The richest race horse in the world goes off on Saturday when the horses enter the starting gate for the Dubai World Cup. It is always a familiar field - at least partly - for North American race fans, and this is no exception. This year we have a particularly clear choice as handicappers - are you with California Chrome or against him. The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is the strong favorite heading into the race, and that is likely to only increase as post time nears. He'll be somewhere near even money (he's at +120 in futures action at BetOnline right now), so you can't afford to bet both him and other horses.
Me? I'm against him. It's a habit as much as anything. I was against him in the Belmont. And the Pennsylvania Derby. And the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2014. And this same race last year. Now, I'll admit I bet against him in the Derby and the Preakness, too, but the fact remains that choosing not to back this horse in major races since the Santa Anita Derby in 2014 has been the right thing to do. The price is too low and the connections too flaky to be trusted in this spot.
So, now that I plan to bet against him, the question turns to who to use. There are 11 other horses in the field. Let's take a look at each briefly by post position order (Chrome starts outside in gate 11, which is another reason I am not high on him):
1. Keen Ice (+1800 at BetOnline): His claim to fame is that he beat American Pharoah in the Travers. Sadly, he hasn't done much since. His prep race in Dubai was a total mess, and it's hard to believe that he will get the perfect pace scenario he needs - the only way he wins races - in this one. An easy pass.
2. Mshawish (+600): This is a Todd Pletcher horse, but this isn't the Kentucky Derby so we don't have to automatically toss him out. He has run four previous times in Dubai, so he knows the track. He won the Donn Handicap in Gulfstream as his final prep - a race that has traditionally prepared American horses well for this race, as Cigar, Captain Steve, and Invasor have won both races in the past. I like him at this price.
3. Gun Pit (+4000): A bargain at this price. This Hong Kong horse may not be good enough to win, but as the lower portion of exotics - the tri in particular - he's a gem. He has the game to finish well at a big price.
4. Mubtaahij (+2000): He dominated the UAE Derby last year on this same race card, but then went to the States and was lousy in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont. He has not looked great in his last two prep races here, but this race has been his target for years. Still, I don't expect much.
5. Special Fighter (+2000): You don't see this much around our parts - this horse is a previous winner in China. He also won a prep race here. I struggle to see him as a legitimate contender, though.
6. Candy Boy (+3500): This horse was once based in California - he won the Robert B. Lewis en route to a disappointing outing in the 2014 Derby. Now he is owned by, of all people, the President of the Chechen Republic. He was injured in this race last year and is making his first start since. Hard to imagine that going well. I'll pass. To be fair, though, I'd pass on the horse even if he was at his best - he had a rare talent to come up short in races.
7. Vadamos (+3000): Trainer Andre Fabre is among the best trainers in the world. This is not the kind of horse that elevated him to that perch, though. He hasn't won a top-level stakes race. Dirt is a question mark. Talent is a bigger question mark. Easy pass.
8. Hokko Tarumae (+2000): He gets points for persistence - this is his third try in this race. I just hope the owners aren't planning to keep running the Japanese runner until he wins because he'll have to enter about a thousand times in a row. It's just not happening.
9. Frosted (+220): I really don't like the price, but I am all over this horse. He's my top choice. He's owned by the family that puts on this meet. He has been training beautifully and looked great in his prep race. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin already has a win in this race with Invasor. I've always like Frosted, and I think we're about to see his best effort.
10. Hoppertunity (+1000): If this price is close to what he goes off at then he'll definitely be playable. Trainer Bob Baffert has won this race with the great Silver Charm and with Captain Steve. He's also been red hot for over a year now. This horse won his last prep race and has trained well since. He's not top tier in this race, but he isn't priced like it, either. If he gets his race he'll have a good day.
12. Teletext (+4000): Sometimes people enter horses in big races just so they can be a part of things. That's the case here. This horse just doesn't belong.
This Saturday is another magnificent day for the ponies, and Doc's Sports expert Raphael Esparza has picks in New Orleans for the Louisiana Derby - click here for free picks for these races - the same ones that paying members get - and the sign up is hassle free and no credit card is needed. Not only do we get one stakes race but we actually get to see two stakes races this weekend. The first one is the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Park and Saturday early evening is the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita
We all know that the Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse race of them all, but the BEST value is in all the Kentucky Derby prep races before the big event. Raphael Esparza; Former Race and Sports Book director from the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, has all the inside connections and the years of experience. Build your Kentucky Derby bankroll with the pony expert. Last year Esparza cashed with both stakes races as he hit the Tampa Bay Derby with Carpe Diem and the San Felipe Stakes with Dortmund. Esparza is coming off a nice winning day at Oaklawn Park last weekend, and he is looking for three out of gour Winning Saturdays at the track.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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