Derby day is one of my favorite days of the year. It has become a yearly tradition of my friends to make a quick Jack and Diet (otherwise known as JD-DC) in a 20 oz bottle and trek to the local OTB. Regulars of the Off Track Betting circuit call the first Saturday in May, “A day for Amateurs.” While they are trying to tri-box the third race at Aqueduct, there is a just graduated sorority girl trying to bet on her lucky number seven for Race 10 at Churchill Downs. I love any event where you can get people who don’t really gamble to come out and wager; especially on the best two minutes in sports. I am no “Hammerin” Hank Goldberg, nor do I claim to be. All I do is try to analyze the race and bet accordingly. But that usually gets thrown out the window when I get to the automated machine and just press random numbers. I will preview all 20 entries and then paint the picture of how I envision the race to break down:
1. Cool Coal Man – Won the Fountain of Youth, but stunk it up at the Blue Grass. This will be the fifth time he has broken from the rail and his only loss on the synthetic track at the Blue Grass Stakes. His key will be to stay away early from what I expect to be a fast pace. Most likely wont be able to do it. Maybe chance to catch the end of the TRI or SUPER
2. Tale of Ekati – Won the Wood Memorial, but that was an extremely slow race. Has not been working out well the last week, so basically in my opinion he’s a throwout
3. Anak Nakal – Hasn’t had great performances in the past, but he has been working out well this week. 30-1 might be good enough for a valued exotic play
4. Court Vision – Bill Mott put the blinkers on this week and they must have worked because the colt has been running great in workouts. Finished third in the only 2 races he has run in 2008. Likes Churchill Downs; I personally don’t see him winning but wouldn’t keep him out of the tri or super boxes
5. Eight Belles – The only philly in the Derby is coming in with a 4 race win streak. Bad gate breaker and offers little value compared to the other horses in the race. Throwout
6. Z Fortune – Ran a monster race at the Arkansas Derby and the three weeks might not have been enough time to recover. He hasn’t been working out well at the Downs. Billy Gillespie likes him; I don’t as I see him tiring out along the last furlong
7. Big Truck – Too slow for my liking. Throwout
8. Visionaire – Won at Gotham, and if the pace is what I think it will be; great chance and should be offering great value at post time
9. Pyro – Definitely a contender in my opinion. If he runs like he did in the Risen Star he has a chance to go to Preakness as the triple crown contender. But that race was in February. I am not buying that the 10th place finish at the Bluegrass was due to the synthetic ground. Exotic play, hopefully can get 8-1 at post
10. Colonel John – Won Santa Anita, but his speed figures aren’t all that great. The Derby will be the first time he runs on dirt which although little, I worry about. He has the class to make it, so just like Pyro a win and exotic play is in order. Although there will be little value at 4-1.
11. Z Humor – Working out well this week, but shown nothing in the past to warrant any consideration. Would take a career best performance just to make the board
12. Smooth Air – Missing workouts leading to the Derby worries me. Throwout
13. Bob Black Jack – First time running on dirt and is one of the five horses that will look to take the lead early. Too much for him to handle in this race. Throwout
14. Monba – Won the Blue Grass on a poly track, but also has won on the dirt of Churchill. 15-1 offers good enough odds for me to consider him in the exotics
15. Adriano – Ran 9th on his only dirt track race at the Fountain of Youth. See him running well, but if he is at the head of the pack around the stretch, will he be able to hold off the closers. 30-1 offers great value
16. Denis of Cork – Might be the best value on the board at 20-1. If he runs like he did in the Illinois Derby then we are in business. Might be too inexperienced for this level, but I see him making a strong run to make the board
17. Cowboy Cal – Another colt that wants to get out early. Won’t be able to keep it up for the 10 furlongs. Throwout
18. Recapturetheglory – Won the Illinois Derby. He likes the speed early, but the post position might be too far out for him to contend the whole time
19. Gayego – Personally one of my favorites coming into Derby Week. After watching him win the Arkansas Derby I was impressed. This post position just ruined my opinion, but good enough to hit the board for the exotics. His best hope is to not race out to the front early and get into position to stalk the leaders. We have seen stranger things happen
20. Big Brown – Favorite at the time of the post. Picking gate 20 was just strange. Is 3 for 3 in his only races. If big Brown runs like he did in the Florida Derby (faster than Barbaro and you saw what he did in the Derby) he has a chance to be special.
I see them breaking from the gate with all the early speed coming from the right. That being Bob Black Jack, Cowboy Cal, Recapturetheglory, Gayego, and Big Brown. Big Brown and Gayego want the speed, but I think their jockeys will have them stalk in the pack. It will take a lot to try and cut all the way across the track to get to the rail. The other 3 speed horses will tire down the backstretch as the pressers come up and push the pace. Those being Z Humor, Smooth Air, and Cowboy Cal. Big Brown will continue to stalk and make a move to the front with Adriano, Z Fortune, Colonel John and Gayego. Big Brown, Colonel John, and Gayego will all be close to the lead or leading at the stretch. Now this is where it becomes interesting as the closers pick their way through the field and gain on the three. There are so many of them (Court Vision, Pyro, Denis of Cork, Visionaire, and Anak Nakal), who will make it through the traffic? And down the stretch they come with Big Brown, Gayego, Visionaire, Colonel John, and Court Vision. It’s Big Brown, Visionaire, Gayego and Colonel John in that order. I think Big Brown could be in for a special year. Curlin was the best horse in the world last year but got caught up in traffic at the derby. If that doesn’t happen here to Big Brown, he will go to the Preakness as the triple crown threat. This is how I envision it. Will it happen, of course it won’t. But will I wager on it? Of course, and probably more. Why? Because it’s the best two minutes in all of sports.
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