Providence College Investigates
Who Will Win the 2022 Kentucky Derby?
Margaret Maloney ’23
The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on May 7, 2022, the first Saturday in May, in Louisville, Kentucky. The race is open to 20 horses, who qualified for the race by earning points on the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby. While there are lots of contenders who are favored to win for a variety of different reasons, it is going to be Epicenter’s year to win the derby for the first time ever. Epicenter’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, is the leading trainer in North America by wins and has won everything besides the Kentucky Derby. He has 9,946 wins as of August 2021. Epicenter started his racing career at Churchill Downs, finishing sixth in his debut last September and then breaking his maiden two months later with a 3 1/2-length score. All four races since then came at Fair Grounds, where he went 3-1-0 with a pair of Grade 2 victories in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. Epicenter is the 2022 Kentucky Derby favorite for a reason, winning four of his last five starts. His singular flaw during that time frame was a runner-up showing at the Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 22. Epicenter has also had success at Churchill Downs in the past, winning a one-mile maiden special weight race last November. Assmussen describes Epicenter as “a really attractive horse that’s very physical… he takes everything he does with a great amount of ease. He’s always maintained a very forward step. From last fall to him arriving here (in the spring), you can tell the difference in his confidence level and demeanor. … He looks a lot more mature and confident.”
Epicenter’s jockey, Joel Rosario, is a Champion jockey in American Thoroughbred horse racing, originally from the Dominican Republic. In the space of five weeks in 2013, he rode the winners of the Dubai World Cup and the Kentucky Derby. More recently, he rode Knicks Go to wins in the Pegasus World Cup, Whitney Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2021. In 2022, Rosario held his ground with 48 wins. When riding under Asmussen as the trainer, in the six races, four winners have come inside of the top-3, making the odds even stronger. Rosario is considered one of the elites as a jockey with 3,301 first-place finishes for $270,742,564 in winnings. Overall, with an elite trainer backing him, and one of the best jockeys on top, this is the best time to get on Epicenter’s odds before potentially shifting as the race gets closer.
Leo Hainline ’22
Smile Happy will leave Lucky Seven Stables smiling happily after he wins them their first-ever Kentucky Derby this weekend.
The dark bay colt is a Kentucky native and won his first-ever race this past October in his home state by five-and-a-half lengths on a mile and 1/16 long course.
Almost a month after his first victory, Smile Happy dominated again, this time at Churchill Downs where the Derby will be hosted. There he grabbed first place by three-and-a-quarter lengths.
Trainer Kenny McPeek has confidence that Smile Happy will be victorious this weekend:
“This is a really good horse. This is only his fourth career start. I feel like I could win the Derby or the Preakness with this horse.”
McPeek also believes the familiar terrain will work to their advantage: “I liken this to a home game for us.”
Jockey Corey Lanerie has five previous Derby appearances. His best finish was in 2017 when he finished second place with Looking at Lee, a horse with a winning odds of 33-1.
Lanerie has never mounted off on a horse placed at odds lower than 25-1. The 47-year-old jockey is due for a victory in the event after earning a good reputation for prior performances. This surely will be his best chance to date to win the prestigious race. He stated, “I’ve won a lot of races—I think I’m only like (114) from 5,000 (winners)—but I haven’t won the big ones… It might be this year. It only takes one horse.”
At 14-1 odds, Smile Happy is a respectable underdog pick. His previous success at the venue should not be overlooked. Most experts are focusing on favorites Epicenter (5-1) and Messier (6-1) as two horses likely to provide a top display. John Velazquez, one of the most famous Derby jockeys, is mounting off on Messier this year. The horse was formerly trained by the controversial Bob Baffert, whose horse Medina Spirit finished first in 2021 but was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned drug.
Many are selecting Tiz the Bomb (20-1) as their dark horse pick. The Japanese horse Crown Pride (50-1) has also been cited as a good long-shot bet. However, these colts will not be able to provide the performance by Smile Happy on May 7.
Smile Happy and jockey Corey Lanerie’s familiarity with Churchill Downs will lead them to a first-place finish in the 2022 Kentucky Derby.