2 Kentucky Derby Longshots to Consider

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

The Road to the Kentucky Derby is nearly complete. The first Saturday in May is barely more than three weeks away. Who will win the Run for the Roses?

Favorites have enjoyed plenty of Derby success over the last 10 years. In fact, the top betting choice claimed victory every year from 2013 through 2018. But when Country House was elevated to first place at odds of 65-1 in 2019, he started a new streak of upset winners.

In 2020, Authentic took top honors at 8-1, defeating overwhelming 7-10 favorite Tiz the Law in pacesetting fashion. The following year, Medina Spirit (12-1) led all the way to cross the wire half a length clear of Mandaloun (26-1), and while the status of Medina's Spirit's Derby win is still under dispute due to a positive post-race drug test, the betting payoffs won't be affected.

Which longshots are capable of outrunning expectations in the 2022 Kentucky Derby? Based off the projected fields, I believe the following two horses (both likely to start in the double-digit odds range) are well worth supporting on the first Saturday in May:

Crown Pride

In case you haven't noticed, Japanese racehorses have been traveling the globe with increasing frequency, and they've been winning major prizes left and right.

At the 2021 Breeders' Cup, Loves Only You took the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) while Marche Lorraine posted a stunning upset in the Distaff (G1). During the 2022 Saudi Cup program, Japanese horses won four events. And on Dubai World Cup day last month, they upped their game with five victories.

One of those Dubai wins came courtesy of Crown Pride, who sprung an upset in the 1,900-meter (1 3/16-mile) UAE Derby (G2). Racing over a slow track unconducive to fast times, Crown Pride settled in fifth place behind fast fractions of :47.63 and 1:11.81 (impressive in a race with no run-up start) before gradually rallying to beat pacesetter Summer Is Tomorrow by 2 3/4 lengths.

Crown Pride defeated a quality field in the UAE Derby. Among the also-rans were Saudi Derby 1-2 finishers Pinehurst and Sekifu (the former a Grade 1 winner in the U.S.) and also Gilded Age, who previously ran third in the Withers S. (G3) behind future Wood Memorial (G2) runner-up Early Voting and next-out Rebel S. (G2) winner Un Ojo.

Crown Pride won his first two starts in Japan before kicking off 2022 with a sixth-place finish in the Hyacinth, his first start off a layoff. Crown Pride clearly stepped forward in the UAE Derby, considering Hyacinth winner Combustion ran 11th in Dubai, and he's eligible to do so again in the Kentucky Derby.

Some handicappers will dismiss Crown Pride because he didn't run especially fast in the UAE Derby; his final time of 1:59.76 was modest. But remember Master Fencer, the Japanese-based longshot who contested the 2019 Kentucky Derby? He entered with a less accomplished resume than Crown Pride but outran expectations at odds of 58-1, gaining a ton of ground down the homestretch to cross the wire in seventh place, just 2 1/4 lengths behind eventual upgraded winner Country House.

I believe it's only a matter of time before the right Japanese horse ships in and wins the Kentucky Derby. I don't know if Crown Pride will be the one to do it, but I definitely want to use him in exotic wagers on the first Saturday in May.

Mo Donegal

It's been 22 years since a Wood Memorial (G2) winner prevailed in the Kentucky Derby. And it's been 27 years since a Remsen S. (G2) hero visited the Derby winner's circle. Can Mo Donegal break both of these losing streaks at once?

I don't think it's out of the question by any means. Late runners like Mo Donegal haven't had much success in recent editions of the Kentucky Derby, but Mo Donegal isn't your average deep closer. He does much more than pick up the pieces as the leaders tire; instead, he runs them down with terrific bursts of acceleration.

Remember Mo Donegal's victory in the Remsen last fall? Much attention was focused on the fact Mo Donegal put runner-up Zandon in tight quarters down the homestretch, even bumping his rival while prevailing by a nose. Less attention was paid to the fact pedestrian early fractions of :25.18, :51.47, and 1:16.34 gave a tactical advantage to the pace-tracking Zandon, yet Mo Donegal ran him down anyway. This performance was flattered by Zandon's impressive victory in the Blue Grass S. (G1) at Keeneland last week.

The finishing fractions of the Remsen were strong; according to Trakus, Mo Donegal sprinted the final three furlongs in :37.12 and the final furlong in :12.33. But he finished even faster in the Wood Memorial last week. Making his second start of the season, Mo Donegal trailed the leaders by 4 1/2 lengths at the three-eighths pole, but somehow blazed the final three furlongs in a freakish :35.61 to get up and defeat pacesetting Withers S. (G3) winner Early Voting by a neck in 1:47.96, the fastest Wood Memorial since 2005.

This was an epic performance, and I can't recall the last time a Kentucky Derby contender finished as fast as Mo Donegal in his final 1 1/8-mile prep race. The Derby will mark Mo Donegal's third run of the season, so he still has upside for improvement. His turn-of-foot and ability to produce perfectly timed rallies is reminding me of Zenyatta, and I suspect there's more to Mo Donegal than first meets the eye. The way he darted through traffic to run down Early Voting in the Wood Memorial makes me think Mo Donegal has not only talent, but also a serious will to win, stamping him as a formidable Kentucky Derby contender.

Now it's your turn! Which longshots do you like in the 2022 Kentucky Derby?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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