Last year at this time I was sitting on Kentucky Derby future book bets on Exaggerator (125-1) and Creator (150-1). I had a good shot to make up for the Derby futures I had lost in the past.
Exaggerator ran heroically to place second behind Nyquist, but Creator had a horrible trip and finished 13th. Somehow I must have upset the racing gods, because Exaggerator won the Preakness two weeks later and Creator got a dream trip to win the Belmont Stakes.
Thus, there is nothing like having karma rub it in my face.
This year, I bought only two Derby futures in Not This Time (150-1) and One Liner (100-1). Unfortunately for me, neither horse is in training right now.
Still, I love making future bets, not only in horse racing but also other sports. That’s because horseplayers learn a basic tenet early on. Our goal is to bet a little to win a lot.
That makes us different from sports bettors, who learn the grind early on of 11-10 odds on single-game bets.
I am in the black with futures because of two NBA winners — the Golden State Warriors (18-1, 2015) and the Dallas Mavericks (30-1, 2011).
To borrow a phrase from fellow horse handicapper Patrick McQuiggan, you need to “project” what a horse or team will do versus what they already have done. Plus, you need the luck of avoiding injury and having everything go your way.
I know some of you are sitting on Derby future bets at high odds on horses with a big shot to win. I have been asked how do you “save” in these scenarios.
My suggestion is simple. The Kentucky Derby and its undercard races offer enormous opportunities even if your key horse or horses do not win. Obviously, you want your key horse to win. But vertical bets such as the exacta, trifecta and superfecta offer chances to be almost right and cash.
I remember a story Jon White, the morning line maker at Santa Anita, wrote about his Derby future bet on Pioneerofthenile in 2009.
White had a solid position on Pioneerofthenile but wanted to back himself up. He considered a place bet but finally decided to wheel his horse in the exacta in the place spot.
As luck would have it, Mine That Bird at 50-1 odds rolled up along the rail to beat White’s horse. So he still cashed big, even though his horse lost.
Charles Town Classic
The $1.25 million Charles Town Classic is the feature race of the weekend. Stanford (8-5) is the defending champion out of trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn. Stanford drew the rail post, has controlling early speed and is my choice to win.
Behind Stanford, I like Sunny Ridge (6-1), War Story (5-1) and Imperative (3-1). Eight stakes races will be run on the Charles Town card Saturday.
Tom Durkin’s Derby
Retired track announcer Tom Durkin has called many Kentucky Derbies for national TV. This year, he will be at Churchill Downs in a different role, as a new minority owner of Derby hopeful Always Dreaming. West Point Thoroughbreds CEO Terry Finley heads the syndicate that owns the Florida Derby winner.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can buy his Santa Anita Park picks at racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @richeng4propick on Twitter.