Brian’s Derby Wagering Guideline

You didn’t really think only 19 would line up, did you? Of course not! Ever the sportsman, Nick Zito threw Nowhere To Hide into the mix at the last minute and we have a full field of 20 in the starting gate. Personally, I think post positions in the Derby are highly overrated, with some obvious exceptions (speed horses drawing the rail would be one). The simple fact is that if you can’t secure position during that long quarter-mile run into the first turn, then you really don’t deserve to win the Derby anyway. –Brian

Upon reviewing the draw, I think only Regal Ransom got a bum deal. He has to break in between Join In The Dance (post nine) and Atomic Rain (post 14), and both those horses will be on the lead. So Alan Garcia will have to use Regal Ransom at least a bit, so not to get shuffled back by the stampede. And if he uses Regal Ransom too much, he runs the risk of being caught in a three-way pace duel.

Other than that, I don’t think anyone got hurt too bad. Sure, the rail is no great shakes, but West Side Bernie will be dropping back and making one run anyway. Flying Private got the 20-hole, but he has enough natural speed to gauge things off the break and try and tuck in before the turn. All the major contenders seemed to draw perfectly, so it looks like may the best horse win.

Let’s take a brief look at the field in post position order with each horse’s morning line. Basically I’ll give my predicted post time price and whether or not it’s worth a win wager. Remember, there are 20 horses and the best horse doesn’t always win the Derby, so shopping for value and passing on the underlays is as important as wagering strategy.

1. West Side Bernie (30-1): Considering he’s coming off the race of his life and was beaten only 1 ½ lengths by Derby favorite I Want Revenge in the Wood Memorial, 30-1 seems like a pretty juicy number. He’s got to improve again, and the reality was that I Want Revenge would have won the Wood by 8 lengths with a good trip, but if West Side Bernie reaches his morning line, he’s worth a win saver for sure.

2. Musket Man (20-1): I’m not a big fan of this colt, so to me this number seems like a bit of an underlay. If he runs the same race he did in the Illinois Derby, he’ll probably split the field, so taking 20-1 seems like a poor decision to me.

3. Mr. Hot Stuff (30-1): Considering his connections and pedigree, this morning line seems a bit generous to me. He was beaten all of 2 lengths by the co-second choice Pioneerof The Nile in the Santa Anita Derby and all of a sudden he’s 30-1? If you get it, he’s worth a flyer, but because I’m expecting Mr. Hot Stuff to be in the 20-1 range, it’s best to pass on the win end.

4. Advice (30-1): Wheels back on two weeks rest and has never done much of anything on conventional dirt, so even 30-1 seems like a major underlay in this spot.

5. Hold Me Back (15-1): If you think he’s a different horse than the guy that got his head ripped off in the Remsen last year, then you have something to work off of. But if you believe he’s just a synthetic specialist that’s been catching a bunch of dirt horses on his surface, well, then this 15-1 price seems a bit extreme.

6. Friesan Fire (5-1): Not to go off on a tangent, but we have a 20-horse field and four of the runners are listed at 5-1 or lower? I’m no track handicapper, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. Point being, I’m expecting this colt to be in the 8-1 area on Saturday (well, maybe I’m hoping) and anything close to that number would probably make him the overlay of the race. Though if he does somehow sit around his ML number, he’s teetering on the edge of fair value.

7. Papa Clem (20-1): Here’s another number that you’ll never see. He beat Old Fashioned, who everyone knows about, in the Arkansas Derby. That’s the same race that gave us Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones and Curlin. I’m not a fan of this colt in the least, but if you see 20-1 even I’ll admit he’s somewhat intriguing. But anything less would not be worth a wager.

8. Mine That Bird (50-1): You could throw a few more zeros at the end of his morning line and he would still be a tremendous underlay.

9. Join In The Dance (50-1): If you’re a speed handicapper, this colt will give you a thrill early, and he has shown that he likes a fight and won’t throw in the towel. But with other speed signed on, and to his outside, even a big number like this seems too low.

10. Regal Ransom (30-1): On Sunday I would have said go to the bank and make a large withdrawal to play this colt at 30-1. But the complexion of the race changed drastically over the past few days and he no longer looks like he’ll be alone on a soft pace. I’m thinking by the time they spring the latch, he’ll be more in the 20-1 range, but if you think Garcia can get him to relax and he can rate, that’s still a decent number to take a stab at.

11. Chocolate Candy (20-1): To me, this is the one “longshot” that has a chance to get to the winner’s circle. He ran huge in the Santa Anita Derby and had little chance with the way the race played out, so with a hot pace in front of him, he should be flying late. Yeah, he’s never tried dirt, but this is the kind of price that you take to find out. If he’s anywhere close to this number, he’s definitely worth a play.

12. General Quarters (20-1): First off, with his great story and the fact that he just won the Blue Grass and now gets Leparoux, 20-1 seems like a pretty ambitious number. I just don’t see it. In fact, I could see him going postward as the wiseguy on the day; that one horse you look up at with 3 minutes to post and say aloud, “How is General Quarters 9-1?” If that were indeed the case, he would represent a tremendous underlay. At 20-1 you could do worse, but to me it’s still not worth the risk.

13. I Want Revenge (3-1): He’s a deserving favorite and has everything you want in a Derby horse. But he still has 19 others, a mile and a quarter, and the Racing Gods to deal with, so taking 3-1 doesn’t seem too logical. As a point of reference, Big Brown was almost 5-2 last year in a field that looked like it was littered with a bunch of Grade III types. Plus he had a tremendous speed figure advantage on paper, not to mention a tremendous speed advantage on the track as well. This year I Want Revenge meets at least two other runners, Dunkirk and Friesan Fire, who have shown they can run fast, not to mention some West Coast runners that could move way up on dirt. I’ll be the first to say he’s the most likely winner, but at 3-1 you need to pass or key him in your exotics.

14. Atomic Rain (50-1): Entered to set an honest pace for stablemate West Side Bernie, so he’s not worth any kind of wager.

15. Dunkirk (4-1): Arguably the most talented member of the field, but there’s a reason no horse has won the Derby without running at 2 since Apollo in 1882. At 4-1 there is no reason to find out if he’s the one to break the trend. Curlin couldn’t come close to doing it in 2007 and we know how he fared the rest of his career, so why should Dunkirk do it? I admit I’ve eaten a bit of crow after misjudging him earlier in the season, and I actually think he’s got a big chance on Saturday–but taking this low of a number is simply imprudent.

16. Pioneerof The Nile (4-1): Hmmm, I want Revenge left the synthetics of California and ran huge. Papa Clem then did the same. So this guy’s going to do it too, right? Maybe, maybe not. You just don’t know until they try it, and if he doesn’t improve off his West Coast form, then you’re looking at about a ninth-place run. If he does, then he’s obviously in the mix. But you’re taking a paltry price in what amounts to nothing short of a guessing game. With Chocolate Candy you’re looking at about 20-1, with this colt you’re getting about a quarter of that–if you’re lucky. No thanks.

17. Summer Bird (50-1): If you’re a believer in the Arkansas Derby, then this is a monster price on a horse that’s gotten really good in a hurry and one that might still be moving forward. If Dunkirk wins on Saturday, it would be rewriting history, as his first start was on January 24. This colt made his career debut on March 1, and didn’t even win that day! If he were to win, it would be nothing short of epic. I don’t see it for a second, but if he’s somehow near this morning line, you could do a lot worse than a horse that you know will be passing a bunch of staggering sorts late.

18. Nowhere To Hide (50-1): He’s eligible for an entry-level allowance and has never finished better than fourth in any graded stakes race. How does that 50-1 sound now? Even die-hard Nick fans know this is a reach.

19. Desert Party (15-1): He couldn’t run down Regal Ransom at about 1-5 in the UAE Derby and Godolphin’s main man Frankie Dettori is honoring another commitment (from Godolphin) in Europe on Saturday. That doesn’t exactly fill you with a ton of confidence, does it? At 15-1 he would represent a major, major underlay.

20. Flying Private (50-1): OK, here’s where I lose all credibility. He’s just like Nowhere To Hide and eligible for an entry-level allowance. But there’s tactical speed here and he ran a sneaky good race in the Arkansas Derby, so at 50-1 or so I’m willing to take a huge flyer and completely understand it’s a monumental stretch.

4 thoughts on “Brian’s Derby Wagering Guideline

  1. Teresa,On Sunday moring you may want to refer to it as “the miracle of Dunkirk.” Look for Edgar coming down the stretch with the winner. Stuart

  2. For the Road To The Roses contest a 1-2 finish of Desert Party and Regal Ransom would suit me as i have bin Suroor as trainer.I think DP will run much better on Saturday with an aggressive rider. He was lazy in the stretch in the UAE Derby.Great review of the contenders. I hope we can all find a suitable exotic on the weekend!

  3. I would have had no problem with Wining Colors or Spend a Buck breaking from the rail in the Derby.Post positions by themselves do not mean much. But how each horse may have to adjust their strategy in relation to what the other horses might do. Some can adapt and others can’t.Am I not simplistic? 😀

  4. Considering the way he ran as West Side Bernie’s entrymate in the Wood Memorial, why are people assuming Atomic Rain is going to the front to keep the pace honest?The horse has never been on the lead at the first quarter mile, and Thorograph Race Shapes has his average first quarter at 24.79 seconds.

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