Updated on 09/17/2011 10:17PM

Beat Bellamy Road at $8 or less in Derby

Bellamy Road tours Churchill, where he'll be a short price in the Derby.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - If you are going to handicap this year's Kentucky Derby, you should start by forming an opinion one way or the other on Bellamy Road. Based on his incredible 17 1/2-length victory in the Wood Memorial, and the 120 Beyer Speed Figure he earned, he could be an easy Derby winner. But there are a few reasons for concern, which you should consider before envisioning all of the ways you might spend his potential $7 or $8 win payoff.

The first is that Bellamy Road is probably going to want to be on or near the early lead in a race that will contain a number of other horses with the same running style. What happens if he doesn't like the pace pressure? Perhaps he will be tractable enough to rate behind the speed. But do you really want low odds on a horse who will be deliberately taken out of his comfort zone by changing running styles in the biggest race of his life?

Another major concern is that he will regress, and not just by a small margin. Supporters of Bellamy Road point out that he could run a few Beyer points slower than he did in the Wood and still win. That's true, but when a horse's Beyer jumps by 14 points from his previous career-best number in his first start of the year, and then spurts up by another 24 points in his next race, you probably aren't looking at a two- or three-point decline if things don't go his way. You might see the horse racing equivalent of a stock market crash.

Just for fun, take a look at Bellamy Road's past performances, and cover his Wood running line with a piece of paper. What do you see? A maiden win, a Grade 3 stakes win at River Downs, a seventh-place finish in a field of 10 behind Consolidator, and an N2X allowance win. It doesn't seem like the stuff that 5-2 or 3-1 Derby favorites are made of.

What is the worst-case scenario if you bet against Bellamy Road? He wins by 20 lengths, and you miss a forgettable win payoff. The good news is that you will lose the same amount as you would have if your horse had lost by only a nose, so don't be intimidated by the possibility that Bellamy Road might cruise by daylight.

The question is, which horse is most likely to capitalize if Bellamy Road falls back to a double-digit Beyer and loses? Ideally, with lots of early speed in this field, it would be nice to find a legitimate closer. I considered Sort It Out, and he is probably worth a small play in case there is a total pace meltdown. But his Beyers are weak, and he isn't as much of a closer as I would like. Note that he lost one position and 1 1/2 lengths during the last furlong in the Louisiana Derby. He gained only a quarter-length during the final furlong in the WinStar. And he lost two lengths to Coin Silver late during the Lexington. Greater Good has occasionally been effective as a closer, but his Beyers have also been low, and he lost two lengths during the last furlong in the Arkansas Derby.

But there is a horse in the Kentucky Derby field who finished strongly in his last Derby prep. His name is Afleet Alex. Judging by his swift 36.02-second come-home time during the last three furlongs of his eight-length Arkansas Derby win, and his quick 11.74-second final furlong, he is the one that is most likely to capitalize when the horses with early speed are tiring.

How do his closing fractions compare with those of the winners of some of the other 1 1/8-mile Derby preps? Bellamy Road came home in 37.32 and 12.75 in the Wood. Buzzards Bay finished up in 37.84 and 12.73 in the Santa Anita Derby. Greeley's Galaxy gained a half-length vs. a 38.03 fraction, and got his last furlong in 12.67 in the Illinois Derby. Bandini gained two lengths in a 39.60 split, and ran the last furlong in 13.40 in the Blue Grass. High Fly gained 1 1/2 lengths through a 39.51-second split, then ran his last furlong in 13.36 in the Florida Derby.

I recommended a bet on Afleet Alex in Pool 3 of the Churchill Kentucky Derby Futures Wager at 12-1 or higher, and received 16-1. He won't be as high as that on the day of the race, but something in the neighborhood of a $14 win payoff would be an overlay. I'll bet Afleet Alex to win, and in an exacta saver using him for second behind Bellamy Road. I may add a few other exotic bets in my final analysis of the race in the Derby Day paper.