It’s amazing how the sports calendar is laid out during the course of the year. We just had March Madness flowing into the start of baseball season, followed by the Masters and the start of the NHL & NBA playoffs (which, of course, are continuing and we’ll get back to our weekly game plan of bets at the end of this week’s column) and the NFL Draft and now we get one of the oldest milestones on the annual calendar with the Kentucky Derby on the First Saturday in May.
They drew the 20-horse field on Tuesday morning (with one “also eligible” horse in case there’s an early scratch), so I’m going to give my initial “takes” on the field with my live longshots and what contenders I’m tossing.
1-War of Will (20-1)
He drew the dreaded #1 post. Most people will be throwing him out, but I actually believe this makes him an overlay in the exotics since he will be left off so many tickets. War of Will has the speed to get to the rail and into a ground-saving trip. From there, he’ll probably still need some racing luck, but if he reverts to his form prior to the Louisiana Derby (which was an understandable clunker as his connections knew he had enough points to get in the Derby field), he could light up the toteboard.
He should be able to sit right behind War of Will with a ground-saving trip. It’s not unthinkable for him to hit the board (5-for-5 lifetime in the money) but there’s just a lot of horses whose chances I like better. But I certainly wouldn’t try to talk anyone off of using him.
3-By My Standards (20-1)
Now here’s one of those ones I like better! Usually, it’s not wise to back just a maiden-winner against winners of multiple races, but he pulled it off in the Louisiana Derby at 22-1. I usually like a colt with more experience, but this one has the look (at the risk of giving human qualities to animals) of a horse that has “figured it out.” After losing his first three races, he’s won two straight and we don’t know if we’ve seen his upside yet. Any further improvement and he’s right there!
4-Gray Magician (50-1)
Call me crazy but here’s another colt I love! He ran second in the UAE Derby. I know no horse has overcome that trip to Dubai and back to Louisville, but it will happen in our lifetime as there’s too many well-bred horses with well-financed connections attempting the feat. Now, Plus Que Parfait was the UAE Derby winner, but I like Gray Magician’s prior races much better.
The Bob Baffert second-stringer is named well. I wouldn’t call him Impossible so Improbable fits better. He was runner-up his last two races at Oaklawn and I wasn’t too impressed with any of the Arkansas races (including Omaha Beach’s win in the Arkansas Derby). So, I can’t completely throw him out but will be using on a minimum of exotic tickets.
Winner of three of his four career races, I’m actually surprised Vekoma is being offered at 20-1. Of course, morning lines aren’t set in stone, so I suspect he’ll go off in the low teens. However, he would be an overlay if the 20-1 sticks.
7-Maximum Security (10-1)
He certainly hasn’t done anything wrong at 4-for-4, including taking down the Grade 1 Florida Derby his last time out. Like Vekoma, his price really should be shorter, but I guess that happens when your trainer isn’t Bob Baffert.
He has won three straight, including the Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood Memorial, and he’s my favorite among the top contenders. He should have a nice stalking trip and get first run on a lot of the other closers.
9-Plus Que Parfait (30-1)
Now, since I love UAE Derby runner-up Gray Magician, I have to like the UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait at least a little, right? And I do. He should be able to sit off the pace like he did last time out and possibly make a winning move. I just like Gray Magician’s. overall resume better. In a 20-horse field, it’s OK to bet multiple horses to win if you’re getting fair odds, and I’ll certainly be on Plus Que Parfait if he’s 30-1 or higher.
10-Cutting Humor (30-1)
If the track is wet because of rain this weekend, there’s going to immediately be comparisons made to Sunland Derby winner Cutting Humor and 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. But I’ll be passing as he’s obviously a cut below the majority of those in this race (of course, most people said that about Mine That Bird, too, at 50-1!).
This colt intrigues me as another closer. He certainly fits if you toss out the Wood Memorial, which is excusable as he didn’t have to be fully cranked as his connections knew he had enough points after winning the Gotham. Haikal certainly should be 30-1, so I’ll be watching the tote board on this one as well.
12-Omaha Beach (4-1)
Here’s the morning-line favorite, but that’s a pretty lukewarm price so I think it’s clear we’re not looking at a dominant Triple Crown threat here. I’m taking a big stand against him, as I said before that I wasn’t too impressed with the Arkansas prep races. I understand if others feel the need to include in exotics, but just know you’re killing your prices (but, hey, I understand that if he hits the board and I don’t use him, I don’t cash a ticket at all, so that’s where you have to find that right balance).
13-Code of Honor (15-1)
Claude “Shug” McGaughey has him on the same prep schedule as 2014 Derby winner Orb, except Code of Honor seemed to peak in the Fountain of Youth and didn’t follow it up with a Florida Derby win like Orb did. He certainly has the right to rebound, but I don’t think he’s worth including at relatively low odds.
14-Win Win Win (15-1)
Now, this colt is also 15-1, but I like his chances so much better that this 15-1 is worth it. His best race was actually a minor stakes at Tampa Bay back in January as he came up short in the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass Stakes (imagine how low his price would be if he had finished better in those races), but I love his closing kick in all his races and trust he’ll be passing runners late down the Churchill Downs stretch. We’ll see if his price holds and if I even bet to win, but I’ll certainly have on top in a lot of exotics.
15-Master Fencer (50-1)
There are a lot of unknowns about this Japanese invader, but a lot to like, too (should be running late; 6-for-6 in money; has run mile and a quarter distance, though on turf). What it comes down to is that he hasn’t continued to improve after stepping up in class, and you’d go poor boxing every horse that has a puncher’s chance. I’m sticking with the ones in whom I have more confidence.
16-Game Winner (5-1)
Bob Baffert-trainee is the second choice and would probably be favored if not having back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Rebel and the Santa Anita Derby. That makes him a bit of an overlay in my book, but still can’t bet the short price and will only be using in a few exotics.
Comes into the Derby on a two-race win streak and plenty of supporters, so I get the low odds of 6-1, but I don’t see him as a legit threat to win (and it has nothing to do with the No. 17 post being 0-for-40 as that jinx will end someday, I just don’t think this Saturday). I much prefer Tacitus and Game Winner among the top contenders.
18-Long Range Toddy (30-1)
Again, I’m taking a stand against the horses coming out of the Arkansas trail to the Derby. His best race was winning the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park, but even a repeat of that performance puts him several lengths behind the top contenders here.
Spinoff gave up the lead in the Louisiana Derby and I don’t see him getting the extra furlong in the Kentucky Derby either. I think he could have been a pace factor in here, but the No. 19 post doesn’t help that cause. In fact, if they do send him to the front (which seems to be his only chance), he could actually do more to impact this race by compromising the chances of Omaha Beach if he pushes him to set suicidal early fractions.
20-Country House (30-1)
Another Arkansas toss-out for me. He could make a move on the backstretch but I haven’t seen anything that makes me think he’ll do anything in the stretch except plodding along in mid-pack.
This is the only colt on the “also-eligible” list and will only be in the field if another colt is scratched by Friday morning. So, we probably won’t have to even consider his chances; however, if he does draw into the field, I’m sure I’ll be tempted to at least have a flier on him (note that he finished second in the Florida Derby at 71-1).
So, that’s how I view the field after the postposition draw on Tuesday. It’s too early for me to completely set my recommended betting strategy. Over the years, I’ve usually been asked to give my 1-2-3-Longshot picks, so let’s do that and then I’ll add a couple of lists of horses I’m considering for my exotic wagers such as exactas, trifectas, superfectas. Note: I’m not suggesting to box all these possible horses as that would get too expensive, but to instead pick out the groups of horses you agree with to create your own tickets. In addition, I’ll separate them into groups of speed horses and then closers as I often will cluster horses like that in my exotics since sometimes a group of speed horses will go to the lead and never get caught while we often also see times where speed horses duel each other into the ground and a bunch of closers come in together (and feel free to mix and match if you think one particular speed horse can outlast the others or drop closers you don’t like).
#4 Gray Magician (50-1): My top value play to win; I believe his odds are far in excess of his true odds; if they were to run this race 20 times, I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t win at least once as he should be among those running fastest at the
#14 Win Win Win (15-1): Maybe not the “most likely winner,” but I like his chances as much as any of the lower-priced contenders and will be looking for
some head-to-head matches.
#8 Tacitus (10-1): If I was booking this race, I would have Tacitus a lot lower and maybe even the favorite.
#3 By My Standards (20-1): I’d put this in my “longshot” slot. Even though my top two choices are long odds as well, I really give them legitimate shots to win based on their recent form. By My Standards is more of a stretch in my mind, but the potential is there if we haven’t seen his best yet.
Potential win and/or place bets
#4 Gray Magician (50-1), #14 Win Win Win (15-1, but not lower), #3 By My Standards (20-1), #6 Vekoma (20-1), #1 War of Will (20-1, if drifts, #21 Bodexpress (30-1, if draws in).
Exotic horses (closer grouping)
#4 Gray Magician, #14 Win Win Win, #8 Tacitus, #3 By My Standards, #9 Plus Que Parfait, #11 Haikai.
Exotic horses (speed grouping)
#6 Vekoma, #1 War of Will, #12 Omaha Beach, #7 Maximum Security, #19 Spinoff.
Good luck, everyone!
TULEY’S TAKE ON NHL SECOND ROUND
Things have really cooled off with the NHL 1st Period Over/Unders. I’m only up 2 units for the playoffs after being up 8.5 units after the first week of the opening round. I’m sure many of you have started to back off on these plays. They were still a solid 14-7 after the first round (10-5 with the #FollowtheMoney6 Over teams that made the playoffs, which included the Blue Jackets facing the Lightning and going 3-1, while the Penguins were also 3-1 and the Sharks were 4-3; plus the Stars being 4-2 with 1P Unders), which was still profitable since we were laying less than -200. However, they’ve been 3-6 since the start of the second round and my losses would have been worse if I hadn’t bet the Stars 1P Under straight after losing the first game of last Thursday’s parlay with the Blue Jackets and just lost 1 unit when the Stars went Over on Saturday and didn’t bet the Blue Jackets straight in the later game.
In fact, I’m going to totally drop the Blue Jackets from my plays if they don’t go Over in the 1st Period in at least one of their next two games (Tuesday and Thursday). The Sharks are also close to being dropped. And the Stars aren’t the automatic play they used to be with two straight Overs Saturday and Monday. Here’s how I’m approaching the coming week:
Wednesday, May 1
Straight bet on Stars-Blues 1P Under. The price isn’t too bad at -160 and I’m hoping those back-toback Overs were an aberration and we see more defensive hockey the rest of this series (especially in the 1st Period).
Thursday, May 2
Tailor-made parlay with Blue Jackets 1P Over to the Sharks 1P Over (so trying at least one more time, but just risking 1 unit).
Friday, May 3
Straight bet on Stars-Blues 1P Under. Hopefully still in the -160 range.
Saturday, May 4
Parlay with Blue Jackets 1P Over to the Sharks 1P Over (unless Blue Jackets failed both Tuesday and Thursday, then just straight bet on the Sharks).
Sunday, May 5
Straight bet on Stars-Blues 1P Under, if necessary.
Monday, May 6
Parlay with Blue Jackets 1P Over to the Sharks 1P Over, if necessary (and if both are being better to us). Tuesday, May 7 Straight bet on Stars-Blues 1P Under, if necessary.
TULEY’S TAKES ON NBA SECOND ROUND
While we’ve been giving back some of our profits in the NHL, our NBA picks are back to .500. My “best bets” here in PSW and including updates on the VSiN.com website were a woeful 7-10-1 a week ago, but starting with the Clippers covering as double-digit underdogs against the Warriors last Wednesday in Game 5 of their first-round series, we went on a 6-1 ATS run to stand at 13-11-1 ATS with the Clippers’ Game 6 loss being the only setback. The Spurs covered the last two games of the first round against the Nuggets and we started the second round 3-0 ATS with the Celtics 8 vs. the Bucks and the Rockets 5.5 vs. the Warriors on Sunday and the 76ers 6.5 vs. the Raptors Monday before losing with the Celtics and Rockets on Tuesday to drop back to 13-13-1 ATS.
Wednesday, May 1
Just like making the right call to pass on the 76ers in Game 1 against the Raptors, I passed on the Blazers against the Nuggets as well. However, while I then cashed on the 76ers in their Game 2 upset, I’m going to pass on the Blazers again. Instead, since I believe the Nuggets will dominate this series, I’m going to wait and bet the Nuggets as road underdogs when the series moves to Portland.
Thursday, May 2
Again, I’m going to pass on the 76ers in Game 3 (though almost tempted to take the Raptors at pick ‘em as this could be a series where the road team covers more often than the home team).
Friday, May 3
Taking the Celtics, hopefully as home underdogs, against the Bucks; also taking the Nuggets as road dogs as mentioned above.
Saturday, May 4
Taking Rockets if they’re home dogs to the Warriors.
Sunday, May 5
Taking Nuggets if they’re road dogs to the Blazers.
Monday, May 6
Taking Celtics if they’re home dogs to the Bucks and also Rockets if they’re home dogs to the Warriors.
Tuesday, May 7
Taking 76ers as road dogs at Toronto, probably in the 7 range, but passing on Blazers-Nuggets game, if necessary