Kentucky Derby 2021 Predictions

Seems like we did this last fall, didn’t we? Back on its regular schedule for 2021, and your humble prognosticator has some picks. I hit my exotics last September, so maybe I’ll continue my hot streak.

And as a bonus, I’ll be betting the Pick 6 and Pick 4 sequences culminating with the Derby, and also offer my picks on those races as well. Feel free to bet along with me if you also enjoy losing money.

In the Derby, the current favorite is 14 Essential Quality, whose numbers are somewhat better than the nearest competitors, but this is FAR from a slam-dunk. The horse he nosed out in the Bluegrass a month ago, 17 Highly Motivated, well, will be highly motivated to win this time, and looks to be in somewhat better form from the works. I’d look for those two to be dueling down the stretch, and a strong late closer who might outrun ’em both at that point could be 15 Rock Your World. Any one of those three, I’d figure, is the best bet to win.

Filling out my exotics will be 9 Hot Rod Charlie, sort of a question mark since he ran his best (and most recent) race with a different trainer. Doug O’Neil has won big races & the Derby before, but his record lately isn’t as strong. But I still like the odds of this one finishing third or fourth, and I’d include him in trifectas and supers. I also think 8 Medina Spirit is another horse in this category – not quite fast enough to win, but fast enough to sneak in there at third or fourth. Normally I would have rated 1 Known Agenda higher, but I really think the rail position will screw him. There are a bunch of slower horses in positions 2 through whatever who start faster than he does, and I could easily see him getting boxed out of position for most of the race. Normally he might have made my cut for possible winner, but I can only see him maneuvering out of traffic to possibly only come in third or fourth. So another one for the exotics.

We have a twenty cent Pick 6 sequence of all stakes races leading up to the big race, so here goes:

Race 7: In the Derby City Distaff, the overwhelming favorite is 4 Gamine, and I can’t see a good argument for anyone else. If there’s any reason he gets scratched, I’ll go with 3 Bell’s The One, but I’ll single Gamine here.

Race 8: In the Pat Day Mile, I like the 3 Jackie’s Warrior and the 8 Dream Shake.

Race 9: Also the start of a Pick 4, the American Turf Stakes, and I like the 4 Annex and the 13 Scarlett Sky. The 1 Excellent Timing, intrigues me a bit and I’ll include him on the Pick 4 and not my Pick 6. He’s fast and undefeated (good), but he’s never been at this class level or on turf (iffy).

Race 10: In the Churchill Downs Stakes, I like 9 Whitmore and 4 Flagstaff, along with 3 Basin as my longshot to add to the Pick 4.

Race 11: The Turf Classic gave me the most grief. A lot of horses can win this one, I kept going over it and going over it again and kept coming up with different groups, so I keep wondering if this is a race that’ll kill all my tickets…. but in any case, I think I’ll go with the 5 Domestic Spending and the 7 Smooth Like Strait in my Pick 6 and throw in the 9 Ride A Comet, the 3 Colonel Liam and possibly last fall’s winner of this race, the 6 Digital Age, in the Pick 4. All the horses have very similar numbers. The 5 and 7 are slightly better and came in 1 and 2 by a neck at Del Mar, so here’s looking at a rematch, I guess. But this one might need some editing.

I might edit the tickets Saturday… the pick 4 looks a little fat and the pick 6 a little thin, but whatever.

Your mileage may vary.

Kentucky Derby Predictions 2020

I guess this is what it took to get me to emerge from my non-blogging cave for the past several weeks… or is it months? I’ve lost all track of time since all this virus BS began. I can’t tell one day from another, except that each day seems to suck more than the previous one.

I’m tired of it all. How about you?

I’d like to think it ends with logical and reasoned decisions made by people with an adult view of the world, but I’d also like to think I can pick the powerball numbers at will. So I’ll dispense with predictions of violence and apocalypse and stick to picking this year’s Kentucky Derby, bumped this year to Labor Day weekend from its traditional May spot.

The clear favorite this year is 17 Tiz The Law, and for good reason – this horse simply outclasses the remainder of the field. The current line is 3-5 on him, and it’s been a while since a Derby favorite has been under even money. He’s got the speed and the consistency, and has won every race in his career except for a sloppy track effort.

Forecast for Churchill Downs on Saturday is sunny & clear. Fast dry track. Check.

So I’ll definitely go with 17 Tiz The Law as my winner… but with odds like that and MY ENORMOUS EGO to be satisfied, it’s time to think about what sorts of combo plays are possible.

My second choice would be 18 Authentic, one of two Baffert trained entries. Authentic has a near perfect record, save a close failed-as-favorite effort in the Santa Anita Derby. Bounced back nicely in the Haskell with the great Mike Smith aboard… but today, Smith will be riding his long-time partner 16 Honor AP, another horse I’d throw into my combos. Authentic switches to John Velazquez, who has a very nice 3/4 in the money record with Baffert with two wins. That tells me Baffert thinks he’s got a definite shot against Tiz The Law, and is definitely gunning for a money position. I’d also say the same for Honor AP and Smith, even if some of the numbers aren’t as strong.

My other picks for possible money finishes would be 15 NY Traffic, currently 20-1, despite running a fantastic Haskell Stakes, only losing by a nose to Authentic. This horse is improving and comes into this race with some nice momentum, ready to challenge horses who look better on paper… but I’m thinking he could get into that 2-3-4 position and fatten up any exotic pools if he stays 20-1 (though I won’t be surprised if those odds drop considerably by post time.) Rounding out my exotic field are 2 Max Player at 30-1. He’s lost to Tiz The Law twice, but puts up some impressive speed figures recently, and the works tell me his new trainer has him running faster than before. He’s also a closer – could be the kind of horse who sits in the middle for a chunk of the race and then runs into a money position down the stretch. I also would give some chance to 6 King Guillermo, another 20-1 dark horse who shows improving works and the potential to come out ahead in a race-inside-the-race type dynamic of horses competing for 3rd or 4th despite Tiz The Law clearly in the lead.

So it’s looking like a 17/15,16,18 exacta ticket and a 17,18/2,6,15,16,17,18/2,6,15,16,17,18 trifecta, maybe. I might prune depending on odds changes, or if I decide to go all-in on Tiz winning regardless of my combos. But since I’m still playing with house money in my eyes from my long-ago pick 6 win, maybe I’ll get extravagant.

Haven’t bet the horses in a while. One day of betting Del Mar earlier this summer scared me away when I watched twenty bucks go down the toilet when Del Mar did what Del Mar does and NOTHING seemed predictable. And this was after some nice wins at Santa Anita.

Ah well… Santa Anita returns on September 19 for a month or so… I’ll wait til then.

Belmont Stakes Predictions 2019

I’m still amazed War of Will won the Preakness. I didn’t see it coming. So bear that level of prognosticatin’ genius in mind as I make my picks for the final leg in this year’s Triple Crown races, Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

My general rule is to throw out any horse that ran in the Preakness when they have to run against some killer route runners that have gotten a lot more rest. I made exceptions when I (along with many others) correctly picked the recent Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify, or when I woulda picked I’ll Have Another if he’d run the Belmont. So when I tell you that #9 War Of Will at the opening line of 2-1 is totally beatable, it’s NOT because I’m still whinin’ over missing the Preakness, I’m simply applying a proven historic standard that horses who have run in the Preakness (AND the Derby in this case) don’t muster the energy against fresh horses of a similar class.

So who is left? Well, the opening line favorite at 9-5, #10 Tacitus is a good bet to win it. I picked him as a possibility in the Derby, and he did decently down the stretch to come in 4th (oh EXCUSE me, 3rd thanks to disqualification, that LAME disqualification…. and I call it lame since I picked that horse to win. You can’t fault me for honesty.).

But checking the numbers, I gotta say that Tacitus is beatable here, and I can point to two strong possibles to do it: The first is another Derby runner who was gaining on all of ’em down the stretch and given another 1/4 mile, the grueling length of the Belmont, had an excellent chance of catching & overtaking Tacitus – #3 Master Fencer, opening at a nice 8-1, though I’d expect that to fall to 4-1 or 9-2 by post time. He’s mostly raced in Japan and not at this distance, but he’s got the speed and class, and it looks like they’re stretching him out a bit by looking at the works. If he and Tacitus run similar to how they did in the Derby, and that was on a sloppy track – this time we’ll get a fast one – Master Fencer should outrun him in the end.

My other possible is #7 Sir Winston. While he’s never really competed at this level, he’s the only horse in the field to achieve the speed figures usually associated with winners of this race, albeit at the G3 level Peter Pan stakes last month. He had veteran Joel Rosario in the saddle for that one, and Rosario is on him again this time. This horse closes… and while he lost earlier in the year to Tacitus, much like Master Fencer in the Derby, he was gaining on him and had a real shot at overtaking him had the distance been longer. And he’s 12-1 on the opening line, maybe 8-1 by post time.

So it all comes down to whether or not Tacitus can maintain the lead down that long distance, or be caught by #3 or #7, in my opinion. I’ll probably wuss out and do a trifecta box of them. This field doesn’t look like it will yield monster pools & payouts on all the exotics, so I’ll probably just limit myself to a “let’s see if I just get it right this time” type bet.

And yeah, I might throw War of Will in there on the exotics, but not to win.

Preakness 2019 Predictions

After that debacle of a Kentucky Derby, perhaps we can begin anew with some Preakness handicapping, eh?

Not that I was too wrong in my Derby predictions, picking Maximum Security to win before that lame disqualification. But I would have messed up my combos regardless, with 2 long shots running into the money and knocking some my other horses down to 4, 5, and 6.

I’m always less excited about the Preakness, to be honest. Fewer horses, smaller pools, and in way too many years a lopsided favorite destroying any chance of decent payoffs on combos.

But not this year! The Derby Champ and REAL Derby Champ aren’t in it, a few other horses dropped, and our favorite, Baffert’s Improbable, is opening at 5-2 and will probably go up as other horses, like the ones I’m about to mention, come down.

So I might put some other combos together, or I might just stick with the two horses I think have a really good shot at winning it despite their lack of experience at this class level.

My top choice is #7 Alwaysmining, winner of his last 6 races by multiple lengths, and whose consistent clock times indicate a strong chance to go gate to wire here. He’s in great form, got some killer workouts… the only caveat is a poor trainer record in graded stakes, something this horse has not run. BUT he’s got a good pedigree for stakes winners…. so I’m liking it. He’s 8-1 on the opening line, but expect that to drop to maybe 5-1 or so by post-time.

After that, another non-graded stakes, non-stakes winner of ANY caliber is the increasingly speedy #3 Warrior’s Charge, coming off of 2 straight wins by multiple lengths. Again, great time, solid works, good form… raring to go. And he’s 12-1 opening line, probably knocked down to 8-1 or so by post time.

I think Improbable is a totally beatable favorite here. I also think that other highly-touted horses like War of Will, Win Win Win or Bourbon War don’t have the speed to catch my 2 choices. The other horses I can see vying for money spots might be #5 Owendale at 10-1 opening, #12 Anothertwistafate (although he does MUCH better on artificial surface) and #4 Improbable (not a winner, but I can see him 2, 3 or 4).

If I’m right and it’s 3 or 7 followed by those others, those combos are gonna be worth it, especially if everyone decides they love Improbable enough to knock him down to 2-1 or so. But we’ll see. The weather should be decent, and the track won’t be the mudslide we got at Kentucky.

Here’s hoping we get a winner without the instant replay committee BS. And here’s hoping it’s my horse again.

The Future Is Now: We Are All Saints Fans For 15 Minutes

Welcome to 21st century sports, where the results get to change due to bad calls and committee meetings after the fact.

Maximum Security may have crossed the finish line at the Derby first, but after some interminable review of tape, his move to impede a horse slowing down anyway somehow determines that the 2nd place 65-1 shot Country House gets to win.

Barely a bump. Never affected the 2nd place horse. No one watching those replays would think it changed the outcome of the race.

No matter! Maximum Security gets disqualified!

AND ALL MY TICKETS GO DOWN. (And yes, that’s why I’m really angry).

From the volume & quantity of the booing as they hand out the trophy, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess the crowd at Churchill Downs feels the same way I do.

Vox populi sez BULLSHIT.

We’ve been treated to horrible reffing during the NBA finals, we got to see the egregious non-call of pass interference knocking the Saints from the Superbowl, we get bad umpiring over balls and strikes every day in baseball.

And we get endless reviews, replays, and bullshit.

Not just in sports, either, we can get it all over. We can have endlessly disputed election results where people refuse to concede, or public policies bounced around friendly and unfriendly judges at different court levels, criminal sentences thrown out the window, juries ignored, conspiracy theories abounding and accepted as fact by idiots… you name it.

Nothing is allowed to be a mutually agreed upon outcome. Nothing.

It’s all about endless hot take debates and arguing, and if someone’s argument rubs you the wrong way, well, just deplatform them or disqualify them and then claim you won.

Granted, most of my bets would have gone down the toilet with the longshot Country House placing 2nd, but COULDN’T I JUST GET MY 9/2 WIN BET, YOU FRIGGIN BASTARDS??? (Yes, that’s the TRUE reason for this rant).

Bah.

Kentucky Derby 2019 Predictions

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.

At Long Last…. The Holy Grail Of Horse Betting Has Been Attained!

I don’t bet horse races as often as I used to. I’ve been a good boy and have spent more time trying to write & actually be productive in my off hours and especially over the summer.

It’d been a long while since I’d handicapped a race card and spent an afternoon watching Santa Anita. But the closing day of the fall meet came along Sunday, along with a mandatory pay-out of a rather large Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot.

I’ve come close to winning a Pick 6 jackpot a few times… got 5 out of 6 for the consolation pool three different times. One time I’d nailed the Pick 6 on paper in my handicapping but hadn’t bet it.

I’ve gotten trifectas, superfectas, pick 3s, pick 4s, and a couple of pick 5s…. but never a pick 6…

UNTIL SUNDAY!!!!

I got the Pick 6, which due to a large number of favorites and a twenty cent betting amount instead of the usual $2 paid less than most jackpots…

BUT I STILL GOT IT!

Felt great watching every race in the sequence, too… watching my picks either leading or coming from behind, even to beat other selections of mine. I tripled the opener since it had a lot of new runners, and doubled all the rest for a bet of $19.20. I threw in a matching pick 4 for $8.

So for $27.20, I won about $750!

HELL YEAH!

I’ll leave it in the account and use it to bet races for the next several years. There’s absolutely no reason to stop being cheap.

But picking 6 races in a row for essentially a 35-1 bet makes me feel like a genius. I’ll just kick back and savor that.

Belmont Stakes Predictions 2018

The last moments of this year’s Preakness made me think that Justified would not win the Belmont and Triple Crown this year. He ran beautifully for the first mile and into the stretch, but a couple of closers gained on him steadily in the last moments, and had that race been another quarter mile, would have passed him easily.

So when I combine that performance, plus the amount of work for any horse to run in both of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, AND add the lousy draw Justify got for the Belmont at the rail position of 1, I gotta think he’s totally beatable.

I could see him getting off to a good start and keeping pace, but how easily will be get boxed in at the rail? And how could he spend the energy to get out and still have the stamina for that killer mile and a half length when there are fresher horses in this race, many of ’em great closers?

So while Justify is currently a big 4-5 favorite, and while I might include him in trifectas and supers at the 3-4 position, I don’t think I’ll be betting him to win.

Hey, it’d be cool if he did – Triple Crowns being as rare as they are –  but they’re rare for a reason.

So who do I think has what it takes to knock this one out?

Well, putting aside my bias as a Pats fan, I gotta like #6 Gronkowski (12-1) as a possibility, winner of some mile races overseas against admittedly weaker fields, but the overall time and class ratings on this one, plus some nice works on the Belmont track recently make him a very nice play at those high odds.

My other best bet would be the #10 Blended Citizen (15-1). I always like horses that skip both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness who drop into the Belmont fresh, and this one is that but not TOO fresh, winning the Peter Pan back on May 12. While he runs WAY better on artificial than on dirt, his ability to grind out the distance might be key here, and I think he’ll be in the money at the end, somewhere.

Both #7 Tenfold and #3 Bravazo chased Justify down at the end of the Preakness, and as I said before, in a longer race, Bravazo would have passed him – but if they’re chasing Justify down at 3rd or 4th position, I don’t see it as intense, and yet ANOTHER late closing horse who has the added rest of skipping the Preakness, #4 Hofburg (9-2) would be my pick for passing them.

So what might those exotics look like? Well, I’d have the 4-6-10 for getting in the money, with maybe adding the 1, 3 and 7 into third/fourth in a super. Dunno yet, I’ll sleep on it a couple of nights and see. But if I’m right about the 4-6-10 up front, the exotics should pay nicely, as they often do in this, my favorite of the Triple Crowns to bet.

A Quick Preakness Post for 2018

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I don’t think I’ll be betting this race very big.

The favorite and likely winner Justify is currently at 1-3 on the morning line, the likely runner up Good Magic is 3-1, and the only big-odds horse that has some potential to money in this thing beyond show might be Lone Sailor, at 15-1.

Between those odds and the small field, the exotics won’t really be worth it. Maybe a couple of bucks on something, but not much more.

I’ll save my bankroll for the Belmont. If Justify can take this one and stir up a lot of excitement for a Triple Crown, AND face some high-odds ringer horse who runs the Belmont without running this or the Kentucky Derby, we may have the ingredients for tempting trifecta and superfecta combos.

Kentucky Derby Picks 2018

I’m sitting here nursing a sudden spring cold, trying to make sense of past performances while running on soup and antihistamine.

So take that into account as I break down this year’s Kentucky Derby, running this Saturday around 3:50pm Pacific.

The opening line favorite, #7 Justify, certainly earns the spot – 3 and 0 lifetime, Baffert trained, Mike Smith in the seat and coming off a blazing gate-to-wire Santa Anita Derby.

But the field provides a lot of ammo for Justify to be a beatable favorite. Running 2nd in Santa Anita was #11 Bolt D’Oro, a horse that has all the earmarks of a bunch of commentator’s “safe” pick for an upset, but I don’t think so. I’d put this one on exotic combos, to be sure, but at 2-3-4, not first, even with the switch to Victor Espinoza in the saddle.

My candidates for upsetting Justify? Well, let’s start with #5 Audible, 4-1 lifetime and showing great speed in the Florida Derby recently, along with some solid works.  Trainer Tod Pletcher’s two other horses in this race are also interesting picks – #16 Magnum Moon (6-1) and #18 Vino Rosso (How can I resist Italian red wine, especially at 12-1) – they both show competitive speed with Justify and Audible, although their far-out post positions mean they’ll have to start pretty well and not get boxed out.

My real wild card is #14 Mendelssohn, the 2nd favorite at 5-1. No split times available for this foreign import for anything other than his winning Breeder’s Cup juvenile turf race, but finish times & other ratings are certainly strong.

If I had to pick a likely upset to Justify, I’d go with Mendelssohn. I’ll think about various exotics with the others between now and Saturday, depending on how zonked out I am on cold medicine.

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