Submitted by Noel Michaels on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 10:13 AM
Triple Crown season is here again in the sport of Thoroughbred racing, and everyone who calls themselves a racing fan can't wait for the First Saturday in May. While it's true that all horseplayers look forward to Kentucky Derby day, I think it's fair to say that few people wait for this day with quite as much anticipation as I do, probably because few handicappers have had the kind of success I have enjoyed in the Run for the Roses over the course of the past two decades as a public handicapper. It's no secret there are always tons of profits to be made by betting the Kentucky Derby, but with a lot of knowledge about the horses, and a little bit of luck on your side, the Derby truly is one annually one of the great chances to make a really big score, even in years when the favorites win.
One of the things that makes the Kentucky Derby such a great betting race is the fact that 20 horses will go to post for the race, and several of them truly have little or no chance to win. As a matter of fact, in the 18 runnings of the Derby since the year 2000, these toss-out dark horse challengers have won only twice – in 2005 with Giocomo and in 2009 with Mine That Bird. The 16 other runnings of the race since 2000 have all been won by completely logical horses, with 10 winning favorites including six winning favorites in a row from 2013-18.
Even when favorites win the Derby, however, the payoffs are always good because of the 19-20-horse size of the field every year and the fact that so much "dumb money" from novice bettors and blind stabbers is in the pools on Derby Day each year. Because of these factors, the win, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta payoffs always end up being more than enough to result in a strong profit if you can pick on the winning horse. As a matter of fact, in 2016 the four Derby betting favorites ran 1-2-3-4, in order, and still resulted in a $30.60 exacta, a $173.40 trifecta, and a $1,084.20 payoff in the superfecta.
In the 18 runnings of the Kentucky Derby since the year 2000, I have been able to rack-up a total of 10 winning top selections. I believe I have achieved my winning record in the Kentucky derby over the past two decades by carefully watching all the prep races leading up to the Derby and simply not overcomplicating the handicapping with useless stats and tangent information. If you watch the races, and watch them impartially and without bias, you will tend to be able to notice who the superior horses are each year. Lately, more often than not, the superior horse has been winning the Kentucky Derby.
You still need to be able to apply solid and mindful handicapping into the race for sure, don't get me wrong. Those who are "in the know" have a much better chance to win than those who don't. It also helps to know the track trends at Churchill Downs, and particularly for the Kentucky Derby, since it is such a unique event with a 20-horse field and an auxiliary starting gate in front of a life crowd of 150,000 fans.
For example, you really can't win the Derby anymore in a 20-horse race from posts 1-2-3. This was never on display more than in 2007 when my Derby horse all winter and spring, Curlin, drew post 2 and essentially had no chance to win. Curlin was my Derby horse, but I couldn't pick him from post 2 and didn't bet on him to win. He ended up running third in the Derby and then made amends two weeks later when he came back and won the Preakness. I was satisfied with the huge score I made betting him back in the Preakness. Meanwhile, while my top pick in that year's Derby, Hard Spun did not win the race, I was able to use Hard Spun, who went on to run second, plus Curlin in the underneath positions in the exotics, along with the eventual winner Street Sense in the exactas and trifectas in order to cash-in for a huge profit to the tune of $101.80 in the exacta and $440.00 in the trifecta.
My 10 Kentucky Derby winners since 2000 have included favorites such as American Pharoah in 2015 ($7.80) and Smarty Jones in 2004 ($10.20), as well as price shots such as the last non-favorite to win the Derby, I'll Have Another, who beat Bodemeister in 2012 to pay $32.60 to win and spur a $306.60 exacta in a box with the beaten favorite.
My streak of Kentucky Derby success truly started back in 2000 when handicapping in print for Daily Racing Form. On the seminar circuit that year I appeared at the Reno Hilton in Nevada and picked Fusaichi Pegasus, who ended up winning and paying $6.60, thereby ending a long streak at the time of consecutive losing Kentucky Derby favorites. As a perfect example of how you can still make money in the Kentucky Derby, even with a $6.60 favorite, I also gave out the winning $66.00 exacta with Aptitude, the winning $435.00 trifecta with Impeachment, and the winning $1,635.40 superfecta with More Than Ready. Needless to say I was very popular that night in Reno, Nevada.
The next year in 2001, I was sent to Churchill Downs to cover Kentucky Derby week for DRF.com, and appeared in print and on several radio and television programs in the days preceding the event picking Monarchos to win at every single appearance. I looked like a genius that year too when Monarchos defeated Point Given and the rest of the field to pay $23.00 to win. Too bad that year I was denied the exotics, however, when 50-1 longshot Invisible Ink shocked everyone by finishing second. That was back in the days when a Todd Pletcher/Johnny Velazquez horse could go off at 50-1 in the Derby. Live and learn, I guess.
Since those years, I added more winning Derby picks to my resume, including on Funny Cide in 2003, the aforementioned Smarty Jones, then Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, the aforementioned I'll Have Another, then Orb in 2013, the aforementioned American Pharoah, and finally Always Dreaming in 2017.
After erroneously overlooking the obvious in 2018 by missing on Justify to win (at least I did include him in my trifecta boxes along with Good Magic and Audible for a $141.40 payoff), I am ready to bounce back in the 2019 with the horse I have already identified to dominate this year's race and key high-laying exotics – barring, of course, a disaster at the post position draw. Remember, posts like 18, 19, and 20 are not killers, but posts 1, 2, and 3 certainly are, at least to win in the Kentucky Derby.
I have enjoyed a great run in the Kentucky Derby as a public handicapper over the course of the past two decades since 2000. I have picked 10 of the last 18 Kentucky Derby winners on top, and I believe I have the knowledge and experience to extend those winning ways in this year's race. Even in years when I miss, I tend to at least get a good piece of the exotics, and sometimes those losing years like last year can lead to even bigger and better profits. I hope you will follow me and see what I have in store for this year's Kentucky Derby, and hopefully we'll all be toasting with mint julips filled with money after the race. Best of luck, and enjoy the Run for the Roses!
By Noel Michaels