Kentucky Derby 2022: Are You Ready to Handicap?

Roger LeBlanc for

Churchill Downs officially kicked off the 2022 Kentucky Derby betting season with Futures Pool #1. As expected the pool, which ran through November 28, closed with option #24 “All Other Colts and Geldings” as the 3-to-5 favorite.

Two curious aspects of the pool also popped up:

  • A huge bet on #18 Smile Happy by the owner of his sire, which dropped his odds from the morning-line estimate of 50-1 to a paltry 8-1 at closing
  • The option #23 “All Fillies”

Regarding “#23, All Fillies,” in 2013 Churchill Downs changed the eligibility rules for the Kentucky Derby. No longer could fillies earn points for entry into the Derby by competing in races restricted to fillies. They had to compete in stakes races against colts to earn points toward Derby eligibility. This rule change effectively eliminated fillies from the Kentucky Derby starting in 2014.

Those rules haven’t changed, so it’s strange that Churchill offers this bet. It’s even stranger that people would bet on it. Even though no filly has won the Kentucky Derby since 1988 (and none have competed at all since 2010), bettors didn’t shun that option. It closed at a midrange 43-1, which was lower than its 50-1 morning line.

With so much value sucked out of options 18, 23 and 24, a sharp handicapper should find a value play or two, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Las Vegas futures pools, which aren’t limited to 24 options, offered better odds on 16 of the 22 individual horses listed in Churchill pool #1. Here are the six horses you could’ve secured better odds on in the Churchill pool (compared to Vegas odds at William Hill):

  • 2 Classic Causeway (44-1 vs. 35-1)
  • 3 Commandperformance (31-1 vs. 30-1)
  • 14 Osbourne (155-1 vs. 150-1)
  • 15 Oviatt Class (87-1 vs. 60-1)
  • 20 Trafalgar (98-1 vs. 90-1)
  • 22 Zandon (56-1 vs. 50-1)

I chose a different approach in a search for value. I used the betting strategy detailed in The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby. That led me to six contenders with the running style approximating the one recommended in the book. To earn the biggest bang for my buck, I bet all six in exactas on top of option 24, “All Other Colts and Geldings”:

  • 2 Classic Causeway (44-1, $262.40 exacta)
  • 5 Epicenter (52-1, $502.20 exacta)
  • 10 Howling Time (43-1, $225.40 exacta)
  • 12 Major General (43-1, $315.00 exacta)
  • 14 Osbourne (155-1, $933.60 exacta)
  • 21 Varatti (54-1, $755.40 exacta)

Given the likely rate of attrition from now until the first Saturday in May, I expect about 16 to 18 of the 22 individual entries to fail to qualify for the Derby. By using “All Other” on the bottom of my exactas, I should have almost a complete exacta wheel in place on any of my selected horses who make it to the Derby.

Betting on the Derby in November (or even in the next pool in January) is a risky proposition. My suggestions for success:

  • Keep plenty of powder dry for upcoming futures pools and for betting on Derby day. Make small bets at first and step your way up to larger ones as the race draws near.
  • Read The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby. (The book can be purchased postage free at In addition to the top qualifiers under the book’s guidelines winning the Derby 5 times in the past 8 years, the Guide steered readers away from nearly all the early futures pools favorites since its publication in 2013. Astute readers would’ve wasted no futures money on Kentucky Derby pretenders like Uncle Mo, Verrazano, Wicked Strong, Frosted, Gun Runner, Irish War Cry, McCraken, Classic Empire, Essential Quality and many other highly hyped contenders.

Good luck and happy reading!

Lazy Bettor's Guide to Kentucky Derby
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