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Time only matters when you're behind bars

Jordan Abrams  
Inside The Derby

In an article I wrote for the VSiN/TVG collaboration, Inside The Derby, I talked about value. I said that if you like a horse and you feel he should be 6-1 and you're only being offered 3-1, you're not getting proper value and thus should pass on the horse. Conversely, if you love a horse and feel he should be 7-2 and the tote board is showing 6-1, there's great value being offered and you should jump on it.

That's the way value works.

In poker, the same concept regarding value is true. If you're facing an all-in call on the turn where the odds are 35% for you to hit your card but you're getting 5-1 to call, you should make the call.

But I see things a little differently. For example, if you're a tournament poker player who plays regularly on the circuit, those types of odds matter in the long run. The same is true with odds in blackjack. There's statistical odds for every decision based on an infinite amount of hands. For example, with a 6-deck, hand-shuffled shoe, you should surrender a 16 versus an ace when offered.

But what if you're a recreational blackjack player and you're not planning on playing for hours at a time, every day, throughout the year? Should you really put up an extra $100 and split those eights against an ace when statistically it's a losing proposition, but the odds say you should?

Or should you call that all-in for your tournament life when it's the only tournament you'll play all year in a casino and you just love playing poker? Maybe you probably should just lay the hand down and wait to get your money in good.

Which brings me back to the Kentucky Derby. I just watched the 30-minute Derby special where Roxy Roxborough talked about value similar to the way I did in my article. But at the very end of the show, Brent Musburger looked at the camera and ended with, “Cashin' tickets is what it's all about.” If this is true, in the case of the Kentucky Derby, do odds “really” matter? The old saying goes, “better a short price than a long face.”

For regular horse bettors treating the Kentucky Derby as just another one of the 100 races they're going to bet for the week, you must respect value, good and bad.

But what about a recreational horse bettor who plays a few races a year, like the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup races. Should they really not bet their longshot pick of (for example) My Boy Jack, who at the time of this writing is 5-1 when the morning line was 30-1? Sure, they want to make a big score, but if they really like My Boy Jack to win because they feel the pace will be suicidal on the front end and they predict My Boy Jack mows them all down in the stretch, then who are we, as professional bettors, to tell them not to play the race?

At the end of the day, there's no shame in just betting who you think is going to win the race, regardless of the horse's odds. I promise you, a horse never knows his odds. Don't ever let anyone talk you off a horse because of its odds, not even the experts. It will eat you up all year if your horse wins. If you're playing the Derby for fun with hopes of potentially making a nice score, don't forget the first part of that: Have fun and bet who you like. Worry about the price later.

With that said, I will be playing one horse to win, regardless of his price. There are many factors I consider when handicapping and one of them is final time. An old friend of mine who I used to regularly see at the track -- who also happened to do some time back in the 70s for making some bad decisions -- would always say, “Time only matters when you're behind bars.” He meant several things by that. Mainly, as a horse owner, if your horse wins a race, does it really matter how fast he ran? Heck no, you're getting first-place purse money.

But sometimes, regardless of how fast a track is for the day, a time just pops out at you and it can't be dismissed. And Audible's Holy Bull Stakes in 1:141:4 just jumps out at me, especially the way he looked doing it. Following that effort up with an impressive off-the-pace win in the Florida Derby, and it simply made my No. 1 choice for this year's Kentucky Derby that much easier.

Yes, I know about Mendelssohn's track record time in Dubai. But everyone knows about the conveyor belt, “golden rail,” at Meydan for the past year.

Look no further to last year's winner, Always Dreaming, who was my pick to win. He ran a sub 1:48 in his Derby prep win, the 1 1/8 Florida Derby. That was, by far, the fastest Derby prep of any of the starters.

Speed figures are important and some bettors argue they're the true measure of how fast a horse is, but final time, especially when super-fast, can't be ignored. And that's just one of the many reasons Audible is your 2018 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. (I expect this year's “wise guy” horse, Hofburg, to flop as it does every year. He'll finish somewhere around 10th, skip the Preakness, and the son of Tapit will take the Belmont.)

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