04/25/2010 3:32PM

Starting Over


The last Sunday of April in 2010 began just like the first Saturday of May in 2009: Waking up to find that the solid favorite for the Kentucky Derby is out of the race. It was I Want Revenge a year ago and Eskenderaya today.

At least we've got six days instead of six hours to rethink the race this time, but this one feels worse. I liked Eskendereya's Fountain of Youth and Wood even more than I Want Revenge's Gotham and Wood last year, and thought Eskendereya had simply separated himself from the rest of the crop with those two performances. He seemed to have all the goods not only to win the Derby but also to make a serious Triple Crown bid..

Even if you weren't an Eskendereya fan and were committed to trying to beat him on Saturday, you can't be happy about his absence: The prices on whoever you liked to beat him just came crashing down. If you liked the second and third choices, Lookin at Lucky and Sidney's Candy, you were probably getting 6-1 and 8-1 with Eskendereya in the field at 9-5; now they're the favorites at something like 4-1 and 5-1. And that 20-1 shot you liked? He's now more like 14-1. The chart below illustrates how Eskendreya's defection affects the other prices:

I just took a 10-minute look at the remaining field, imagining an Eskendereya-less Derby for the first time, and was struck by how close together the rest of them are on form and figures.It now looks like a Derby where you can make credible cases for a lot of them: I count 13 candidates with a career-best Beyer between 97 and 101.

I guess that makes it a more entertaining betting race, but it's going to take me a day or two to  get over the disappointment of Eskendereya and warm up to it.