The first thing one learns in handicapping horses is that you can either run fast early or run fast late, BUT you can’t do both. Especially when going a mile and a quarter while carrying 126 pounds. Therefore the term “handicapping,” when you evaluate the field to determine if the speed will go slow early and be around late OR cook themselves on the front end and the slow early horses come running late.
This was played out very clearly Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, when a deep closer who wasn’t part of the original 20 horse field until Friday when a horse in the main body scratched, ran past everyone and lit up the board at the tune of 80-1. This hasn’t been done since Mine That Bird pulled off a near identical feat back in 2009 at a more chalky 50-1 and is second to Donerail who won back in 1913 at 91-1. The new 20 horse fields make it impractical to play deep closers, as they are strung out early and asked to pass the entire field. Most of these deep closers finish mid-pack at best, and some just off of the pace horse has enough left in the tank to get the roses. But not Saturday. Looking at the chart, anyone close to the three quarters split in 1:10 pace (quickest half mile in history) dropped anchor and Rich Strike, who won for Eric Reed and was ridden by Belterra Park regular, Sonny Leon, got the winners share ($1.86m) of the $3 Million dollar purse. If Eric is smart he will sell the horse immediately, retain a few breeding rights and live comfortably for the rest of his life.
Rich Strike shouldn’t have done this. Horses who have not scored a high 90s or over 100 Beyer Speed Figure are rarely considered contenders. Rich Strike’s highest Beyer Speed Fig was an 86 which would deem him much too slow to contend for a win in the Derby. So much for Speed Figs. He really wasn’t good enough, even with a set-up perfect trip. Zandon or my Longshot special Tiz the Bomb should have benefitted and won the race – but they didn’t.
Back in the days of the 14 horse field, I threw out all of the speed and backed the closers – Remember Unbridled??? But lately with the 20 horse fields the up-fronters have been able to dictate the pace and prevail
I wrote in my commentary below that I was happy for Rich Strike, Reed, and Leon and hoped that maybe they’d pass a few tired horses and pick up a check. Remember, Rich Strike was third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park, BUT he did break his maiden at Churchill Downs in a 30k claiming race by 17 lengths.
My illustrious selection White Abbario got caught wide, ran twice as far as everyone else on the outside and wilted under the quick fractions to finish 16th Great selection, eh???
Here are the payoffs if you used Rich Strike over Epicenter in second, and Zandon in third, or maybe had the $1 superfecta for $321,500.00 Hey, if it was easy everyone could do it. Can you imagine if another bomb would have finished second or third??? Yowza!!!
$2 EXACTA 21-3 PAID $4,101.20
$1 SUPERFECTA 21-3-10-13
50 CENT TRIFECTA 21-3-10 PAID $7,435.35
I said it was a crapshoot, and while I was rooting for the local horse to do well, NO, I didn’t bet him.
ORIGINAL COMMENTARY POSTED FRIDAY NIGHT , MAY 6TH
As you have heard me say in the past, 20 horse races are total crap shoots due to traffic issues and good/bad trips. This one is more challenging that most because there is no standout favorite to either like or play against.
The automatic throw outs are #1 – Mod Donegal, #2 – Happy Jack, #4 – Summer is Tomorrow, # 11 – Pioneer of Medina, #14 – Barber Road, #17 – Classic Causeway, #18 – Tawny Post, #19 – Zozos and #21 Rich Strike, although I am rooting or him to do well, seeing his Belterra Park connections.
You can’t play ‘em all. These are horses who might be contenders that I am playing against: #5 – Smile Happy, #8 – Charge It, # 12 – Taiba, #13 – Simplification, #16 – Cyberknife. My thinking on these horses are that Smile Happy can’t get the distance. Charge It lacks seasoning and should get buried in traffic. Taiba is hard to throw out, might be a Justify, BUT only has two lifetime starts. Did sell for $1.7 Million, but really has his work cut out for him. Simplification isn’t as good as the top contenders and will have to deal with a quick pace. Cyberknife is another that probably can’t make the lead, and will have to grind it out to be successful.
This leaves me with six playable horses:
#3 – Epicenter – Speedy, but erratic. Seems to be getting better with each start, will be close up, and could inherit the lead if the pace falls out of the race.
## 10 – Zandon – While his comes from way off style and cold be compromised by getting shuffled, or impeded in traffic, he is a must use on your gimmicks and could run past them all late..
# 15 – White Abarrio – Any horse who wins the Florida Derby deserves consideration. Gafflione has the ability to get good position and sit right off of the pace. Big chance.
HORSES WITH POSSIBILITIES:
#6 – Messier – West coast consistent sort that has more experience that Taiba. Another who can sit just off of the pace and could be prominent through the stretch.
#7 – Crown Pride – Invader from Japan seems solid. Another who is probably not a win threat, BUT could hit the board.
#9 – Tiz the Bomb – Man, this horse had a brilliant two-year old career, winning two turn stakes races on the turf. Has the appearance of a “hard knocker.” Has had three prep races leading up to the Derby. He is the winner of the Jeff Ruby Stakes, but on paper is slow. Animal Kingdom had the same profile a few years back. He might run dead last, but I just can’t leave him off of the ticket.
Put a gun to my head and I guess I’d take White Abarrio, with Zandon being my second choice, and Epicenter next. This derby has the potential to blow up and produce massive payoffs with many 30-40-and 50-1 and higher odds horses competing.
Any cashed ticket will be big. Late on Friday the favorite was 5-1, so a minimum $100 exacta return is expected and any trifecta will pay boxcars.
Here are a few cheap tickets:
EXACTAS: 15 / 3-6-7-9-10 and 3-6-7-9-10 / 15 can be played at minimum $1 increments.
Best of luck. Enjoy Derby Day.