Kentucky Derby 2023 Predictions

How much money will I blow on this one? Dunno. It’s looking like maybe fifty bucks spread out on a few combo bets based on my overall picks for this year’s derby. But since you probably landed here looking for any sort of opinion and someone else’s painstakingly-perfect handicapping, here goes:

MORNING OF RACE UPDATE: And now favorite Forte has also been scratched. I guess for me that leaves Tapit Trice, Angel of Empire & Mandarin Hero as my top three. I’ll figure out my combos before post time since it feels like there’ll be another dozen scratches at this rate. Geesh.

I think the two best horses in the race are the early moneyline favorite #15 Forte at 3-1, with 6 lifetime victories out of 7 races. All the speed, class and works numbers look good for this year’s Florida Derby winner, and even though trainer Todd Pletcher has a lot more disappointment tan victory in this race historically, he might have a winner here. (In case you’re curious – Pletcher holds the record for entries all time with 62, and he’s only won twice. He’s got 3 horses in this year’s contest.)

UPDATE! My other pick for winner has been scratched. I left my original part of the post below, but I’ll have to reconfigure my preferred picks & choose a new backup to Forte. I first leaned towards #5 Tapit Trice, but the more I thought about it and with the recent scratch of #9 Skinner, my wildcard possibility #22 Mandarin Hero will be part of my in-the-money choices. Not sure he could win, though… between a history of strong second places and the far-outside post position, it’ll be a tough trip for him. But he likes to get out in front, and now he’s the only horse left standing from the Santa Anita Derby prep. Could he pull this off and surprise everyone? I think I’m throwing him into my win column!

I’d put #10 Practical Move (10-1) on an even keel with Forte, however. Practical Move has improved steadily since his debut, has won his last three races in a row, and has class/speed/works numbers at the top of this field. I have a bias towards Santa Anita Derby winners too, partially since that’s the track I follow and also since SA Derby winners have fared well in the last several years at Churchill Downs. So I’ll be betting both #10 and #15 in the win column.

Rounding out my field for exotic bets: The horses I like for possibly finishing 4th or better are as follows, in order of post position not preference:

#5 Tapit Trice (5-1): Another Pletcher entry. Winner of this year’s Bluegrass Derby and 4 out of his 5 lifetime. Really good speed numbers and looks to be in peak form.

#8 Mage (15-1) : Runner up in the Florida Derby. His stats aren’t as good as the best here, but he likes to run up front, and I figure that’s good enough for me to include him in exotics.

#9 Skinner (20-1): Third place in Santa Anita Derby after getting bumped. He’s lost to Practical Move twice, but loves running him down. And at those odds, I think he’s worth throwing into the exotics.

#14 Angel of Empire (8-1): Winner of the Arkansas Derby and his last two races with steadily improving speed numbers after a mediocre start to his career. He’s also got a great jockey in Flavian Prat, who won the Derby in 2019 and has finished third in the last three. Trainer Brad Cox won the Derby last year, I think this horse is his best bet out of his three entries. This one is a real horse/jockey/trainer combo angle for me, and I think he ought to finish in the money.

#17 Derma Sotogake (10-1): With the scraches of both Practical Move & Skinner, I moved this guy up a notch based solely on his times in numerous races in Japan and the UAE. He’s got no speed or class numbers to compare apples to apples with the other horses, but he’s won a G2 and other stakes and just gives me a gut feeling of a horse that could finish in the money.

And also #22 Mandarin Hero (20-1) now in this thing via scratches. In the immortal words of Alphaville, he’s big in Japan. Not sure how big he’d be in Kentucky, but he was a strong second in the Santa Anita Derby, and that’s got me thinking to slot him into where I had my Practical Move pick. After all, he lost by a nose in the Santa Anita and was gaining on Practical Move at the end – another furlong might have done the trick.

So there you have it and as always, your mileage may vary. Hopefully there’ll be some happenin’ hats amongst the ladies, maybe Tom Brady will show up looking like a cartoon villain again, NBC will milk the living crap out the race with more than an hour of human interest garbage, and I will not be having a mint julep. Sorry Kentucky – love your horses and your fried chicken, but I prefer Tennessee-style whiskey to bourbon and I don’t have fresh mint around. That’s right – I’m just a CRABBY OLD KILL-JOY.

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.

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).


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.

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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