Churchill Downs: Updates from the Site of Kentucky Derby 148

Chris Adams

The 2022 Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, but Churchill Downs has already finished 3 cards this week. Here’s what we learned about the track.

Early Speed Improving on Churchill Downs Dirt

Early in the week it looked like the place to be on the Churchill Downs main track was off the pace. The greatest advantage seemed to be for those running on the outside paths. Rail speed, which is normally lethal on dirt, was folding badly in almost every race.

However, as the week progressed the track seemed to correct itself. By the time “Thurby” rolled around on Thursday, there was plenty to suggest that inside speed had every much a right to win as those coming from out of it.

In fact, it appears as though the track is now playing to its typical profile which is dominant for horses that like to sit within 2 or 3 lengths of the lead.

What Are the Implications for the 2022 Kentucky Derby and Oaks?

Nest should benefit from the current trends at Churchill Downs
Nest. Photo Credit Blood Horse

For those playing the Kentucky Oaks and Derby this means upgrades to horses near the lead. For the Oaks this includes Nest and Echo Zulu. Secret Oath would generally be a bit further back and Kathleen O. would be looking to make a deep close. Maybe this trend tips the scale toward the former.

As for this year’s Kentucky Derby, this trend does little to impact the outcome as most of the main contenders like to be close early. If this trend continues it could hinder runners like Mo Donegal and Zandon who like to make big late moves.

New Churchill Downs Turf Appears Very Fast

After shutting down the turf course last year, Churchill Downs unveiled their new course at the start of this meet. One of the trends early in the meet is that it appears to play very heavily to speed.

American turf racing is often characterized by slow early paces with a flourish to the wire. However, so far in the meet the course has been overwhelming tilted toward horses who can find the front early in the race.

This could be a great way for handicappers to separate themselves from the public for the turf races on the two-day card.

The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are both run on dirt, so this will not impact those races. However, there are plenty of races on Oaks Day and Derby Day that will use the new grass surface.

Asmussen Struggles

Steve Asmussen

Steve Asmussen is the all-time winningest trainer in American horse racing history. However, he is currently on an abysmal losing streak at Churchill Downs that has spanned over 80 races.

Many believe that horses go as the barn goes and this could mean downgrades for some of the likely post time short prices in the big races on Friday and Saturday.

Echo Zulu in the Oaks and Epicenter in the Derby are expected to be in the top 3 odds choices of their respected races and are both trained by Asmussen.

Rain in the Forecast for Oaks Day at Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs has had a history of rain on Oaks and Derby weekend.
Justify wins the Kentucky Derby in the slop. Photo Credit USA Today

Early in the race week, fans got a brief look at how the track handles moisture. The problem was that it came at the very tail end of the card. Churchill Downs is one of the quickest drying tracks in the country, so it gave very little sample size to make any declarations.

The current forecast suggests that the Kentucky Oaks will likely be run on an off surface with a 40% or better chance of rain from 9 am on in Kentucky. That rain is projected to continue through the morning on Saturday.

Given the quick drying properties of the track there is a pretty good chance that the track could be back to fast before the horses take the track for the 148th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

More 2022 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Coverage

This article was designed to help make any final changes to selections. For information on who to pick and how to play, check out all of the Betting News coverage of Churchill Downs.

2022 Kentucky Derby and Oaks Analysis Articles

2022 Kentucky Derby and Oaks Update Articles

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