For the last few years when the Kentucky Derby prep races have come to a close, one horse seemed to loom large over the others. Both Tiz the Law and Epicenter come to mind. Neither of them won. This year it is Forte. He certainly has the resume. But the best horse on paper does not guarantee a win in any race, much less a field of twenty!
We have seen some strange situations in recent years. The immediate disqualification of Maximum Security and the eventual disqualification of the late Medina Spirit were certainly odd occurrences. And, of course, the 81-1 shot Rich Stike win last year sent all analysis, logic, and handicapping flying out the window!
This year, other than Forte, Practical Move looks tough coming in from the west coast. Forte’s stablemates Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns are credible contenders for trainer Todd Pletcher, as is Two Phils for Larry Rivelli. And then there is “Brad Cox World.” The guy is winning at every turn at every track and every level. He sends out three…Verifying, Angel of Empire, and Hit Show. A fourth horse, Jace’s Road, is on the bubble.
One must not dismiss the Japanese contingent either, as they have been red-hot on the world stage in the last few years. A Kentucky Derby win for them is just a matter of time. They have two contenders this year and a third is just a few defections away from a start on the first Saturday in May.
So who will win the Kentucky Derby? And, how do we make our selections? Well, horseracing, like every other sport, has been drastically changed by technology. The horse player today is rarely the guy who stands along the rail, eyeballs the horse, and plays his gut. There are hundreds of computer generated graphs, plots, and numbers…Thoro-graphs, Ragozins, Beyers, OptixEQ, etc… Today’s serious individual horseplayer has a phone or tablet in hand with five or six tabs open to analytics.
Then, there is the CRW factor. CRW is the acronym for Computer Robotic Wagering. And, I call tell you firsthand, it has truly made the game less fun for individual players. CRW bets are placed for large groups with huge amounts of money by computers just prior to the gate opening. That is why you often see the odds change pretty drastically even after the race begins.
The computer analyzes massive amounts of historical data using hundreds of variables and places split -second last minute wagers based strictly on that historical data. So, the down side is there is no way to take into account real time factors such as how the track is playing, a hot jockey or trainer, if speed holding, etc….on that specific day. However, some of the CRW players are making big, big money.
I have only watched four days of racing at Keeneland this year. I had two mediocre days of small wagering and two days where you’d have thought I had a crystal ball. I don’t use many of the analytics. I like to buy my paper Daily Racing Form, listen to the on-track interviews, look at the horses in the paddock and in the post-parde, and play my own choices. I know how to read the Ragozin numbers, Thoro-Graph, and even Optix plots. But, I still like Andy Beyer’s numbers and at this stage of life probably will not deviate from my strategy for the upcoming Kentucky Derby.
I am a Forte fan, but certainly respect the aforementioned contenders plus a few long shots. More to come on those as we inch closer to the greatest two minutes in sports!