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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Keith Pettyjohn — When trying to bet against a low-odds favorite, it is imperative to look deep into the past performances and devise a scenario that could actually play out on the racetrack that will compromise the favorite’s chances.

As I look at the past performances for the running of the 146th Kentucky Derby, I envision three such scenarios:

First, in this field of sixteen runners, we have six horses with very good early speed: #4 Storm The Court, #7 Money Moves, #10 Thousand Words, #15 NY Traffic, #16 Honor A.P, #17 Tiz The Law and #18 Authentic.

With four of these speed horses breaking to the inside of ‘Tiz’, it’s possible that he could be hung out wide not only to the first turn but conceivably for the entire mile and one quarter trip. That’s a truly daunting task for any horse.

Second, it also is entirely possible that with such a large field, Tiz could encounter some traffic troubles, such that when he’s ready to make his move, he could be forced to wait, or check, the kind of bad racing that could seriously compromise his chances.

Finally, let’s look at one other conceivable outcome; the popular “speed of the speed” handicapping betting axiom.

The “Speed of the Speed” angle requires handicappers to find which horses have the early speed and are likely to break sharply from the gate. Of those, which ones are actually the fastest and most likely to actually get the lead.

Derby 146 includes two horses that fit that requirement: #4 Thousand Words and #18 Authentic. It’s not surprising that Bob Baffert trains them both.

In his last start, Del Mar’s Shared Belief Stakes,  Thousand Words was sent straight to the front and was able to wire the field beating the likes of Honor A.P, one of his main Derby rivals.

For that effort, Thousand Words earned a 102 Class-Based Performance Rating, the best rating he’s ever earned signaling that he’s on top of his game and that this may be his preferred running style, not the stalking and pressing style he used early in his career.

Now let’s look at Authentic. In his short five-race career he’s won three graded stakes; the G3 Sham and G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita and the G1 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in which he earned his best Class-Based Performance Rating of a 100. In all three of those victories, he led the race wire to wire.

In his only lifetime defeat, he was not on the lead. So there is an indication that his best and preferred running free up front.

Bob Baffert has often been called “the best dirt trainer in the game”. A sixth win in this year’s Roses Run would have Baffert tie Ben Jones as the winningest trainer in Derby history.

In previous years, Bob has been training the horse with the target on his back. This year, the hunted becomes the hunter as his runners go after American racing’s biggest prize, probably the least amount of Derby pressure he’s met in a very long time.

It’s not often when you can get a Bob Baffert-trained Derby runner at double-digit odds, a good possibility at post time.

I will be placing a double bet combining the Friday’s Oaks with Saturday’s Derby. We’re taking #1 Swiss Skydiver in the Oaks and will complete the pay with #10 Thousand Words, #15 Ny Traffic, #16 Honor A.P and #18 Authentic in the Derby.

If not alive in the Oaks/Derby Double, or if you wish to optimize your play, take an exacta key-box of Authentic with Thousand Words, Ny Traffic and Honor A.P.

Churchill Downs has put together great cards for both today and tomorrow and there’s a ton of value available on each card. Enjoy the Oaks, Derby and Labor Day weekend race cards.

And remember, “it only takes one.”

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30 Responses

  1. You’re a brave man Keith, going for the gusto. I think Authentic is a serious win threat, along with Honor. A.P. Actually, I went on record with ESPN’s Rodger Wyland this morning:

    1-Tiz the Law 2-Honor A.P. 3-Authentic 4-Ny Traffic

    A safe and speedy journey to all the horses, everywhere…

      1. Agreed, and Keith deserves the props a little more than I do; Swiss Skydiver also raced well in the Oaks. He had a good weekend.

  2. The intriguing angle that I’m really interested in is the break up of a long time ,successful friendship and business co-operation between two of the best,most famous Hall of Fame jockeys,Angel Cordero and John Velazquez being caused by a ” he said,he said” between two friends who had been close for over 30 years ,the last 22 as agent and jockey,respectively.JV worked out Tiz the Law because Franco was not available and Cordero claims that JV wanted the horse to be his mount for success and not Franco.JV said he just said that if just in case Tiz was available to ride he would be very interested.I would expect JV to try his hardest to prove his point and of course throw a dagger in Cordero and Franco direction.Revenge is sweet especially now that the 77 year old Cordero is Franco’ s agent while JV has R. Anderson. Better route jockey or better horse,which is my pick….!?! Still thinking about it esp. since there is lots of pressure on Franco whose job is basically to stay clean and enjoy the ride..otherwise he will prove what many keep on saying about him,not ready for the Big Show,but Tiz is.✌️

  3. I don’t think Authentic wants the distance, but he may get an easy lead…

    These odds are insane. HAP is 9-1 and Money Moves is 16-1. I

  4. Before you comment make sure you know what the heck you’re talking about,JP,KP,TTT and all other nicknames. JV proved Franco and Cordero wrong. Class,that is JV’s class ,Won and so did I. Good Bye,empty page !

    1. JR….
      CONGRATS!!!! on your win. What type of bets did you make on the race? Tell us what you about it.

      I bet him to win….and I hit the exacta….and the Pick 3.
      I missed the tri and super though

  5. Keith, as you say ever week, it only takes one. And you had the right one yesterday. Great call, and I hope you crushed the exacta, too!

    1. Thank You Sir.
      The “Speed of the Speed” angle played out to perfection. And to think that I came real close to getting Baffert at 10-1. That won’t happen often. And “YES” I did do well in the exacta pool as well as the win and Pick 3 pools. Unfortunately for my tri and super bets, I missed using Mr. Big News any higher than fourth or I would have really crushed this race.

      But a win is a win is a win

      1. Yes, and I have a rule–doesn’t have to be yours–but the game keeps me humble and prevents me from being a sore winner. You did well. Don’t feel bad about Big News. It would have taken the ALL button to get me there…

  6. As sad as i am that Tiz lost, I can’t jump on board the ‘blame Paco Lopez’ train. I watched the replay of the start a few times now, and his horse looks to me like he just ran to open space out of the gate. You can see Paco’s body position when his horse shoots to the outside and it’s the body position of someone riding a horse that unexpectedly took a sharp turn that the rider didn’t expect. He then gets him under control and guns to the inside to get position as an early pace horse, and he came over quick, but i don’t know that he really caused other horses to pull up or anything. the head on there is probably a bit misleading.

    Now, the reason this will blow up is Paco’s very own doing, as a result of the dangerous and careless moves he makes in races, If he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt here, I will disagree with the masses – but I will also fully understand given his past performances.

    And if further evidence comes out on video that shows his quick move inside to be fully reckless and caused others to check hard, then i will change my take on it. But as it stands now, I think people are overreacting.

    1. On its face, agree with your assessment. I will go back and look at the scenario. And you’re right again, Paco’s history does not earn him the benefit of the doubt.

      I love him and saw him as 10-pound bug in 96-97 at old GP. A few years later, I saw him almost drop Jerry Bailey wh Paco refused to give him a rail pass on the backside in the grassy Ft. Lauderdale…

  7. Soo………..HAP got completely cut off by NY Traffic and lost position. The only time he’s ever been that far back – and I don’t think it was as bad then – was his debut, when he didn’t break that well and Mike let him settle. This colt will always lose a little ground because he generally goes wide, which would be fine if he didn’t have to make up all that ground; normally he’s a stalker. I’m so, so frustrated because I firmly believe in this colt and he didn’t really have a chance. I’m very proud of him for running as well as he did.

    Kudos to Authentic, though.

  8. I watched the start repeatedly just now -I think HAP was really cut off, but he wasn’t slammed into like in the SB. Some people have said it looked like HAP was climbing – I wonder if it’s more that HAP didn’t break great, got cut off and then needed to settle down…… Climbing would have been Max Player in his debut, lol.

    1. E) All of the above. Truth is, though, I give him a mulligan for not handling the track well but also think he didn’t run all that well, either… JS needs to get to the bottom of him; I’m not sure he’s even close–and I’m a big JS fan…

  9. I think AP was compromised at the start here for sure at least somewhat. He ran a huge race all things considered.

    I also watched the start a few more times, and now I’m not as sure that NY Traffic’s veering out was unintentional. He was very fidgety in the gate right before the start, but even so, I don’t feel quite as confident saying Lopez didn’t intend to break the way he did. I just can’t tell

  10. DD, I want to watch the start again, too, because some of my fellow HAP fans think he was affected by Cezanne slamming into him in the Shared Belief (in that I guess he was hesitant today). If so, I think John probably needs to work on that with him. I gave him credit for not packing it in in the SB, and he didn’t quit today. I don’t think he’s as polished as I thought he was, but that’s ok – he’s a big horse who should still only improve.

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