Colorado Bettors Saddling Up for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

Written By Dave Bontempo on 05/04/2022 - Last Updated on March 21, 2024
2022 Kentucky Derby preview

This will be a different type of Avalanche Saturday in Colorado.

Centennial State gamblers can pause from their playoff excitement over the NHL’s Avs to participate in the betting avalanche of the 148th Kentucky Derby.

The $3 million Run for the Roses has a 4:57 p.m. (MT) post time, a worldwide profile and is accessible via multiple betting outlets. Full coverage from storied Churchill Downs in Louisville will be provided as usual by NBC.

Colorado horse bettors have several options.

Residents can place their bets in person at Bally’s Arapahoe Park, the state’s lone operating racetrack.

In addition, wagering is available at the state’s 11 legal off-track betting facilities.

As for Colorado’s retail casinos, the DraftKings Sportsbook, located inside Bally’s Black Hawk North Casino, bills itself as “the only place in Black Hawk that offers horse betting.”

However, if you prefer wagering on the Derby from the comfort of your own home, mobile apps, such as TVG (click link below), are your best bet. They provide instant access to the action, along with race streaming, replays and handicapping options.

At any locale, bettors will want to get their wagers in early to avoid being shut out.

Sizing up the field

The major question bettors are pondering is which horse can stretch to this novel 1 1/4-mile distance?

No horse in this race has done that in previous competition. And this is most likely the largest field any horse will compete in over his entire career.

Here’s Saturday’s draw at Churchill Downs:

1. Mo DonegalTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz Jr.10-1
2. Happy JackDoug O'NeillRafael Bejarano30-1
3. EpicenterSteve AsmussenJoel Rosario7-2
4. Summer Is TomorrowBhupat SeemarMickael Barzalona30-1
5. Smile HappyKen McPeekCorey Lanerie20-1
6. MessierTim YakteenJohn Velazquez8-1
7. Crown PrideKoichi ShintaniChristophe Lemaire20-1
8. Charge ItTodd PletcherLuis Saez20-1
9. Tiz the BombKen McPeekBrian Hernandez Jr.30-1
10. ZandonChad BrownFlavien Prat3-1
11. Pioneer of MedinaTodd PletcherJoe Bravo30-1
12. TaibaTim YakteenMike Smith12-1
13. SimplificationAntonio SanoJose Ortiz 20-1
14. Barber RoadJohn OrtizReylu Gutierrez30-1
15. White AbarrioSaffie Joseph Jr.Tyler Gaffalione10-1
16. CyberknifeBrad CoxFlorent Geroux20-1
17. Classic CausewayBrian LynchJulien Leparoux30-1
18. Tawny PortBrad CoxRicardo Santana Jr.30-1
19. ZozosBrad CoxManny Franco20-1
20. Ethereal RoadD. Wayne LukasLuis Contreas30-1

Identifying the contenders

How can bettors try to narrow the field?

The field was established from an eight-month, 48-race campaign known as the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Along the way, it provided varied levels of qualifying points in those races.

From this group, Epicenter and Zandon emerged as the top horses.

Epicenter won the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby on March 26 and  has the shortest distance to stretch out of any horse in the field.

On April 9, Zandon captured the Blue Grass Stakes with a thunderous rally from the back of the pack.

The field’s other major stakes winners include White Abarrio (Florida Derby), Cyberknife (Arkansas Derby), Mo Donegal (Wood Memorial) and Taiba (Santa Anita Derby).

More often than not, the winner emerges from this stakes-victors contingent. 

The 2021 Kentucky Derby was an exception.

Mandaloun, elevated to first after the initial winner Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, had been sixth in a previous prep race.

However, he came through with an excellent Derby.

Know your Derby history

No horse has ever won the Derby from the No. 17 post.

Classic Causeway, this year’s 17 starter, was beaten decisively in the Florida Derby in his last outing. He would appear likely to continue the trend.

The last horse to win from the rail was Ferdinand in 1986. Horses on the rail often get pocketed and have to make up too much ground.

The winning style in recent races has been for the leader to be in the front pack, maintain good position and try to win the race down the lane.

That’s in contrast to closers, who rely on a fast early pace to weaken the frontrunners and set up a rally from the back.

Epicenter wants to be near the front but has a tricky post position in this race.

He has a speed type in Summer is Tomorrow to his immediate right. Additionally, potential speed horse Messier is two places further right.

There could be more jostling for the early lead than he is used to.

Zandon has an excellent post position and should be able to race in his stalking/closing style.

Other early speed candidates include Pioneer of Medina and Zozos.

Intermediate stalkers who would benefit from a pace that’s too fast include White Abarrio, Simplification and Cyberknife.

Mo Donegal and Zandon usually run late. Despite his ideal post, Zandon’s tactics may be tweaked, putting him closer to the pace if possible.

Taiba is an excellent story.

He won the Santa Anita Derby in only his second race. He went from a six-furlong victory to a 1 1/8-mile stakes victory in  his second outing. 

Taiba would be the first horse ever to win the Kentucky  Derby in just his third race.

Some tips for bettors

All the analysis  is based on horses who last competed in early April.

If this was the NFL, gamblers would think that this was  too long of a layoff to dive into some heavy bets.

But this is the Derby.

Don’t be surprised if some horses whose record indicates they should run well come up short.

And there’s nothing anyone can do about the traffic problems in a 20-horse race.

A horse may show certain spark and energy in the post parade and be ready to run a big one.

For Colorado, a fixed-odds preview

Centennial State bettors will get a first-hand glimpse over the coming emergence of fixed-odds horse wagering

It gained Colorado state approval in March for an upcoming launch. The exact date remains to be announced.

Meanwhile, fixed-odds wagering actually will make its U.S. debut Saturday at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

It enables bettors to retain the odds on a wager they make in advance. That’s opposed to relying on the current pari-mutuel system, in which the odds fluctuate right up until post time.

This gains a higher profile in this year’s Kentucky Derby because of Mattress Mack

Horse owner and Houston furniture magnate Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale plans to be at Churchill Downs on Saturday to bet up to $4 million again on the Derby. The big bets are a hedge on his furniture giveaway for customers if the public’s choice wins.

Mattress Mack plans to make the bet about a half hour before the race. And it will certainly impact the betting odds.

A wager of this magnitude could move a horse down at least a full point — possibly from 7-2 odds down to 5-2.

This will heavily interest bettors of Zandon or Epicenter, the early morning-line favorites.

Mattress Mack’s bet will act like a seesaw regarding these two. If a bettor likes Epicenter at 3-1 and Mattress Mack puts $4 million down on Zandon, Epicenter could become 4-1.

Conversely, a Zandon bettor could see his odds drop from 3-1 to roughly 2-1.

The impact of a late major bet like this on the overall odds is one reason Colorado proponents of fixed-odds wagering are excited that it’s in the state pipeline.

Where the money is

No horse in this qualifying process has demonstrated superiority enough to get odds less than 5-2.

Anything below that is more risk, less reward.

If that’s who you like, bet it by all means.

But wager with the knowledge that the odds should have been higher.

Key entry bets

Take the horses you like in a $1 trifecta key in the first and second position. The total cost will be $12.

Let’s say your chosen horses are Epicenter, Zandon, White Abarrio and Taiba.

The bet would look like this: $1 trifecta key with the 3 over the 10, 12 and 15.

Put the horse second and it’s 10, 12 and 15 in the first slot, 3 in the second slot and 10, 12 and 15 in the third slot.

This strategy makes sense if you figure a couple of long shots will run in the money with your favorite horse.

The philosophy can be extended into superfectas, where the payouts are substantial, but the odds go up.

Best of betting fortune.

And good luck figuring out this puzzle.

Photo by AP / Michael Conroy
Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is PlayColorado's resident horse racing and combat sports betting expert whose work can be found regularly around major races and bouts. He is a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer and also authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.

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