Good afternoon, boys and girls! Before getting to the handicapping guide that will serve as your contraindicator tear sheet, we have a few programming notes that warrant mention. For the second consecutive year, the sports slate for the first Saturday in May is lacking in luster, with no daytime NBA or NHL playoff games, no major golf tournaments, and a boxing match that you have to stream on DAZN, whatever any of that means. For your dedicated author, that lack of action would typically be offset by a full day of horse racing, cigars, and ridiculous outfits. However, for the first time since 2012, there will be no Kentucky Derby Party this year. The silver sequin blazer will have to wait. But if you think that will stop me from sitting on my couch in a seersucker suit with a personal pitcher of mint juleps, then you’re either new here or you haven’t been paying attention. Regardless of how you choose to enjoy your Saturday, my best advice to you (and to myself, I guess) is to stay hydrated and hope for the best. On to the horsey stuff…
In February of 2018, I bought a limited edition, AMERICAN PHAROAH-themed bottle of Makers Mark. Seeing as A.P. had recently become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, I speculated the bottle would continue to increase in value as more and more years passed until the next Triple Crown winner. Naturally, four months later, JUSTIFY breezed through all three races and that was that. I keep the bottle on prominent display as a reminder of my spectacular inability to speculate on assets, a skill I luckily don’t need to rely on for gainful employment. The point of this extremely stupid anecdote is that thoroughbred horseracing is currently mired in somewhat of a malaise, with the evasiveness of the Triple Crown now gone. In accomplishing the feat for the 2nd time in four years (breaking the “Curse of Apollo” in doing so), and then promptly retiring to stud, JUSTIFY and his connections have left the casual racing fan wondering what more there is to see – like that video of the dog that finally catches his tail and is paralyzed with confusion.
With this in mind, I encourage you all to enjoy the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby specifically BECAUSE there is relatively little on the line (from a historical standpoint). An early scratch to the morning line favorite (OMAHA BEACH), coupled with a relatively level (if unspectacular) class of competition, creates the ideal setting for an exciting and potentially lucrative race. Add in the fact that the forecast currently points to a wet track, and this race sets up to be wide open from the perspective of race dynamics, and at the pari-mutuel window. Finally, this year’s Derby is bereft of the “no brainers” that we saw with JUSTIFY last year and AMERICAN PHAROAH three years prior. To wit, in 2015 there were five Derby starters with career-high Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or higher. This year, there is only one (MAXIMUM SECURITY, 10/1), and that horse has never run on an off track.
FINALLY, some thoughts regarding handicapping angles that are specific to this year’s race. The first addresses the issue of the “foreign invader,” a hilariously antiquated term that, for some reason, nobody seems to have an issue with. This year, MASTER FENCER (50/1) ships in from Japan, fresh off a 2nd place finish in the Fukuryu Stakes. Since 1967, 46 horses have run in the Kentucky Derby having made their last start outside of the U.S. Two of those horses won (CANONERO 1971 & BOLD FORBES 1976), one finished second, and the other 43 finished out of the money. Lack of track success aside, the entry of a Japan-based horse will likely bring a significant boost to the wagering pool from the Asian racing community, which portends well for the payouts. The other angle I’m looking at relates to pace dynamics. The last winner to take the Derby field gate-to-wire was WAR EMBLEM (2002), and before that, WINNING COLORS (1988). Given the loss of early speed with the scratch of OMAHA BEACH, and the multitude of runners that have had issues with the gate and/or the break, the way first furlong plays out will factor strongly into the outcome at the finish line.
So that’s it. As always, the goal in handicapping the Derby is to find valuein a crowded, talented, and relatively untested field. This year’s race should provide plenty. With that said, just a reminder that there are 93,024possible winning superfecta combinations (assuming a field of 19runners), so if playing birthdays or numbers is your thing, feel free to ignore everything I’ve spent so much time and energy detailing above. After all, the post-time favorite has won six years in a row, and I’ve picked them exactly 0 times. Without further ado…
Advice from our resident Horseman:
2) GAME WINNER16WILL BE BOXING IN AN
LONG SHOT – CUTTING HUMOR10(SMARTLY NAMED COLT COMES OFF
CAREER BEST EFFORT AND LANDS MAJOR JOCKEY UPGRADE)
KEY FACTS & FIGURES
Remember, these are just our thoughts and are in no way an endorsement to wager on these horses (or to wager, period). Good luck and enjoy!