After listening to way too many podcasts on the Kentucky Derby and making notes on all 19 runners' race replays back to their debuts, I think a lot of "experts" are overthinking it.
Maximum Security's the best and most versatile horse -- 4-for-4 lifetime, won a 6-furlong sprint on a sealed, muddy track where he patiently tracked the speed and pounced (and didn't mind having mud in his face) and had his way dictating a slow tempo in the Florida Derby, going over a mile in his first try.
What won't be discussed on the NBC coverage -- too busy talking fashion, playing 35 Longines watch commercials and pretending to care who celebs like in the race -- is that many bettors are going to knock trainer Jason Servis. Skeptics will say his high win rates at Northeastern tracks are attributable to drugging his horses. Social media this week reflected such nonsense, but I think he's simply gotten a horrible knock, but has the best runner and in top form in the field. Reminds me of the skepticism toward California Chrome in the 2014 Derby.
With that in mind I intend to capitalize and hope to get 6-to-1 or 7-to-1 win odds, which would be a steal in a race -- as previewed in my earlier ranking of the field -- where I think, at best, 3 horses (Win Win Win and Improbable the others) are win propositions. As a result, I'll key Maximum Security in exacta and trifecta wagers. I'm allocating an affordable $49 specifically to the Derby, and $51 to multi-race exotics. And to be candid, I've resigned myself to the notion that Maximum Security will win, be beaten late by Win Win Win or Improbable, and if not, probably finish in the last 3. He's almost an all-or-nothing proposition, which is fine by me. Maximum Security is my top pick.
Kentucky Derby Wagers ($49 total)
- $10 win 7 (Maximum Security) = $10
- $4 exacta 7-14 (Maximum Security with Win Win Win) = $4
- $2 exacta key box 7 with 5, 14 = $8
- key box means 7 needs to win or finish second, with Win Win Win or Improbable being the other first- or second-place horse
- $1 exacta key box 7 with 8, 16, 17 = $6
- a hedge where Maximum Security finishes Top 2 and backed up with my "B" selections (see last week's rundown of the field)
- $1 trifecta: 7 with 5, 14, 17 with 5, 6, 8, 13, 14, 16, 17 = $18
- here I'm banking on Maximum Security winning, with my B choices running second and using my B and C horses in the third-place spot
- 50-cent trifecta: 14 with 7 with 5, 6, 8, 13, 16, 17 = $3
- a "saver" ticket of sorts where Win Win Win has to win, Maximum Security has to finish second, and one of my B and C horses finishes third; sorta of an extended play on my primary exacta tickets, and a backup if it comes out 14-7 win and place
Wagers Into the Derby ($51 total)
These are based largely on No. 12 Bricks and Mortar winning the Turf Classic (Race 11, 5:25 p.m.) and 12-to-1 Mr. Money pulling off the upset vs. prohibitive favorite Instagrand in the Pat Day Mile (Race 10, 4:28 p.m.).
- Race 8, Churchill Downs Stakes (2:45 p.m.) = $19 total
- Warrior's Club (No. 7) is absolutely worth betting at 12-to-1. He gets a good spot to track speed-ball Promises Fulfilled (No. 6) just to his inside and may be able to fend off latecomer Whitmore (No. 12), a $2.5 million winner.
- $2 daily double: 7 with 5, 8 = $4
- $1 daily double: 7 with 1, 2, 3 = $3
- 50-cent trifecta: 7 with 6, 8, 12 with 6, 8, 11, 12 = $4.50
- 50-cent trifecta: 6, 8, 12 with 7 with 6, 8, 11, 12 = $4.50
- 50-cent trifecta: 12 with 6, 8 with 6, 7, 8, 11 = $3
- Race 9, American Turf Stakes (3:37 p.m.) = $16 total
- Avie's Flatter (No. 8) is my top choice at 6-to-1 odds. This is an extremely difficult race with a lot of talented 3-year-old turf stars. Look for No. 1 A Thread of Blue (3-to-1 favorite) to dictate tempo and Avie's Flatter to track and hang on late for the win. That'd be the best scenario for my Pick 4 wagers, where I must have the winners of Races 9-12 in order to cash. I'll spread out this race on my "bigger" ticket, and play a "backup" ticket for fun, where I use only my top two in this race, single the two favorites in the middle legs (Races 10-11) and spread in the Derby with my A-B-C horses.
- 50-cent Pick 4: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 with 7 with 2, 12 with 7, 14 = $10
- 50-cent Pick 4: 1, 8 with 10 with 12 with 5, 7, 8, 14, 16, 17 = $6
- Race 10, Pat Day Mile (4:28 p.m.) = $15 total
- For my money, Mr. Money (No. 7) offers great value at 12-to-1. If you're at the track and he holds those odds, he's worth a win wager for sure. As I see it, this race has horses where trainers took their shots trying to make the Kentucky Derby but are placing their runners in more-realistic positions. The favorite, 6-to-5 favorite Instagrand, is case-in-point, having run so-so thirds in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct in March and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in April. Now, he could entirely run away with this race as trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's consolation prize for having to scratch his top reason for coming to Churchill -- Omaha Beach -- from the Kentucky Derby (he'd have gone off the favorite). But from what I saw in the Derby preps, Instagrand can be beaten if he's looked in the eye, and he's going to burn out with speed-ball Mr. Money Bags up front, giving a stalker type like Mr. Money to steal the race. Mr. Money ran competently against much tougher in the Breeders Cup Juvenile (4th place), Risen Star (decent 7th vs. some Derby contenders) and Louisiana Derby (game 5th). To me today's a softer spot, and so I'll use him in trifectas on the win and place ends, the latter in the event that Instagrand runs away with the race.
- 50-cent trifecta: 7 with 8, 9, 10 with 4, 8-10, 13, 14 = $7.50
- 50-cent trifecta: 10 with 7 with 4, 8, 9, 13, 14 = $2.50
- $4 daily double 7 with 12 = $4
- $1 daily double 7 with 2 = $1
- Race 11, Turf Classic (5:25 p.m.) = $1 total
- This is my least favorite race, and so I'm only playing a $1 daily double of Bricks and Mortar to Maximum Security in the Derby, just to say I hit it if things work out. If I hit on any of the above trifectas and/or Race 8 daily doubles I'll probably increase this to a $10 double and perhaps play some $1 doubles using the No. 2 Raging Bull in the win spot in this race and co-mingling Win Win Win and Improbable in the Derby, but otherwise am just "betting with my head" here.
- $1 daily double 12 with 7