Derby Differences

Pari mutual wagering is all about having an edge on the other players in the pool. If you do not understand that, your approach to the game is likely flawed. We play against each other, not the racetrack. They just take a cut for putting on the show.

The 146th Kentucky Derby is less than two weeks away. In keeping with the above belief, I am looking for any edge or edges I can find. For the first time, I can certainly recall that Derby is not on the first Saturday in May and will actually be run in September. It will also be the first time I recall the favorite, a heavy favorite at that, has run a mile and a quarter before the big dance. That probably gives favored Tiz the Law an edge on his rivals, at least most of them, but will also lower his price on the board. I am going to look for a less obvious edge and one that may pay better if I am correct.

With the three-year old’s running for the roses in September as opposed to May, it can change some aspects of handicapping for me.

We know some horses develop later than others. We see that with these Derby horses year after year. Tiz the Law has been good since he was two. I think a safe assumption is he matured early and held it together thus far. I think the key to beating him if it can be done, and history says it can, is finding someone not that far behind him, who is still on the upswing. This is not a decision to be made today. That comes on race day for me. What we can do now is look for some signs or tells as you may.

The first thing I am scanning for is the patient trainers, the ones not known for cranking their horses up. These types are usually at a disadvantage when the Derby is in May. In September, that could even out. John Shirreffs is one that comes to mind, and we know he knows what to do with a good one. I have to think Honor A. P. has been brought along in a slower fashion than many of the others.

Juan Carlos Avila, who trains King Guillermo, has certainly taken a different approach to this edition of the Derby. Normally a horse off this type of layoff in a race as tough as this one could be a toss. Does that hold true in September? I would say no. A more mature horse is stronger and can be better off the break than a younger horse.

These are two I will look long and hard at. They are not the only ones.
Uncle Mo has two in there who deserve a long look.

Caracaro is very lightly raced and definitely looks like he is improving. He was second to Tiz the Law in the Travers, at that mile and a quarter distance. He has that benefit in his corner, just like the favorite. Horses can improve enough for him to turn the tables.

Pneumatic started out his career with two wins, but really showed he is on the upswing for Steve Asmussen last out at Monmouth in the Pegasus. Steve usually has his horses ready early on, but that doesn’t stop him from having the good one’s blossom at the right time. This horse will fly in under most bettors’ radar, not mine.

Another on the early radar, so to speak, is another that I might be inclined to toss if this was May. Shirl’s Speight comes in off just two races. He goes first time dirt but is bred for anything, in my opinion. He is one of two with just two starts. I’ll study hard before tossing him or Happy Saver if Todd Pletcher sends him. Both these colts are more along physically now than they would have been in the Spring.

None of us know if and where the September edge is yet, but these are a few decent places to start looking. A good bet is a Derby in September is not the same as a Derby in May.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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