Horse racing is a tough enough sport to cap when the field isn’t full to the brim with evenly matched contenders. But you have to take a stab on the Derby, and here are the horses I like.
In any horse race, just like in any other sport, there is always a great deal of randomness that can throw a perfectly capped race completely out the window. A bad start out of the gate, a horse breaking to the front to soon, a bump, a surprising ride by an unknown, any one little thing can set off a chain reaction that creates a top three on the tote board that no one could have foreseen.
This is never clearer than in the Kentucky Derby, where such a large field of horses over such a long distance can produce any kind of result. And unlike last year’s Derby which had an obvious favorite by the numbers, this race features no such obvious favorite, increasing the likelihood of a beautiful breakdown with an enormous payout.
I am a speed handicapper, but I also factor in the projected pace of the race in making my decisions on who to play. I have as good of a grasp as I am going to get on this race, and will share my findings with you here. But just to clarify, when I make a note of “why the horse won’t win”, I simply mean why I disqualified it from my winner’s circle on my budget. Most of these horses, especially the one’s I’m centering on in this piece, have a good shot Saturday if the race aligns itself right.
HORSES I WILL BE USING TO WIN
13. I Want Revenge (3-1)
The likely favorite for good reason. Beyer Speed at the Gotham G3 of 113 by far the best that any in this field has run, and despite troubles in his last race still prevailed with a gritty effort and a 103 Beyer, unprecedented for a bumpy ride. Pioneer of Nile has beaten this horse twice, but both times were on synthetic track, and I Want Revenge clearly excels on dirt as shown in his last two races. Trainer Jeff Mullens and jockey Joe Talamo give me no reason not to feel confident in this horse.
6. Freisen Fire (5-1)
Blazingly fast workouts and a steady improvement in Beyer Speeds in three straight wins lead me to believe that Freisen Fire is ready to launch his best effort here on Saturday. His racing style is perfect for a race of this size; let the front runners take the lead and sit right behind them until the final turn and then make your strike. He has the pedigree, and trainer Jones J Larry’s stats on races like this one (Dirt Races 25% winners, Graded Stakes 36%, Route 27%, among others) lead me to believe that this horse will be very tough to beat down the stretch.
HORSES I WILL BE USING TO ROUND OUT MY EXOTICS
7. Papa Clem (20-1)
Will likely fight for the lead early, but Bejerano is a smart jockey and will not wear him out too early. Papa Clem has showed the ability to fight for the lead early and stay involved late. Has a chance to be the case again in this race, and would pay nicely.
Why he won’t win: Trainer numbers don’t create much confidence, has only won a single non-maiden race.
11. Chocolate Candy (20-1)
Has an unbelievable late kick; while he likely doesn’t have the speed to keep up with this bunch, if the horses in front tire, he has the late kick to clean up the garbage. This will be the horse that comes “out of nowhere” at the end to finish in the top 5; and maybe even the top 3.
Why he won’t win; Top Beyer of 94 just isn’t going to be close enough in this field.
15. Dunkirk (4-1)
Excellent Beyer of 108 is more than enough to beat any in this field. You simply can not throw out the horse with the best recent Beyer, and the 2nd highest among any in this field.
Why he won’t win; Only three career races, never raced as a two year old. Only one graded stakes race. Hard to see him edging out all the others in the end.
16. Pioneer of Nile (4-1)
Proven winner, has won last four races, all graded stakes. Gomez is one of the best jockeys in the game, and trainer numbers are very promising.
Why he won’t win; Hell, he probably will. But you can’t pick every horse in the field, and sometimes you have to put a serious contender out of your winner’s circle. As a speed handicapper, I can’t pencil a horse with a top career Beyer of 96 in as a winner in a race that will probably require a number in the mid 100’s to get the job done.
HOW I’M BETTING IT
I’m content to drop $50 on the Derby, and despite the fact that there will always be “that horse” in the crew that I left out that messes up everything, on my betting budget, I have to trust my capping.
$1 Trifecta ($40): 6, 13 with 6, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16 with 6, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16
$1 Exacta ($10): 6, 13 with 6, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16
Good luck on whatever you bet!