Kentucky Derby Pushes Ponies To Center Stage

By: Brian Blessing | Monday, April 30, 2012

UPDATE (May 2): Kentucky Derby posts drawn and early odds added.

UPDATE (May 1): Kentucky Oaks posts drawn and early odds added.

The real beauty of the Kentucky Derby is the appeal it has to the masses. Folks who never give horse racing a second thought are drawn to the spectacle of the event and are prone to make their annual horse wager. The size of the fields and the massive pools also generate overlaid payoffs that have the potential to be life changing.

One of the best wagers that everyone should consider is the Oaks/Derby Daily Double. The first leg of the Fillies Triple Crown runs Friday and if you can land on the winner of the Oaks, the potential double payoffs extending over to Saturday can be astronomical. The Kentucky Oaks is expected to draw a full field of 14.

Grace Hall is the early Oaks favorite at 5/2 after drawing the second post. On Fire Baby (post 1) and Broadway's Alibi (post 6) are next on the odds list at 4/1.

The Kentucky Derby is such a uniquely run race on an annual basis. When 20 thoroughbreds burst out of the starting gate, the jockeying for position going by the wire for the first time is a rush hour traffic jam that usually eliminates several horses from running their race. It’s physical and compact, which is a recipe for trouble. The luck of the draw as they say is a very big deal in this dash for immortality.

When handicapping the Kentucky Derby, it’s never a bad idea to look for jockeys and trainers that have fared well here in the past.

Let’s start with Union Rags (9/2), who is going to be very salty on Saturday for trainer Michael Matz, who trained Barbaro. Forgive his troubled trip in the Florida Derby; it was great race riding by the competition on that day that Union Rags completely bottled up turning for home. By the time Julien Leparoux could push the button it was too late. Take Charge Indy had built up enough momentum to hold off his late charge. With a clean trip, which is never guaranteed in the Derby, Union Rags is absolutely part of the equation.

There will be a ton of money backing Take Charge Indy (15/1) with Calvin Borel in the irons. Probably too much, but it’s hard to argue with Borel’s penchant for saving ground and being part of the mix.

Can history immediately repeat itself this year? Graham Motion is hoping so. He saddled Animal Kingdom in last year's Kentucky Derby and grabbed the roses with a runner that had never competed on dirt. Went the Day Well (20/1) mirrored Animal Kingdom's successful path to Churchill Downs by winning the Spiral Stakes on Turfway Park's synthetic polytrack surface.

Bodemeister (4/1) is looking to buck a huge trend by winning the Derby without having raced as a two-year-old. He may be that good. It may be wiser to use Bob Baffert’s charge underneath in exotic wagers. Dullihan has won on turf and polytrack with a stout closing kick. His best asset may very well be jockey Kent Desormeaux, who knows how to navigate through traffic and win this event.

Three more horses to keep an eye on are Creative Cause (12/1), Gemologist (6/1) and Dullahan (8/1).  Creative Cause is an esepcially intriguing story since it's the first Derby entry for 71-year-old trainer Mike Harrington and enters the race this Saturday with four wins, two seconds and a pair of thirds among its eight races.  Dullahan is the brother of '09 Derby winner Mine That Bird, and Gemologist has been to the winner's circle in each of his five races to date.

Horse racing takes center stage this weekend at Churchill Downs. Here’s hoping everyone has a safe journey and the sport is the big winner by attracting many new fans.

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