by Greg Melikov - 04/17/2006
Here's the Top 10 list on what to do or avoid when handicapping the 132nd Kentucky Derby, Dave Letterman style, so pay attention:
10. Don't wait until Derby Day to decide on what you can afford to wager and the kind of bets you will make. Set a total dollar amount and stick to it, win or lose, unless one of your selections is scratched.
9. Don't try to assimilate so much information that you become confused. Stay with the handicapping formula that works best for you.
8. Thoroughbreds that didn't race as a 2-year-old haven't smelled the roses since the 19th Century. Apollo did it in 1882. Other winners of Triple Crown races that year: Vanguard in the Preakness and Forester in the Belmont.
7. No runner with only four career outings has won since Exterminator in 1918. There were so many horses (26) in that year's Preakness that it was run in two divisions. The winners: War Cloud and Jack Hare Jr.
6. Avoid horses with a pedigree that doesn't display both stamina and speed. In 19 of the past derbies, 13 horses with Buckpasser in their bloodline finished first or second. Ironically, quarter-cracks kept him off the Triple Crown trail, but he won 13 in a row after running second in his 3-year-old debut. His victories in '66 included the Travers, American Derby, Woodward and Jockey Gold Cup.
5. Only one horse has visited the winner's circle without taking a stakes race during his or her early career since Proud Clarion in '67: Giacomo last year.
4. The last winner after running fifth or worse in the final prep was Iron Liege in '57. Only two horses that were fourth in their last prep since the '50s won: Thunder Gulch in '95 and Sea Hero in '93, both in the Blue Grass.
3. Since '47, only Sunny's Halo won off two preps - the '83 Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Forget about horses with one or no stateside preps.
2. Don't waste your money betting the post time favorite to win. Since Spectacular Bid lived up to his odds in '79, only two have: Smarty Jones in '04 and Fusaichi Pegasus in '00. Trifectas offer much bigger returns even when one or two low-priced horses hit the board.
1. Forgot about the horse-for-the-course angle. In the past decade, no 3-year-old that had one or more starts at Churchill Down repeated in the Run for the Roses. The average finish of nearly 50 runners, including 21 that had previously won over the main track, was well off the board.