some solid morning workouts leading up to the Derby. At healthy odds, Charge It would give a massive boost to exotic wagers if he is able to continue his improvement and hit the board for a fourth straight time in his career. LONG SHOT

No. 5 Smile Happy (20-1): The son of Runhappy went off as the post-time betting favorite against both Epicenter in the Risen Star and Zandon in the Blue Grass Stakes and finished as the runner-up both times. Can he now flip the script on the two top betting choices, as well as 17 others, in the biggest race of the year? At these healthy odds, he is ‘must’ use on all exotic tickets. Value LONG SHOT

Kentucky Derby Formula Rankings Top 10

  • No. 6 Messier
  • No. 10 Zandon
  • No. 12 Taiba
  • No. 15 White Abarrio
  • No. 1 Mo Donegal
  • No. 3 Epicenter
  • No. 5 Smile Happy
  • No. 16 Cyberknife
  • No. 8 Charge It
  • No. 9 Tiz The Bomb
Kentucky Derby entrant Zandon works out at Churchill Downs Friday, May 6, 2022, in Louisville, Ky. The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 7.


No. 6 Messier
No. 10 Zandon
No. 12 Taiba
No. 15 White Abarrio


No. 1 Mo Donegal
No. 3 Epicenter
No. 5 Smile Happy
No. 16 Cyberknife
No. 8 Charge It
No. 9 Tiz The Bomb


Screen Shot 2022-05-03 at 11.43.19 PM

Kentucky Derby Betting Breakdown

This race boils down to whether Zandon or Epicenter can win at short odds. I cannot back Epicenter at all on top spot in bigger wagers. My tickets will involve using No. 6 Messier (8/1), No. 10 Zandon (3/1) and No. 12 Taiba (12/1) on top in a wide-open race.

I will need at least 6-1 odds on Zandon to use on top of any tickets.

TOP Exacta BOX: 6-10-12-15-1

COST: $1 wager: $20

TOP Exacta Part-Wheel: 6,10 / 1,6,8,10,12,15,16

COST: $1 wager: $14

TOP Trifecta Part-Wheel: 6,10 with 6,10,12,15 with 1,3,5,6,8,10,12,15,16

COST: $1 wager: $36

Trifecta SPREAD Part-Wheel: 6,10,12 / 1,3,6,10,12 / 1,3,5,7,8,10,12,15,16,18

COST: $50-cent wager: $64

All wagers display ticket cost. All bettors should adjust wager amounts based upon bankroll


Frankie Taddeo is a successful high-stakes fantasy football player who created the first-ever DFS program ever offered in a Las Vegas sportsbook. Frankie is SI Betting's Senior Analyst and provides his significant experience and resources in the sports betting scene. You can follow Frankie on Twitter @Frankie_Fantasy for his latest betting and fantasy insights from Las Vegas.

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