The Kentucky Derby is the one race all year that makes everyone a horse racing fan, even if just for a day.
Handicapping the 20-horse field each year has been problematic because racing luck is magnified by the sheer chaos of such a large group. Add in that these horses appear to be evenly matched, and Saturday’s race is sure to be another wild ride.
I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve been asked for my Derby pick. In all honesty, my answer was that I was waiting for the post draw. My thought being that so many horses are capable of winning that I needed to see where they lined up.
The obvious choices are Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister (4-1), who is the morning-line favorite; Fountain of Youth victor Union Rags (9-2); undefeated Gemologist (6-1); and Blue Grass champ Dullahan (8-1).
That leaves some capable runners at long-shot odds.
The horse I settled upon is Take Charge Indy (15-1). No starter has a better pedigree for going 10 furlongs than this Patrick Byrne trainee. His sire is Horse of the Year A.P. Indy out of a Grade 1-winning dam Take Charge Lady.
Take Charge Indy won the Florida Derby last out, historically one of the strongest Derby preps each spring. And his jockey, Calvin Borel, is a three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider.
They drew post position 3, which should be perfect for a jockey who loves to save ground. His nickname at Churchill Downs is Calvin “Bo-rail.” The colt has good early speed, but he does not need the lead to win.
My second choice is Union Rags, who ran third in the Florida Derby behind Take Charge Indy. Trainer Michael Matz won the Kentucky Derby with Barbaro, and he has taken a similar path with this Dixie Union colt.
Jockey Julien Leparoux has yet to make an impression in the Triple Crown races, but this might be his breakthrough year.
My third choice is Creative Cause (12-1). He beat race favorite Bodemeister in the San Felipe Stakes and lost the Santa Anita Derby by an inch to I’ll Have Another. This Mike Harrington colt never has run a bad race.
I expect jockey Joel Rosario to relax in the back half of the field and unleash a punishing, wide rally the length of the stretch.
My final pick is Hansen (10-1), the 2-year-old champion. He has gotten lost in the shuffle, but this is an excellent racehorse. I expect him to be forwardly placed along with Trinniberg and Bodemeister.
My picks then are: Take Charge Indy, Union Rags, Creative Cause and Hansen.
■ DERBY SEMINAR WEBCAST – Those unable to attend the South Point Derby seminar at 6 p.m. today can listen to a live webcast at www.southpointcasino.com/casino/race-book.php.
■ NATIONAL HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP – Treasure Island on Sunday will host a qualifier for the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Entry fee is $300, and the top three finishers will earn berths into the 2013 NHC.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.