Kentucky Derby Betting Preview at Bodog
by Richard Gardner | Bodog Sportsbook Manager - 5/6/2011
For casual horse racing bettors, Saturday is essentially Opening Day of thoroughbred racing season when the 137th edition of the Kentucky Derby, the most prestigious horse race in America and the first leg of the Triple Crown, is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville. (To devoted horse racing fans, Saturday is more like conference championship weekend in the NFL, but the Breeders’ Cup is the Super Bowl.)
It was to be a full field of 20 3-year-olds, but that changed on Friday when Uncle Mo was scratched from the race. The undefeated juvenile champion had been the Derby futures favorite until a disappointing third-place finish on April 9 at the Wood Memorial when he went off as the 1-5 betting favorite. Following that race, Uncle Mo was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal infection, which was largely blamed for the finish. Reportedly the horse had lost some a lot of weight in the past month and while his handlers outwardly were confident the colt would race in the Derby as late as Thursday, insiders believed it was a done deal that Uncle Mo would be scratched. On Friday morning, trainer Todd Pletcher (who guided 2010 Derby winner Super Saver) and owner Mike Repole made that official after consulting three veterinarians.
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It’s the third straight year the Derby has lost a favorite in the week of the race. In 2009, I Want Revenge, the morning-line favorite, was pulled from the Derby the day of the race with a leg injury. Last year, huge favorite Eskendereya was scratched basically when he arrived at Churchill Downs when doctors detected swelling in his lower leg. That horse, which had major potential, never raced again.
Uncle Mo’s morning-line odds had been set at 9-2, but he didn’t draw an advantageous post position at No. 18 – only one horse in Kentucky Derby history had won from that spot. The horses at the 19th and 20th positions will each move down one position now. The field will be only 19 horses – Dialed In was the morning line favorite at 4-1. With the Uncle Mo scratch, Dialed In is now 9-2.
Dialed In, who raced just once as a juvenile, started generating major buzz after winning the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby for trainer Nick Zito, who has won the Kentucky Derby with Strike The Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994). But bettors still aren’t totally sure what to make of Dialed In with his short racing career and because it has been five long weeks since the Florida Derby, which is quite the layoff for a horse going into the Run for the Roses.
It’s a relatively crowded and slow field, and the potential rainy and sloppy conditions should only muddy things up even more. (By the way, the Derby has never been canceled due to weather.) That means there’s a better chance a horse surprises and delivers a much bigger payoff. Second-favorite Nehro (opened at 7-1, now 6-1) offers a good payout for a quality horse. Nehro finished a close second to Pants on Fire (20-1) at the Louisiana Derby and to Archarcharch at the Arkansas Derby, which was only three weeks ago. However, Nehro presents the same concern as with Dialed In, racing just once as a juvenile, with a top Beyer Speed Figure of 99 at the Arkansas Derby. That may be where Nehro’s speedometer tops out.
Archarcharch (opened at 11-1, now 12-1) surprised some experts with a win at Oaklawn Park, where he also took home the Grade III Southwest Stakes in February. He raced twice as a juvenile, which still isn’t much, but the trend is that thoroughbreds have being doing less prep work for the Derby in recent years. The biggest hurdle for Archarcharch will be coming out of Post 1. Only two horses have won the Run for the Roses from that spot in the last 40 years: Ferdinand in 1986 and Winning Colors in 1988. The last to win from Post 1 in a field of 17 or more was War Admiral in 1937. Because of his late-running style, drawing the rail should have less impact on Archarcharch than it would a speed horse.
With the wide-open field, even a 29-1 underdog like Brilliant Speed can offer some value on the horse betting lines, especially when tag-teamed with Pants on Fire in an exacta. Brilliant Speed paid out at 19-1 when he took the Blue Grass Stakes three weeks ago at Keeneland. He didn’t participate in any grade stakes races as a juvenile and also might have shown us a relatively slow top speed with a career-best Beyer of 97 at the Blue Grass. Brilliant Speed prefers to attack off the pace, which is a good way to get the job done at Churchill Downs.
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