May 1, 2009

2009 Kentucky Derby Betting Guide

***13-I Want Revenge SCRATCHED! Go here for updated selections***

It's hard to believe the Kentucky Derby is upon us already, but this Saturday marks the 135th run for the roses.

It's time to make our 2009 Kentucky Derby Picks, one of our favorite posts of the year.

For an idea of how good our picks are, here's what we said about Big Brown last year:

Brien: Looks good but I hate to be the favorite
Russell: Not worth the money, in my opinion
J-Red: This horse is the class of the race, but unfortunately he's hanging out in the 20th spot

So we liked him, but we didn't quite see the greatness (and certainly didn't make any money off him [J-Red's Note: Until Preakness that is. I took a picture of the pile of cash.]). On to this year's picks:


The rule, as always, is to look for distance.

My thoughts on the field:

1-West Side Bernie - Decent performances in grades stakes, but seems to end up with a lot of really bad trips. Bad news in a 20 horse field. No

2-Musket Man - Five wins in six lifetime starts, but speed figures aren't the best. Maybe

3-Mr. Hot Stuff - Broke his maiden in Feb, never run off synthetic before. No

4-Advice - Looks like a closer, but only 1 good race to show for it. No

5-Hold Me Back - Good results from bad positions. Maybe

6-Fresian Fire - Three very impressive runs this year, but hasn't run 9f. Maybe

7-Papa Clem - Makes the money against good competition. Maybe

8-Mine That Bird - No business being here. No

9-Join in the Dance - Ditto. Looked tired at a mile and a sixteenth. No

10-Regal Ransom - Long ride from the Middle East, speed doesn't look that great. No

11-Chocolate Candy - Against the best competition isn't up for the challenge. No

12-General Quarters - Two good races aren't enough to make up for a new jockey. No

13-I Want Revenge - Riding a huge hot streak coming in. Yes

14-Atomic Rain - Weakened at 1 1/8 in the Wood against Derby competition. No

15-Dunkirk - One amazing place in the Florida Derby isn't enough. No

16-Pioneer of the Nile - No runs on natural dirt. Good results, bad speed figures. Maybe

17-Summer Bird - Outclassed. No

18-Nowhere to Hide - Not sure what Zito's thinking here. No

19-Desert Party - I hate handicapping the foreign horses. Maybe

20-Flying Private - Nothing there. No

Here's what we're left with:

Yes: I Want Revenge
Maybe: Musket Man, Hold Me Back, Fresian Fire, Papa Clem, Pioneer of the Nile, Desert Party

That's too many horses to bet, so let's look for value in the morning lines. Unfortunately, I Want Revenge is the 3-1 favorite in a 20 horse field. Musket Man is 20-1, Hold Me Back is 15-1, Fresian Fire is 5-1, Papa Clem is 20-1, Pioneer of the Nile is 4-1, and Desert Party is 15-1
For me, I Want Revenge is the clear favorite, so let's put $5 to win on him. For the rest, we'll take a $2 box exacta on the long shots - Musket Man, Hold Me Back, Papa Clem, and Desert Party. That's a $24 bet. To reach an even $30, we'll take a lottery-ticket style $1 trifecta on I Want Revenge, Fresian Fire, and Papa Clem.


Capitals in 6.


I have broken down the horses I believe to be contenders into A, B & C groups. Nine horses, including 3-Mr. Hot Stuff, 4-Advice, 8-Mine that Bird, 9-Join in the Dance, 10-Regal Ransom, 14-Atomic Rain, 17-Summer Bird, 18-Nowhere to Hide and 20-Flying Private I felt did not warrant any consideration except as pace factors.

6-Friesan Fire
. I have a thing for steadily climbing Beyers in young horses approaching the Derby. I like it even more when the distance has increased in the same fashion. Friesan Fire meets both those requirements, keeps the jockey, and took a little break. The break is my primary concern, and the only thing keeping me from making him my clear value favorite.

13-I Want Revenge. This horse is the class of the race and has shown that the ability carries over to dirt after a career on synthetic. The distance training is appropriate and the Churchill workouts are reassuring. The jockey is consistent. Unfortunately, bettors will identify him too.

1-West Side Bernie. Not consistent enough to put on top, but with a clean rail trip could be a factor.

2-Musket Man. The Beyers are not inspiring, but it's a dirt horse at a great price and trained for the distance. Not the class of the race, but in a good post and well positioned to possibly upset.

7-Papa Clem. This is my B+/A- horse. Everything points to him rounding into form and the value looks fantastic. I am having a hard time talking myself out of taking a flyer.

11-Chocolate Candy. Beyers increase every time out, as does the distance, but the horse has enver raced on dirt. Churchill works are good, but traffic may pinch off the horse's shot considering he has NO early speed. Still, a definite contender for the board.

12-General Quarters. This is the most erratic horse of those capable of posting a 100+ Beyer. First time with Leparoux on board as well. Not inspiring, but dangerous.

15-Dunkirk. Thanks Pletcher, you asshat. After three races, this could be a superhorse or he could throw Prado in the gate. No idea what to expect, so he clogs up the tickets.

16-Pioneer of the Nile. This may well be the second favorite on Saturday, but I am concerned by the all-synthetic career followed by poor Churchill works. Add in the 16th spot and I'm not feeling it.

5-Hold Me Back. Strong closer with one outing on dirt that was unimpressive. Tends to run wide, which would be fatal in a 20-horse field. In a different race, maybe. Here, only on the deepest tickets.

19-Desert Party. Not way out in the auxiliary after making the trip over the pond. I really just write off the UAE horses based on history.

This is how I would bet it. 13-I Want Revenge is the clear class of the race, and I am going to accept that like I did with Big Brown in the Preakness last year. The best way to monetize that this year is with declining value exactas using the other horses I like on the bottom for more money and on top for less money.

I'm also going to toss my two synethetic-only B-Team horses, Chocolate Candy and Pioneer of the Nile.

That leaves me with $5 exactas of 13 over 1, 2, 6, 7, 12, 15 for $30. Then I want $2 exactas with 1, 2, 6, 7, 12, 15 over 13 for another $12. If 13 doesn't fire, I'll hedge with $2 6, 7, 15 boxed exactas for $12. We've got $6 to play with on a $60 budget, so let's go ahead and $1 box trifecta I Want Revenge, Friesen Fire, and, my favorite value underdog, Papa Clem (6, 7, 13). If your significant other brought home a lot of singles from her "other job", feel free to take some $1 pot shot straight trifectas and superfectas.


The lesson for me from last year is that horses cannot be expected to transition smoothly from the synthetic surface to dirt. Last year, I really liked Colonel John and we all know how that turned out. This year, Pioneer of the Nile fits the same mold, and I'm not going to put a cent on him or any of the other synthetic surface horses. I'm also not betting any horses from Dubai until one of them shows that the long journey can be overcome. The lack of information doesn't help either. So who does that leave?

6-Friesan Fire. I love this horse, especially since the track may be sloppy. Very few of the other horses have run in the slop, and Friesan Fire excelled in the Louisiana Derby on a sloppy track. With a horse that likes to stalk and is expected to be near the lead, he shouldn't get too much mud in his face and clearly has the speed to pull away from the field.

7-Papa Clem. Increasing Beyer numbers and two good showings on dirt are nothing to sneer at. Should be considered.

12-General Quarters. Clearly not the favorite, but has shown good speed in the past and could be peaking at the right time. I think this is a good value at 20-1.

13-I Want Revenge. The favorite for obvious reasons, it's hard not to like this horse. Any horse that can win a G1 after rearing at the start is worth strong consideration. Has the highest Beyer figure and has been especially dominant in his two dirt races.

15-Dunkirk. This horse's only loss was to the Derby favorite, who's not in the field. The lack of experience is certainly concerning, but the upside is clearly there.

So how would I bet?

If the track is sloppy, I'd spend my $40 on a Friesan Fire with the field Exacta and put $2 to win on General Quarters as a chance to break even.

If the track is fast (or close to it), $4 on 7,12,15 to win, $3 on 6,13 over 6,7,12,13,15 Exacta, and 6 lottery-style $1 trifectas of 6-13-7,12,15 and 13-6-7,12,15 puts you at $42.

9 Responses:

Anonymous said...

Any concern with "I Want Revenge" being monitored closely by track officials? Or at least the trainer? Is there a concern that the horse doesn't start well?

J-Red said...

I'm not concerned about the monitoring issue because if the horse is doped, races and wins, the bets still count. If he's scratched because of an issue, the bets are refunded.

My only real concern is that the horse gets a good trip and that Dunkirk or Papa Clem aren't about to burst through as superhorses.

J-Red said... never want to handicap a race the same way Russell does.

El Angelo said...

Nice job as always guys. I personally don't love Friesan Fire, but plenty people who know more about racing than I do like him tons, so there's that.

Russell said...

You're right about the Derby, but I have been known to profit from the Preakness...

Anonymous said...

Friesan Fire has one of THE BEST pedigrees and trainers in the '09 KY Derby field. He's been winning (won his last three races) on dirt at the Fair Grounds on what is known as a very long stretch similar to Churchill's very long stretch. He's prepared psychologically for that long stretch run. He is willing to sit off the pace and then pounce, which is one of the best Derby winning methods. He is getting better every race. We haven't seen the best of him. The 7-weeks between races is not a problem. It wasn't a "layoff" as he was still in training. Some horses have long layoffs than that time and come back and win. Count on Larry Jones to know what he's doing with horses, e.g. Hard Spun and Eight Belles finishing 2nd in '07 and '08respectively. He has an excellent foundation of several 1-mile races and 1-1/16. He's fit to run 1-1/4. The only question is: is he good enough to beat this group. It's hard to know when so many haven't run against each other.

My advice: pick the best horse and hope for the best...that's Friesan Fire.

WEstSideWill said...

Don't sleep on WestSideBernie ...with a name that's a money as that there is no way that he doesn't finish in it!

Things got a lot more interesting after I want Revenge was scratched.

J-Red said...

I want to point out that my experience in going to the track with Russell is that he loves to make the window teller use the FIELD key.

Michigan Page Family said...

"8-Mine That Bird - No business being here. No"


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