By Brock Sheridan, The Brock Talk
major prep races for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands in the books
and the field beginning to solidify, it appears all but certain that Wood
Memorial Stakes (gr. 1) winner Eskendereya will be your post time favorite on
the first Saturday in May. And as we
mentioned Monday, according to Churchill
Downs morning line maker Mike Battaglia, Eskendereya will likely be listed at
2-1 in the program and will possibly be bet down to lower odds by the wagering
when the wagering "field" was eliminated and betting interests
increased to as many as 20, only Point Given has been popular enough to dip
below the 2-1 level, going off at 9-5. He finished fifth. The last horse to win
at less than double odds was Spectacular Bid, who in 1979 went off as the
odds-on favorite at 3-5 in victory. The 1980s and 90s were a bad time to be a
heavy favorite in the Derby as Arazi (1992, 4-5), Mister Frisky ('90, 9-5), the
1989 entry of Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring (4-5) and Chief's Crown ('85, 6-5)
all went down in defeat. Arazi and Mister Frisky finished 8th while Easy Goer
was second and Awe Inspiring and Chief's Crown finished third in their
to 1946 when the Kentucky Derby wagering format was expanded to handle 12
betting interests from a maximum of ten, 38 horses have gone off at 2-1 odds or
less. (Twelve of those Derby starters ran as a coupled entry so there were
actually 32 betting interests.) During those 64 years, eleven, or 28.9%, of the
38 have come home winners.
year in which two uncoupled Kentucky Derby starters went off at 2-1 or lower
was 1978 when Alydar was favored at 6-5 over eventual Triple Crown winner
Affirmed at 9-5. Affirmed of course, won and went on to win the Triple Crown in
one of the great rivalries of our sport.
decade kind to heavy favorites was the 1970s when Seattle Slew ('77, 1-2),
Foolish Pleasure ('75, 9-5), Cannonade ('74, 7-5), Secretariat ('73, 7-5 as an
entry with Angel Light) and Riva Ridge ('72, 7-5) were all popular winners.
and 1969, only Majestic Prince ('69, 7-5), Needles ('56, 6-5), Hill Gail ('52,
even) and Triple Crown winner Citation ('48, 2-5 as an entry with Coaltown)
managed to hit the winner's circle and pay-off their supporters. During that
span, such greats as Damascus, Candy Spots, Ridan, Bold Ruler, Nashua and Native
Dancer all went down in defeat at odds of less than 2-1 as did 11 others
Dancer and Social Outcast ran second and seventh respectively as a coupled
entry to set the record as the lowest price losers at 3-5. In that Derby, Native
Dancer was severely bumped going into the first turn by 45-1 long shot Money
Broker and was never able to recover sufficiently to catch 24-1 winner Dark
Star. Even the official chart notes that Native Dancer "was probably the
difficult to point the finger at other unfortunate favorites as well. Easy Goer
lost to Sunday Silence. Hill Rise was bumped twice past the grandstand for the
first time and forced wide on the far turn when second to Northern Dancer.
Nashua was second to Swaps in 1955, but won the Preakness and Belmont as Swaps
headed back to California. But Nashua was able to avenge his Derby loss to
Swaps in the famous match race later that year at Washington Park in Chicago.
Form charts of other heavily bet losers are not so gracious however. Although Arazi was 8-wide, he "came up
empty" and finished 8th. In 1967 Damascus "loomed boldly...
...continued gamely to midstretch where he appeared to hang under extreme
pressure." Olympia "gave way" in the stretch of the 1949 Derby
at 4-5 and finished 6th.
No one knows
if Eskendereya's Derby will more resemble Secretariat's 1973 track record
performance at Churchill or Bold Lad finishing tenth at 2-1 in 1965. Just
remember before you put your precious financial investment through the window
on the first Saturday in May, that popularity and performance are sometimes