Happy 5th of May, otherwise known as the First Saturday in May — DERBY DAY! This is a state holiday here in Kentucky marked by its tradition of having every man, woman and child greet the dawn with a double shot of bourbon, and then proceeding downhill from there.
I don’t have a lot of time as I must get to the track to hobnob with the lords and ladies of the Jockey Suites. I did “meh” yesterday, breaking close to even if I throw out a lost voucher for about $80 that I left in a betting machine (damn bourbon!). I did NOT have the Oaks winner, however, because I did not listen to a suite mate (a very wealthy woman with the luck of the Irish or something going for her, as she wins all the time) who said, “You HAVE to go with the female jockey for the Oaks (Fillies) Race!” Of course I ignored that counsel much to my chagrin as she collected a near $300 trifecta (on $2) prize.
For the Derby, this is going to be an especially tough year. As you can see from my top video post, I always favor the Wood Memorial winner, as its one of the toughest Derby Prep races (Grade One Stakes), and its on dirt, unlike those pussy polytrack fields in California and Keeneland. Consequently, you should always favor the dirt prep winners, and that would be Florida and Arkansas Derby winners, Take Charge Indy and Bodemeister, respectively. Going back to the Wood Memorial, Gemologist won, to remain undefeated, but Alpha was sneaking up on his right, which might mean trouble for the further 1/8th mile of the Derby (a one and one quarter mile race, while most of these preps are one and one eighth of a mile). Keep Alpha in your sights on this day. As a superstitious extra, the first race I won this year (over at Keeneland) was something like “Needs More Alpha” which I picked just for its stock trading implications.
The Florida Derby was interesting also, with heavy favorite Union Rags getting a bad trip (stuck behind a number of horses for too long) but really pouring it on in the final furlong. Huge Derby favorite jockey Calvin Borel was on winner Take Charge Indy, which has some great heritage, and cannot be dismissed because of it’s nice position at the fourth slot. Still, watch this race below and you’ll see how Union Rags seems to be coming on in the last pole. It’s important to remember that the Kentucky Derby is an extra eighth of a mile longer. That means the Rags may take the longer race…
Last, take a look at alleged “Superhorse” Bodemeister, the Bob Baffert entry, with the blinkers off and raring to go after absolutely destroying the field in the Arkansas Derby. A lot of people are throwing out this horse out because it was unraced as a two year old, a traditional “no-no” in the Derby tradition annals. The last horse to win the Derby that went unraced as a two year old? Apollo, who won the 1882 Derby 130 years ago! Can you imagine?
But this horse is a champion, with all the specifics… great final lengths speed, nice endurance and seeming gain of strength, great enthusiasm. Only unfortunate is that it is California bred, which has also not fared well in the Derby in the modern era (eerily, the last California bred horse to win, Decidedly was 50 years ago this May, in 1962). Can a 130-year and 50-year curse be broken in one race? If anyone can pull it off, it’s three time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert and the horse named after his youngest son, Bode:
Jake’s picks (and you need a handful): Union Rags, Alpha, Bodemeister, Take Charge Indy and Gemologist are my top five, so mix and match for your various exactas, trifectas and superfectas. I also like SaberCat as a long long shot (only take if 30-1 or above), and I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause in the exotics. I’m throwing out Juvenile winner and Louisville local-owned Hansen because of his bad race in the Blue Grass Stakes, losing to Irish charger Dullahan, who is also in the Derby after winning on that polytrack surface three weeks back.
Happy Derby to all!