Friday, May 06, 2005

Honestly, My Phelgm Shows The Derby Winner

Okay, I love the horses- live class, bet class. But the Kentucky Derby has been my nemesis for a long time. The list of losers is depressing. Mr. Frisky? What was I thinking? I honestly cannot remember my last Derby winning horse. Missing at 10-1 with Medaglia D’oro still haunts me- and broke my heart into a thousand pieces.

But I do remember last year’s Triple Crown closing score, as my 2004 Belmont Stakes selections capered home first and second. This fortunate finish completed an exacta at a whopping 70 to 1, plunging Dad into a month of unremitting sourness (Dad loved Smarty Jones), wiped out a year of losing- and then some. That gets me some benefit of the doubt. We proceed boldly. One disclaimer: I have been hot lately. And I ain’t talking about just girls. For example, I scored at a cool 4-1 on the elevation of Benedict XVI.

Every year the Kentucky Derby field has distinct feeling to it: a weak field, a strong one, lots of unknowns, etc. This year’s representation is no different. It feels like a segregated field. First, a small bundle of horses with a good chance to win: Afleet Alex, Brandini, Bellamy Road, Greeley’s Galaxy- maybe High Limit too. And then the rest, a collective that I think would shock most fans if one of them got up and got it done.

The first leg of the Triple Crown is always a crowded mess. Most races in America are run with half the number that will start the tenth at Churchill in Louisville tomorrow. Most thoroughbred racing is a test of speed and pace and stamina. The Derby is almost always an exercise in traffic navigation. Watching replays afterwards, it seems the winner not only ran fast- but also did not get blocked, get forced ridiculously wide or trapped along the rail for a few furlongs.

So I by and large eschew the favorite- and this year will be no different. True, Bellamy Road is clearly untouchable on paper- he ought to win by a dozen lengths if the Beyer Figures- the way, the truth and the light to horse players- are to be believed. And even if he does get a rough trip, the field only has a few horses that can realistically take advantage. The only reason he is 5-2, as opposed to 3-5, is due to the chaos factor that has to be introduced and considered in all Derby outings. So while I like him- and he could definitely romp- at that relatively short price, he does not merit a strong play.

Now, I went to my only Derby two years ago. I left with two overriding impressions. The first is that nothing beats, for sheer spectacle, a date with a fantastic hat. Two, you cannot overestimate the value in this big spot of wagering for value. This is not the hard-core Tuesday afternoon crowd at the PHA- but rather a large, relatively untutored crowd betting drunk with both hands. This creates underlays on horses just behind the favorite in ability.

Consequently, I like Afleet Alex. If Bellamy Road bounces at all from his ridiculous stroll in the Wood, loses a not unreasonable ten or so Beyer points, Afleet Alex’s numbers suggest he’ll be right there. While he was awful in the Rebel, he apparently had a lung infection. Listen careful to this part: As someone who is still battling bronchitis, now for three weeks, lung problems are no joke. I just produce phlegm, sit in the shower to loosen said mucous, and have zero energy. Still, one month later, chock full of powerful equine drugs, Afleet Alex crushed an Arkansas Derby field- rallying from four-wide- which suggests the traffic here will not faze him. The chart says he “exploded”. As long as that is not referring to his phlegm, he has got a good shot.

Afleet Alex is no mortal lock by any means. But at 9-2 to win, you could take a flyer here and have an honest run. I will bet 50% off my roll, fattened by the big rally in "CHDN", on him to win outright. But we also need to drive some value into this selection. I believe the best way to do this is use the cattle call on-track nature of this event to Frank’s advantage.

So I am going to play a few exactas as well- continuing to take a stand against Bellamy Road. Again, not because I do not like him, but in search of a price. Let’s put a few small exactas out there: Afleet Alex on top of Greeley’s Galaxy, High Fly, Noble Causeway and Coin Silver. A fun $10 bet might be to play $1 exactas boxing the five horses above- up & down.

Angle players: As you all know, along with dosage and other strategies, one of the Derby’s most potent betting signals is my father’s selection. It has not been made public yet- but will be posted as soon as I get confirmation as to which Dad thinks will “win”.