Curlin likely to be Kentucky Derby favorite

Who will be the Kentucky Derby favorite? The results of last week’s Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby races answered that question for me.

I expect Curlin, the undefeated winner of the Arkansas Derby, to be favored. His three clear-cut wins in fast times will attract the wiseguys who make speed figures, plus the casual fans seduced by his perfect record. I’d make Curlin the favorite at 4-1 odds.

Street Sense ran fine when second in an oddly run Blue Grass. Slow early fractions led to a feeble six-furlong time of 1:16.65. The horses ran slow early, then very fast late. Thus, the final result is nearly meaningless in regards to handicapping the Derby. Street Sense will probably be the second choice at about 9-2.

The next few horses in the morning line could be tricky. Circular Quay, Nobiz Like Shobiz and Scat Daddy could be randomly placed in any order. The rest of the Derby field will be double-digit odds and higher.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has secured jockeys on his powerful five-horse Derby contingent. John Velazquez, who had first option, chose Circular Quay. Garrett Gomez then picked up Any Given Saturday joining Edgar Prado (Scat Daddy), Fernando Jara (Cowtown Cat) and Ramon Dominguez (Sam P) as the riders for Team Pletcher.

COAST — The Coast-to-Coast Pick 5 handicapping contest has returned on Thursdays. You can play at the Gold Coast, The Orleans, Sam’s Town or Suncoast race books.

NO ATMS — I was shocked to learn that Gulfstream Park, and the other Florida tracks that were awarded a slot machine license, is forbidden to offer ATM or check-cashing services on its premises. Could you imagine Las Vegas casinos handcuffed by such an arcane rule?

• TOURNAMENTS — Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook announced the upcoming Pick the Ponies is sold out. The popular tournament is held the weeks of the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup.

Here’s a reminder that the inaugural South Point Open will be May 24 to 26.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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