Go, Baby Go!
Let me tell you that one of the greatest things about moving South from Noo Yawk, aside from the babes, the weather, the polite people, good economy, affordable housing, well-bred children and the outstandingly well cultivated taste for fine bourbon, is getting the chance to attend these quaint traditional Southern “hoo-has” where nice, attractive people get dressed up, drink cool bourbons, smoke cigars and party the old-fashioned way– which, ironically, would include the pounding of Old Fashioneds. Let me tell you, these Southern fuckers live to party, and they don’t even mind if some Yankees come and join them, as long as you don’t puke on the sofa, goose the wife or kick the spaniel.
The Grand Daddy of aforesaid genteel Southern get-togethers is the “Run for the Roses” — Louisville’s Kentucky Derby — 135 years old this year, and going stronger than ever– recession be damned. For those of you ill-cultured enough to know nothing of “the Sport of Kings” — thoroughbred horse racing– this is the first race of the famed “Triple Crown” which also includes Baltimore’s Preakness and New York’s Belmont Stakes. Neither of the those two races, however, match the pageantry that is “the Derby,” where the greatest three-year old thoroughbreds colts (mostly) from all over the planet are flown in to test their mettle on the hallowed twin spires-shaded dirt of Churchill Downs.
It’s a day of at least twelve races, with the great Derby– a full mile and a quarter in length– arriving at the tenth (or eleventh, this year), by which time the crowd is well oiled with juleps and ready for history. Everyone bets this race from the cheapest piker Anabaptist deacon to the highest rolling international gangsta that just dropped wheels in his G-5 from Paris that morning. You have a full hour from the previous race to make sure you’ve bet every combo, and that the Downs (NASD: CHDN) has sucked every penny of hope from your rag and tip sheets. And since there’s always anywhere from 16 to 20 horses, you will drive yourself batshit betting more combos, wheels and exotics than Skye Masterson ever dreamt of. You see, you really… really want to have a winner in this one.
That’s because there is no thrill in the world like hearing the crowd roar as those magnificent beasts round that eighth pole and start pounding for home– with your horse is in the mix. Go baby, fuggin’ go!
Literally… nothing…. like it.
From the cheap standing room only seats in the gnarly “infield” to the outrageously priced balcony views of Millionaire’s Row, the crowd– sometimes as much as 150,000 strong– will roar as one when the most thrilling two minutes of sports culminates with that galvanizing pronouncement from the Spires’ speakers: “AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME!!”
Bucket shoppers and bucket listers alike — take heed: Like your kids’ weddings and the “find yourself” trip to Tibet, The Derby is something you must attend before you embark on that final dirt nap.
Make room for it, get good seats, good hotel and restaurant reservations, and do the whole shebang (The Oaks (Friday) & Derby if possible). You will never regret it, I promise.
Now, on to “the picks:”
Following are your current Kentucky Derby morning line odds:
||West Side Bernie
||Mr. Hot Stuff
||Hold Me Back
||J. Larry Jones
||Mine That Bird
||Bennie Woolley Jr.
||Join in the Dance
||Saeed bin Suroor
||I Want Revenge
||Pioneerof the Nile
||Nowhere to Hide
||Saeed bin Suroor
||D. Wayne Lukas
You can see who your clear favorites are, but let me tell you that although I Want Revenge is already nominated as the Official iBankcoin.com Derby Pick— just for his name alone — I will not be betting him (save for in exotics), due to the fact that his trainer and owners are hated — mostly for shadiness– by the other trainers and jocks. In a big race like this, unless the horse is head and shoulders a better athlete than the rest of the field,–like Big Brown was last year– that is bad news. Look for the more experienced jocks to angle and attempt to block out the favorite’s 19-year old Derby rookie jockey, eventually kicking him down the proverbial “noobie elevator shaft.” That said, I Want Revenge could not have asked for a better slot than the 13 hole to start this monster.
Pioneer of the Nile (4-1) is also getting great play, for having won the Santa Anita Derby, the California Derby prep race, and being trained by newly annointed Hall of Fame trainer (just last week) Bob Baffert (above), a literal racing superstar. My problem here is very short odds due to “the Baffertness,” and the fact this horse has never won on dirt, as the SA Derby is run on the new synthetic surface called polytrack. True track hounds are known for calling it “pussy-track.” You get the picture.
Same comment for sentimental favorite and Kentucky Blue Grass Stakes winner General Quarters (20-1), who is a from a one horse stable trained by an retired Kentucky high school principal(!) Sentimental favorites get crappy odds though, so he may not be worth it at post time (you should see that 20-1 shrink).
Out of the favorite pool, I like Dunkirk (4-1) and Desert Party (15-1) — both great bloodlines and the latter being fed a diet of diamonds and Saudi crude by his owner, the Emir Of Dubai. As the Emir is never a favorite here in Derby town, you might get some nice odds for Desert Party and his partner from Godolphin Racing (the Emir’s barn) Regal Ransom(also purchased with the treasure from Aladin’s Cave, including the lamp). I like Dunkirk because Todd Pletcher— another superstar trainer like Baffert — is due, and Edgar Prado is a top five jockey. I also like short odds candidate and Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire, who is trained by Larry Jones, whose Eight Bellesfilly gave Big Brown such a tough race last year before pulling up and breaking both forelegs in the appalling aftermath. If anyone is due, it’s Jones after that tragedy. However Friesan Fire has been very lighty raced, which is usually not a good sign for a Derby candidate
But hey, iBankCoin is about banking coin, so I’m going to throw some lesser followed long odds dark horses at you. I have won at the Derby a number of times picking non-favorites with great Beyer speed numbers, and one to watch in that category this year is West Side Bernie (30-1), who came in second in the Wood Memorial at Acqueduct to I Want Revenge. The Wood is one of my favorite Derby prep races, and I always look to that race over others to show me my Derby pick. West Side Bernie was moving nicely in the stretch of that mile and 1/8 long race, and I like his chances for the longer Derby, even though I Want Revenge was magnificent in that race. The one downside I see to Bernie is his position in the “one slot,” which will be very tough in this big field unless he gets a great break from the gate. I also like Papa Clem (20-1) and Musket Man (20-1) as “interesting exotic” plays to throw in with your favorites.
The great thing is there are no dogs in this race… these are the true “kings” of the sport. Savor the experience, coming to your teevee screen tomorrow evening, about 6:15 Eastern. I will leave you with last year’s classic, where aptly named Big Brown won from the 20-hole (the farthest post position out) — an unprecedented event in the 134 year history of the Derby. Just another thriller… there’s one every year. Good luck!
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBeoZUsnXdc 450 300]
Update: Congrats to 50-1 moonshot-no-one -had “Mine that Bird.” Should have looked at wife’s “take the ugliest name” strategy. Seriously, I don’t know why I didn’t bet jockey Calvin Borel, a true pro in the horse game, who just won the million dollar The Oaks feature race the day before.
Update: Why it’s worth going even if you don’t win, and some bogus 50-1 long-shot takes it (pic #28):
Thanks to Woodshedder for stopping by to raise a julep cup to us all:
Til next year, Happy Derby!