LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Get your finest suits, your fascinators and your mint juleps ready, because this year’s edition of the Kentucky Derby is going to be a fun one.
On Friday’s Locked On Today podcast, longtime horse racing expert, writer and analyst Dick Jerardi joined host Peter Bukowski to talk about the storylines heading into the 148th edition of the iconic race at Churchill Downs, and talk about which horses have the best shot to win.
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One of the biggest stories heading into this weekend is actually about who isn’t here. Bob Baffert, the iconic trainer who has six Derby wins alone including 2020, 2018 and 2015, is suspended for this year’s derby after Medina Spirit tested positive for banned substances following the 2021 race.
Jerardi said it’s very different without Baffert there at Churchill Downs this year. Baffert’s suspension runs through early June.
“When Medina Spirit crossed the finish line last year at the Derby, Baffert was the all time winningest Derby trainer with seven, and then a week later we find out (Medina Spirit) tests positive for this prohibited anti-inflammatory…Him not being here is a huge deal. I went by his barn yesterday and it was like a ghost town," Jerardi said. "It was very strange. He’s usually got all these plaques up there, there’s 50 people waiting to talk to him and this year, no people, no horses, no anything. Absolutely he is missed and it’s a big part of the storyline of this year’s Derby.”
At the top, the betting favorites to win the 148th Kentucky Derby are Zandor and Epicenter who are co-favorites currently. It’s not typical for there to be co-favorites coming into a Kentucky Derby.
Is there one that stands above the rest?
“I like Epicenter the best. Ultimately the public will decide who the favorite is. I think they’re pretty close. I’m not sure which one will ultimately be the favorite. There isn’t any obvious horse to be the favorite like American Pharaoh in 2015 or Justify in 2018 that stands out. I like Epicenter the most, but this is a closer Derby than many others.”
In total 51 of 146 races have been won by the favorite. But, Jerardi believes this is a much tighter Derby than normal, meaning there could be some longshot value. Country House was the big recent underdog to win at 30 to 1 in 2019. I’ll Have Another was 15 to 1 in 2012 and Animal Kingdom was 21 to 1 in 2011. Mine That Bird was the biggest longshot in recent history to win at 51 to 1 in 2009.
Bukowski asked Jerardi if there are any horses he notes as flying under the radar going into Saturday’s race.
“It was interesting. When I came down here I thought there was no way Crown Pride could win this race, it’s a Japanese horse. And then I watched him on the track on Wednesday and I, like a lot of other people, were just blown away by how good he looked. The reality is the Japanese had won nothing in America until they won two Breeder’s Cup races last November in Del Mar…I think the word is out, I think he’s going to outrun his odds.”
The 148th Kentucky Derby is set for Saturday, May 7, 2022 on NBC, Peacock, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins on NBA at 2:30 p.m. ET.