Thursday, 30 April 2009

My Mint Condition Derby Strategy

Finding the best handicapping strategy for the Derby is easy: skip that freak show and concentrate on the dozen or so other races in which Saturday’s huge crowd, fueled by an increasing state of Julep-oversaturation, won’t fail to overbet the favorites, leaving the serious handicapper opportunity to cash in on some quality plays. Unfortunately, I'm not that serious a handicapper (as my 22-buck, 5-for-5 record today on betfair in-game tennis and snooker matches for a 2,14€-gain clearly proves). Besides, societal pressure demands at least an honest attempt at Derby handicapping from every racing blogger worth his salt, an obligation I’m now willing to fulfill:

In fact, not placing anything but a spice-up bet might be precisely what I'm doing after Baffert decided not to take the risk of Pioneerof The Nile being sensitive to some kickback, instead opting to test his colt’s sensibility for taking the countryside route both turns. My quality bet was supposed to be Desert Party, but with him getting more and more props from the public handicappers and, starting from PP 19, probably being boxed in on the outside rail by the Pioneer, I doubt there will be much quality left in this bet. One general concern about this year’s edition is the skyrocketing number of starters who lack a shot in a field that otherwise offers quite some quality, which figures to destroy any chance of a clean trip for all but the frontrunners, especially if CD shows off its usual speed-favoring self on Saturday.

With virtually every major contender determined to get a close look of the parking lot, this would usually suit up to be a Borel race. I still love reviewing that 2007 Derby, when everyone was so afraid of being boxed in at the rail that they opened up a highway for Borel's Street Sense, but I can't bring myself to embrace Mine That Bird's credentials here, even for 50-1 (why can't Borel be on Friesan Fire or DP, whyyy???).

In that scenario, Papa Clem and Friesan Fire might turn out to be the best bets. I'm not a real fan of either, but breaking from gates 6 and 7 with really nothing to their inside (early speed and otherwise), they might actually find themselves forced to take the shortcut. Until someone steps up big time, this has the makings of one of those years in which the Derby is for weeding out, leaving the Preakness to decide a real crop champion.

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