The Way I See It: It's Derby Time

Categories:      Opinion    Sports
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 at 6:30 AM

For horseracing fanatics like myself, there’s nothing quite like the Kentucky Derby. Now in its 140th season, this year’s most prestigious American horse race boasts a wide field of thoroughbreds of which only one three-year-old champion colt (amongst his human counterparts) will take home the $2 million purse alongside the coveted opportunity to win what is considered the greatest accomplishment in all of horse racing – the elusive Triple Crown.

All of this in just two minutes’ work.

While the mint isn't even in the glass yet and the whiskey hasn't been poured (well, except for the one resting in front of me), it’s time to talk favorites about this timeless event happening this coming Saturday, May 3rd at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, K.Y.

At the time of publication, it’s pretty much a full field (horses get scratched, unfortunately, more often than not). This year, we’re looking at 20 horses – most of them running this distance for the first time. Below you’ll find my best bets on who you’ll see place amongst the superfecta; that is, the first four horses that will cross the finish line.

1. To Win - California Chrome. This field favorite comes in with odds at 7-4. If history has anything to say for this thoroughbred, he has the best odds of being a true contender in the Triple Crown, a total of three races – which hasn’t been won since 1978. In this colt’s last four races, he has handily defeated his counterparts by a total of 24 1/4 lengths (including a top race – the Santa Anita Derby). Art Sherman is his trainer, and at 77 years old, he could become the oldest trainer to win – but winning isn’t something new to him. Throughout the course of his career, he has won over 2,100 races.

2. To Place - Danza. This contender comes in with 8-1 odds, and he’s actually named after Tony Danza. This alone makes him a favorite in my book. However, he is considered the strongest of famed trainer Todd Pletcher's entries. He is a late charger in terms of being viewed as an elite horse, having had a pedestrian beginning before taking a seven-month layoff. A rocky start coming back to the field, he had 41-1 odds going into the Arkansas Derby. He won by over four lengths. Plus, a win by Danza shows us who’s the boss (no, this will never get old).

3. To Show - Wicked Strong. Another 8-1 favorite, alongside a solid victory in the Wood Memorial (a major prep race for the Derby) is currently ranked 4th going into the Derby. Originally named “Moyne Spun,” shortly after the Boston bombings, the owner changed his name in tribute, and with every race he wins, one percent of the winnings go to the One Fund, which was set up to support the victims of the tragedy in the Boston Marathon. To date, that has amounted to roughly $7k, and his owner, Don Little, Jr., has upped the ante to 5 percent for the Triple Crown races.

4. In the Field – Chitu. A dark horse by all standards. Currently at 25-1 odds, little attention has been placed on this foal due to his inconsistent running patterns. However, he has been trained by Hall-of-Famer Bob Baffert, who has saddled 19 horses in the run for the roses.  He has a strong lineage of quality speed and stamina. And he’s a long-shot. That alone (plus a nice payout with a win), makes him a favorite in my book.

Interesting to note, the day this issue is published also happens to be known as “Draw Day.” This is when the draw is held to determine spots in the starting gate. And post position has plays a huge role in the race – while no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby because of their post position, many horses have probably lost largely as a result of the draw. And statistically, horses that start the race closer to the rail have historically won more often. Watch for these. The final odds are set on draw day, too.

Your best bet? Head up to the Presque Isle Downs and Casino. This year, for fans on the go, in addition to being able to wager and watch at the casino, they have drive-thru wagering (betting at a drive-thru window is the same as betting with a clerk at any mutuel window – except, well, you never have to leave your car). This option will be available for all three Triple Crown Races: Kentucky Derby 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the Preakness & Belmont 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also, their 100-day live racing schedule kicks off on Sunday, May 11. While they eliminated live racing Saturday nights (racing is Sunday through Thursday), racing fans can rejoice in the fact that the group will have live racing two Saturdays this season – the Preakness and the Belmont. For a complete schedule, go to:

Love? Hate? Agree? Disagree? I want to hear from you. Email me at, and follow me on Twitter @rStyn. 

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