Archives for April 2018

Opportunities on the KY Oaks and KY Derby Undercards

By Art Parker

It will not be long before Kentucky Derby weekend is upon us. Derby Day and Oaks Day make up the big week at Churchill Downs. Naturally the talk on the Derby and the Oaks never stops but little is said about the undercards on both days, which are filled with great races and great opportunities.

On Oaks Day the big races on the undercard are the La Troiene for fillies and mares (8.5 furlongs); the Alysheba (8.5 furlongs); the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (5 furlongs on the turf), The Eight Belles for three year old fillies (7 furlongs); The Edgewood for three year old fillies (8.5 furlongs on the turf.)

On Derby Day the big races on the undercard are The Humana Distaff for fillies and mares (7 furlongs); The Churchill Downs Distaff Mile for fillies and mares (8 furlongs on the turf); The Pat Day Mile (8 furlongs); The American Turf (8.5 furlongs on the turf); The Churchill Downs Stakes (7 furlongs); The Old Forester (formally known as the Woodford Reserve at 9 furlongs on the turf.)

churchill downs ky derby dayWhat makes the undercards on these two days exciting is that a player can experience high quality racing with unusually good wagering opportunities. When examining these races over the last few years we find that favorites have won only 8 of 33 times for a subpar 24% win rate. Like so many big days at a race track, many novices and amateurs are in attendance and that usually means more money on the favorites.

Of these races the lowest price to win was Tepin in the 2016 Distaff Mile at odds of .30-1.00. The longest price was 18.70-1.00 by Camelot Kitten in the American Turf in 2016, oddly enough trained by Chad Brown (how many times do you get his horse at that price?)

The median of all winners is 5.30-1.00, which makes the median winner pay more than $12.00. That gets my attention.

Other than Todd Pletcher, no other winning trainer of the undercard races in the last three years has ever won the Derby.  Here are the trainers that have been in the Winner’s Circle after undercard races the last three year (multiple winners number of victories in parenthesis):

Todd Pletcher (4); Mark Casse (4); Buff Bradley (3); Brad Cox (3); Jorge Navarro (3); Chad Brown (2); Dale Romans; Brian Lynch; Bret Calhoun; Bill Mott; Vann Belvoir; Paul McGhee; Tom Amoss; Ian Wilkes; Peter Miller; Rusty Arnold; Ben Colebrook; Simon Callaghan.

I’ve always been told that horses that like the Matt Winn Turf Couse at Churchill Downs really, really like it. Upon examination of turf races we see some truth to that. Trainer Buff Bradley won three races on the turf course with the same horse, 2015-2017. Divisidero won the American Turf once and the Woodford Reserve twice. That happened to be three of his five lifetime wins. Trainer Mark Casse’s Tepin won back to back editions of the Distaff Mile in 2015 and 2016.

What isn’t true about the Matt Winn Turf Course is that far outside posts cannot win going short. The 2015 Twin Spires Turf Sprint at 5 furlongs was captured by Power Alert that broke from the 10 post. In the same race in 2017 Green Mask won the race from the 12 post.

The dirt sprints have experienced one gate-to-wire winner, which was Private Zone in 2015. All sprint winners have been in the top three runners when they get to the quarter pole. The Pat Day Mile, similar to an extended sprint, has had the same results. A horse needs to be close and in contention when running one turn on the dirt.

Where do winning horses come from for the undercards? Keeneland has produced almost half of the winners over the last three years (16 of 33). Gulfstream is next (7 of 33), then Oaklawn and Southern California (each with 4 of the 33 total), Tampa and Fairgrounds one each. Strangely New York has not been the sight of a last race for an undercard winner during these years.

The undercards at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day and Derby Day are always outstanding. There are plenty of opportunities with the undercard stakes races. Remember it is just as nice to win money on something other than the Oaks and the Derby.

This Is the 2018 Kentucky Derby Food & Wine Menu

This Is the 2018 Kentucky Derby Menu Food & Wine Full coverage

Source: This Is the 2018 Kentucky Derby Menu

“Off the Charts” Horses to Watch and Trip Notes – April 29, 2018

track announcer with binocularsGULFSTREAM PARK

OPTIMISTIC SHOT (Race 5 at GP, 4/20/18) – Trappe Shot made a nice run at the winner who got away with a slow pace in this 7 furlong sprint. Never gave up en route to a solid 2nd place finish for a high percentage barn.  This was a winning effort.

KEENELAND

SPIKES SHIRL  (Race 8 at KEE, 4/12/18) – Dallas Stewart runner appreciated the return to sprinting and getting the blinkers back on. The daughter of Speightstown unleashed a powerful late run to score the 11-1 upset in this entry level allowance race.  She’s best sprinting.

OAKLAWN PARK

CITY OF LIGHT (Race 10 at OP, 4/14/18) – this four year old son of Quality Road is probably the best miler in the country but he had little trouble stretching out to 9 furlongs in taking the G2 Oaklawn Handicap.  Post 11 and first start outside of California was no problem for the Mike McCarthy runner.

MAGNUM MOON (Race 11 at OP, 4/14/18) – The G1 Arkansas Derby winner was most impressive.  He faced pressure throughout, put away a solid horse in Quip (who did re-rally) and drew off in the stretch.   The drifting out is little concern to me.  Undefeated Malibu Moon runner will attempt to break the ‘Apollo curse’ in Kentucky Derby 144.

The Ultimate Guide to Family Fun at the 2018 Kentucky Derby Festival

churchill downs ky derby dayThe Ultimate Guide to Family Fun at the Kentucky Derby Festival

The Courier-Journal Full coverage

Source: The Ultimate Guide to Family Fun at the Kentucky Derby Festival

Final Look at Wynn Las Vegas KY Derby Odds

Final Look at Wynn Las Vegas KY Derby Odds – as of 4/27/18

OPEN CURRENT
AUDIBLE 200/1 9/1
BLENDED CITIZEN 225/1 75/1
BOLT D’ORO 40/1 8/1
BRAVAZO 200/1 75/1
COMBATANT 175/1 40/1
DREAM BABY DREAM 150/1 250/1
ENTICED 150/1 20/1
FIRENZE FIRE 75/1 75/1
FLAMEAWAY 100/1 30/1
FREE DROP BILLY 65/1 35/1
GOOD MAGIC 100/1 5/1
HOFBURG 200/1 35/1
INSTILLED REGARD 175/1 35/1
JUSTIFY 300/1 3/1
LONE SAILOR 175/1 50/1
MAGNUM MOON 200/1 6/1
MENDELSSOHN 150/1 6/1
MY BOY JACK 150/1 25/1
NOBLE INDY 125/1 28/1
PROMISES FULFILLED 250/1 75/1
RESTORING HOPE 200/1 50/1
SOLOMINI 150/1 30/1
SPORTING CHANCE 45/1 500/1
VINO ROSSO 150/1 14/1

Superfecta Strategies for the Kentucky Derby

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants.

by Justin Dew

Favorites have won the last five Kentucky Derby. In 2016, the top four betting choices ran 1-2-3-4 in order. As a bettor who likes to use the Derby as an opportunity at a life-changing score (or at least a year-making score), an edition dominated by low odds horses usually means a bad day for me. But that doesn’t have to be the case, and to my credit I feel I have learned from past mistakes.

Take 2004, for example. Smarty Jones and Lion Heart were the top two betting choices in the Kentucky Derby, and they ran 1-2 in order of favoritism. Imperialism finished 3rd at a modest 10-1. But the fourth-place finisher, Limehouse, helped to light up the tote board by contributing to a $41,000 (for $2) superfecta at odds of 41-1. The trifecta only paid $987. So let’s say you liked the two favorites to run 1-2, and then used every horse that was under 20-1 the 3rd spot, with all in 4th. As a $2 play, that’s $380 and a return of over $41,000…..with the two favorites running 1-2 in order!

Easy game, right?

Not so fast. Last year, I liked Always Dreaming as a top win candidate, but wouldn’t have had Battle of Midway or Lookin at Lee even WITH the ALL button (joke). In 2013, Orb was my top pick, and I used runner-up Golden Soul on all tickets, but didn’t match them up with the rest of the superfecta.

Thus, one of my goals for this year is to make sure I am in a position to cash a big ticket if I am right about the most likely winner and also right about a longshot who runs big. And I need to do it economically. But at the same time, how many horses can I confidently eliminate from superfecta consideration? Six? Seven? Can I trim down my selections near the top of the ticket and allow myself to use the ALL button? Do I need to just single my top pick in the 1st spot in lieu of a win bet on him, and then spread heavily underneath?

Maybe I’m looking at something like 1x13x12x11 at a cost of $1,716 (that’s one horse keyed on top over the other 13 in spots 2-4). If one of the seven horses that I eliminate from superfecta consideration runs 4th, then I guess I can just accept the fact that I didn’t deserve to cash. Or maybe the thing to do is play my top two in 1st and demand that one of my top five or six longshots runs somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd spots, with the other logical horses in there as well. So, something like this:

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top six longshots
3rd: Top seven overall (including the top two)
4th: Top seven plus top six longshots

So that’s 2x6x6x10, for a cost of $720. And then I play it with longshots only in 2nd and 3rd at a cost of $600, followed by using the top seven in 2nd with just the longshots in 3rd for another $720.

So overall, I would spend more on the superfecta that way, but I’d have my top two on top instead of just a single horse. And in exchange for having that extra coverage on top, I must have at least one of my longshots run 2nd or 3rd, with a big payday coming my way if I’m right about the winner and the non-super-contenders, AND I get more than one one my longshots in the 2-4 spots.

With the 1x13x12x11 approach, I could easily envision a scenario where I hit the superfecta but lose money. See: 2016. But with the “demand a longshot” approach, my top pick could win, spots 2-3 could be filled by logical horses, one of my longshots could run 4th, and I lose. Again, that’s the price (in this example) of using two horses on top.

Or…maybe I try this…..

Use my top two in first, trim it down to three longshots, and leverage the ALL button.

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top seven overall
4th: ALL

That would run me $612, plus another $612 when I move the longshots into 3rd and the top seven into 2nd, plus another $510 when I play it this way….

1st: Top two horses
2nd: Top three longshots
3rd: Top six longshots
4th: ALL

The $510 play gives me a big score if my longshots run 2nd and 3rd, with some extra coverage in 3rd.

I am not after bragging rights. And having been very lucky in recent years to cash some very large tickets at the track, I am not excited by the prospect of winning a few thousand dollars on Derby Day. Apologies if anyone doesn’t like the way that sounds. But I don’t want to see another $75,000 superfecta pass me by.  I feel like I need to be willing to spend the money to hit it.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich Nilsen

Justin Dew (Left) and AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen (Right)

The goal between now and Derby Day is to figure out how to maximize my coverage and opportunity based on the opinions I will have developed on the 20 Derby entrants. And I am willing to use all or most of my bankroll to take a swing at that payday. Because if someone guaranteed me I could double my bankroll on the Kentucky Derby, I wouldn’t sign up.

Now, if my Derby bankroll is $2,000, and the horse I like is 12-1, maybe the thing to do is abandon the entire approach that I just spent the last hour writing about and simply bet to win.

I have a lot of thinking to do.

Top Trainers Discuss their KY Derby 144 Hopefuls

Both Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott, two of the finest horsemen in the country, share their views on their starters in next Saturday’s Run for the Roses.  Of course, Pletcher is stacked with four contenders, and he seeks his third win in the Kentucky Derby.  Meanwhile Mott has longshot hopeful Hofburg.

Todd Pletcher on this four runners

Bill Mott on the attributes of Hofburg:

COMING NEXT WEEK!  NILSEN’S KY DERBY ANALYSIS

Revisiting a KY Derby Dark Horse

handicapper Justin Dewby Justin Dew

Word on the street is that this ‘dark horse’ earned a Thorograph number just a half-point slower than Magnum Moon in the G1 Arkansas Derby. This isn’t surprising considering how wide Solomini was throughout the race. So if you like Magnum Moon (and I don’t), or if you think Solomini is a fighter who will handles the distance (and I do), then perhaps you need to give another look to the “other Baffert horse” in the Kentucky Derby field.

In a previous post, we discussed how well Solomini has run against some of the more highly-regarded horses in this crop. But for a quick refresher…

He finished in front of Bolt d’Oro in the Breeders’ Cup…

He finished in front of McKinzie and Instilled Regard in the race at Los Al….

Off the layoff, he managed to run 2nd to the fitter Magnum Moon while encountering some trouble in the Rebel…

And he did what he did in the Arkansas Derby (see above).

Also, even though I’m not a fan of Combatant, it’s worth noting that Solomini was passed by Combatant in both of the Oaklawn preps, but Solomini came back and re-passed him both times. I’m not saying that demonstrates extreme talent, but it does show he isn’t a quitter.

If there is a negative with regard to Solomini, it’s that he hasn’t ever wowed us and it’s no guarantee that he has made the necessary jump from age 2 to age 3 that it usually takes to be competitive in the Kentucky Derby. That said, I get the feeling that if they take him a little further back in the Kentucky Derby, he might be able to make a sustained run and surprise some people. And we’ll almost certainly see odds of 20-1 or higher. He’s an intriguing longshot in my book. And he’ll be on most of my tickets.

Horse Racing Booming in California

Is horse racing dead?

Horse Racing Booming in California

Source: Horse Racing Booming in California

You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?

You’ve made it to the actual betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what? Here are some thoughts and things to keep in mind for novices and very beginning race fans.

Source: You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?