With post positions being drawn today and twenty horses expected to enter, handicapping the Kentucky Derby can be a difficult task. Add a wide open field, as we have this year, and the stakes become even greater. If you are not a strong handicapper or even a moderate and you are looking for ways to pick a winner, here are a few tips that go against the professional way of handicapping.
Pick a Number – Before making the short trek from Indiana to Kentucky in 2002, my sister looked at me and said, “Bet the five.” I glanced over the field and quickly dismissed her suggestion. I should have listened instead. War Emblem (pp. 5) ran wire-to-wire and paid $43.00 to win. She didn’t study a program or look in the paper for the post positions. She simply picked a number and I failed to follow her advice.
Post positions do make a difference in the Kentucky Derby. In the previous 136 runnings, the one-hole has produced the most winners with 12. However, no horse has won from this position since Chateaugay (1963). The four and five posts are both tied with 11 wins and the eight and ten posts are tied with 10 apiece. Last year’s winner, Super Saver, broke from the four-hole.
All other positions have scored multiple wins except for the 17 and 19 posts which have never produced a derby winner. Records were always made to be broken. So, if you are relying on numbers, bet your lucky number or simply close your eyes and bet the first number between 1-20 that comes to mind. It might just pay off.
Bet the Favorite – From 1979-2000, this rule did not apply; no favorite won in this time period until Fusaichi Pegasus easily handled the field in the 2000 derby at odds of 2.30-1. Since his win, 3 other favorites scored victories: Smarty Jones (2004), Street Sense (2007), and Big Brown (2008). Favorites are more relevant and should always be considered.
Pick an Owner’s Silks – Why not? In 1996, W.T. Young’s green and blue bull’s-eye led me to Grindstone, my only win. Owners try to represent themselves with elaborate and simple designs. If they win, the colors are immortalized. I am partial to Calumet Farm’s colors of red with blue bands on the sleeves. They are the most classic and dignified silks in the business. Calumet Farm also won 8 Kentucky Derbies and 2 Triple Crowns; Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (9148).
Pick a Name – Some names just stand out more than others. Some are mean: War Admiral (1937), Assault (1946), and Iron Liege (1957). Some are regal: Aristides (1875), Apollo (1882), Dark Star (1924), and Secretariat (1973). And some are just plain cool: Swaps (1955), Kauai King (1966), Canonero II (1971), Swale (1984), Thunder Gulch (1995), and Monarchos (2001). Each name is enshrined in derby lore and this year’s crop boasts great names such as Nehro, Pants On Fire, and Mucho Macho Man just to name a few.
Pick a Racing Name – I was always told, “You bet the big boys on the big days.” Several of the trainers and jockeys are seeking their first derby win, but they have long, respected résumés. The entire field boasts well-known and respectable figures in the sport of racing. If you consistently bet a tandem of trainer and jockey, then stick with the ones that brought you to the dance. If your favorite jock at your local track has a mount and you want him or her to win, place your bets.
There are a number of factors to look at when betting the Kentucky Derby. But, if you want to think outside the box and look at factors unrelated to the handicapping business, then take a gander at the form and make your decision. Proceed with caution and do not let me tout you on a method. It’s your money and it’s your bet. Make it a good one. And most of all have some fun. Derby day can make or break you, but only if you let it happen. Good luck this Saturday.
Written by Big Brink