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If you are a fan of horse racing, there might not be a better couple of months than the ones we are about to witness.

Yes, the six-week Saratoga meet, along with the races in late July and August on the way to the Breeder’s Cup, are all interesting. But right now, in March and April of 2022, we have a blank canvas still waiting to be painted.

That is the thing that should get bettors and handicappers excited: right now, the story of the 2022 season has not been written, and there are going to be major surprises in the coming months.

“Yes, March is the start of the run-up to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May,” a Horse.bet spokesperson said. “But it really gets going in April with so many huge races around the country.

Just look at the Rebel Stakes from February 26: no one (NO ONE) gave Un Ojo any chance at 75-1 to beat even money Newgrange. I know this because Un Ojo would not have gone off at 75-1. But there the horse was, romping to victory, ensuring his spot at the Kentucky Derby, and making anyone who actually DID bet on him a lot richer.

This is just the beginning, though, as we head in March and April on the way to the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

Here is a list of the major races on the April card around the country:

  • Florida Derby – April 2, 2022
  • Arkansas Derby– April 2, 2022
  • Bluegrass Stakes – April 9, 2022
  • Wood Memorial Stakes – April 9, 2022
  • Santa Anita Derby – April 9, 2022
  • Ashland Stakes – April 9, 2022
  • Carter Handicap – April 9, 2022
  • Apple Blossom Handicap – April 23, 2022

As you can see, there are two huge weekends of racing in early April that will go a long way towards narrowing the Kentucky Derby field down to 20 from the 50 or so horses that still harbor hopes in early March.

After March 5 (Gotham and San Felipe Stakes), April 2 is a massive Saturday of racing, with the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby. I can still remember attending the 1994 Florida Derby, and watching Holy Bull romp to a near six-length victory on the way to Horse of the Year honors. He won six major races that season, but finished 12th at the Kentucky Derby, showing you just how hard it is to predict a 20-horse field.

Kentucky Derby 147
Getty Images for Churchill Downs
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Then, April 9th takes center stage with five major stakes races: the Bluegrass Stakes, the Wood Memorial Stakes, the Santa Anita Derby, the Ashland Stakes, and the Carter Handicap.

Those two days of racing should give us a better feel for which horses will be near the top of the wagering board come May 7 at Churchill Downs.

“Yes, March is the start of the run-up to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May,” a Horse.bet spokesperson said. “But it really gets going in April with so many huge races around the country.

“The races in April are spaced out so that horses can get their races in, and still qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Look, we are still sifting through the potential entries for the Derby, and which horses could maybe make runs at the titles."

“If you watched the Rebel Stakes, you saw a 75-1 odds horse, Un Ojo, upset Newgrange, who went into the race as the even-money favorite. Now, Un Ojo is in the field for the Kentucky Derby. Can he win? Who knows at this point, but he just picked up a massive win in February to get into the field, and that is half the battle at this point.

“We are probably going to see a lot more chaos in March, and especially in April, as this wide-open field starts to narrow. Who would be my pick right now to win the Kentucky Derby? Even I am not that bold–check back with me in about a month or five weeks.”

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