They call the Kentucky Derby the most exciting two minutes in sports. It also may be the most confusing.
A stampede of 20 horses racing farther than they ever have before while trying to acclimate to the screams of 150,000 fans creates random results (see Mine That Bird at 50-1 in 2009; Giacomo at 50-1 in 2005).
Here’s my stab at solving the puzzle.
Bet against the favorite, Bodemeister (4-1). While his win three weeks ago in the Arkansas Derby was the most brilliant performance by any in this group, I’m taking a stand against him. That race scored so highly on technical speed charts that a regression following that taxing effort here seems probable. His No. 6 post-position draw is also a negative because it places him inside all the other early speed horses in the race, putting him potentially at a tactical disadvantage.
Try to beat him with Gemologist (6-1). He’s undefeated in five races (including two wins at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby) and was just playing around with his competition in the April 7 Wood Memorial in New York, flicking his ears around through the stretch and waiting for challengers. That race suggests to me that we haven’t seen his best yet. And the railbirds at Churchill this week are abuzz over his striking appearance during morning gallops. He’s my pick.
I’ll try to pair him in exactas with Union Rags (9-2), the horse trained by Michael Matz (he of Barbaro fame). His Florida Derby flop wasn’t as bad as it looked and he’s been training great since. He should be coming fast late.
There are a few longshots who have caught my eye: Alpha, owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum; I’ll Have Another; Daddy Nose Best and El Padrino. All seem like candidates to surprise and pay big prices.
(David Papadopoulos, the team leader for Latin America markets coverage at Bloomberg News, has been following thoroughbred racing for more than two decades and was runner-up in 2008 Eclipse Award voting for feature writing on the industry.)
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