05/01/2014 4:10PM

Kentucky Derby Non-Opinions

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The "Curse of Apollo" has nothing on the "Illman Jinx." 

It's common knowledge that I don't do well in the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is a wonderful spectacle, but, for me, trying to pick a winner from 20 three-year-olds that are attempting 10 furlongs for the first time is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

Give me a maiden claimer on turf at Saratoga or Del Mar. At least I have a fighting chance in those races.

Usually, I pick some nondescript Derby aspirant at big odds and watch with bemusement while he runs evenly or worse. Very rarely will I have some sort of betting interest. If I do, it's mostly by using as many horses as possible in the multiple-race wagers and hope for the best.

Except for this year. This year, I was going to have a strong opinion. This year, I had a "Hoppertunity" for public handicapping immortality.

Ahem. Sorry, I got a bit carried away there.

I really thought Hoppertunity would give a good account of himself on Saturday. Less than 12 hours after picking him on top in this blog, he's out of action with an injury. 

The "Illman Jinx." 

Gotta love it. 

At least it was nice to type up Joe Hirsch's analysis of Hoppertunity's third dam, Kentucky Oaks winner Davona Dale, for yesterday's blog.

I took a look at the five graded stakes races scheduled over the next two days at Churchill Downs and came up with one "word" for them as betting events.

Meh.

*Both the Oaks and Derby have strong favorites that are WAAAAY the horses to beat. UNTAPABLE (#13, 4-5 ML) is the best filly in the Oaks. I won't have much money on or against her, but I certainly can understand anyone trying to beat a horse that has never raced at nine furlongs and must break from post position 13 (that post is 0-17 at 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs since 1991 and posts 12 and out at that distance are 3-70).

If she runs her race, she is a very likely winner. At 4-5, I won't pay to see if she runs her race. Plus, if you bet her on-track and she does win, you may not get paid as PETA could try to burn down Churchill Downs if an Asmussen horse wins.

Possible upsetters include THANK YOU MARYLOU (#5, 30-1), a lightly-raced filly returning to a preferred surface for top connections, #11 MY MISS SOPHIA (#11, 8-1), a Todd Pletcher-trained miss that parlayed an easy early lead to victory in the Gazelle at Aqueduct, and UNBRIDLED FOREVER (#9, 12-1), a regally-bred lass that, although no match for Untapable at Fair Grounds, has been pointing for this race all along.

My official picks are 13, 5, 11, 9 although, again, I don't think I'll have much money involved.

*With Hoppertunity out, I have nothing clever to say about the Derby. CALIFORNIA CHROME (#5, 5-2 ML) is best off the cold dope and he has the positional speed to find a nice spot just off the early leaders. He seems like the most likely winner, but I wouldn't take anything close to 5-2 as the distance is a question mark.

WICKED STRONG (#20, 6-1 ML) and DANZA (#4, 8-1 ML) are very logical off their final preps, but the former had a perfect trip in the Arkansas Derby while Wicked Strong is still a little green. I actually like CHITU (#13, 20-1 ML) and UNCLE SIGH (#3, 30-1 ML) as horses. They're pretty good, but I'm not sure the pace scenario and distance really work in their favor. Both are by speed-oriented stallions with stamina on the bottom.

For entertainment purposes only, I went 5, 20, 4, 13. If I have to play multiple-leg wagers, and I'm not sure I will, I'll press California Chrome and Wicked Strong.

*I don't have the courage to try and beat WISE DAN (#1, 4-5 ML) in the Woodford Reserve. You can make the argument that he's slowing down a bit at age seven as his Beyers have dropped in his last few races. Again, I won't argue with anyone that's trying to knock him off his perch. His best asset, arguably, is his tactical speed, and I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up in a garden spot pocketed behind BRIGHT THOUGHT (#2, 20-1 ML) and SKYRING (#9, 12-1 ML).

KAIGUN (#5, 8-1 ML) would benefit from a good pace, but he'll be a fraction of the price he offered when second to Wise Dan at Keeneland. I think Bright Thought is quicker than Skyring and can be dangerous if allowed an easy lead. At 20-1, he's appealing. Alas, I'm not sure we'll get that price.

Again, with my wallet firmly tucked into my pants pocket, I'll go 1, 5, 2, 7.

*The Humana Distaff doesn't offer me much hope for a wagering opportunity, either. I truly believe that MIDNIGHT LUCKY (#8, 5-2 ML) has the potential to be an excellent filly. She should work out a good trip tracking #3 JUDY THE BEAUTY (#3, 3-1 ML) and SATURDAY NTHE PARK (#4, 20-1 ML) and I think she'll make a strong bid on the turn en route to victory. But, how I can bet her at a short price coming off an 11-month layoff?  I can't.

IOTAPA (#6, 7-2) should relish the turnback in distance and SCHERZINGER (#5, 7-2 ML) was very sharp prior to the layoff.

For me, it's a fun race to watch. I'll pick 8, 6, 5, 3.

These are situations in which there are strong horses to beat that are terrible horses to bet. Instead of stabbing at other horses that I don't really like, I'd rather just watch and wait for better opportunities elsewhere.

*If I have to bet one of the Grade 1 races, perhaps it'll be Friday's La Troienne. ON FIRE BABY (#6, 7-2 ML) is listed as fourth-choice on the line and certainly appears very competitive. She just couldn't go with the razor-sharp Close Hatches in both the Azeri and Apple Blossom, but I liked that she showed no quit in the latter race, and it appears as if she's rounding back to her best form. She likes Churchill Downs and can sit a decent trip just off the early lead while racing in the clear. At 7-2 or 4-1 odds, she's worth a play at post time.

La Troienne Picks:  6, 5, 3, 4

*I wish I had stronger opinions for you guys, but I don't.

I'll be hanging out at DRF Live on Friday and Saturday, dropping some Formulator Facts, last-minute news, and perhaps some plays. Check us out if you have a moment.

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

***
 
*Just want to thank everyone for sticking with me as I begin to blog more often. The links to the previous blogs (and blog comments) are listed below.

http://www.drf.com/blogs/davona-dale

http://www.drf.com/blogs/can-hudson-landing-still-go

http://www.drf.com/blogs/tricky-elkhorn

http://www.drf.com/blogs/hail-mary-claim

http://www.drf.com/blogs/grounding-hawk

http://www.drf.com/blogs/cat-burglar-creeping-upward

http://www.drf.com/blogs/3-year-old-filly-sprinter-watch

http://www.drf.com/blogs/tale-two-wins

http://www.drf.com/blogs/beatable-favorites

http://www.drf.com/blogs/baker-cooks-calder

http://www.drf.com/blogs/keeneland-baby

http://www.drf.com/blogs/derby-prep-thoughts

http://www.drf.com/blogs/fishing-opinions

http://www.drf.com/blogs/keeneland-its-spring-again

http://www.drf.com/blogs/sprinter-rise

***

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman

All of the weekend's Grade 1 stakes videos should be available at the following link by Friday afternoon.

http://www.drf.com/events/weekend-stakes-previews-picks-analysis-more

***

Congrats to Curtis V. Slewster for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling race.

Rick M's scoresheet is available at the bottom of this blog post.

On tab 2 you will see each HG Race we've held and they are color coded to denote if the race was run on Turf, Dirt or Poly.

We'll go with the Kentucky Derby for this week's HandiGambling event.

The following wagers will be allowed:

1. Kentucky Oaks/Kentucky Derby DAILY DOUBLE

2. Kentucky Oaks/Woodford Reserve Turf Classic/Kentucky Derby PICK 3

3. Kentucky Derby

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST.

SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to streamline all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

With so many new people attending Dan's Formblog we thought it would be a good time to update the Handigambling Guidelines and Rules as we go forward in 2014.

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. We are 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.

HANDIGAMBLING:

-  Please start your post with  HG or HANDIGAMBLING to better recognize and find your entry.

-  You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose and that is available for that HG race.
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

- Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF THE POST.  Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST sign yourself at the end (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to recognize you .

- (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes.  Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.

- Separate your analysis from the wager and use the horses # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

-In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.

- The winner will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan"

As an example :

HG 2014
The speed in this race goes to  horses # 1, 4 ,6 ..Ennie , Meenie, and Mo
Since it's a sprint I don't see any closers catching them.. like # 9 Miney.
I think trainer Groucho with the #6 Mo has the best stats in this condition, route to sprint.. just a gut feeling at large odds ML 20-1

HG wager
50$ Ex box 1-6
total $100

Thanks Dan!

Harpo
---------------------------------

A MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS IS ALWAYS APPRECIATED !
 
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.

ALSO, IF THE WINNER WOULD LIKE TO SELECT THE FOLLOWING WEEK'S RACE, PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM NO LATER THAN THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY MORNING (A FRIDAY RACE IS MOST IDEAL).

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Copy of Formblog Churchill 4-26-14.xls72 KB
HGDERBY.pdf219.83 KB