Crutches for a Handicapper

My first experience with advising a friend on how to bet held glory and shame all in one. I had been working here at Blood-Horse for several months when the Keeneland 2007 fall meet started.

I had been laying out a lot of stories for the daily PDF/News and knew who was hot and who was not. 

My friend Joey went to the track with a group of mutual friends one day, while I was at work. I had researched some horses the night before and basically played off trainers and familiar names. I also knew how successful the horses were, because I had their work times and race recaps due to the nightly lay out work.

I told Joey what horses to go watch in the paddock as well betting strategies for each race. Amazingly, he won money based on my advice. When the feature race of the day came, it was time for Joey to put my skills to the test for me.

I went bold with the superfecta picks. Four horses stood out in that field and man, I knew they were going to help me win a superfecta. I compared their previous race histories to that of the competition.

Alas, I did not tell Joey to BOX the superfecta when he bet it. All four horses came in, but the third and fourth horses were flipped. So Joey did not win money on them, but if he had boxed it, like I forgot to tell him to do, he would have won $14,000 off that race! I slapped myself and told him the news. He was just happy he won some money during the day.

So with that story in mind, here are my Derby picks. Two scenarios come to mind.

1. Colonel John - favored
2. Z Fortune - my long shot who will be successful
3. Pyro - to clean up

The above scenario plays out with the factor being how Big Brown can not handle the talent he is running with.


1. Gayego (after talking with a close friend he is one of the few consistent horses this year, with great finishes in his races.)
2. Colonel John - I am happy with his workouts
3. Big Brown - has talent and will be favored, but looses steam in wake of competition

The above scenario plays out with Pyro fading in the race.

Now let's talk about the Kentucky Derby and betting strategies. Steve Haskin and Jason Shandler have great blogs and information about the Triple Crown trail.

So, what are your strategies for the Derby or graded races in general? Ten cent superfectas, multiple exactas, one horse across the board, bets based on trainers or a specific pedigree, past performances? Or maybe which horse name is the prettiest in the Oaks and most dashing in the Derby, unless the fillies venture in the Derby.

I am researching and trying to understand handicapping more in depth. I would love to know your strategies.


Leave a Comment:

Erik Gerharter

Check out the book Handicapping 101 by Brad Free. Covers the bases relatively well and it's an easy read.

25 Apr 2008 6:27 PM

Do not forget about playing the Pick 3 and/or Pick 4 that includes the Derby.  I believe hitting either is easier than winning a boxcar trifecta or superfecta in the race where you have those 20 horses.  Last year's Pick 4, with the very logical Street Sense winning the Derby, paid over $2,000.

25 Apr 2008 9:58 PM

This is a year in which no group of horses have really stood out above the rest.  Big Brown, in my opinion, is all alone at the top.  

In recent years we've seen trends bucked.  Such as Street Sense's juvenile jinx and Barbaro's 5 week layooff.  Curlin could'nt get it done last year but he faced a much, much tougher group.

With that said, go ahead and key Big Brown in any type of exoctic wager with consistent finishers like Colonel John, Gayego, and Bob Black Jack.  As a whole the California horses are better than the eastern and southern based three year olds.

Lastly, you have to throw a couple of longshots in the mix.  Tomcito, a favorite of mine despite the Lexington, doesnt look like he'll make it in.  So I'll go with the horses with better eye sight.  Visionaire and Court Vision should be able to see where the holes are when coming from far off the pace.  Seriously though, Court Vision wants more distance and Visionaire should offer a nice price.

In conclusion this is how a ticket should look, maybe minus a few:

Big Brown w/

Colonel John, Gayego, Bob Black Jack, Court Vision, and Visionaire.

25 Apr 2008 11:01 PM

Adam, My suggestion for the Derby is to spend $40 for a $2 exacta box of five horses. For this race on May 3rd, I like Colonel John, Smooth Air, Z Humor, Monba and Adriano.

26 Apr 2008 3:06 AM

well I like most of the horses you picked, but i see things a bit differently. Before i start i should tell you i'm a pretty mediocer hadicapper myself.

 First off i think unless Big Brown's lack of experience comes back to haunt him, without war pass in the mix, that he'll get the lead or near and win. Second, if he takes to dirt, i like Adriano, but the if on dirt is a big one. Now for third i like Z fortue with Gayego in a close forth or swap those two. Those are my picks so what do you think?

26 Apr 2008 11:15 AM

i think you should bet the UPS combo, BIG BROWN,BIG TRUCK,WITH THE DRIVER,MR GLEN.

26 Apr 2008 11:26 AM
Billy D.

This year it's easy picking the winner, First of all Key Colonel John on top, off his smart SA Derby win over an improving Bob Black Jack in a quick final 3/8ths and final time, over Monba, Bob Black Jack & Z Fortune boxed rounding out the Superfecta. Of all the Derby contenders this year, Colonel John looks the most professional, has plenty of seasoning, has the breeding and class to win it. What remains for all of them is, if the 'Colonel' can get the right trip to get there. The other horses I included all are improving, have the breeding and/or have had the most impressive final preps leading up to the Derby. This is what I believe to be a winning ticket.

26 Apr 2008 4:14 PM

Erik - I will research that book, thanks for the advice. The Blood-Horse has an Authoritative Guide to Betting Thoroughbreds I plan on reading as well.

I have never really thought about a pic 4, but I will think about that now Bob, thanks

Pele, a lot of people do feel a similar way, that the competition and level of talent is a bit less this year.

Robert, thanks for that suggestion! Sound strategy with conscious betting/budgeting.

LP, I think you and I have seen some similar things on what we like with the Derby picks. I would say definitely pick some favorites, but also look at who you think can race on dirt and finish well as a long shot for money turnout. Past racing history at Churchill can say a lot also.

Dorence, that is pretty funny and a smart bet in my book. I'll never forget that Big Bad Leroy Brown and Frank the Barber exacta.

Billy, I really like the Colonel's workouts for this weekend and last weekend. He just seems so confident and focused. I can totally see the Monba and Bob factors, but I don't think I personally will go that route.

Thank you everyone for your suggestions and angles. It is so fascinating to learn and observe how others view talent and races!

27 Apr 2008 11:26 AM

I'm intrigued by two horses that aren't getting as much play. Monba, who's grandpa is Easy Goer, and Tale of Ekati, who's grandpa is Sunday Silence. What a thrill those two gave us. It'll be interesting to see how these grandsons fare.

29 Apr 2008 3:59 PM

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