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Track Tracts

May Day Madness
by Gordon Pine

Every year the handicapping gurus use forests of paper and rivers of ink dissecting the Kentucky Derby and the various histories and prospects of its various entries. One of the most entertaining things you can do after the Derby is run is to get out the form and look at their pre-race predictions. Usually the winner is not mentioned anywhere. Or, if the winner is one of the favorites, he's mentioned everywhere. The trouble with most racing experts is they're great when you don't need them (to pick the favorite) and useless when you do (to consistently pick a long odds winner).

It could change this year, but for a long time the key to the Derby has been simple. You need to:

1. Pick a horse who has recent speed figures that are in the ballpark of the best of the competition.
2. Insist on value.

I use my standard mechanical contender-selection method in the Derby. I take the highest two of each horse's last three speed 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.

I'm using Cramer speed figures rather than Beyer speed figures this year. So, in this year's Derby, I end up with six contenders because two horses are tied for fifth place. These are the horses who fit rule #1 of Derby handicapping ' their recent speed figures are in the ballpark of what's needed to win:

  • Lion Heart: 102 contender rating
  • Imperialism: 98.5 contender rating
  • The Cliffs Edge: 98.5 contender rating
  • Read the Footnotes: 101.5 contender rating
  • Smarty Jones: 105.5 contender rating
  • Pollards Vision: 104 contender rating

When I run these horses through The Capper, I get this betting line:

Horse Fair Odds Bet Odds ML Odds
Smarty Jones 9/5 7/2 9/2
Lion Heart 3/1 5/1 10/1
The Cliff's Edge 5/1 8/1 4/1
Pollard's Vision 6/1 10/1 20/1

Consistent with rule #2 of Derby handicapping, I'll insist on value.  I'll bet the overlays to win, box them in the exacta, and wheel them in the exacta top and bottom to the top two favorites. So, if the morning line odds are similar to the track odds, I'm likely to have a win bet on Smarty Jones, Lion Heart and Pollard's Vision and a what amounts to a four-horse box on Smarty Jones, Lion Heart, The Cliff's Edge and Pollard's Vision.

A word to the wise: I'm deadly with my fourth pick in the Derby, so keep an eye on Pollard's Vision.

"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 2004 NetCapper Inc.  All rights reserved.

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