Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh Brethren, Where Art Thou?

-- Lucas Marquardt

Bet now or forever hold your peace is a popular saying nowhere. Except in my house. Or, at least since I thought of it several seconds ago, it could be. This thought, in the wake of Uncle Mo's loss last weekend, which may or may not be explained by the announcement of a GI infection. I like Uncle Mo just fine, and I like his connections more, but as he jogged back to the winner's circle after romping in last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile, I said to no one in particular that this wasn't a Kentucky Derby horse. In light of his upset, this sounds like unremarkable hindsight--it isn't, especially since the Derby is still three weeks away. Moreover, I'm wrong so much more often than I'm right, and plenty of people shared this opinion, so there's no claim of victory or originality. But he struck me as a fleet, fast-developing sort (like War Pass, a comparison made earlier in the week on the blog of the TDN's Brian DiDonato, or like paternal sibling Indian Blessing), and not that kind that grows into a true route horse.

Toby's Corner wins Wood Memorial; Uncle Mo (rail) third
Anyway, the point being is that I was waiting until Kentucky Derby day to bet against the juvenile champ. I didn't (and don't) think he's a 10-furlong horse, or really a nine-furlong horse, but I figured his talent and class would pull him through to an easy victory in the in the GI Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Everybody did. That's why he was 1-9. And at 1-9, what better time to pout your money where your mouth is? Instead,  I took what could be called the most tepid stand against a horse that's ever been taken. I played a $1 trifecta with Toby's Corner (second choice, at 8-1), Arthur's Tale (third choice, at 20-1) and Duca (fifth choice, at $26.75-1) in the first spot, Uncle Mo in the second an the same three horses in the third spot. The bet cost $6.

If I had a bit more foresight, or a lot more gumption, I could have done well on the race. The $2 exacta paid $158. The $2 trifecta paid $183--and would have paid exponentially more had Uncle Mo faded to fourth. Those are huge numbers considering the fact that we're talking about the second choice winning the race and the third betting choice finishing second. To top it off, the fourth betting choice, the 26-1 Norman Asbjornson, ran fourth and completed a $867 superfecta.

This will be on my mind when I bet Saturday's GI Arkansas Derby, where the The Factor (War Front) will be favored over Oaklawn Park's 1 1/8 miles. He is 7-5 in the morning line, but as the Great Gray Hope in what has been thus far a disappointing three-year-old crop, he could be odds-on by post time.

I feel about The Factor the way I feel about Uncle Mo: wickedly talented…but a miler at heart (again, no claims of originality here). Despite his considerably speed, I actually have a little more confidence in The Factor to see out nine furlongs right now, partly because I love the way Bob Baffert has been training him, with a steady diet of six-furlong drills, and partly because his fluid, efficient stride never seems to shorten. But I've  seen a number of classy sprint types run great in their first route, in this case his dominant win in the GII Rebel S., only to regress dramatically in their second go at two turns. I have no empirical data to back this up, so this must be taken with a grain of salt…and some lime…and possibly some low-grade tequila.

So who will it be Saturday? Well, here's what I'm playing for the trifecta: On top, Zayat's Nehro (Mineshaft), whose middle move in his maiden win two back was downright sexy, and which was followed by a strong up-the-rail second in the GII Louisiana Derby. I'll also use Batman Stable, et al stable's Sway Away (Afleet Alex). I would have liked to see him pick up some more stragglers than he did when sixth in the GII Rebel S. last time, but he ran a nice one when 3/4 lengths adrift of The Factor in the GII San Vicente S. and gets the addition of blinkers.

WinStar Farm homebred Brethren        Tampa Bay photo
And last, the Todd Pletcher-trained Brethren (Distorted Humor), the forgotten stepchild of the Derby trail right now. The way I figure, if Brethren had won his last start (third as the 1-2 pick in the GII Tampa Bay Derby Mar. 12), he's probably third choice in the Derby wagering right now. As is, Super Saver's little brother was a regressive but unembarrassed third in the Tampa Bay Derby--his first loss--enters this off two bullets at Palm Meadows, and is 10-1 on the morning line. He's a better horse than that. Brethren has every right to rebound, and the narrative roughly mirrors that of a year ago: Pletcher has a big gun (Eskendereya) in the weeks leading up to Derby but it's the WinStar homebred (Super Saver) who comes through. Brethren went off at 36-1 in the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool, and I wish I'd remembered to put at least a few bucks on him.

In second, we'll add The Factor, then throw in Elite Alex (Afleet Alex), who made up a lot of ground from last to be fourth in the GII Louisiana Derby last out, in the third position.

So, the ticket looks like this:

2, 5, 6
2, 4, 5, 6
2, 3, 4, 5, 6

= $27

If The Factor doesn't hit the board, I imagine the trifecta will pay a minimum of $175 for a dollar, so a decent return on our money if we're lucky enough to win, even using perfectly logical horses. Good luck with whatever you're playing this weekend…

Oh, and a side note: I hope I'm dead wrong about The Factor. I hope he romps by 10. I like the bloodstock agent who bought him as a yearling, Kim Valerio, and I like it when guys who pour money into the sport, like George Bolton, do well. And it would be nice to see a superstar emerge from this crop. Even if my money's not on it.

1 comment:

Bet On The Kentucky Derby said...

From a betting prospective with the favorite now down with a viral infection will this change up your betting strategy at all ?