It will be a beautiful day for racing at Churchill Downs on Saturday for the 140th Kentucky Derby. With sunny skies and temperatures near 70, the track will have plenty of time to dry out from some early week rain, though the conditions may make for some sloppy practice runs throughout the week. The field of 20 horses was set on Wednesday afternoon and post position is always an important element that handicappers need to be aware of.
The most exciting two minutes in sports is sure to be a life-changer for the winning jockey, owner, trainer, and families of those associated with the horse. The first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 and a horse named Aristides took home the title in front of 10,000 people. The first-place winnings were $2,850. Now, 139 years later, the Derby draws crowds north of 150,000 people and first-place will net a cool $1.425M in winnings.
As mentioned, post position is very important because of the ability to get inside on the rail. Having an inside track will mean a shorter distance for the horse to run. As a result, in 139 races, post positions #1, #4, and #5 have accounted for 35 victories, with #1 and #5 each tied for the most with 12. It has been calculated that moving one stall to the left at the starting gate adds 3.4 additional feet that the horse must travel per turn. Even though every post position but #17 has taken home at least one Derby victory, starting on the inside is certainly beneficial.
Here are the post positions and odds for the 140th “Run for the Roses”:
|1||Vicar’s in Trouble||30/1|
|7||We Miss Artie||50/1|
|8||General a Rod||15/1|
|12||Dance With Fate||20/1|
|19||Ride On Curlin||15/1|
|21||AE-Pablo Del Monte||50/1|
If you’re not familiar with horse racing, there are a lot of different bets that you can make. Bettors can simply bet win, place, or show for horses. Win obviously means to win the race, while place means finishing first or second, and show means finishing first, second, or third. Other standard bets include an exacta, which is a bet that involves two horses that must finish in exact 1-2 order, a trifecta, which is like an exacta, but horses must finish exactly 1-2-3, and a superfecta, which is a trifecta plus a fourth horse to finish fourth.
Recreational bettors will opt for variations of those wagers that require less perfection. A quinella, for example, is an exacta, but the horses can finish first or second and the order does not have to be perfect. Similarly, box trifectas and superfectas simply require the bettor to pick the top three or top four horses and they can finish in any order. Another popular wager is “Win, Place, and Show”, which is a minimum $6 wager in which the selected horse will yield some kind of return if it finishes in the top three.
While these alternative bets seem to have a better chance of winning, keep in mind that minimum bets for the standard options are $2, while “box” bets require the bettor to wager $1 multiplied by the number of possible combinations. A box trifecta on horses 1, 2, 3 is actually six separate bets because the horses can finish 1-2-3, 2-1-3, 3-2-1, 3-1-2, 2-3-1, or 1-3-2. The minimum wager on a box trifecta would be $6 and returns one-half of the trifecta payout. Likewise, a box superfecta is a minimum $24 wager.
Which horses are worth taking a hard look at for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby?
California Chrome (5/2) – California Chrome rides a four-race winning streak and all four have been victories by 5.25 lengths or more. California Chrome will, in all likelihood, be the race day favorite and likely by a substantial margin, so you may want to look to improve your payout odds by using California Chrome in some exactas with other horses in the field. A jockey change to Victor Espinoza has made a huge difference for trainer Art Sherman and it could pay dividends again on Saturday.
California Chrome draws a spectacular post position at #5. As mentioned above, the #5 post is tied for the most wins in Derby history with 12. There’s a very good chance it could be 13 by 6:27 p.m. on Saturday.
Ride On Curlin (15/1) – Ride On Curlin isn’t getting a whole lot of post-race buzz, but there’s a pedigree as well as a top jockey in play. Ride On Curlin’s sire, Curlin, won the 2007 Preakness Stakes and Rider’s Cup Classic en route to amassing over $10M in career earnings. Curlin finished second at the Belmont and third in the Kentucky Derby that year.
Perhaps more significant than the bloodline, 5,053 career wins will be riding atop Ride On Curlin as Calvin Borel looks to win the Kentucky Derby for the fourth time in seven years. Borel became the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbies in four years from 2007-2010.
Pre-race futures suggest that bettors may get a good number on Ride On Curlin as he was 49-to-1 or higher when listed and was also grouped into the “Field” for a while. Borel won on Mine That Bird as a 50-to-1 long shot in 2009, so he has worked magic before.
It’s a tough post position with #19 because Ride On Curlin can get mixed up in a lot of traffic, but this is where Borel’s expertise could be a separator. Ride On Curlin is a strong colt, so we could get some added value because of the difficult post position. If he can get outside the field and make up ground despite the longer run, it could allow the track to open up in the middle of the race.
Hoppertunity (6/1) – Hoppertunity isn’t just a cute, kitschy name for the Derby, but a horse that could be a serious contender. On Derby Saturday, it’s hard to look at the field and not consider a horse trained by Bob Baffert. Baffert has nine career Triple Crown winners. Even though he has only one since 2002, horses trained by Baffert took home three second-place finishes in 2012.
This colt showed well at Santa Anita with a first-place victory and took home second in the Rebel Stakes. He’s a big, strong horse with a lot of stamina and the ability to sustain enough of a run early on to be in a position to make a late charge on the leaders. He may not win, but there’s a good chance that he’ll be in the money and would be a wise choice to include in any quinellas or box bets.
Hoppertunity draws a mediocre post position at #11, but the onus will be on a quick start to get into the front of the pack and his stamina might be enough to carry him through.
Author’s note: Unfortunately, after this article was posted, Hoppertunity was scratched from the field.
Post time for the 140th Kentucky Derby is Saturday at 6:24 p.m.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.