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  • The Kentucky Derby

    One of my friends sends out an annual Derby email. They're pretty spectacular and totally worth a read, since part of his job is still making words go together for a living. Hoping he doesn't mind me sharing it here:

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    As many of you are aware, each year I do a lengthy preview of the Kentucky Derby and as you undoubtedly recall, each year my predictions are precisely 100% accurate, producing a sizable annual windfall of cash for me and all my friends and colleagues. Frankly it’s kind of amazi….no, wait, that’s not right. Let me quickly review my track record here. A-ha…..now I see the problem. Ok, revise those last two lines to “Most years my predictions are completely wrong” and “Frankly it’s kind of pathetic.” Yes, that’s more like it. Anyway, hope springs eternal and all that, and as the calendar thankfully turns to May I’m back to take another run at it. For those of you who don’t regularly follow horse racing – which by my calculation is roughly 140% of you – apologies for cluttering up your in box (and note, boss, that I wrote this last night but couldn't send it til today; just sayin). For the gamblers and the merely curious, my people, keep reading.

    The imagery is irresistible, a scene too perfect even for fiction. A boy, a horse, and a boxcar on a train that was, Woody Guthrie might have sang, bound for glory. 59 years ago the boy was Art Sherman, 18 years old and an exercise rider of some talent. The horse was named Swaps, and the ride was a cross-country roll from Los Angeles to Louisville and the Kentucky Derby. The accommodations were not luxurious. Sherman and Swaps shared a boxcar on a trip that must have taken the better part of a week. It's so long ago now that even Sherman can't remember how long it took. “It wasn’t that bad,” Sherman told reporters this week "Half the car was bedded down in straw, and I had my sleeping bag in the corner. Swaps was cool. It was like being with a friend.” On Derby Day the teenager watched from the backside of Churchill Downs as Swaps seized an early lead and held the heralded Eastern superstar Nashua at bay all the way around the oval. In those days the Derby and the World Series were the biggest annual events on the sports calendar, and with the Dodgers still three years away from leaving Brooklyn, Swaps' win was huge news on the west coast and made him something of a folk hero in Southern California. It must have seemed so easy to Art Sherman at the time, to be still a teenager and already linked to one of the biggest stars in sports. He couldn't have imagined that in over two decades as a race rider he'd never have a mount of his own in the Derby, or that in almost four decades as a trainer he'd never get to saddle a horse for the world's greatest race. Until now. Tomorrow 77 year old Art Sherman saddles California Chrome, the Kentucky Derby favorite. "My Swaps" Sherman calls him. Modestly bred at a cost of $8000, California Chrome is a surprising candidate to become the first California-bred Derby winner in over 50 years, but here he is. All sports are about mythology, but horse racing, with its silent participants and maddening unpredictability, is particularly well-suited to legend and superstition. Who can say why a horse like this comes along at this moment for this trainer? The horse isn't going to tell us. As Sherman told the New York Times in describing his horse, "The moon and the stars, everything, were lined up just right in the universe."

    Selections for the 140th Kentucky Derby:
    1. CALIFORNIA CHROME
    2. MEDAL COUNT
    3. WICKED STRONG
    4. DANCE WITH FATE

    Every year the challenge of handicapping the Kentucky Derby is described as a puzzle, and with good reason. This year, however, the Derby is more like a referendum, and it comes from the home of polarizing referenda. CALIFORNIA CHROME enters the Derby on a scintillating four-race win streak, with all four of those wins by blowout margins and the most recent coming in the Santa Anita Derby. Any discussion of this year’s Derby begins and ends with California Chrome, and with the question of what odds you’re willing to accept on the favorite in a chaotic 19-horse race with a long history of upset winners. California Chrome’s record on the track is unassailable. In his recent starts he’s shown nearly everything you could ask for in a Derby horse: a high cruising speed, push-button acceleration, and the versatility to win from on or off the lead. California Chrome is the only horse in the race who doesn’t necessarily have to improve to win the Derby. His last two races were both Derby-winning quality based on speed figures, and his final time for the Santa Anita Derby was two seconds faster than the final time of every other Derby prep race save one. Horseplayers debate the value of comparing final times across racetracks, but a margin of two seconds equates to roughly ten lengths and is simply too huge to dismiss. The few knocks against California Chrome – that he’s never liked having dirt kicked in his face (who does?) or raced outside his home state or that his physical appearance at Churchill Downs this week has been uninspiring to some – strike me as reaches. To my eyes this is the most exciting Derby prospect in quite a few years and obviously the most likely to wear the roses.

    The question of course is whether California Chrome is worth a bet at stingy odds of 2-1 or perhaps 5-2. To everyday horseplayers the notion of betting a 2-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby is appalling, if not downright offensive. Last week one sharp racing observer made a persuasive case to me that one should never bet on a Derby horse at 4-1 or lower as a matter of policy, and a study of Derby history reveals that his point has a lot of merit. The list of intoxicating Derby favorites who fizzled at short prices is long indeed. Some, like Point Given and Holy Bull, went on to prove their greatness in subsequent races. Others, like Friesan Fire and Bellamy Road, faded into obscurity and are only remembered as cautionary tales at this time each year. For the guys who handicap and play hundreds if not thousands of races a year and who grind out positive ROI over the long haul, the choice to play against California Chrome is an easy one and I can’t argue with the approach. For the occasional player, however, the words of the great Harvey Pack, the dean of New York racing analysts, ring true: “Better a short price than a long face.”

    For those looking for a play at more enticing numbers, the top two finishers from the Blue Grass Stakes both factor in our selections and both figure to be attractive prices. For decades the Blue Grass Stakes was a vitally important prep for the Kentucky Derby, but since the surface was converted from natural dirt to a purportedly safer synthetic surface called Polytrack the race has had diminished impact as a launchpad for Derby glory. Many observers now seem to dismiss the credentials of Blue Grass entrants before the race is even run. Blue Grass runner-up MEDAL COUNT is our second choice. Sent out by affable trainer Dale Romans at morning line odds of 20-1, Medal Count ran wide on both turns in the Blue Grass while making an impressive late bid to get up for second. Trainer Romans has made a recent habit of factoring in the Derby exotics. His horses have landed in the top four in 3 of the last 4 Derbies at average odds of 16-1, and with a Preakness win already to his credit it may be only a matter of time until Romans collects his first Derby win. Blue Grass winner DANCE WITH FATE is also listed at 20-1 on the morning line although my hunch is that he’ll go off a little longer than Medal Count. Dance With Fate has been improving with each start, his big move from 11th to 1st to win the Blue Grass was certainly eye-catching, and eyewitness reports from the Downs say that he’s coming into the race in excellent fitness. In a race loaded with speed these two could be charging hard late at big odds.

    Another horse who will be moving late is Wood Memorial winner WICKED STRONG, named in tribute to the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. With the Thursday morning scratch of highly-regarded Hoppertunity, Wicked Strong is now very likely to be the second choice in the betting. Wicked Strong had the misfortune to draw an extreme outside post for this race, but given his tendency to drop back early and make a late run that may not be such a handicap and if you’re a believer in this horse you may like that the parking-lot post position will surely drive some money away from Wicked Strong. Plenty to like and it would be nice to see a win for those long-suffering Boston sports fans who haven’t had a championship to celebrate in almost seven months. Just missing the cut for our selections is Arkansas Derby hero DANZA, who got a dreamy, rail-skimming trip in Arkansas to light up the tote board at odds of 41-1. Danza is conditioned by juggernaut trainer Todd Pletcher and is another who moles at the track are saying looks to be coming into the race in peak condition. Should Danza spring the upset to capture the roses, the over/under on the number of Sunday newspaper headlines that will make reference to “Who’s The Boss?” is conservatively set at ten billion.

    For me nothing beats a big day at the races, and the first Saturday in May is of course the biggest of them all. The Arc de Triomphe is more cosmopolitan. The Breeders Cup has more great horses. Saratoga is more charming. The racing is more unhinged at England's Grand National, while it's the patrons that are more unhinged at Maryland's Preakness. All of the great days are more something than the Derby but the Derby is more.....more. It's just more. It's the one that ties everything together. The Kentucky Derby is a volcano. It shifts and rumbles in anticipation, then roars to life in a sudden, heart-pounding explosion of color and clamor and power, and then it's gone. Everybody should experience the Derby in person at least once, preferably while you're still young, which in horse racing means an age in double digits.

    The heartbeat of the Derby is in the unique mix of the 150,000 strong - gadabouts and frat bros, debutantes and degenerates - who come together every year to celebrate America's greatest party. The Derby is not immune to the unfortunate trends in sports that segregate the have-mores from the haves, and keep the have-nots off the premises entirely, but there's still enough commingling to create the heady cocktail that makes the Derby special. The bonhomie at the Derby is real, ask anyone who's ever been, and every year it reaches its delirious peak just before the running of the race with the playing of My Old Kentucky Home. The horses are on the track. The sunshine is pouring forth. The drinks are ice cold. The music swells, and the voices rise:

    The sun shines bright
    In the old Kentucky home
    Tis summer, the people are gay

    The corn tops ripe
    And the meadow's in the bloom
    While the birds make music all the day

    The young folks roll
    On the little cabin floor
    All merry, all happy and bright

    By and by hard times
    Come a knockin at the door
    Til My Old Kentucky Home, good night

    Weep no more my lady
    Oh weep no more today
    We will sing one song
    For my old Kentucky home, far away

    The moon and the stars, everything, are lined up for another Derby, another spring. Enjoy it. Good luck to all players.

  • #2
    OK time to get serious. Here's my trifecta and superfecta

    Medal Count to win
    California Chrome/Dance with Fate/Candy horse that Stevens is riding
    Field
    Field

    Then bet the same thing with 2nd places horses first and Medal Count second

    Then $100 exacta box...oh, make it $1,000:

    Candy-Dance with Fate-Medal Count-California Chrome

    See you at the pay window.

    Comment


    • #3
      I really have no clue this year. The derby kinda snuck up on me. Lucky for my bank account, I've never been good at calling horses.

      Comment


      • #4
        But good luck man.

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        • #5
          CC ran away with it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bombay View Post
            CC ran away with it.
            Yep. Wasn't a doubt coming out of that last curve.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by bombay View Post
              OK time to get serious. Here's my trifecta and superfecta

              Medal Count to win
              California Chrome/Dance with Fate/Candy horse that Stevens is riding
              Field
              Field

              Then bet the same thing with 2nd places horses first and Medal Count second

              Then $100 exacta box...oh, make it $1,000:

              Candy-Dance with Fate-Medal Count-California Chrome

              See you at the pay window.
              So how did this work out for you genius

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by OBF1 View Post
                So how did this work out for you genius

                I lost $5 in the bar pool I was in by drawing Vicars In Trouble.

                Sorry my imaginary bet upset you, but OTB places gross me out.

                Last edited by RepentWalpurgis; 05-03-2014, 04:27 PM.

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                • #9
                  If there's a precedent with this horse, it's likely Smarty Jones.

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                  • #10
                    Anyway, it was a slow race with a lackluster field behind C.C.. Imagine that his Oaks speed figure is higher than the Derby's

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                    • #11
                      This is a great race to watch every year but they could enhance it much better just by putting mics on all the racers so you can hear the thundering of the hooves and the cracks of the whips. Would really enhance the viewing of this on the TV. You can hear some of it but they should do what NASCAR does when the announcers shut up for a minute or so and they crank up the mics down by the cars and you can really hear the action clean. Love that. Obviously the race is too short and you can't stop the announcer but they should crank up the noise on the track alot more.
                      Last edited by ZONA; 05-04-2014, 12:00 AM.

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                      • #12
                        I know its weird, but horses freak me out a bit.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Archer81 View Post
                          I know its weird, but horses freak me out a bit.


                          Eric Berry can relate. Berry won't run out of the tunnel until the horse has passed, nor he will take part in huddles while Warpaint, and its rider, Susie, are nearby. To quote Mr. Berry: "I don't fool with no horses, boy. Hell nah."

                          http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon...orses/1702873/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I went to a derby party for the first time and it was pretty awesome. Everybody got dressed up. I wore my seersucker suit with a bow tie, and then just drank a lot. Good times.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jason in LA View Post
                              I went to a derby party for the first time and it was pretty awesome. Everybody got dressed up. I wore my seersucker suit with a bow tie, and then just drank a lot. Good times.
                              Your reply is useless without pics, hahaha.

                              Comment

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