2014 Kentucky Derby – Handicapping the Field

This Derby year is different from any since the start of this site in that the Derby will have one clear favorite. Handicapping often comes down to taking or trying to beat the favorite, or finding ways to get value out of the favorite. That’s why California Chrome is the “Decision” horse of this Derby, and the rest follows from there.

(One note: for my handicapping, the post-position draw and track condition are about 5-10% of the equation. I might discount a horse more drawing post 1 but not any other. Also, I believe distance considerations outweigh track conditions more in classic races, so the 20-40% chance of an off track doesn’t really factor into the Derby as much as other races. Thus, I’m comfortable that the following reasoning will hold for me throughout Derby week)

The Decision

California Chrome (Post-Time Odds Estimate: 5/2) (by Lucky Pulpit out of Not for Love mare)

 If your handicapping is limited to two factors – watching races and looking at speed figures – then California Chrome is an absolute standout. He has not been seriously challenged in winning three times this year and horses he has beaten straight up (Hoppertunity, Candy Boy and Chitu) have in turn beaten numerous other Derby contenders. He is a well-deserving favorite.

 Yet betting the Kentucky Derby often requires looking deeper into handicapping factors that would highlight a runner whose chances of winning are better than his odds indicate. On California Chrome, those deeper handicapping factors do not appeal to me. His pedigree suggests that his best distance is shorter than the 10 furlong Derby distance, all his stakes wins are in California, and he has not faced much adversity in his wins. To the last point, CC has been classier than all the speed horses he’s faced, and speedier than the class horses he’s faced. In the Derby, the frontrunners will be able to hold their speed longer than their California counterparts.

 All that said, I can’t argue that he’s the horse to beat. I think he will go off at odds of 5/2; if you think CC wins 30% of the time, these are fair if not great odds. 30% sounds about right to me, so he’s a top pick, but California Chrome winning is not the bet I want to make. I have opinions on the rest of the field that should be very different than the public’s, and these differences of opinion are what I want to put my money on.

 If I’m right on these, and California Chrome runs well, I’ll have a good day at the track.

 If I’m right on these, and California Chrome does not run well, I’ll have a great day at the track.

 If I’m wrong on these, I’ll lose (but there are no bad days at the Kentucky Derby).

 Tier 1 (Prime win candidates and key exacta/trifecta horses)

 When it comes to the Kentucky Derby, I consider myself a pedigree x performance handicapper. This means that, of horses that have shown some ability and class in the Derby preps, I want to pick horses whose pedigrees suggest success under the conditions of the Kentucky Derby. This is mainly distance aptitude but also includes finding influences that have had past Derby success. My top 3 picks have all had solid recent performances but their pedigrees suggest that their best runs remain ahead of them.

  Wicked Strong (PT Odds est: 6-1) (by Hard Spun o/o Charismatic mare) – Wicked Strong will be the sentimental favorite of this year’s Derby based on his name alone. (In lieu of long explanation, his owner’s first choice of name was Boston Strong). The Derby being a 20-horse race, there are always enough horses to ensure a fast early pace. This usually means a horse that runs faster later and is experienced at passing rivals has a very good chance of winning. Wicked Strong has the best resume of this style of runner, and his pedigree supports it. His sire Hard Spun ran 2nd in the best Derby field of the 21st century. His damsire Charismatic won the Derby, and his 2nd damsire was a world record holder for a distance longer than the Derby. I rate his fair odds at 6-1 but the sentimentality of Derby bettors may make him lower on May 3rd.

 Hoppertunity (PT Odds: 8-1) (by Any Given Saturday o/o Unaccounted For mare) – The Bob Baffert’s trainee was last seen running a few lengths behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby. Hoppertunity won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn three weeks earlier, securing his spot in the Kentucky Derby lineup. It’s possible, even likely, that Baffert had Hopp geared down for the SA Derby with eyes on the bigger prize. He won the Rebel from off the pace, and his SA Derby 2nd came after passing horses. Hopp’s sire is Any Given Saturday and his sire is Distorted Humor, who sired Funny Cide and was the grandsire of I’ll Have Another; Hoppertunity is half-brother to top filly Executiveprivilege, sharing classic influence Danzig as a 2nd Damsire. Hopp did not race as a 2 year old, which makes him subject to the “Apollo curse”; thing is, Baffert has late-developing stars every year and his home track (Santa Anita) opens its winter meet a week before New Year’s. He aims to break the curse and Hoppertunity is his best chance since Bodemeister in 2012.

 Medal Count (PT Odds: 20-1) (by Dynaformer o/o Unbridled’s Song mare) – The main knock against Medal Count is that his best performances have thus far been on turf and Polytrack and not the dirt surface of Churchill Downs. It’s actually why I like this horse so much – he’s likely to be ignored as a turf/AW specialist. Still, this is a horse that won his first race on dirt and has trained primarily on the Churchill Downs main track. Medal Count is THE pedigree standout in this race. His sire Dynaformer was Barbaro’s sire and a tremendous distance influence besides. The Unbridled line influence is a huge indicator of Derby success, both through sire and dams, and last year’s winner Orb was out of an Unbridled mare. His third dam is by the greatest sire of the 20th century, Northern Dancer. If Medal Count can settle mid-pack, he’ll be positioned to get first run ahead of the closers.

 Tier 2 (Include with key horses in exactas/trifectas)

 Ride on Curlin (PT Odds: 12-1, b/c of Jockey Borel) (by Curlin o/o Storm Cat mare) – There are three things I like about this horse: he has improved every race, his pedigree suggests further improvement with age, and has shown ability to pass horses. Two things I don’t like: 1) He hasn’t actually won many races, which I actually think is important; and 2) He gets the jockey services of one Calvin Borel, three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. While I think Borel gives him as good a chance for success as any jockey (but no better), the public really thinks he’s magic and will bet Ride on Curlin much below his true win odds. RoC has a great chance to inflate an exotics ticket

 Danza (PT Odds: 20-1) (by Street Boss o/o French Deputy mare) – I was surprised as anyone in attendance when this Arkansas Derby longshot won at 40-1. I’ve since gone back and watched the race and was quite impressed by the way he patiently tracked the leaders then quickly accelerated and continued to move. Todd Pletcher has been awfully quiet on this one, but he was only a nose behind two of the top 2-year-olds at Saratoga and has come back well this year. I have heard people questioning his pedigree, as his sire Street Boss was primarily a sprinter, but his damside has some more classic distance influence from French Deputy and Tanks Prospect. Plus, one thing I’ve noted about in the past about sires – sprinters sired by classic oriented sires often pass on both speed and class to their offspring. This seems to me doubly true of the Mr Prospector line; Distorted Humor, Speightstown, Elusive Quality, Midnight Lute to name a few all were sprinters/milers but have seen sons fare quite well in classic distance races. Street Boss’s sire Street Cry counts Derby winner Street Sense and all-time great mare Zenyatta among his progeny; I won’t let Danza surprise me again.

 Dance with Fate (PT Odds: 15-1) (by Two Step Salsa o/o Saint Ballado mare) – Similar to Medal Count, Dance with Fate is probably going to get pegged as a AW specialist following his Blue Grass win. He does have some dirt form (placing in Santa Anita’s Frontrunner Stakes), though his best attribute for the Derby is his late running style. I’m not sold on his pedigree, but Two Step Salsa comes from a branch of the Mr Prospector line considered more hardy than brilliant. His damsire Saint Ballado reinforces those attributes, and I expect Dance with Fate to contend late with a narrow shot at winning.

Tier 3 (3-4 spots in minimum bet trifectas, superfectas)

Chitu (PT Odds: 20-1) (by Henny Hughes o/o A.P. Indy mare) – Normally I would exclude this runner based on his sire Henny Hughes, a great grandson of Storm Cat (whose line has no Derby wins despite it’s prominence). I add Chitu for two reasons: 1) Female champion and future HOF distaffer Beholder also has HH as a sire and her staying ability really impressed me in two nine furlong performances. 2) Chitu has several distance influences on his damside including A.P. Indy and Zilzal as damsire and 2nd damsire, and his dam and 2nd dam were both distance runners on turf. Chitu will race near the front of the pack, which will lower his chances to win, but I could see him holding on at a price.

AE-Social Inclusion (PT Odds: 15-1) (by Pioneerof the Nile o/o Saint Ballado mare) – This horse has shown a lot of brilliance in his three lifetime starts but could only warrant a 3rd in the Wood Memorial. His first two wins at high speed figures means he’ll get play on Derby Day. His connections have been champing at the bit to run in the Derby and are only awaiting one or two more drops. Good pedigree for the distance with the Unbridled line crossed to Saint Ballado. Definitely a player

Commanding Curve (PT Odds: 30-1+) (by Master Command o/o Lion Hearted mare) – The other CC could be this year’s Golden Soul (2nd last year) having drawn in with recent defections. Another late runner who has shown improvement in every start, his biggest appeal will be the odds that he would contribute to any exotic bet featuring him. Sometimes you have to get lucky in the Derby for a big score, and he has the profile of one that could “blow up the tote”.

Candy Boy (PT Odds: 18-1) (by Candy Ride o/o In Excess mare) – It could be that 3rd place in California might be better than the rest of the US, but he did not prove better than Hoppertunity in the Santa Anita Derby, so I have a hard time putting him higher. Nine furlongs or less is probably his best distance, and it’s likely he also wasn’t fully cranked in the Santa Anita Derby. His trainer John Sadler is a good one and his jockey Gary Stevens has a few Derbies on his Hall of Fame resume. Prefer others.

General a Rod (PT Odds: 25-1) (by Roman Ruler o/o Dynaformer mare) – Third in the Florida Derby after a couple of seconds, this is another one who could threaten late. He has a decent pedigree for the longer distance, as Roman Ruler has sired a Belmont winner and Dynaformer has the aforementioned Derby and distance influence. I have heard his recent training has been solid if not spectacular and I’m not certain he’s top flight.

Tier 4 (Big budget players can include these on some tickets)

Uncle Sigh (PT Odds: 25-1) (by Indian Charlie o/o Pine Bluff mare) – Even though he’s been running behind others in New York, I think he has the style (near front, not the lead) and enough pedigree, especially beneath, to threaten at the top of the lane. Not one I see accelerating from there, though, but hanging on for a piece.

 Intense Holiday (PT Odds: 20-1) (by Harlan’s Holiday o/o Unbridled’s Song mare) – I really like this colt and hope he runs even enough here to take a shot at the Preakness, where I think this pedigree will be well-suited. No Storm Cat-line horse has won the Derby and I think that history is not likely to be broken here. This Pletcher trainee will have a good career, I expect, but not threaten for the Derby win.

AE-Pablo Del Monte (PT Odds: 40-1) by Giant’s Causeway o/o Bring the Heat mare) – Currently 21 in standings, will need to draw in. Was the only speed that held in the Bluegrasss Stakes, and that lists includes some higher profile horses. Giant’s Causeway is the best of the Storm Cat line for distance influence, but his progeny have not done much Derby Day.

Samraat (PT Odds: 12-1) (by Noble Causeway o/o Indian Charlie mare) – While this one’s only loss is to Wicked Strong while running 2nd in the Wood Memorial, I don’t think this one’s pedigree (Storm Cat line w few distance influences underneath) suggests going any further. I think he’ll take some significant play, however, and will go off as the day’s biggest underlay

Tapiture (PT Odds: 25-1) (by Tapit o/o Olympio mare) Think he has hit his distance limitations while running 4th in Hot Springs. Still, has shown some ability to handle adversity, but not enough to overcome a preference for a shorter distance.

Tier 5 (Only bet when the ticket says ALL)

Vinceremos (PT Odds: 35-1) (by Pioneerof the Nile o/o More than Ready mare) – Earned his way in with a 1st and 2nd in Tampa, but didn’t do much in the Blue Grass Stakes. His odds make him somewhat appealing but not sure that his wins over suspect competition have held up this year.

We Miss Artie (PT Odds: 25-1) (by Artie Schiller o/o Fusaichi Pegasus mare) – Now We Miss Artie actually does seem like a turf/AW specialist to me, but I’can’t deny that there’s potential for an upset from this one. Would compare to Animal Kingdom, also a Spiral Stakes winner, but this one does not have the great distance influence from the dam that AK had.

Vicar’s In Trouble (PT Odds: 15-1) (by Into Mischief o/o Vicar mare – The other Ken Ramsey entrant, with We Miss Artie. Hard tryer, good horse, needs the lead. Staggered home to win Louisiana Derby, will be way too short here.

Wildcat Red (PT Odds: 18-1) (by D’Wildcat o/o Miner’s Mark mare – A Storm Cat line sprint sire gives us Wildcat Red who has definitely been impressive in his wins and seconds. See this one being way too short on pedigree to be a factor for more than a mile.

Harry’s Holiday (PT Odds: 40-1) (by Harlan’s Holiday o/o Orientate mare – A Polytrack runner by a miler out of a sprinter. By all rights, should be the longest shot on the board, but the blessed public will give him a much better shot than he actually has.

Wagering Strategy

As always, I’ll be keeping my eye on the odds Derby Day for my final bets. Right now, I’m leaning towards win bets on Hoppertunity and Medal Count and potentially Danza (if he gets ignored in betting again). I suspect Medal Count will be my only Place and Show bets, if he goes off at 15+ odds. Mostly, I will try to hit exotics with California Chrome heavily weighted with my Tier 1 horses then longshots mixed in with my top 4 at the minimum bets. Good luck!

Belmont Stakes 2012 Preview – Rooting vs Betting

Edit 12:05 PM EDT 6/8/12: Well, shoot…

Rooting for History and I’ll Have Another

I have to admit I’m nervous about this upcoming Belmont. I have been a racing fan for a few years now (2005) but have  really  embraced the sport (and its issues) in the last two or three years. (Amazing what an ADW account can accomplish on that front.) This year I wanted to take it up another level, deepen my study of handicapping (starting with the role of pedigree in Kentucky Derby winners), and sharing my insights with the community with this site.

I’ll Have Another was my Derby horse the moment he and Creative Cause (in step) passed Blueskiesandrainbows in the Santa Anita Derby. Win or lose, he’d have the money to go to Louisville as (I felt) a great fit for top honors at a price in the Derby. I’ll Have Another was my first Derby winner as a true fan; he’ll always symbolize to me what’s possible in this great sport.

Personally, I also think he is the horse most likely to win the Belmont on Saturday. I think he has the best classic and distance pedigree, he fits on speed and class, the pace set-up won’t be uncommon, and I think Doug O’Neil has done an excellent “old-school” job training him to this point. I will be cheering for him with every ounce of passion I can muster, but I’ll be a ball of nerves that entire day.

Betting for Profit and a Bigger Score

I may only bet the $2 souvenir ticket to win on him, however. Ed DeRosa of Twinspires.com noted on Twitter that Smarty Jones in 2004 would have paid better to place than to win, because of all the souvenir tickets that were placed in the win pool and never cashed. IHA may get the same treatment Saturday; if I make a big straight play on him, I’ll probably bet him to place, which may result in a similar (or better) payout as the win pool. That’s value when you believe in a horse like I do with I’ll Have Another.

I want to bet a different opinion entirely. Union Rags was sent off the 2nd choice in the Derby and finished a troubled sixth. Given his popularity pre-Derby, he will likely be the 2nd or 3rd choice in the Belmont depending on how the public rates him vs Dullahan. I do not believe Union Rags has the pedigree to win the Belmont. I think a lot of excuses (post, jockey, traffic) were made for his performance in the Derby. Personally, I believe Union Rags can be a spectacular miler, which is what his pedigree points to. He may contest the Belmont to the quarter pole, but likely no further.

I think he has a fantastic chance to finish off the board and even out of the superfecta, which should improve the value in exotics pools, as I expect UR to be on many a ticket. As for who I like, I go back to my pre-Derby thinking that this a formful, consistent crop of three-year olds where recent performance and pedigree are meaningful indicators of success. Getting a price will be the most difficult challenge of the weekend, so I’ll be putting most of my money into tris and supers of my top selections.

Based on class and connections and training reports, I expect Dullahan to run a big race.  His Derby 3rd was earned tracking (nut not gaining on) IHA for most of the stretch run. His half brother Mine that Bird ran 3rd in his Belmont, and I think Dullahan is a better runner. Next to IHA, I’ll have Dullahan on the most trifectas and superfectas.

Bob Baffert’s Paynter is the horse I believe has the best chance to upset I’ll Have Another for win honors. He finished 4th behind IHA in the Santa Anita Derby and has run two good efforts since, his last posting the 2nd best speed figure in the Belmont. His sire, Awesome Again, is a BC Classic winner and has sired some of the best runners in the last decade (see: Ghostzapper). His dam is a full sister to Tiznow, the only 2-time BC Classic winner. I think Paynter is just now coming into his own and you know Baffert wants to turn the tables on I’ll Have Another. He’s also likely to be a good price as a 4th choice behind IHA, Dullahan, and Rags.

Street Life was my sleeper horse after I saw him a late-running 3rd in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont. His route to Belmont went through Belmont the same way that Drosselmeyer did two years ago. By Street Sense out of a Grindstone mare (Derby winners top and bottom), he also has the pedigree to run long and could definitely be a spoiler. I’ve reevaluated my initial opinion of him somewhat (having liked him more last week) but mostly because I like Dullahan and Paynter more than I did. I do love his Twitter handle, however (@DeepCloser) – more creative connections than most.

As for the other contenders, I could see either of the Oaklawn runners (Optimizer, Atigun) cracking the deep exotics if the race completely falls apart. I’m not leaving Union Rags out of all my supers because he is a really good horse but don’t see him adding a ton of value overall.

Betting Strategy for the 2012 Belmont

Big bet on I’ll Have Another to PLACE ($2 Souvenir to WIN)

Decent Bet on Paynter to WIN/PLACE at 8-1 or better. (AND SHOW at 10-1 or higher)

Decent EXACTA BOX IHA/Dullahan/Paynter

Small TRIFECTA BOX IHA/Dull/Payn/Street Life

Larger TRI KEY with  IHA over D/P/SL, Smaller with Paynter over IHA/D/SL

Various $0.10 SUPER BOXes and KEYs, leaning on IHA/D/P in top 2 slots and stretching to ALL in 4th

Good luck. Let’s go I’ll Have Another!

110 Yards – Previewing the 2012 Preakness Stakes

110 yards. That’s the difference in the length between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. 1/16 of a mile. Half a furlong. The fastest humans can run that distance in about 11 seconds – the fastest fresh racehorses can cover it about half that time (5.5s). But to a tired thoroughbred having already run 9.5 furlongs, they may take 6.5s to cover that last bit of ground. And when it comes to handicapping the Preakness, that 110 yards might as well be a mile.

I point you to the official Brisnet chart of the 2012 Kentucky Derby. In that last furlong, I’ll Have Another made up 3 lengths on Bodemeister to win by a neck. If a second is equivalent to 5 lengths, IHA ran the last furlong just .6 seconds faster than Bodemeister. Everything else equal (which is almost never the case in horse racing), had the Derby been 110 yards shorter, the curse of Apollo may be history, Bodemeister the winner by up to a 1/2 length.

Which brings me to my major point about handicapping the Preakness – toss out your Derby handicapping and start fresh. The Preakness, like its beer-swilling mascot Kegasus, is a whole ‘nother animal.

In my Kentucky Derby analysis, I laid out some rules that I used to make my picks (that turned out profitable, I might add). The “rules” for the Preakness are different, but recent history illuminates some trends.

  1. Pedigree disqualifies fewer horses. Tossing A.P. Indy and Storm Cat line horses really helped me narrow the Derby field. For the Preakness, all lines have won in recent memory (Foresty, by Storm Cat, sired Shackleford, last year’s winner) so no penalty to my handicapping.
  2. Horses with good pedigrees for the Derby win the Derby. Good horses win the Preakness. Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Bernadini, Curlin, Big Brown, Rachel Alexandra, Lookin at Lucky, Shackleford. Not a bad group. 7 3Yo Eclipse winners, 2 HOYs. All save Smarty won subsequent graded stakes races. Interestingly, however, only 3 won at 10f or longer ever again (AA, Bernadini, Curlin). The rest were best at nine furlongs; Shackleford probably 7-8f. Point’s this: a shorter (8-9f) pedigree can win the Preakness, and has the last few years.
  3. The Preakness can be won on the lead; a horse cannot get too far back and win. Rachel and Shackleford won on the lead, the rest were close at the quarter pole. My point above, that making up ground on a shorter stretch, is more difficult against a confirmed front-runner that can get (or has gotten) nine furlongs in the past. Animal Kingdom made a nice run at the end last year, but Shackleford was already too far ahead.
  4. For Derby horses running back in the Preakness, bad trips only count against them if it took them out of their preferred running style. Lookin at Lucky liked to stalk the lead but got boxed in on the rail and had to come from way back. With fewer horses and a better post, he cruised in the Preakness. I would not necessarily move up a closer who got a bad closing trip.
  5. New shooters need to be really good to have a chance. Only 3 Preakness winners  in the last 15 years did not run in the Derby and two were named Bernadini and Rachel Alexandra. There are none of those in here.

The Preakness is not as great a betting race as the Derby because the legitimate win contenders are fewer, most of whom are known quantities coming out of the Derby. Even the exactas are chalky. Now, you might point to the 13-1 score that Shackleford delivered over Animal Kingdom in 2011, but even he was a top 4-5 play based on his Derby and running style. In 2012, I expect there to be even fewer surprises.

Tier 1 – Win Contenders – Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another

I could attempt to be overly clever and trip handicap the Kentucky Derby to try to find a horse that’s going to pay better than 5-2 at the Preakness. I don’t think that horse is in this field. I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister are my top 2 win contenders based on on their performances in the Derby and the overall strength of their resumes. In the Derby, their 9.5 furlongs were all but equal. Separating them again on the third Saturday of May may prove equally difficult.

I expect Bodemeister to be the Preakness favorite as his Derby race, and not I’ll Have Another’s, got the most raves. After I saw his Arkansas Derby, I tweeted that I thought Bodemeister would win the Preakness. The association to Afleet Alex and Curlin was very strong in my mind. His game, front-running, second in the Derby, however, reminded me more of Hard Spun, who lead every classic race he ran, but never sealed the deal. Bodemeister’s brilliance will likely make him the lowest price on the board at 2-1.

Because of his style and brilliance, he is also a riskier bet for those low odds. His best absolutely wins this, but will he bounce off that Derby effort? Or was his Derby effort a bounce from Arkansas, as brilliant as it was? Bob Baffert would not be sending him to Baltimore if he did not think he could win. He has a lot of confidence in his horse, but then again…

…so does Doug O’neil. A lot has been made of I’ll Have Another’s “perfect trip” in the Derby, but that trip is exactly a product of how IHA wants to run. He likes to use his natural speed to be forwardly placed, but can stalk a true speed horse like Bodemeister. IHA should once again be among the 2nd group of horses chasing Bode, though he can neither let him get too far ahead or set easy fractions. I’m pretty certain IHA will be the 5-2 second choice, which is a pretty good value.

I really see two scenarios: if Bode wins, IHA is a clear second among every other horse. If IHA wins, Bode may not have gotten the trip he wanted and the next tier of horses is in play.

Betting Strategy: IHA to win at 5-2 or better, equal weighted straight exacta on Bode-IHA, and various exotics keying IHA or Bode over IHA.

Tier 2 – Top Exotics Candidates – Creative Cause, Went the Day Well, Daddy Nose Best, Liaison

These candidates finished 5th, 4th and 6th respectively in the Kentucky Derby and only WtDW did not get the trip he was looking for. (He came from far back to grab 4th.) Based on that finish, I’m expecting WtDW to be the “wiseguy” Preakness horse, and may be the 3rd choice between 6-1 and 9-1. I think this is a mistake. WtDW closed into a fast pace where all the frontrunners but Bodemeister backed up into the pack. His wide move saved him a lot of pain. I also think he, like Dullahan, had a Derby-specific pedigree edge.

For that reason, I like Creative Cause as a strong top-3 candidate and even top-2 if Bode falters in the stretch. CC has missed the board only once (the Derby) and should like the shorter going here. His duel with IHA in the SA Derby shows he’s got all the class he needs. The best case scenario for good payoffs has CC nosing out IHA with Bode off-the-board. I like that scenario enough to play a small trifecta or super on it.

Daddy Nose Best is a late entry but gets Julien Leparoux back, his pilot for both GSWs this year. He beat decent horses at Sunland and I could see him getting a share here. The “wiseguy” tag washed off him pretty quick after the Derby, so we may expect better odds.

I add Liaison here because he seems like a horse rediscovering his form for top connections. I could see the son of Indian Charlie with a consistent run for a 3rd or 4th place finish. Given the split between Martin Garcia and Bob Baffert, I’m not sure who’s going to get the call.

Tier 3 – Long Odds, Short Chances – Zetterholm, Optimizer, Teeth of the Dog, Tiger Walk, Cozzetti, Pretension

Theoretically, all of these horses should be 25-1 plus but I’m notoriously bad at figuring out the betting public on longshots. Optimizer and Cozzetti have already finished multiple lengths back of Bodemeister at nine furlongs. Cozzetti – being by Cozzene, a strong stamina influence – should have waited for the Belmont, but his trainer is sending Dullahan there next month. Optimizer gets a new jockey, Corey Nakatani, but I think his future’s on grass.

Teeth of the Dog and Tiger Walk finished behind Alpha and Gemologist who did nothing in Kentucky. Each has a pedigree for more distance, however, and could figure on the bottom of some tickets.

Zetterholm is interesting insofar as he’s an unknown quantity against graded competition but at least he has a winning streak to defend. I don’t think Pretension will show anything – an Illinois Derby 9th is not going to get it done.

I will celebrate the fact that the Preakness has dime supers – unlike the Kentucky Derby – which means I can afford pressing the ALL button once or twice.

Final Analysis

Part of betting the races is finding value where you can. The I’ll Have Another – Bodemeister exacta will never again pay $300. It might pay $17. Still, the race scenario where Bode doesn’t bring his best may pay handsomely and could set up a shot at the Triple Crown. That’s the angle I’ll play (aside from the odds being screwy, like Bode at 4- or 5-1) – the Santa Anita Derby runners going 1-2 again.

I’ll Have Another, Creative Cause, Bodemeister, Went the Day Well. Good luck.