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Track Tracts

The Search for the Ultimate Julep
by Gordon Pine

I like Joe Hirsch�s headline in the Kentucky Derby-day Racing Form: "It takes talent and luck." (I�m not sure about his conclusion: "It takes Saarland.") But talent and luck � that pretty well sums up the Derby. If you start reading the expert analysis of the Derby, the variety of opinions will amaze you. Few of them will be worth the paper or electrons they�re written on the minute after the race � most of them aren�t worth it before the race. But if we take the Derby as an intriguing puzzle, an American icon, a chance to wear funny hats and drink too much (and we don�t overbet it) it�s a great day at the track.

I use my standard mechanical contender-selection method in the Derby. I take the highest two of each horse�s last three Beyer figures and average them. That gives me a contender figure for each horse. (If there are only two races available in the pps, I average them. If there is only one race available, I use that as the number.) I then take the top five horses as my contenders. If anybody is tied for fifth, I include them. In this year�s Derby, that leaves me with eight contenders because four horses are tied for fifth with a 99 contender rating:

  • Johannesburg: 99 contender rating
  • Perfect Drift: 99 contender rating
  • War Emblem: 105 contender rating
  • Request For Parole: 99 contender rating
  • Medaglia d�Oro: 105.5 contender rating
  • Private Emblem: 99 contender rating
  • Harlan�s Holiday: 102 contender rating
  • Came Home: 108.5 contender rating

This first decision � the choosing of contenders � may already put me out of the running. But recent high Beyers have been a good predictor of the Derby winner � not necessarily in the last race, but sometime in the recent past. The horse generally needs to have flashed ability sometime in its three-year-old season. Those who haven�t are usually pretenders to the throne. So I�ll stick with my contenders.

I generally don�t care much about the pace scenario of the Derby. If the horse can get a clean trip, that�s the most important thing. But you do need to look out for early speed duels among high need-to-lead horses. And four of my eight contenders � War Emblem, Request For Parole, Medaglia d�Oro, and Came Home � are high need-to-lead horses. In a pace duel, I look for "need-to-lead-but-can�t" horses. These are puppies who want the lead, will fight for the lead, but don�t have the ability to finish when they are pressed to the extent that they figure to be in today�s race. The need-to-lead-but-can�t Derby horse is probably War Emblem. His gate-to-wire victories in a classified allowance and the Illinois Derby at Sportsman were accomplished at relatively soft fractions that don�t figure to occur on Derby Day with the other three speedsters in the field. On the other hand, War Emblem sports morning line odds of 20/1. So he�ll stay in.

Johannesburg faces the BC Juvenile winner�s curse, a dearth of prep races, and a suspect pedigree for the distance. But he has a stellar record and a crafty trainer in Aidan O�Brien, so I�m not willing to throw him out. Despite the press, he might even be an overlay.

I will now throw my eight contenders in my handy-dandy beta-test Windows handicapping program and let it come up with my betting line. Here it is:

Horse Fair Odds Bet Odds ML Odds Max Place% Max Show%
Medaglia d�Oro 3/1 7/2 6/1 14.8% 13.2%
Johannesburg 3/1 7/2 6/1 14.7% 13.1%
Harlan's Holiday 8/1 10/1 9/2
War Emblem 8/1 10/1 20/1

Assuming the track odds approximate the morning line odds (which is not a very safe assumption), I�ll probably end up betting Medaglia d�Oro, Johannesburg and War Emblem to win. The Max Place% and Max Show% columns display the maximum percentage I would allow a given horse to have in the respective pool and still make a bet on it. Using a calculator, if I have access to toteboard information, I can easily look for a place or show overlay on either Medaglia or Johannesburg. This place/show method comes from Barry Meadow�s fine book, Money Secrets at the Racetrack.

My typical exacta strategy is to wheel the overlays top-and-bottom to the top two favorites, and also to box the overlays. So in this situation, since Harlan�s Holiday is likely to be a favorite, I�d probably end up boxing my four top horses in the exacta. Yes, a four-horse box. In a contentious 19-horse race, it�s a reasonable strategy.

Good luck to all and thanks for listening. Now go do your own handicapping.

"Question: What do you call a mint julep? Answer: A waste of good whiskey."

Question: What do you call a mint julep? Answer: A waste of good whiskey.  Being too poor to do much to improve the breed of the horses in the Kentucky Derby, I will instead concentrate on improving the breed of drinks served there. Have any of you tried a mint julep recently? Truth is, they suck. Especially when served warm, in a cheap plastic cup, with imitation mint, as they do at most tracks. Hey, I�m actually a stickler for tradition.  The dulcet tones of My Old Kentucky Home tug my heartstrings.  But when the tradition sucks, let�s move on. I want to explore the mysteries of the cocktail and find a julep that amuses the modern palate.

A julep is basically a whisky drink with some kind of syrup or sugar-water, crushed ice, and a sprig of mint. Pondering this weighty subject, I asked my wife Tracey, what goes with mint? Her answer: chocolate. That opened the door to inspiration.  Presenting the extremely unofficial drink of the Kentucky Derby for the 21st century, kudos to Tracey:

The Chocolate Mint Julep
by Tracey Pine

2 oz. good whiskey (we recommend Maker�s Mark)
1 oz. Creme de Cacao
fresh mint
crushed ice

Place some fresh mint in the bottom of a tall pre-chilled glass. Add one scant ounce of Creme de Cacao. Crush the mint lightly. Add crushed ice to about halfway up the glass. Then add two ounces whiskey and stir. Place in freezer for a few minutes. Add a few fresh sprigs of mint and serve.

If you�re one of those who thinks that chocolate goes with everything, try it! Even if you�re not a chocolate-lover, you may like it. I think it�s a big improvement over the standard mint julep.  Even if you don�t like the Chocolate Mint Julep, at least you now have some good whiskey in the house. NC

Copyright �2002 NetCapper Inc.  All rights reserved.

Track Tracts Archive

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Semi-Mechanical Contender Selection by Gordon Pine
Bet-Down as a Handicapping Factor by Gordon Pine
Variable Percentage Betting: Better Than Kelly? by Gordon Pine
Starting to Take a Position on Starting Position by Gordon Pine
Impact Value of Questionable Value: A/E is the Gold Standard by Gordon Pine
Full Kelly/Fractional Bankroll by Gordon Pine
Want a Racetrack Renaissance?  All You Need Is a No-Consolation Pick-All by Gordon Pine
Favorite Fitness Angles: Competitive Race on an Off-Track Last Time Out by Gordon Pine
Regaining Control -- New Favorite Fitness Angle: Competitive Race Last Time by Gordon Pine
Favorite Fitness Angles: Lowest Bounce Point by Gordon Pine
Things I Love About the Track by Gordon Pine
Class is a Pass as a Cause for Bounce by Gordon Pine
Different Tools for Different Jobs: Betting Against Odds-On Favorites by Gordon Pine
Does More Dope Just Make Us Dopier? by Gordon Pine
Derby Day Dope and Drinks by Gordon Pine
Case Rates Versus Base Rates by Gordon Pine
It's the Takeout, Stupid! by Gordon Pine
Betting Line Wagering Simplified by Gordon Pine
Of Betting Lines, Belmont and Booze by Gordon Pine
The Most Important Factor in Horse Racing by Gordon Pine
Soft Spots by Gordon Pine
Expert Advice by Gordon Pine
If You're Not Handicapping Yourself, You're Handicapping Yourself by Gordon Pine
Handicapping With Trainer Stats by Gordon Pine
Handicapping With Trainer Stats (Part 2) by Gordon Pine
Natural Selections by Gordon Pine
Underlay Tracks by Gordon Pine
Dozing Due to Del Mar Deficiency, Der Bingle and Other Digressions by Gordon Pine
Things that Don't Work and Things that Might Work by Gordon Pine
Traversing The Travers by Gordon Pine
Understanding Pace: A Cup of Gas by Gordon Pine
Understanding Pace: Need-To-Lead by Gordon Pine
Are We Up For This War? by Gordon Pine
Understanding Pace: Track Pace Bias by Gordon Pine
Speed Points Pointers by Gordon Pine
Off-Track Predictors by Gordon Pine
Maiden Claiming Frontrunners by Gordon Pine
Distaff Is De Stuff by Gordon Pine
Review Your Handicapping by Gordon Pine
The Second Call For Threes by Gordon Pine
Player's Supplemental Data by Gordon Pine
Exacta Soft Spots by Gordon Pine
Handicapping 101: Track Configuration by Gordon Pine
Maiden Contenders by Gordon Pine
Many Mechanical Methods Meritorious by Gordon Pine
Quick-and-Dirty Track Techniques: Exacta Betting Action by Gordon Pine
Knocking the Favorite by Gordon Pine
Handicapping 101: Early Speed by Gordon Pine
Quick-and-Dirty Track Techniques: Tracking Pace Biases by Gordon Pine
Quick-and-Dirty Track Techniques: Betting Lines by Gordon Pine
Know Thy Favorites: Filters for Favorites by Steve Fierro
The Search for the Ultimate Julep by Gordon Pine

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