They are all here. All present. All accounted for. Even if they are not all seen.
Of the 20 horses in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, only Mendelssohn has yet to hit the track. Since he was flown here to Churchill Downs from Ireland on Monday, he has been in Barn 17, the one that is quarantined. But he should be cleared to go out onto the dirt for the first time Friday morning, which is when trainer Aidan O’Brien is expected to make his first appearance at the track.
The UAE Derby winner is not exactly a well-kept secret. Not after winning by 18 lengths. And not after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall at Del Mar. So it is no wonder that Mendelssohn is one of the horses that has caught the attention of wise guys playing Kentucky Derby futures back in Las Vegas at the Wynn.
“Mendelssohn has been getting bet,” said Johnny Avello, the Wynn boss who is the dean of Nevada race-book operators. “There’s a lot of savvy that the so-called professionals have. Remember that they’ve been betting this since September.”
Those bets have influenced not only Avello’s odds – which are adjusted to account for the Wynn’s exposure – but presumably the morning line here at Churchill Downs. While Mendelssohn, for instance, is 6-1 in Las Vegas, he carries a 5-1 estimate made by longtime Kentucky Derby morning-line maker Mike Battaglia.
“Mike sees my odds all year long,” Avello said. “He knows what my prices are, but he doesn’t have the exposure that I have. I’ve got exposure on quite a few horses. Good Magic, Justify, Bolt d’Oro – he’s one of my worst. There’s Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso. Probably the top five or six horses are the ones getting the (professionals’) attention.”
The biggest chasm between the morning line and the Vegas odds is with Good Magic. The Blue Grass winner has a morning line of 12-1 when his price at the Wynn is 6-1.
“That’s a terrible line,” Avello said. “Eight is the highest I see him going. I don’t see 12-1, especially when he drew the 6 post. But that doesn’t mean that the horse is going to run good or win.”
Avello said the best evidence of the skewed Churchill Downs line on Good Magic comes from one of the head-to-head matchups that he posted.
“I’ve got Good Magic against Magnum Moon,” he said. “Good Magic is 12-1 on the morning line and Magnum Moon is 6. But in their matchup, Good Magic is a (minus) 170 favorite over Magnum Moon. And it’s just sitting there. I opened that price up at 120. It’s gone up to 170, and nobody is interested in taking back.”
Although he said there was no extraordinary smart bet coming in late on the Derby, Avello did say that “Hofburg got a little when he was 40-1. Now I’ve got him 25. But things have cooled down.”
So how does business this year compare to futures past? As Avello put it, “If you’re looking at it as a revenue maker, it’s yet to be seen.”
Futures prices are kept in place until pari-mutuel wagering begins here in Kentucky with Oaks-Derby betting Friday at 10 a.m. EDT, although the Westgate and William Hill indicated that they would keep the futures pools open until post time Saturday at 6:50 p.m. EDT.
Ron Flatter’s racing column is posted every day this Kentucky Derby week at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod this week on Wednesday and Friday at VSiN.com/podcasts. Wednesday’s pop-up edition is posted with handicappers Dave Tuley of VSiN and Patrick McQuiggan of the South Point race book in Las Vegas. NBC Sports host Mike Tirico and Flameaway’s trainer Mark Casse will be the guests on Friday’s edition. Please subscribe and post a review where available at Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music and Stitcher.