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Track Tracts

Derby Day Dope and Drinks
by Gordon Pine

For years, I�ve approached big races like the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders� Cup races the same way. I completely ignore them until the night before the race. I don�t read any of the articles about any of the horses. I don�t follow their workout schedules, their trainers� interviews or their prep race careers. I open up the Form with as fresh a perspective as I can muster and with few preconceptions. If someone asks me my opinion of a big race a week before it happens, I usually sound like an idiot, because I generally don�t even know who�s running. And I strongly believe that�s my biggest edge.

Publicity races offer some of the best overlays to be found anywhere. You can get strong contenders going off at ridiculous odds, sometimes 20 or 30-1. For better or worse, we belong to a media culture. The power of the press to move the public like sheep in big races provides a huge advantage to anyone willing to ignore the racing media. I think this is one of the biggest edges available to modern handicappers. My history in the triple crown races has been profitable because I�m almost always on the value propositions in the 5-1 to 30-1 odds range. Like all handicappers and big-league hitters, I usually strike out. But remember: over the last 10 years worth of Derbies, Unbridled, Lil E. Tee, Sea Hero, Thunder Gulch, and Charismatic all paid more than $20.00 to win. And the Belmont has had its share of longshots too.

"The power of the press to move the public like sheep in big races provides a huge advantage to anyone willing to ignore the racing media. I think this is one of the biggest edges available to modern handicappers."

Chance accounts for 75% of what happens in any given horse race, and in the Kentucky Derby, that number has to be even higher. The large field, the bad trips, the aggressive jockey tactics, the crowd, the surface that many horses seem to dislike � all these factors tend to scramble the predictability of the event. Point Given may well be the super-horse that many think he is, but at less than 2-1, I think he should be considered a poor bet. Before the race, that is. If he wins, his backers can claim value in a $5.00 payoff. At that point, they�ll be right � every winner is an overlay. And plenty of what I consider to be poor bets win. But since I have to bet before the race, I�ll still be on the value horses.  Any horse, even a talented one like Point Given, should offer better odds than he's likely to when competing against several other horses with comparable talent in a 17-horse field.

That�s not to say the favorite won�t be in my exactas. Since, according to one study I saw, one of the top two favorites is involved in the exacta over 80% of the time, I always use the top two favorites in my exactas. I wheel them top and bottom to the overlay(s). If there are more than one overlay, I also box them in hopes of the monster payoff.

Okay � enough of the generalities. Let�s get specific. Here�s my betting line for the Derby:

             Fair  Bet
Horse        Odds  Odds
Balto Star   5/2   4/1
Congaree     7/2   5/1
Point Given  4/1   6/1
Monarchos    7/1   9/1

These are all young, talented, improving horses. Given the trip and a liking for the surface, any one of them could easily win it. And there are a few other horses with the ability to take it all if they run their "A" race: Millennium Wind, A.P. Valentine and Keats are obvious longer-odds horses with potential.

So, it depends on the odds, but if the track odds are like the morning line, I�ll probably be playing Balto Star and Congaree to win, and box Balto Star, Congaree and Point Given in the exacta. If the odds are huge (20-1 and up), I might also put a couple bucks on Millennium Wind, A.P. Valentine and Keats.

Have fun, be sure to wear a big silly hat and drink a mint julep.  Here's a recipe courtesy of cocktails at

  • Fill a tall glass or silver tumbler with crushed ice.
  • Put 2 sprigs of fresh mint in another glass.
  • Add 1/4 oz. of water.
  • Add 1 tsp. Sugar.
  • Muddle ingredients well.
  • Add 3 oz. of Bourbon.
  • Stir gently, but thoroughly.
  • Strain into glass with crushed ice.
  • Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint.
  • Use the freshest and highest quality ingredients you can.
  • Silver cups or tumblers are the traditional way to serve this drink.
  • Best when allowed to sit in the fridge a half hour or longer.

And, finally, do your own handicapping, preferably before the mint julep. NC

Copyright �2001 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

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