Thursday, May 3, 2012

Five Reasons to Play Against the Kentucky Derby Favorite

Following up last year’s Five Reasons to Get Off Uncle Mo’s back, the then prohibitive early Kentucky Derby favorite, I am providing my five reasons to play against Saturday's likely favorite, Union Rags. While I find Union Rags to be a much more deserving favorite, there are chinks in his armor and enough doubts about him being a clear winner that I need to share with you. Without further ado and in no particular order…

The jock – Listen I love Julien Leparoux. He’s a much accomplished jockey, who rides well on turf, dirt, fake stuff, sprint, route, from behind, on the lead, etc. etc. It’s not his talent that concerns me this Saturday; it was his reaction after Union Rags finished third in the Florida Derby. There was a cryptic tweet along the lines of, I’m signing off from Twitter for awhile. It sounded like whatever criticism Leparoux heard either online, from the stands or questions from the media affected him. He’s human, he’s allowed. Whether it was the trouble that Union Rags found getting bottled up, behind and leaving him with too much work left to do or it was Leparoux’s fault/over confidence thinking he had enough horse to win no matter what, is not the point. The point is that the criticism hurt and you can’t have a sensitive/indecisive rider on Derby Day.

Stretch runs – Have you watched Union Rags run? The boy finds trouble in almost every trip, winning or losing. Watch his Champagne Stakes’ win, it’s almost a carbon copy of the Florida Derby. While finding trouble and winning shows grit, continuing to find trouble and losing shows lack of maturity. Usually troubled trip notes aren’t written alongside the Kentucky Derby winner.

Favorite Status – Almost the surest bet to be made each Kentucky Derby Day are the ones that don’t include the favorite. Seriously, favorites win the Derby at an alarming low rate. In the every day world of Thoroughbred horse racing, favorites win at about a 30-35% rate. Over the last 30 Derbies run, favorites have won four for a paltry 13% win rate. You don’t need to be a math major to figure that's some poor odds.

The Post – C’mon you can’t dismiss that post-position draw. Yeah, yeah it’s not the rail, but it is not an easy assignment to win from the four-hole. He does get Take Charge Indy to his inside and a possible horse to follow, but in a race seemingly filled with speed there are several more crashing down towards the rail and in Union Rags direction. If he is taken back and forced to go five-wide like the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile than he’s not a winner.

Strong Competition – There are far too many good horses in here to single Union Rags. You can include him, if you’d like, but a single on Union Rags equals wagering suicide. Bodemeister is faster. Dullahan and Daddy Nose Best are closers worthy of consideration. Gemologist has yet to lose. While being overlooked, Hansen should be considered. Creative Cause wasn’t cranked for Santa Anita Derby, but he certainly is now.

So take the favorite. He’s good looking, fast striding. His trainer is a class act. Nothing wrong with any of that…but I just don’t see him winning. There, you’ve been told. 

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