I'm taking a slight break from my endless hockey writing to touch up on a subject that I've always held in high regard. So if you plan on spending your Saturday sipping on a mint julep (if you can afford it) and wearing a ridiculous over-sized hat (if you dare) continue to read on for my insight into the Kentucky Derby.
I've always found the hype around the Kentucky Derby similar to that of a magic trick, perhaps even a roller coaster. Hours are spent hyping up the event, only to have it come to its timely end after mere seconds/minutes. In either case, I still love to bet the Derby. It's something I've been doing since I was six years old and will continue to do until I'm wearing diapers (again).
Last year, I struck out. I went with Curlin for the Derby and watched him fade into third after giving a solid run all around. Then while on vacation in Mexico, Curlin proceeded to win the Preakness by a nose over the Derby winner Street Sense. Of course, whilst traveling in a fine airliner, I was unable to place the bet. And so I went with Curlin for the Belmont Stakes. He lost.
My timing was just a little off last year. But this year is different. I'm channeling back to the days when I won three consecutive derbys and looking to make my upset pick of the year tomorrow.
Similar to my love of underdogs in any realm of sports (Giants over Pats), my picks for horse racing have never been any different. I hardly bet the favorite unless I need to recoupe some quick losses. I also don't like taking the rail in the Derby, which more or less goes against all logic in any type of racing event. In a field of 20, if the first post doesn't get a good break from the gate he's just another set of headlights in the traffic.
As for the outside post - the same. I don't like the outside as it takes an extra effort in a field of 20 to really hit the gas and take the lead after the first turn. And so I prefer midfield horses with moderate odds. By moderate I mean anywhere under 7-1 without being the favorite.
This year's Derby has an excellent field of midrange odds, but they're all outside the first nine posts. This may in fact make it the ideal setting for an underdog to nab the win. In fact, practically every long shot from 15-1 up to 50-1 fill the first nine slots in the gate.
The favorite as of pre-Derby day sits at the 20th post. Big Brown, posting 3-1 odds, has gone undefeated in his three career starts. In BB's second win, he did so by nearly 13 lengths. Impressive. But can he hold up on the outside? That's the real question experts are tossing around in the days leading up to the big race.
And so the eye is forced to look inside the field. Who closer to the rail, without being ON the rail, can really have a solid shot at winning this race?
Well, there are two big possibilities and they're starting right next to one another.
The number 9 horse Pyro (6-1) was once favored as the Kentucky Derby favorite. On Pyro's February 9th race in a field of 11, Pyro was second to last by half a length. In a speed burst some may dub 'demonic', Pyro hit the gas and blew by the entire field in the home stretch to finish in first by a solid length. If speed is a factor in this race and horses are rushing neck and neck for the lead, you can expect Pyro to close strong as long as he remains in firm ground on the closing turn. While he closed with ease in a field of 11, doing so again 19 other horses is practically twice as hard. Also keep in mind, in his last race before the Derby Pyro finished 10th without hardly any signs of finesse.
Next to Pyro in the number 10 slot is Colonel John. With four wins and two second place finishes out of six races, it's highly speculated CJ will finish in the money. Where exactly he'll finish is the question. Again, similar to Pyro this horse is a closer. Colonel John likes to stalk behind the leaders and make a run for it at the first sign of his competitor's exhaustion.
Should it come down to a late stretch run for both Pyro and Colonel John, the winner may be decided by the position of the close and how much ground they had to make up. br>
Relatively speaking, that's just a brief look at the field from the critical eye of a life-long fan of the Kentucky Derby. While I don't proclaim myself to be an expert, I do feel these three horses are your top contenders.
Just to go out on a limb here, I do not think Big Brown will walk away the winner. Finish in the money, yes, but not win. And just for shoots and giggles I'm dropping a few bucks on a Pyro, Colonel John and Big Brown trifecta.
As for my winner pick on the day, I'm keeping that close to heart. They don't compare life to a horse race for no reason. You can have all of the odds in your favor and an obvious overload of information that could turn the mind's perception of fact into a philosophical truth. Just remember the age old saying: you win some, you lose some.