Friday, May 02, 2008

Derby Picks

Whenever I make predictions about baseball, I try to hammer home the point that they are offered in the spirit of fun and not as a serious sabermetric exercise. Making predictions is fun, and there’s nothing wrong with fun--so long as its not taken more seriously than that. Unfortunately, far too many of the people who make predictions love to trumpet their successes and ignore their failures, and act is if picking a pennant race is the ultimate test of how much you know about the game. No fun.

If all of that is true of my baseball picks, than it is true even more so when I dabble in another sport, like horse racing. Whatever you think of my level of baseball knowledge, whether you think I’m an intellectual heir to Bill James (fat chance) or a complete moron, let me assure that my level of horse racing knowledge is much, much, much lower. So all of the caveats about predictions apply even more strongly here. This is for fun. I am not Andy Beyer.

Just to hammer this home, I have been picking the Derby winner for several years, and have only once been right, and that was with an undefeated favorite (Smarty Jones). Last year I told you that Nobiz Like Shobiz would win (he was tenth). The year before I picked Lawyer Ron (a fine horse, as shown by his Older Male Eclipse Award won last year, but didn’t hit the board in the Derby).

This year’s Derby is even harder to make sense of, as it seems as though the talent level is not what it was the last two years (although making these kinds of sweeping judgments about a three year old crop in May is the sort of silly prediction that can get you into trouble). The growing presence of polytrack makes it harder to put the prep races into familiar perspective. The fact that the morning line favorite will break from the extreme outside post is not helping matters.

I’ll divide the race into three groups: horses I don’t like (to win this race), horses I like but don’t think will win, and horses I really like:

DON’T LIKE (the winner may very well come from this group)
1. Anak Nakal
2. Big Truck (but love the name and Barclay Tagg)
3. Bob Black Jack
4. Cowboy Cal
5. Eight Belles (filly, never has raced beyond 1 1/16 miles, never hsas faced a field anywhere near this good, personally can’t stand trainer Larry Jones)
6. Recapturetheglory
7. Smooth Air
8. Visionaire (nice story since he’s trained by Michael Matz of Barbaro fame)
9. Z Humor

1. Adriano (would like a lot more if he hadn’t run all but one race on turf/poly, and ran a well-beaten ninth in that one; A.P. Indy doesn’t scream “turf pedigree”)
2. Big Brown (too many question marks: 20 post, foot issues, only 3 lifetime starts, son of a sprinter)
3. Cool Coal Man
4. Court Vision
5. Gayego
6. Monba
7. Tale of Ekati
8. Z Fortune

1. Colonel John (love Tiznow, ran on poly but the California horses who came to the Arkansas Derby had no problems and he should love it; easy favorite IMO)
2. Denis of Cork (May be sitting on a big one after Illinois Derby flop, but very lightly raced for a Derby contender)
3. Pyro (I think the Blue Grass is a toss; that race has not been normal since they put the Poly in--remember Dominican beating Street Sense in last year’s debacle?)

If I was going to place a win bet on this (please don’t), I would go with Denis of Cork because he might give you a good price. A trifecta? Colonel John on top, Denis of Cork, Adriano. I’ve never thought losing money was fun, but the gambling industry does pretty well for itself, so I guess I’m out of touch.

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