Friday, May 3, 2013

The Case for Revolutionary

The luxury of having one Kentucky Derby entry is something most of us can only dream, but trainer Todd Pletcher is in the catbird's set tomorrow with five very formidable contenders.

Revolutionary gets the nod from NJ Horseplayer, despite 5-to-1 co-favoritism on Public Handicapper's odds board as of mid-afternoon Friday.  Here's to hoping the bettors tomorrow are not as optimistic as on this horse, listed at 10-to-1 on the morning line.

Without belaboring what I would consider a 19-horse prop bet (the field is too enormous to devote extraordinary time to handicapping), I landed on Revolutionary for a few reasons, namely (in no order) the most prolific jockey in recent Kentucky Derby history, decent prospects for a ground-saving trip and ability to close in the end, the scratch of the rail horse Black Onyx (i.e. one less horse in the gate to Revolutionary's inside), and the horse's gutsy persona.

The Withers Stakes was not a drop-dead gorgeous field or race, but what I saw in early February from Revolutionary told me this horse can handle the stress of a major race like the Derby and not get discouraged in traffic -- a key component of my handicapping for this race.

I gave serious consideration to Pletcher's morning-line favorite Verrazano, but I find 4-to-1 short for a horse who, despite rolling over the competition in four straight races as a 3-year-old, has never really run into trouble and has more or less had his way with the opposition.  Similar to the Tampa Bay Derby, Verrazano will have to deal with the quick-from-the-gate Falling Sky, not to mention other need-the-lead types like Giant Finish -- another 50-to-1 shot who will need a miracle to wire the field.  A stumble at the gate or settling back into a stalking position is an area where I question Verrazano's ability, but will still use him underneath in my (mostly) exotic tickets.

One horse that scares me is Vyjack, at 15-to-1 on the morning line but 47-to-1 on Public Handicapper, which is egregiously high, in my view, and too dismissive of a gutsy third-place run at Verrazano in the Wood Memorial on April 6.  It comes as no surprise, too, that people have fallen in love with Normandy Invasion off a fast-closing second-place in the Wood, but I'm the type that thinks some horses not win.  I'll use Normandy Invasion underneath, but think 6-to-1 (again, is too short for a horse whose only victory came in the maiden special weight ranks.

I gave Java's War a long look too (perhaps longer than all others), but think he's a grass-poly horse who'll have too much ground to make up late in the stretch.  I'll use him underneath, but put his second to Verrazano in the Tampa Derby a wrung below, considering the weak field and that Java never made up ground on a lightly ridden Verrazano toward the wire.

So, without further adieu, and learning toward horses that have either shown an ability to stalk or close or survive a bad trip prior, here are the official NJ Horseplayer wagers for the 2013 Kentucky Derby:

  • $20 win 3 (Revolutionary)
  • $5 exacta wheel 3, 20 over 3, 5, 14, 20 (Revolutionary-Vyjack over Revolutionary-Vjack-Normandy Invasion-Verrazano) -- $30 total
  • $1 trifecta wheel (same as the first two exacta legs) 3, 20 over 3, 5, 14, 20 over 3, 5, 6, 14, 16, 19, 20 (throwing Mylute and Orb into the mix) -- $30 total
  • $1 superfecta (for giggles) 3, 20 over 3, 20 over 5, 14, 19 over 5, 14, 19  -- $12 total
  • $4 win-place 20 (Vyjack) -- backup bet -- $8 total
Total bankroll: $100.

Good luck to everyone in the Kentucky Derby!

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