The best longshot to bet in the 2022 Kentucky Derby
Bettors who like their Kentucky Derby (G1) winners paying off at a big price have taken it on the chin for much of the past decade. Beginning in 2013, an unprecedented seven consecutive post-time favorites wore the blanket of roses at the end of the mile-and-a-quarter classic.
However, due in part to the cyclical nature of the game, favorites have fallen a bit short behind longer-priced runners over the past three years. Country House returned $132.40 after he was elevated to first in 2019 following the disqualification of Maximum Security, who would have paid $11 had his number stayed up. Authentic returned $18.80 after turning back odds-on favorite Tiz the Law in the 2020 pandemic Derby, and last year Medina Spirit produced a $26.20 mutuel that was unaffected by his subsequent disqualification from the victory.
Although favorites in general have done better in the Derby over the past two decades than they did back in the 1980s and 1990s, there's something about the potential thrill of scooping out a longshot winner of the race and earning the bragging rights that would follow from it.
Who, then, is the best longshot to play in the 2022 Kentucky Derby? Whether in the win pool or in vertical exotics (e.g. exacta, trifecta, superfecta), #8 Charge It (20-1) demands some attention. Although he's far from the finished article, and thus will need a lot of luck to prevail, Charge It has a lot of tools to become a serious racehorse, perhaps as soon as Saturday.
First, his pedigree is to die for. Charge It is by Tapit, who has yet to sire a Derby winner but has seen four sons conquer the Belmont S. (G1). The most recent was Essential Quality, who last year narrowly missed winning the Kentucky Derby as the favorite.
The female side of the family is outstanding. Charge It's second dam was the multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, who reared 2013 champion three-year-old colt Will Take Charge, Florida Derby (G1) winner Take Charge Indy, and the Grade 1-winning mare As Time Goes By.
Take Charge Lady is also the second dam of the half-siblings Take Charge Brandi and Omaha Beach. The former was a juvenile champion filly, the latter a multiple Grade 1 winner who was unfortunately scratched from the 2019 Kentucky Derby he likely would have been favored to win.
While Charge It will win plaudits for breeding and the likelihood of relishing 10 furlongs, his relative inexperience is the main knock and a potentially significant hurdle. He only debuted Jan. 8, in a one-mile maiden at Gulfstream, which he lost by a neck. After graduating by 8 1/2 lengths over the same track and distance second out, Charge It next stretched out around two turns in the nine-furlong Florida Derby (G1).
After hitting the gate at the start and settling a few lengths off the pace for the first time, Charge It proceeded to run a highly respectable race, given his inexperience. He wound up second, 1 1/4 lengths behind the more seasoned White Abarrio, despite displaying greenness in the stretch by lugging in when attempting to close the gap on the winner.
As is well known, 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify is the only horse over the past 140 years to have won the Derby without having raced as a two-year-old. Charge It will need to take another significant step forward to join such illustrious company.
Again, it will take a lot of things to go his way for him to do it, but the raw potential is there. Other things to like are the fact he'll likely be a bigger price than two others in the field that were unraced at two (Taiba and Zozos), trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Derby twice before, and jockey Luis Saez is surely hungry to make amends for his loss aboard Essential Quality last year.
In a seemingly wide-open edition of the Kentucky Derby, Charge It might indeed be the best longshot to keep an eye on.