05/04/2012 3:49PM

HandiGambling the Kentucky Derby!

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This week's HandiGambling 280 exercise is Saturday's eleventh race at Churchill Downs, the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles for 3-year-olds.

REMEMBER, IF YOU ARE DECLARED THE WINNER OF THE HANDIGAMBLING EXERCISE; PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM WITH YOUR DRF LOGIN AND PASSWORD IN ORDER TO ACCESS YOUR PRIZE PACKAGE. 

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE PREVIOUS BLOG POST. 

Note that Oaks/Derby Daily Double wagering will be allowed in the HG exercise.
 
Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."
 
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.
 
Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.

PLEASE GIVE YOUR NAME OR BLOG MONIKER AT THE END OF THE HG PLAY AND/OR ANALYSIS.
 
Please separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers (instead of the horse's name) for easier scoring.

In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please.
 
I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.
 
I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all.

***

My record in the Kentucky Derby is dismal so my goal this year is to try and get alive into the race and load up in the Derby with several contenders.  That means Pick 4's and Pick 3's for me on Saturday.  For HandiGambling purposes, I'll play the Oaks/Derby Double. 

In yesterday's blog, I mentioned ON FIRE BABY as my Oaks preference, and I will key her in the bet.  Although her pedigree is a bit questionable for nine furlongs, she's run some impressive races and could work out a nice pace-tracking, ground-saving trip from her inside post position. 

As for the Derby, I'm planning on using five horses.  They are:

#1 DADDY LONG LEGS.  Although he drew a terrible post position and ran poorly in his only start on dirt, I'm hoping that the Daddy Long Legs that returns to Churchill Downs this year is a more mature version of the one we saw in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.  The pace should be swift in the Derby and that could set things up for a one-run closer that will appreciate the distance.  While Daddy Long Legs raced close to the pace when winning the UAE Derby at 1 3/16 miles, the fractions were soft and he'll be near the back of the back in the early stages of the Derby.  I truly believe that he's a much-better horse than the Coolmore runner that finished fifth in last year's Derby, Master of Hounds.  Of course, it looks like this Derby is deeper than last year's edition.  If Daddy Long Legs was 10-1, I wouldn't touch him considering the major question surrounding surface.  He should be closer to 40-1, however, and will use him in the hope of an epic pace collapse.

#5 DULLAHAN has the same question to answer regarding dirt as both of his career victories came over the Keeneland polytrack.  He's another closer that should benefit from demanding fractions up front and his prior dirt races can be forgiven (two sprints probably didn't suit this half-brother to Derby winner Mine That Bird and he did pass some horses in the Juvenile).  He profited from the fast pace set by Hansen in the Blue Grass and should be running late in the Derby.  I'm concerned that he'll be bet into underlay status as there appears to be some steam on him, but he could offer decent value in the Double.

#6 BODEMEISTER is simply the fastest horse in the race.  He has three triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures and the rest of the 19-horse field has three triple-digit Beyers sprinkled among them.  His lack of experience coupled with a hot pace up front could work against Bodemeister, but he's one talented racehorse and I don't want him to knock me out of any multi-race wagers.  I'm looking for him to track TRINNIBERG, get first jump on the closers and be the one they have to run down in the stretch.

#11 ALPHA is a gritty little fellow and he ran a nice race despite some trouble in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.  He boasts improving Beyer Speed Figures and a running style that should appreciate some pace to attack.  I'm a bit concerned about his recent physical issues (infected left shin, grabbed quarter, cut right front ankle) that forced him to miss a workout after the Wood, but I do trust his excellent trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin.  Although Alpha's lone bad race to date came over this surface, it should be noted that he freaked out in the gate and then bled during the running of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.  Hopefully, his gate woes are behind him.  He's a solid performer that should offer some value.

#15 GEMOLOGIST is undefeated, sports a versatile running style and is trained by Todd Pletcher so his merits are obvious on paper.  He also displayed courage in the Wood Memorial by turning back Alpha's midstretch bid.  I don't like the way he moves as he paddles badly with his left fore, but Gemologist has done nothing wrong in his short career and has run well over this surface in the past.  He should wind up stalking the leaders and the goal could be to follow BODEMEISTER and HANSEN when they bid for the lead.

For HG, I'll play:

$20 Doubles:  ON FIRE BABY with DADDY LONG LEGS, DULLAHAN, BODEMEISTER, ALPHA, GEMOLOGIST (1 WITH 1,5,6,11,15)

Best of luck to all.

***

Here are some quick-and-dirty selections for Churchill and Hollywood.

Turf Sprint:  BRIDGETOWN, GREAT MILLS, CACTUS SON
Churchill Downs Stakes:  SMILING TIGER, SHACKLEFORD, AMAZOMBIE
Distaff Turf Mile:  MARKETING MIX, HOOH WHY, TAPITSFLY
Humana Distaff:  MUSICAL ROMANCE, GROUPIE DOLL, SWITCH
Senorita Stakes:  BOBINA, GRASER, BELLE PASSE
Woodford Reserve:  PAPAW BODIE, TURBO COMPRESSOR, GET STORMY
Mervyn LeRoy:  KETTLE CORN, GLADDING, GREAT WARRIOR

***

More importantly, my 5-year-old niece, Olivia Katherine Duckworth, who correctly selected Mine That Bird a couple of years ago, is back with her annual Kentucky Derby prediction:

WENT THE DAY WELL.

Best of luck to all.