Well, sportsfans, another year has passed, and here we are, approaching the first Saturday in May. Last year, I had promised a lengthy treatise on my handicapping system. But recent events and schedules have conspired against my writing a great many words of late, and it is easier to actually handicap than to document said handicapping. So, next year.
That said, this year is the perfect time to put my system to the test — as I have been utterly oblivious to Derby prep races and any sort of media surrounding the contenders.
And so, in preparing today's post, I've gone the route of straight old-school on-paper handicapping. I have not sought out any opinions, have no idea whom the railbirds and chiselers are picking (and probably won't read their picks till tomorrow); I haven't researched breeding on BloodHorse, nor watched prep race or workout videos. I have used only my addled brain, a pen, and a print-out of the past performances from America's Turf Authority since 1894.
Only one thing is for sure — I will slowly marinate myself in Kentucky bourbon while watching.
Per usual, the field consists of a half dozen with no business being here (mind you, just such a nag actually won the damn thing a few years back at 50-1), a half dozen genuine talents, and a few stretch runners hoping to get lucky.
ORB is the odds-on favorite, and has won his last four races fairly handily. His Beyer speed figures have been trending up, but have never broken 97. Which could point to either a good horse in over his head, or a great horse peaking at the right time.
The other rock star here (even bigger, to my thinking) is VERRAZANO — also undefeated in his last (and only) four starts. There is a definite Derby bias against horses who never raced as a two-year-old, and Verrazano falls into that category. Maybe the wisenheimers know more about the lightly- or un-raced two-year-olds than I do, but this is one of the few horses in the race who has shown real tactical speed. The question, of course, is whether he can handle the Derby's long mile-and-a-quarter distance.A small step below these two is GOLDENCENTS, who has never finished out of the money, and may not Saturday either. If Goldencents can be had at decent odds (>5/1), I'd tap that.
Still, betting favorites never makes you much money, so if you want a longer betting play, have a closer look at two horses I like on paper: VYJACK (breaking from the far 20 post, be warned) and NORMANDY INVASION.
If you want a true longshot to bet, take a chance on CHARMING KITTEN, who doesn't seem to have enough speed to stick with the rest of the pack, but is arguably a closer, and who's been out of the money only once in seven races.
Yes. Now is the point where one would expect an actual prediction. But I'd prefer not to make one. I'll tell you why: The Kentucky Derby has become an overbooked race of overbred Barbie dolls too overworked and overwrought for their own canon bones. The $2 million purse brings a too-large field that dilutes the talent pool (it would be one hell of a race for, say, the 12 top three-year-olds). And the size of the field — and the auxiliary starting gate it necessitates — creates a dangerous fire drill scenario as said gates spring open.
Of course, time has been spent, and like Sam the butcher, my job (in this forum at least) is to deliver the meat. So, if I were to lay a $20 on the line — and spread it a bit, with the hopes of buying a nice dinner that night — here's where I'd put it:
- $5 PLACE on GOLDENCENTS
- $5 PLACE on NORMANDY INVASION
- $5 SHOW on VYJACK
- $5 SHOW on CHARMING KITTEN
There it is. I'll append this post-race to include the results. Which is to say, my winnings.
Tune in this Saturday on NBC from 5:00 on (post time is 6:24 EDT).
Remember to make your simple syrup early enough to chill it before mixing those Mint Juleps. And come on back to The Weekly Meat. Tasty vittles and libations on tap in the coming weeks — and next year for Derby week, I promise a lengthy treatise on my handicapping system.
Postscipt: Well, it turns out that ORB was indeed a great horse peaking at the right time. He ran a fantastic race, and trainer Shug MacGaughey — who has long been the Ray Bourque of horseracing — finally has his well-deserved Derby win.
And so I'd have lost my $20 in bets, without even beer money. But, as every Cubs fan knows, there's always next year.
Note: The Daily Racing Form, America's Turf Authority since 1894, neither endorses nor is affiliated in any way with the views and ramblings of BK, America's Dirt Authority Since 1968.