The best two minutes in sports is set for its 142nd annual installment, and the buzz is tremendous around this year’s installment. There isn’t an American Pharaoh to dominate the conversation, but there is a prohibitive favorite in Nyquist at 3:1. But he is by no means the overwhelming can’t miss pick like last year’s favorite, which makes for a ton of value horses and lots or differing opinions on how today’s race will shape up.
The Derby is a crowded field, which makes it a tricky wager but still one of the most popular wagers in all of sports and a highlight on the sporting calendar. I don’t claim horse racing as a love and passion like basketball and baseball, but I can’t let a Derby go by without a little action to liven up the day. And, like in all sports wagering, with some good research and healthy respect for analytics and trends we can tilt the odds in our favor. Two of the last three Derby’s have been profitable occasions for me (and our column here on thesportsgeek.com) so let’s see if we can make this year’s Run for the Roses another bankroll-fattening occasion.
The 142 Kentucky Derby Preview:
The Favorites & Gate Position:
#13 Nyquist 3:1 – Favorites have done well in the Derby in recent years, and Nyquist’s perfect seven for seven record doesn’t do anything to damage the notion that the favorite could once again cash a winning ticket. The #13 gate isn’t the best draw, but it isn’t terrible. Lucky thirteen produced a winner with Smarty Jones back in 2004 and put a horse in the money with Mucho Macho Man showing in 2011.
All lot of the experts are fading this horse though, despite his unbeaten record. His pedigree and splits show more of a sprinter, perhaps not wired to go the distance in this crowded field with other talented horses who can push the pace early like Outwork and Danzig Candy. At 3:1, I think I am staying away as well. That is pretty slim odds in an 18 horse filed, especially if there are some real question marks about the distance.
#15 Outwork 15:1 – Speaking of Outwork, he may be able to push the speed early and tire out the favorite, but his relatively weak showing in winning the Wood Memorial – barely – over an 82:1 horse, doesn’t bode well for Churchill Downs today. This is another horse with some people liking him that I am going to stay away from.
#10 Exaggerator 10:1 – I like the value here. He is jockeyed by three-time Derby winner Kent Desormeaux, and has a good draw from the #10 gate, which has produced more winners than any other Kentucky Derby gate position as well as the most in-the-money finishes with a sturdy 30.4%. Good horse, good jockey, good draw? That means “good bet” to me.
Longer Shots with Some Value:
#17 Mor Spirit 15:1 – There’s a lot to like here. Trained by Bob Baffert, whose name you know even if this is the only horse race you watch all year, and jockeyed by Gary Stevens who has won this thing FIVE TIMES. Sure, he has bad acceleration metrics and there are some horse-specific things not to like, but sentimentally, its hard not to get juiced by Baffert/Stevens at the Derby at longer odds…
#14 Mohaymon 10:1 – After the Florida Derby flop the odds are pretty high for this horse. That could provide a little sneaky value. Mohaymon looked like a possible Derby favorite before Florida’s lousy showing. Is it a one-off or the new normal? You can get nice odds if you bet of the former and hit…
Other Value Horses:
First off – you can tell how up in the air this Derby is by how many horses fall in the 10 to 15 to one range; no one has a GREAT read on this year’s race. So we are looking for value. Here’s a few other’s to consider…
#18 Majesto 30:1 – This is my favorite horse with really long odds. Majesto finished a respectable second to Nyquist at the Florida Derby and has great blood lines. At 30:1, he is worth a slot on your card, even if it isn’t to WIN.
#5 Gun Runner 15:1 – He has a good style of running for the Derby, but trainer Steve Asmussen is 0 for 13 at the Derby, the most starts of any trainer without a win. Can he break the curse today?
This year is as wide-open a Derby Field as any in recent memory, so I am staying off the tepid value of the mild favorite, and instead sprinkling a card with good values. I’ll take Exaggerator to WIN from the nice #10 gate, with Majesto adding some money value to PLACE and the sentimental play of Mor Spirit to PLACE. I am also going to take a flyer with an ATB plays Gun Runner.