Bob Baffert is absent from Churchill Downs, and his Barn 33, once the epicenter of the backside during Derby week, is oddly silen

but as the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby draws closer, the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer is hardly forgotten.

The colts he trained until the end of March, Messier and Taiba, will be front of mind among casual fans and horseplayers on Saturday and very likely at the front of the pack after the gates of America’s most famous race open.

Baffert is serving a 90-day suspension handed down by Kentucky regulators after Medina Spirit, the apparent winner of last year’s Derby, failed a drug test and was disqualified.

The ongoing horse opera now has a new leading man: Tim Yakteen. He is a former assistant and longtime friend of Baffert and knows the Hall of Famer’s system well

This is his first Derby as a head trainer, a milestone that he conceded could be as nerve-racking as it is exciting. Messier and Taiba are contenders with similar front-running styles and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockeys — John Velazquez aboard Messier and Mike Smith on Taiba

Here's a refresher on these types of bets from SportsLine's Jody Demling: Kentucky Derby Exacta: Pick the first- and second-place finishers in the correct order. A $2 exacta returned $503 at the 2021 Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit and Mandaloun.

Demling has specific recommendations for exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers so you can cover all your bases at the Kentucky Derby 2022. He's sharing them over at SportsLine.