Derby a difficult pick - handicappers need plenty of luck to back them up
The Kentucky Derby is typically one of the most difficult horse races to handicap, so if you are planning on laying down some hard-earned cash on a Derby hopeful, be prepared to lose.
A field of as many as 20 three-year-old horses under the microscope of national attention behaves erratically, particularly with the screams of the 150,000 in attendance, many of whom are drunk, topless or both.
In addition to the exceptionally large field lengthening odds across the board, traffic makes it difficult for faster horses to find the room to make their moves. Often the best horses cannot navigate through the crowded derby field despite later proving to be the best in the race. Point Given in 2001 and Afleet Alex in 2005 would follow Derby losses with convincing victories in the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, the final two legs of the Triple Crown.
Another problem with handicapping is that the favorites almost never win. Since 1979 when Spectacular Bid won the Derby as the odds-on favorite, only one other favorite, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, has gone on to sniff the roses. Such unpredictability has contributed to some of horse racing’s great surprises, such as Giacomo’s 2005 Derby victory. The 50-1 long shot would have an unremarkable career following the race.
As futile as handicapping the Derby usually is, I would be remiss not to share the results of the Derby two weeks in advance. It is recommended that bets not be made upon this advice because it will certainly shift the odds a great deal and potentially rock the horse racing industry.
Curlin is going to be the hot horse coming into the Derby after an impressive sweep of the last two Oaklawn Park prep races, the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby, in which he won by nine lengths going away. Two of the last three Arkansas Derby winners, Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex, have gone on to win four Triple Crown races. However, Curlin got a dream ride by Robbie Albarado in Arkansas and pulled away from a weak field. Plus, Curlin is lightly raced with only three career starts. These things do not usually add up to a Kentucky Derby win.
Another horse that will get a lot of attention will be Street Sense, winner of the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, the premier race for two-year-olds. After winning the Tampa Bay Stakes by a nose in March, Street Sense was out-closed by Dominican down the stretch of a very slow Bluegrass Stakes.
Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy beat a very light field and is overrated. Illinois Derby winner Cowtown Cat beat an even lighter field and shouldn’t be a factor. Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay may fire but a long layoff, having not raced since March 10, will likely do him in.
Without further ado, here are the results of the 133rd Kentucky Derby. The show horse will be Any Given Saturday, who has stayed close in all starts including a steady run for third in the Wood Memorial, in which he was bested by Nobiz Like Shobiz, who will finish second following a clean ride to the wire.
This year’s garland of roses, however, will go to Lane’s End Stakes winner Hard Spun, who will likely go off at 12-1. Hard Spun started in the tenth gate and made up ground to stalk the leaders three wide until the fourth turn. The Mario Pino-ridden horse then pulled away from the field to post one of the best 1-1/8 mile times of the season, despite the long trip.
It may seem difficult initially, but simple analysis makes your trifecta bet easy: 1. Hard Spun, 2. Nobiz like Shobiz, 3. Any Given Saturday. Just don’t bet on it.
Tim Robertson is a graduate student in the Department of Political Science. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org