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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, MAY 5, 2022 – As we have written often, and as most people know, Churchill Downs boasts an especially fast-drying main track.

Given the amount of rain expected in Louisville Oaks Day, we cannot know at this writing what the track condition will be Derby Day. [No rain yet as this is posted].

The rain is supposed to stop, giving way to cloudy conditions. Of course, sunshine and a nice breeze would go a long way in this process.

Whatever the surface is labeled, we do not know how the rail is playing until seeing it with our own eyes. As bettors, we can make last-minute adjustments. As public handicappers, not so much.

We have analyzed the Derby Pick 4 with wet conditions in mind. We love turf racing, but Saturday’s sequence contains two extremely competitive turf events; educated guesswork required.

If there is one element to take comfort in, know that everyone is in the same boat; adjusting is key. Bettors can be thankful for a lack of deadlines, post time notwithstanding.

Bias will have an effect and that can create value opportunities on the tote board—when you, and the jockeys, can identify them properly.

Without question, this is the toughest Pick 4 sequence we have ever seen: no excuses, just fact. Wager accordingly.

CHURCHILL DOWNS          Derby Day, 2022

G2 American Turf              Race 9    

The Skinny: Course condition will be the difference maker. Management will try to keep this on turf by any means necessary. We have based our choices on less than firm going. Speed has done well on the new course thus far, but a yielding or soft course are problematic in that it can favor closers over tiring going or hinder late runners that cannot get their best footing.

Main Event, figures forward-looking, was pressed throughout his last and drew off late. Balnikhov handles off footing well. Stolen Base, trips compromised, reunites with Prat. Sy Dog undefeated with benefit of good trips; toughest test here.

TICKET TOPPERS:  Main Event (5-1), Balnikhov (5-1), Stolen Base (12-1), Sy Dog (7-2)

WIN VALUE PLAY:  Stolen Base to win at 9-1 or greater

EXOTICA:  Red Run (15-1)

Grade 1 Churchill Downs Sprint Stakes          Race 10

The Skinny:  Jackie’s Warrior showed courage and class in season’s debut; extra furlong should help, handles any footing. Reinvestment Rick a game second to Speakers Corner, one of the best horses in the U.S.; ready now. Prevalence has made the transition from 3 to 4. Aloha West has been training for months with purpose for seasonal debut.

TICKET TOPPERS:  Jackie’s Warrior (5-2),Reinvestment Risk (7-2), Prevalence (6-1), Aloha West (4-1)

WIN VALUE PLAY: Prevalence to win at 7-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Cezanne (4-1), Long Range Toddy (30-1)

Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic           Race 11

The Skinny:  Throw a blanket over this field. Nine of the 10 entered have winning attributes. Santin is now ready for best go.

TICKET TOPPERS:  Santin (6-1),Adhamo (9-2), Ivar (4-1), Shirl’s Speight (3-1), Mira Mission (10-1)

WIN VALUE PLAY:  Mira Mission to win at 10-1 or greater 

EXOTICA:  Cavalry charge (12-1), Public Sector (5-1), Bizzee Channel (30-1)

Kentucky Derby 148                        Race 12

The Skinny: Never have I seen a group of qualified Derby contenders in my life. Never! Having said that, and with an eye towards a possible wet track. Messier needed his run in the Santa Anita Derby. Epicenter is a deserving favorite, sophomoric early line. Zandon was crazy good in the Blue Grass; linemaker may have it right—politics notwithstanding. Smile Happy needed the Blue Grass, loves this surface. Cyberknife impressed in AR Derby and is training up a storm. Simplification, old school type, was honed for speed in FL Derby.

TICKET TOPPERS:  Messier (8-1), Epicenter (7-2), Zandon (3-1), Smile Happy (20-1), Cyberknife (20-1), Simplification (15-1)

WIN VALUE PLAY:  Smile Happy to win at 15-1 or greater

EXOTICA:  Mo Donegal (10-1), White Abarrio (10-1), Charge It (20-1), Crown Pride (20-1)

Be mindful of personal bankroll; bet with your head, not over it cliché applies. Take one approach and stick with it for two days. All exotics plays at minimums available. Straight wagers are $2 units.

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17 Responses

  1. In the end, I agree with you John – have Messier as top pick with Epicenter right behind. Those would be the two I have behind in Oaks-Derby double plays. Also looking at White Abarrio and Taiba (despite being woefully underprepared) and cannot shake the feeling that Cyberknife could be the longshot play. A fun race that has been ruined in recent years by nefarious activities so hoping for a safe trip for all and a result that is official when it’s declared official.

    1. Let’s hope this guy can carry us both. The Derby is never easy; this is the toughest I can remember. White Abarrio and Cyberknife? Agreed. But I’m too old school to go for what might be the most talented colt in the race. Let’s hope Taiba and all the rest enjoy safe and speedy journeys.

  2. For someone with your experience in this sport to make such statement makes me wish that,at least,we will witness a couple of these horses compete like ,or similar,to the Affirmed-Alydar duels. My final #s are = Taiba,W.Abarrio,Crown Pride,Cyberknife,then behind them Mo Donegal,Smile Happy,Messier==12,3,4,5,1-6,7,16. Longshots Mo Donegal,W.Abarrio. Track conditions ? Who knows,but how many times do we really change our minds on that ? And going against oneself ? That has to be the worst sensation in betting, professionally and
    In love.. Go with your guts,and numbers.,…… ???? Whatever happened to the Asmussen -Santana combo ?🤔

  3. John. Thank you for the insight.I really think White Abarrio is being overlooked, but that is what makes the Derby special.

    1. You’re right Pete, it does make the Derby special. I considered him seriously until the post draw, can’t see him saving ground at any time…

    2. He is and you’re right. Very talented but think the draw cost him dearly. But he, and you, have Tyler. If there’s a way he’ll figure it out.

    1. No Pick 4, a little too rich for me to use all, but can play one today.

      Was very proud and pleased with New Year’s Eve. And topping an $1,800 Superfecta–thought that was a tad light– certainly takes the pressure off today.

      Happy Derby Day Stephen!

    1. Way to go George. As I said to Stephen above, very proud of that selection. Luis Saez was brilliant and Lynch had her sitting on go!

  4. The 17.5% takeout on WPS bets at Churchill means that from my $50 in wagers, $41.25 of my money is available as a gift for any of you to receive.

    Or perhaps today, I will be the lucky one.

    $10 to WIN on CROWN PRIDE
    $40 to SHOW on CROWN PRIDE

  5. No guts, no glory. Way to go Dan.

    Must say that’s a unique take on a losing wager. Indeed, the house always wins.

    Gotta’ go get ready…

  6. May 7, 2022
    11th race-1. Santin, Love his pattern
    2.- Ivar, Third in the breeders cup
    3.- Adhamo, Brown and Pratt
    4.- Tribhuvan, complete’s the super

    The Kentucky Derby-“ Here he comes Mrs. Genter, he’s gonna win, he’s gonna win it”-Carl Nafzger

    1.- Smiling Happy, Fast enough to win and at 20-1 morning line the value pushes me over the top
    2.- Messier, Would be the pick except only twice since 1989 a horse that bounced more than 2 Beyers going into the derby has won.
    3.- Zandon, A worthy favorite that would be no surprise. One of these 3 wins the Derby.
    Let’s go get the bad guys and complete our Oaks-Derby dbl. Good luck to all. Vin.

  7. Nice Call Vin! In the next coming up I am liking Epicenter more and more. With Messier and keeping an close eye on Japan in the post parade. Right now the top two are like “Book ’em Dano”.

    1. If it can’t be me, I hope it’s you my pal. Great weekend so far. I have 2 doubles and a pick 3 going with 3 tries to get there. Enjoy.

  8. One question for you,if I may: Like most of racing fans,we like Turf racing and even if we’ve followed and bet lots of races , Belmont I still don’t know what is meant by Widener Turf at, let’s say 14inches. Whatever the numbers,does it change any tactics,bias,post positions ? And, is the Widener course favorable to closers in longer races over a mile ? Any major differences between both Turf firm courses at Belmont ,or most other tracks that have more than one * Green* course ? Oh yeah,one more..Watching a race on a very dry,skimpy grass course in Kentucky,Not Churchill Downs, with little or no grass,I was thinking if it were any different than running on dirt,logic being,no live grass,no Turf but dirt. To you,superstitious ones,happy Friday 13. Thanks.

    1. The WIDENER Course is the outer course and wide the the INNER TURF obviously. When rail positions are moved out to protect overuse from running in the same paths, or when atmospherics for some reason demand it, the outer settings are set to favor late runners, but therein lies the rub:

      While sharper turns traditionally favor speed, inside course can have longer stretch runs. Empirically. it doesn’t make all that much difference to me. See how the courses are playing today and base decisions on that.

      Meanwhile, if it’s a turf race, it’s strongly advised that ground is saved somewhere along the journey.

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