Round #1

Every handicapper is clawing to get started. Derby fever hasn’t hit full-stride, but it’s picking up speed as runners begin arriving at Churchill Downs. This is the time to watch, wait, and listen. Go ahead and start watching the prep replays on Winning Ponies. Was it a good trip? A tough fight? Settled in nicely, or as cool as the other side of the pillow. There are sites putting out morning line estimations, and this can be the toughest job in the world as they all look good. Take it all in stride, and use their hard work as fuel to begin the journey.


Longshots are only good if you have them on your ticket. How many horseplayers were glad to see Mine that Bird come storming up the rail? Me neither. Here is my first stab for a longshot runner to watch as the works begin. Using the morning line odds from Horse Racing Nation’s Brian Zipse, here is that tough guy who could pay boxcars. Remember, everything is subject to change and our handicapping is in a fluid state.


War Story (30-1) = This son of Northern Afleet won at first asking over the CD strip and won going two turns in his 2-yr-old year. Thom Amoss knows more about training a horse to a race than many, and if you go back and watch the Louisiana Derby. He was 4-5 wide all the way around. He made a swift move just past the 3/8th’s, and went by the winner who had a perfect trip along the rail. Loooch Racing Stable will be bringing a real player who needs a little help. Lightly raced with only five starts and was 2/2 as a baby. Fair Grounds is a deep oval that gets runners legged up. Take a look at the Keeneland meet and see how many FG runners are doing well. A clean trip and some racing luck puts him in the mix.


In racing, post time favorites win around 30% of the time. You can toss that right our the window from 2000- 2014 with the average hovering around $23. Just another reason to dig deep and find your golden nugget.


Frosted (15-1) = Here comes a son of Tapit for Kiaran McLaughlin who is white-hot coming into Churchill Downs. Whatever happened in the FOY can be tossed as he had the lead and tossed out the anchor. He went back to Aqueduct and scored nicely in the Wood Memorial. He was four wide all the way around and was dragging the rider nearing the 3/8th’s. The tempo was slow and that makes it even more impressive for a closer to do his bidding. The old rule of thumb of having to hit the board in a G-1 applies, and well need to keep a close eye on how he takes to CD.


This is definitely one of the best days to wager all year. The pools are swelled and you can discount much of the public money from the one-day-players. No disrespect, but they may not follow all year long like many handicappers. The average exacta from the same time frame pays around $300, and the trifecta around $3,000. I guess you’ll want to start thinking about some price runners now.


Mubtaahij (12-1) = Here is a son of Dubawi for the mad-genius Mike De Kock. His race in the Dubai World Cup was so impressive that if I can get 12-1, I’ll bet early and often. Once they took him off of the greensward, his dirt races have been impressive. He is maturing at a quick rate and comes into Louisville peaking at the right time. The only thing I don’t like is the long flight as it can zap a horse for quite a long time. If your not sold on Dubai horses in the Derby, I have take your side for years. But this guy is special, and if the trip goes well and he takes to CD. I’ll be a big backer in the Derby.



If you’ve ever watched the poker network, you’ll see players show their hole cards to the camera. Having an ace-king, or a high pocket pair is what your looking for. But what do you do when a trainer is holding pocket aces as the top two potential favorites? You call Mr. Baffert and wish him well.


Dortmund (4-1) = This son of Big Brown is undefeated in six lifetime starts. He had three in his two-yr-old season and will be a major player on the hook. At 4-1, you could consider that value. He has won over the CD oval, and even though all of the “talk” is about AP. I really like this guy over the other. In the Santa Anita Derby he was off a step slow, recovered professionally, and received some work down the lane. I’ve never been a fan of a runner who didn’t get some bruises along the way, and his last made him ultra-attractive.

American Pharoah (3-1) = Here is a son of Pioneer of the Nile and his victory in the Arkansas Derby has the world looking his way. You have to love his long stride and nasty way of delivering the goods. Baffert has two diamonds, but which one does he love more? Easy, you don’t have to choose. He arrived at CD, and looked like he has arrived. Some horses just have that stare that captures your attention, and he had ours.