Friday, May 6, 2011


One of the casual hobbies I've picked up over the last few years is taking a trip to the racetrack. I was trying to figure out why I was drawn to this random pastime normally reserved for senior citizens, and looking back I think it's been a lifelong fascination:

When I was really little, I always loved that carnival horse racing game (the kind where you roll the ball to advance the horse):

(Hmm…I’m not sure why this picture has all old people playing this game too…maybe I really am the only non-senior citizen interested in horse racing).

Any way, then I graduated to Final Furlong, the classic horse racing arcade game that’s actually a pretty good workout:

I would watch the Triple Crown races on TV every year too, but my first real foray into live racing was actually an office outing to the racetrack a few years ago. I have no idea who signed off on the idea for our whole department to take off on a weekday afternoon to go bet on horses, but in any case I was hooked right away.

The excitement of the horses making the final turn with your trifecta bet still in contention is unbeatable (besides actually owning one of these horses coming down the stretch, which I can only dream of for now). Plus, for someone as cheap as me, being able to spread out a couple $20's over a whole day of races is fairly economical (I know, enjoying the race track and being cheap seems like an oxymoron, but somehow it works for me.)

This was probably a way too long explanation of what I think I’ll write about on this blog.Most of the major sports and sports betting stories seem well-covered by my fellow writers, so I think I’ll mostly write about fringe sports, like horse racing – and what a perfect time to get started with the Kentucky Derby this weekend!
I am definitely a beginner when it comes to handicapping – I’ve probably only been to the racetrack 8-10 times in my life, but it’s something I can see myself pursuing for a long time. I think this blog will be a fun opportunity to explore the concepts I learn about handicapping (without actually losing my shirt!).

Any way, with the 2011 Kentucky Derby upon us, hopes for the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 are renewed again. With 20 horses in the field, the field is wide open as usual, but the payouts could be huge. Here are some thoughts on the field:

Definite Potential

3 – Twice the Appeal (20-1): kind of an unknown, but can you really count Calvin Borel out??
7 – Pants on Fire (20-1): love the name, winner over a good field last time out, and it would be cool to see a female jockey win
8 – Dialed In (4-1): favorite, strong owner/jockey/trainer combo and excellent results
13 – Mucho Macho Man (12-1): great name, good post position, pretty good results
15 – Midnight Interlude (10-1): winner last two times out, good post position, but very inexperienced
17 – Soldat (12-1): great results, consistency with jockey/trainer, good value?
19 – Nehro (6-1): one of the favorites, good position to close late?

Eh, Maybe?

1 – Archarcharch (10-1): excellent results this year, but bad luck with the post draw
2 – Brilliant Speed (30-1): jockey switch last time out led to a win, but another bad post draw
4 – Stay Thirsty (20-1): strong jockey/trainer combo, but poor result last time out; I like the name though!
11 – Master of Hounds (30-1): kind of an unknown in America, but proven jockey
14 – Shackleford (12-1): almost won last time out as a major longshot, but pretty inexperienced and a first time Derby jockey
18 – Uncle Mo (9-2): once considered a favorite, but health issues might lead to a scratch?

No Chance (OK, not really…every horse has a chance!)

5 – Decisive Moment (30-1): first time jockey/trainer at the Derby, results are so-so
6 – Comma to the Top (30-1): very experienced horse, but switching to a new jockey for the Derby and hasn’t won in a while
9 – Derby Kitten (30-1): barely snuck into the field, still no jockey??
10 – Twinspired (30-1): marginal results, new jockey for Derby
12 – Santiva (30-1): third jockey switch in the last three races, poor run last time out
16 – Animal Kingdom (30-1): jockey switch, not much experience
20 – Watch Me Go (50-1): biggest longshot, starting way outside

I prefer only betting at the racetrack where I can watch the races in person, but if I were to bet on the Derby I would probably go for some combination of these bets (yep, pretty much all wild guesses):

$2 Win – 3 (Twice the Appeal), 17 (Soldat)
$2 Show – 7 (Pants on Fire), 13 (Mucho Macho Man)
$1 Exacta Box – 3,8,17 (Twice the Appeal, Dialed In, Soldat)
$1 Exacta Box – 7,8,17 (Pants on Fire, Dialed In, Soldat)
$1 Exacta Box – 3,13 (Twice the Appeal, Mucho Macho Man)
$2 Exacta Box – 3,7 (big payout potential!)
$0.10 Superfecta Box – 3,7,8,17 (just for fun)

Total bets: $28.40


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