One of the challenges of handicapping the Kentucky Derby—beyond merely keeping track of all the runners—is determining which of the horses that have legitimate chances to win actually present viable wagering opportunities. Below I have organized the current list of the top 20 qualifiers, ranking them by what I believe to be their winning chances. These ‘win probabilities’ may seem arbitrary at first glance, but I have spent quite a bit of time poring over replays and pace scenarios as I’ve compared the winning chances of all the horses on this list and tinkered with proportions. From those figures, I’ve calculated what I believe the fair odds on each of these contenders to be—my personal morning line, if you will.
I could make a case for betting any of these horses if they go off at higher odds than those listed below. For example, while I believe that California Chrome is the most likely winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby at this point in time, it is possible that he could go off at a shorter price than the below 3-1 ‘fair’ odds, which would make him a mild underlay in my estimation. By the same token, if he’s a much higher price on the day of the race, I could just as easily wager on him with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, a horse like Uncle Sigh is all but guaranteed to go off at far greater than 10-1 odds, and I believe he would present a great wagering opportunity at such a price.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve listed five horses below as having worse than 100-1 chances of winning the race even though none of these horses are likely to go off at anything close to those odds. In recent years, it has become rare for any of the Derby entrants to go off at greater than 40-1 odds, which virtually guarantees that there will be value somewhere among the shorter-priced horses. However, with that said, you still have to decide for yourself where the value actually lies.
Generally speaking, it is always important to have an idea of what your own personal ‘fair odds’ are for each horse in any given race, and that it is especially true in a chaotic wagering affair like the Kentucky Derby.
Later this week, I’ll take an in-depth look at each of the top ranked contenders.
I will be attending this year’s Kentucky Derby so I am trying to post most of my pre-race analysis prior to departing for the Bluegrass State in the middle of next week. I don’t know if I’ll find the time to write a full entry once in Kentucky.
[Edit (4/25/14): After further consideration, I’ve tinkered with the below numbers to more accurately reflect my current opinions. We’re still eight days out from the race, so I’m allowed to have a few changes of heart.]
|1||CALIFORNIA CHROME||3-1||20.00%||Fast, consistent, should get the distance; only
possible questions are the trip and the pace.
|2||WICKED STRONG||9-2||15.00%||Should get the distance and will get plenty of
pace; loved the way he finished in the Wood
|3||HOPPERTUNITY||7-1||10.00%||Extra distance should only help; Hall of Fame
|4||SAMRAAT||10-1||7.50%||Improving, but still has some greenness issues;
pedigree gives mixed signals, but may get 10f
|4||UNCLE SIGH||10-1||7.50%||Dirtied up after Wood, though he was running
well at the end of that race; should get 10f
|4||DANZA||10-1||7.50%||Has ability, but lacks seasoning; got a perfect
trip in Arkansas; gets stamina from his dam
|7||TAPITURE||18-1||4.25%||Distance questions; hard to excuse Arkansas
|8||INTENSE HOLIDAY||19-1||4.00%||Should get pace to run into, but may not be
|9||VICAR’S IN TROUBLE||22-1||3.50%||Best when sent to the front, but will be a tough
task with Wildcat Red and others signed on
|10||CANDY BOY||24-1||3.25%||Disappointed in Santa Anita Derby, but had
shown promise previously; not sure he’ll get 10f
|11||RIDE ON CURLIN||26-1||3.00%||Distance questions; finished well last time
in a race where only the winner showed up
|11||DANCE WITH FATE||29-1||3.00%||Dirt a question; running style may suit
the race flow
|13||WILDCAT RED||29-1||2.75%||Distance questions; wonder about Florida
Derby quality; tries to wire the field?
|14||GENERAL A ROD||32-1||2.50%||Distance questions; wonder about Florida
|14||CHITU||32-1||2.50%||Hard to imagine him getting this distance,
though he has run some fast races.
|16||MEDAL COUNT||81-1||1.00%||If takes after sire will get the distance,
but may not be fast enough; dirt questions
|16||RING WEEKEND||81-1||1.00%||Last was terrible and the Tampa Bay Derby
was lacking quality
|18||WE MISS ARTIE||109-1||0.75%||Dirt questions; too slow|
|19||VINCEREMOS||164-1||0.50%||Not nearly fast enough|
|19||HARRY’S HOLIDAY||164-1||0.50%||Distance questions; too slow|
Note: While it may seem premature to solidify opinions prior to post positions being announced, I’m one who believes that only the rail post position consistently presents a significant disadvantage. As far as post positions 2 through 20 are concerned, we’ve seen horses get great trips from undesirable post positions and terrible trips from so-called good post positions. Horses need racing luck in the Derby regardless of which part of the gate they break from.