The Kentucky Derby has many fascinating aspects and things that make it oh so special. One of those things is certainly the speculation as to which runner will cross under the wire first. So how do you walk back to the betting window for collection after the greatest two minutes in sports? Let’s examine a few simple approaches because honestly, that’s all I have for obvious reasons.
With a 20-horse field, the number of pony preponderances that are prevalent are quite perplexing. For the everyday sports fan, the betting favorite can be a popular choice. During the past 139 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, the post-time favorite has won 51 times, which is about 37% of the time. Not bad as for payoff percentages and if you would rather think about other things on Derby day like the legs on that filly standing near the beer cart, then let the populous make your choice. Another great thing about 21st century favorites that have won is the payout. Since 2000, five favorites have won with the smallest price being at 2-1, which means you at least double your money. The 2013 champ was the favored Orb and he paid a tidy 5-1.
Okay, so let’s say you want to make the choice yourself. Maybe you want to see the horse before you make the haul. Perhaps a paddock preview will perpetuate a pony payoff. The oldest of wives tales is the horse that takes a big poo will prance to the winner’s circle. Veteran trainer and two-time Kentucky Derby winner Carl Nafzger (1991 Unbridled, 2007 Street Sense) let me in on the lowdown that defecation has never decided a horse race. The horses know what is about to happen and like a lot of athletes with a nervous stomach, they drop a load before competing. So instead of looking for the dump, check to see which horse seems relaxed and ready. The crowd and overall buzz the Kentucky Derby brings will take some horses out of their game, so taking a look during the saddling process can be valuable, just don’t count on the poop for a winning scoop.
One of my favorite strategies comes from my darling little daughter. She tells me, “gotta a hunch…bet a bunch”! The hunch can come in several ways. The most popular is the horse’s name. Their calling card may strike you for any number of reasons. Maybe it’s a name like Foolish Pleasure (1975) because that is what you want with your wife, or Go for Gin (1994) as that is what you are doing on the way to the window. As a believer in the omens of horse racing, finding a name to identify with something in your life gives you an extra rooting interest. Even though there is no statistical basis to this philosophy and real horseplayers scoff at it, it adds to the fun and if you win, people will marvel at your insightfulness.
Lastly, here is the sure fire way to cash a ticket at the Kentucky Derby…bet’em all. Don’t laugh because that really is no joke. This philosophy takes way more thinking than I am capable of, but it will work with some serious calculations. Depending on the odds, stagger your money and bet more on the favorites and less on the longshots. With some intense number crunching, you can break even if the favorite wins, and if anyone else comes in you make money. If one of the real longshots come in you make a boat-load. Never discount this happening as they all have a chance in the Derby because every one of the starters are good otherwise they would not be here. Just remember recent runners like Giacomo (2005) and Mine That Bird (2009) came home first at 50-1 and I’ll Have Another (2012) was 19-1.
The last piece of betting advice is have fun with what you are doing. And just remember, there is nothing more fun than that scintillating strut back to the window with ticket in hand!