04/08/2015 10:48AM

Jerardi: Reserving a super with Dortmund and a party of three

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Benoit & Associates
Dortmund has the same look coming into the Kentucky Derby as California Chrome did last year.

Let’s make this an annual event. I am sitting on press row at the Final Four. The Santa Anita Derby appears on my laptop during the first half of the first game of semifinals. The horse I have been touting for a month is favored. And nearly runs off my screen.

Last year, it was California Chrome; this year, Dortmund.

Unless American Pharoah runs so fast in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby that I have to re-evaluate, I am all in on Dortmund and starting my search for superfecta keys or, in this case, "trifecta’’ keys (in the second, third, and fourth spots), with the free space atop the super in Dortmund.

Last year’s search went until the day before the Derby. I went to Louisville with an open mind, looking for horses with a certain profile. Given that I knew California Chrome was going to be with the early pace and, if I was right, would, at some point, discourage all the speed horses, I was trying to identify live closers at a decent price that preferably were having a good week at Churchill Downs.

I quickly came up with two of my key horses -- Medal Count and Intense Holiday. I was really having trouble with the third horse. I ended up at a party Thursday night in downtown Louisville hosted by Terry Finley for all of his West Point partnership people. Finley emphatically explained how he was absolutely certain Commanding Curve was going to win the Derby. Being a guest, I was not going to say I knew, with zero doubt, that California Chrome was going to win the Derby.

Commanding Curve was on my super list with a few other horses. I was more thinking fourth as a best-case scenario when all the chasers hit the wall in the stretch. In the end, I settled on the other CC as my third key horse because of running style and price (37-1).

I watched the Derby from the grandstand with the DRF’s Jay Privman. Once I gently reminded Victor Espinoza to get California Chrome outside the other speed in the first few hundred yards, I stopped watching the front of the pack. I knew that race was over.

I don’t know about you, but trying to watch the Derby is an exercise in frustration for me -- too many horses, too much happening, too fast. So I try to find a few horses and stay with them. I could see fairly quickly Medal Count and Intense Holiday were going nowhere. I picked up Commanding Curve for the first time when he came by us -- with maybe 300 yards to run. The horse was flying. It was obvious he was going to be second. This was a good thing, but how good a thing would be determined by which horses finished third and fourth.

Without going into all the details, I needed another longshot. Two would have been even nicer. Jay, who saw way more than I did, quickly told me Danza was third and it was really close for fourth between Wicked Strong and Samraat.

What had been a best-case scenario one second had quickly turned into potentially a worst-case scenario. If it was Wicked Strong, it would be California Chrome with the second and third favorites, Wicked Strong and Danza, respectively. I knew that a lot of players would have boxed the three favorites with the field. Or taken Chrome on top with the next two favorites and the field. The price on that super was going to be deflated, even with a 37-1 running second.

I saw the replay before the photo for fourth was posted. I was certain 16-1 Samraat had held fourth. The photo told another story. At the wire in the still picture, Wicked Strong was striding out while Samraat was in between strides.

I will never know what that super would have paid for a $1. The real super paid $7,691.90, nice but hardly a windfall, especially considering what my partners and I had invested, more than $1 and less than $5,000.

As I was leaving that night, I stopped by Churchill communications director Darren Rogers’s office to ask if there was a way to know what the super would have paid with Samraat, just so I could torture myself a little more. He did not think so, but he did e-mail me that photo for fourth a few days later. I just looked at it the other day. Nothing changed.