This is a weekend where nearly everybody becomes a horse racing fan, even if just for a day or two. Lots of novice eyes will turn to our sport. May I suggest if you have a friend or relative peppering you with horse racing questions to get them a copy of my book “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies.”
My book is a quick read, and by Derby day you’ll be happily surprised when the former novice is now placing his or her own bets through the mutuel windows. And cashing.
Once one gets past the novice stage the next series of questions is usually “Who do I bet on?”
Well, the rest of this column will focus on which horses I like in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. In real life, I get paid to give people advice, and fortunately I’m right often enough where they come back for more.
Last year I hit the bulls-eye with Justify. I jumped on the horse early and turned a nice profit.
This year has not been so clear cut. The favorites have all come out of Santa Anita Park. Omaha Beach was the morning-line favorite in the Derby but was scratched from the race May 1. He defeated two of trainer Bob Baffert’s best colts – Game Winner and Improbable in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby, respectively.
A third Baffert colt, Roadster, then upset Game Winner in the Santa Anita Derby. The way I see it, there is not more than a length separating the top three probable favorites in Game Winner, Improbable and Roadster.
Now that can be good or bad. Are these three favorites that much faster than the other 17 Derby starters? If you think the answer is yes, then you don’t have to handicap much further.
But if you’re like me then you like to poke the bear. Now, understand betting against the post-time favorite has been a losing proposition in the last six Derbys. That’s right. Ever since Churchill Downs instituted a points system for getting into the Derby in 2013, we’ve seen six straight winning post-time favorites.
Since favorites win on average one out of three times, then we are due to beat the chalk this year.
The horse I like to upset the Derby this year is #7 Maximum Security. He was a decisive winner of the Xpressbet Florida Derby and is undefeated in four career starts. Two of the last three Derby winners also won the Florida Derby in Nyquist and Always Dreaming.
Gulfstream Park historically has been a good place to prep a Kentucky Derby winner. Maximum Security has good tactical speed to either lead from start to finish or stalk the early pace. His morning line is 10-1 odds but I expect him to go higher as the fifth betting choice in the race.
In two weeks, we’ll gather again for the Preakness Stakes where only one horse will remain eligible to win the Triple Crown. I hope that horse will be Maximum Security.
Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies," an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing. For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on Facebook.com.