Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kentucky Derby Handicapping, Simplified

Weekends around this here are usually boisterous. Between the Saturday morning cartoons and the yardwork and the kids constantly rummaging through the kitchen pantry and the phone ringing and the washing machine rumbling, I truly look forward to an escape. I mean, who wouldn't?

Last weekend's escape was most productive:

(1) I successfully located and purchased a pair of Dora the Explorer sandals that light up for my 4-year-old daughter, Alice. I'm still pondering her affinity to a lemon-shaped head kid who's best friend is a goofy monkey that lacks a sense of shoe fashion. I'm sure if there were a horse named DoraTheExplorer running in the Kentucky Derby, I would be required to make some kind of wager on Alice's behalf.

(2) I found a new house and made an offer.

(3) I had a good afternoon at the track. The Texas Mile, the Beaugay Handicap, and Calder's Ponche Handicap were all nice scores, as was a claiming race at Churchill Downs - I couldn't even tell you the names of the horses in the exacta.

Normally, I would take the time to sit here, drink my coffee, attempt to pass myself off as some hot-shot handicapping genius, and gloat. However, that is not to be. Just in case you are not in front of a calendar, it should be stressed that today is Wednesday. Not any Wednesday, but the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands. Post positions will be drawn. Time to get down to business. Unless, of course, you are Steve Haskin or Mike Watchmaker, whose Kentucky Derby analysis, handicapping, and musings are on the brain since they staggered home from their respective New Year's Eve celebrations.

Last year I fell into that trap. I hovered over every statistic, read every review, ingested a variety of perspectives, in my effort to put together the ultimate winning ticket. Pffft. I should have just followed my girlfriend, Laura's, handicapping technique, and just "bet on the gray."

The previous year's derby had so been easy. I had watched and wagered on Smarty Jones since his performance in the Count Fleet; he was a no-brainer. I based my entire handicapping simply on personal observation.

So this year, I'm not reading Steve Haskin. I'm ignoring Jim Mazur. My ingenuity and intuition will be completely comprised of observation. Plus I'm going to make a little offering to my Lucky Buddha.

So where does personal observation lead me?

Lawyer Ron. Very versatile. He's run in full fields and in races where the crowds have swelled over 70,000, which will come in handy because he may have the ability to ignore the raucous infield crowd and focus on the race. He also wants to win, whether he's off the pace or in front. Maybe his Beyer figures are light, however, in my possible scenario, Sinister Minister and Sharp Humor will want to control a fast pace and get caught up in a speed duel, with Brother Derek potentially getting involved as well. Their tanks will empty and Lawyer Ron would have the ability to pass his tiring rivals.

Sweetnorthernsaint. I actually like him best. He ran a nice Illinois Derby. He could also benefit with the Sinister Minister/Sharp Humor/Brother Derek pace-race. And secretly, I would also like to see a gelding win because it irritates me to see great young horses (read: Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex) cease racing because the family jewels are worth skillions of dollars.

Point Determined. I have to use a Baffert horse because if I don't, I'll get screwed. He ran a good second to Brother Derek in the Santa Anita Derby. A little more real estate and a good kick in the stretch might be satisfactory. I also like Rafael Bejarano on board. Not only is he a good jockey, I like to say his name. It sounds so sexy.

So Saturday's plans are coming together, although if I were to dabble in a superfecta, it would require a little more visualization and creative handicapping, even research. Or an extra offering to Lucky Buddha.


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