04/29/2009 5:05PM

Draws & Lines


The official morning line for the Kentucky Derby separates the 20 entrants into four distinct tiers, and it's hard to argue with them: four favorites in the 3-1 to 5-1 range; the six most plausible alternatives, all tabbed at 15-1 or 20-1; four slightly less plausible 30-1 shots; and six 50-1 no-hopers, an unusually large assortment of pacesetters and vanity entries.

Here's the field that was officially drawn at noon today, with both the morning-line odds and version 1.01 of the line first listed here Monday:

As mentioned on Monday, the track's morning line adds up to more than 100 percent of the pool because the prices are not meant to be precise dollar-odds forecast, i.e. a 20-1 shot on the ML is a horse who the linemaker expects to go off at anywhere between 20.0-1 and 29.9-1.

Also, a longstanding (and perhaps misguided) sense of propriety prevents track linemakers from making horses more than 50-1, even though the bottom six in this year's race are all eligible to go off much higher. If nothing else, the prices on these horses illustrates just how much money is bet literally at random. Thereis simply no way for a rational person to believe that Atomic Rain, Join in the Dance or Mine That Bird can win the race. I mean, have you looked at Mine That Bird's past performances? The much-maligned Giacomo, on his pre-Derby form, looks like a 1-9 shot against him.

The adjustments I've made to the Cristblog line since Monday reflect the changes to the field -- Square Eddie and Win Willy out, Atomic Rain, Join in the Dance and Nowhere to Hide in -- as well as some of your more persuasive arguments. (Thanks to all for the feedback.) I've made General Quarters and Musket Man the same price instead of being 10 points apart, dropped Dunkirk from 6-1 to 5-1 and Friesan Fire from 8-1 to 6-1. I'm a little uncomfortable assigning 60 percent of the pool to just four horses, but that does seem the way it's going to shake out.

As for picks, I ended up going: 1. I Want Revenge 2. Dunkirk 3. General Quarters 4. Papa Clem. I realize the latter two may not be as likely winners as Friesan Fire and Pioneerof the Nile, but they'll be much better prices and at least are proven commodities on fast dirt.

--Friday's Oaks Day card was drawn Tuesday, and even with heavy odds-on favorites Zenyatta in the Louisville Distaff and Rachel Alexandra in the Oaks, it looks like a good betting card, including an all-stakes pick-6 and three pick-4's:

Here's the 13-race Derby Day lineup, for which the full betting menu is not yet available; I'll fill in the pick-4's when it is.

The Oaks Card pp's have been up since last night, and Saturday's card will be up this evening. My annual advice: Stop obsessing about who can or can't run fourth in the Derby already, and get to work on all the other races. 

--PS: In response to a few comments on the last post regarding betting options, here's my understanding:

1. No dime supers Oaks or Derby Day.

2. The pick-4's will be available at a 50-cent minimum but only if they usually are where you bet. In some jurisdictions, 50-cent tri's and pick-4's are not offered and you'll have to bet at a $1 minimum.

3. I don't know which races Churchill's "Matrix" bet is offered on, nor in good conscience can I recommend that anyone ever play it. The bet is supposed to be some kind of newcomer's E-Z bet, where you pick three horses and get 15 bets automatically made for you -- three win bets, six exactas (a box of your three horses) and six trifectas (a cold box of your three horses.) I guess the appeal is supposed to be a 60-cent minimum for a total cost as low as $9. However, betting three different horses to win in a race, or making three-horse trifecta boxes, are about as dopey a way to play the races as I can think of.