I’ve been on a self-imposed break from horse betting for some months now. It’s partly a resting-on-my-laurels feeling after finally hitting a Pick 6 at Santa Anita last fall, along with a hesitation to go back to betting Santa Anita during their recent tragic Winter meet which featured so many mysterious horse deaths that racing got suspended for weeks on end.
But now it’s the first Saturday in May, and that means the Kentucky Derby.
And when you’re talkin’ a 20+ horse race with pools the size of oceans, I’ll set aside those Pick 6 laurels and venture back into handicapping the thing and seeing if I can put together some winning tickets. I did well with last year’s race and again with the Belmont (the Preakness always disappoints me from a betting standpoint) so here we go again for 2019.
The original opening favorite, Omaha Beach, has been scratched, making the race more interesting on a lot of levels. I’d originally had Omaha Beach among my possible winners, and his absence doesn’t simply bump everyone else up a notch since horses who have raced against each other before or are next to each other at the outset and so forth sometimes personally duel within a race, and with him gone, all of that strategery went out the window. Went back and ‘capped the race a 2nd time.
On top of that, it’s supposed to rain all day in Kentucky on Saturday, so I’d expect a muddy track. Went back over it all AGAIN.
And here’s the result: I think #7 Maximum Security has a real shot at victory with Omaha Beach on the sideline. Maximum Security is undefeated in 4 races, steadily improving (most recently winning the Florida Derby), and demonstrates speed and class numbers superior to the majority of the field. Opening line on him is also 10-1, but expect that to drop to 9/2 or the like, he might even wind up the post time favorite. He runs just as well in the mud, too.
The other two horses I’d put in the can-win-it category are #5 Improbable and #17 Roadster, two of the three Bob Baffert entries in the race. Improbable has faster speed than Roadster, whose form has been improving enough to overtake the other Baffert entry right next to him, #16 Game Winner. Roadster overtook Game Winner from behind to win the Santa Anita Derby, and Improbable finished 2nd to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby. But what makes me think they might all be battling for 2nd place is how they have been placing 2nd since returning from layoffs. Third-after-layoff is a legendary handicapping item to look for, and that gives us both Game Winner & Improbable… while Roadster has been a winner both times after layoff, albeit with Mike Smith as jockey, not Florent Geroux, who hasn’t won with Baffert this year.
Roadster seems to have the best shot here, I’d put Improbable next and then Game Winner.
The other horses I’ll throw into possible trifecta and superfecta combos: #6 Vekoma and #8 Tacitus, both speedy enough to keep up with my top horses, but less likely to close at the end.
So there you go, the half-dozen best I can cull from my figurin’. I feel rich enough with my Pick 6 money to box some combo bets with ’em all, since it looks like the odds indicate larger pools in those exotics than in more recent years where a runaway favorite didn’t disappoint.
So crank up those mint juleps! Will it be bad karma for me if I drink my preferred Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey on Derby day? I like it better than Kentucky bourbon, sorry. Though my favorite brand of rye comes from Kentucky. Maybe I’ll have that for good luck.
And maybe I’ll start now.