The Definitive Kentucky Derby Primer

Barking CarnivalAnalyst IApril 30, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY - APRIL 30:  Exercise rider Dana Barnes rides Lookin at Lucky during a morning workout at Churchill Downs on April 30, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As we branch out past the standard coverage of your favorite offseason sports— Badminton, Jai Alai, Squash, Curling, Fencing, etc–into more blue collar stuff like thoroughbred horse racing, please try not to judge our Kentucky Derby picks too harshly when your drunken, last-second bet through your brother-in-law’s bookie in Reno fails to cash a winning ticket. There’s a reason NYT columnist Joe Drape looks here first for his Derby tips.

We pay him handsomely to do so.

I’ve always been a bigger fan of the final leg of the Triple Crown—The Belmont Stakes —but the general public gets much more excited about the Kentucky Derby. Then again, about 78 million people tune into American Idol every week so I’ve stopped pondering these things.

Horsewives of Lousville

The Derby is certainly important, and every Triple Crown chase starts with a win on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. But here is a list of potential Triple Crown winners in the last 20 years that conquered the Derby and Preakness only to stumble at Belmont:

2004 — Smarty Jones (2nd to Birdstone)
2003 — Funny Cide (3rd to Empire Maker)
2002 — War Emblem (8th to Sarava)
1999 — Charismatic (3rd to Lemon Drop Kid)
1998 — Real Quiet (2nd to Victory Gallop)
1997 — Silver Charm (2nd to Touch Gold)
1989 — Sunday Silence (2nd to Easy Goer)

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Ouch. This list of shortcomings helps to put in perspective Secretariat’s incredible 31-length victory of Belmont’s grueling 1 1/2 mile track in 1973. His 2:24 record time still stands as one of those rare feats in sports not likely to be duplicated.

This year’s Derby field is maxed out at 20 horses, leaving you with 2,983,465,350,856 possible betting combinations according to resident BC handicapper Huckleberry, who texted the calculation off the top of his head from an online online Poker rehab session. I’ve found that if you don’t really want the help, you’re just wasting your time. But that’s just the opinion of one Barker who hasn’t lost a poker game since the mid-90’s.

Of those 20 three-year old mounts, you’ve got 19 colts and one filly. Given that only three fillies have won the derby in 135 years of racing, and Roy Halladay will not be in the saddle, I’d bet on one of the Colts. You now have a 95 percent chance of winning!

The 2010 Run for the Roses lost some of its typical oversized hat parfum luster when favorite Eskandareya scratched due to a faked Dominican birth certificate or something. But the favorite rarely wins the Derby and since it’s the hardest race of the season to handicap, things just got a bit easier. Always split aces & eights and always box your trifectas.

Let’s take a look at the ponies.

Post PositionHorse NameTrainerJockeyMorning Line Odds
1Lookin at LuckyBob BaffertGarrett Gomez3/1
2Ice BoxNick ZitoJose Lezcano10/1
3Noble’s PromiseKenny McPeekWillie Martinez12/1
4Super SaverTodd PletcherCalvin Borel15/1
5Line of DavidJohn SadlerRafael Bejarano30/1
6Stately VictorMichael MakerAlan Garcia30/1
7American LionEoin HartyDavid Flores30/1
8Dean’s KittenMichael MakerRobby Albarado50/1
9Make Music For MeAlexis BarbaJoel Rosario50/1
10Paddy O’PradoDale RomansKent Desormeaux20/1
11Devil May CareTodd PletcherJohn Velazquez10/1
12ConveyanceBob BaffertMartin Garcia12/1
13Jackson BendNick ZitoMike Smith15/1
14Mission ImpazibleTodd PletcherRajiv Maragh20/1
15Discreetly MineTodd PletcherJavier Castellano30/1
16Awesome ActJeremy NosedaJulien Leparoux10/1
17DublinD. Wayne LukasTerry Thompson12/1
18BacktalkTom AmossMiguel Mena50/1
19HomeboykrisRichard Dutrow, Jr.Ramon Dominguez50/1
20Sidney’s CandyJohn SadlerJoe Talamo5/1

American Lion 30-1
Speed horse. Shipped over last minute from Narnia and given a creative western name.

Prince Caspian rumored to be on the saddle.

Ran well recently in the Illinois Derby and that worked pretty well for War Emblem in 2002, another long striding beast that it’s just best to give the benefit of the doubt to, collect your fictional If I had only bet on _____ ! winnings and move on.

Truthfully, the only winning triple crown ticket I ever cashed was at the 2002 Derby on War Eblem to win at 20/1. $100 bet = $2,000, of which I spent $1936 in the next 12 hours in a hedonistic binge of self-worship that never properly ended until this year’s Rose Bowl.

Awesome Act 10-1
Dude no way! Awesome Act won the Gotham Stakes this spring, which is a triple trifecta of Awesomeness.

Chances of winning this race? Let’s call it 10/1, or slightly less awesome. This horse knows what he has and is content to ride things out until … wait for it … AWESOME TIME COMES!!

AA is a potential late mover down the stretch and a money maker for pro bettors who boxed a few different exactas matching Mr. Awesome with one of the favorites.

As fellow Barker and prolific gambler Trips Right says, Always bet odds between the 10’s and 20’s. Testing this awesome strategy won me four races at Manor Downs a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately they paid out in counterfeit currency and I was followed the whole way home by an unmarked ’84 Lincoln Continental that was later abandoned and is still parked outside my house. Anybody need a car?

Backtalk 50-1
The good news—yippy little bastard Backtalk was sired by 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Smarty Jones. The bad news—he’s never won a race longer than a mile and gets a little chippy down the stretch, going all Mr. Ed when you just want him to shut up, put the hammer down, and win the goddamn race.

Like a bed of roses and some carrots isn’t good enough? He doesn’t like the whip and gag balls just aren’t effective in horse racing.

Don’t be surprised if he’s a last minute scratch for unknown reasons. Urban Meyer is probably a co-owner (masks IP address).

Conveyance 12-1
In the only races Conveyance has ever won, he’s led wire to wire and that just ain’t easy when there’s 20 horses looking for a piece of Kentucky pie, soaked in Woodford reserve, enjoyed in a khaki suit with a fine cigar.

This horse is actually sponsored by the next Matt Damon movie, which is yet to be named but we’re betting it’s Conveyance and will suck terribly but still net $400 million globally at the box office.

Horse racing is the last activity on the planet Matt Damon hasn’t perfected so it’s only a matter of time.

Dean’s Kitten 50-1
Okay, this horse officially has zero chance of winning.

I know it’s horse racing tradition for owner’s wives to pick the names of their husband’s prized steed by combining the geographic location of their first threesome in the stables, a deceased domestic pet, and an ironic dangling participle/gerund combo; but this is HORSE NAME FAIL at its worst.

Other factors to consider when shorting Dean’s Kitten–the last time this kitty ran on dirt he got trampled by 33 3/4 lengths. That’s like a quarter track. Are we sure this is the Kentucky Derby?

This is certainly compelling evidence of a weak field, or at least one typically bloated with horses that have no chance of winning but will find a way to fuck over the few horses that do.

Trainer Mike Maker should stick some cat nip up Lookin’ At Lucky’s ass and tell Deaner to chase the prize, greyhound style. If you’re at a party with prop bets, pick this one to finish last. Then be sure to mock me when he wins it all.

Devil May Care 10-1
The last filly to win the Derby was in 1988–Winning Colors–whose owners celebrated by blasting Scorpion’s Winds of Change through boomboxes held high in the paddock that could be heard from Long Island to Potsdamer Platz.

Then they followed the Moskva down to Gorky Park. And this was two years before the song was officially released!

Like Clipper Cooper, horse people have access to everything long before you do. But these are more skeptical times and given that gloomy stat above about fillies in the derby, it’s a good thing only the Devil May Care when this horse finishes 12th.

This is her first race against the big boys and she’s no Rachel Alexandra, the uber filly that won last year’s Preakness and became the 2009 Horse of the Year after kicking Colt ass all season long.

Rachel was a hot lass with a high price tag, bought prior to last year’s Kentucky Oaks by owners of the Kendall Jackson winery for $10-plus million. That’s a lot of bad Merlot for a horse.

Devil May Care is one of four entrants by trainer Todd Pletcher, who is sporting an 0 for 24 streak in the Derby, and this isn’t the horse he’ll be betting on. That would be Super Saver.

Discreetly Mine 30-1
Another one of Pletcher’s, Discreetly Mine is a long shot speed horse that has to get the lead early or it’s over just as fast.

The trouble is picking which one of the sprinters among Discreetly Mine (o rly?) Conveyance (f Damon), Line of David (it’s his right!) and Sidney’s Candy (has a Jewish horse every won the Derby?) defies the odds and sneaks in with a late burst to place or show and jack up everyone’s exactas and trifectas.

This is also why Vegas loves horseracing and respected economists happen to think it’s completely fixed.

Dublin 12-1
Oh sweet, sweet Dublin. Float me down yer cobbled streets in a river of Guinness and rinse me off in a Jameson waterfall!

Sired by 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner, Afleet Alex (another horse owned by the red-toothed Jackson family), this horse lacks the legit pedigree it’s name might confer. A better name would be Potato Famine.

But with D. Wayne Lukas pulling the strings/injecting the needles, Dublin is running smoooooth as ever. Scotchy, scotchy, scotch … I’d put my mortgage on this horse if— and only if—Shane McGowan shows up in striped tights, clubs jockey Terry Thompson with a wooden cane and hops in the saddle completely wasted.

What could go wrong?

“We could not tell horse from jockey nor jockey from horse but they both appeared very happy.”

Homeboykris 50-1
Best name in the field and worst odds of winning.

Trained by the Ghost of Tupac with Biggie ridin’ sidecar. Last won a race in October, entered rehab for crack addiction in December and never found pace again.

Throw a brotha an exacta!

Ice Box 10-1
Cold chillin’ in da stables, yo. See a theme here? Okaaay moving on.

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito is looking for his fourth Derby win and first since ’94 with this speedy Colt. If the splits are fast and jockey Jose Lezcano stays cool, 10-1 would be a nice payout, but a fast closing horse never wants an inside slot at No. 2. Watch the late money in Ice Box.

Jackson Bend 15-1
Another horse trained by Nick Zito. He hasn’t won since October but finished second in all three races run in 2010. The 15-1 odds indicate some smart guys think this horse may be due.

Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith, who won the 2005 derby on longshot Giacomo, will look to press Jackson Bend behind the leaders and look for a clean break down the backstretch.

Who doesn’t love a clean break?

Line of David 30-1
Drawing the 12th post position in the middle of a packed field, Line of David is counting on trainer Bob Baffert—a self-proclaimed modern day Moses and all around horse prick— to lift his arms and part the seas so his mount can get the early lead.

But please, just don’t touch the hair. David’s sire, Lion Heart, finished second in the 2004 Kentucky Derby to Smarty Jones. Good pedigree and biblical fortune will need to go a long way for this 30-1 shot to pay off.

“I need a hoof in the head in the worst way.”

Sidney’s Candy 5-1
Sidney cruised to victory in all three races at Santa Anita this spring in wire to wire fashion, yarmulke fastened tight!

A tough draw from the 20th gate means that young jockey Joe “Sweet Tooth” Talamo needs a great start off the edge. Every Jewish widow who ever lost a husband named Sidney now has a horse to bet on.

But 5-1 is kinda risky, no? Oy vey, Judith just won $30! She did it for Sidney. He would me smoiling. Oh Sid.

Super Saver 15-1
OKAY FOLKS. You’ve made it this far and you can stop right here.

This is your horse.

Guaranteed lock.

Once a decade Colt just call 1-866-SLR-RPLEY with credit card in hand for which place we know in advance he will finish.

Because that’s really half the battle, isn’t it?

He’s already won a graded stakes race before at Churchill Downs. Check. Crazy Cajun Calvin Borel in the saddle. Check. Sensible name that Wal-Mart mom’s can identify with? Check. Bet your short sale on it before your bank does first!

Part II and BC’s Guaranteed Winning Picks to come.

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This article originally appeared on: Barking Carnival

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