Friday, April 30, 2010

Paulie's Picks, The 2010 Kentucky Derby

Last night I went to Len Friedman's famous "Sheets" seminar on the Kentucky Derby, an event I attend annually. The "Sheets" (a xeroxed pack of spreadsheets) are a special set of cryptic speed figures that take into account the many variables and vagaries of the track, and have a strong following. Len also knows many of the top trainers and jockeys, and the peculiarities of each individual racing strip around the country.

So what was his big insight into the 2010 Kentucky Derby? He had no idea who was going to win. He collected $25 each from myself and a bunch of other guys for this pearl of wisdom.

In all fairness to Len, this race is a tough nut to crack. Every horse is kind of slow, so you have to grade them all on a curve. The favorite and second choice in the morning line are laden down with asterisks, both highly beatable. I think a longshot is going to win, but which one? There are 18 horses in the race with odds of 10-1 or higher, with a few at 50-1 (remember Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird last year?).

First, here's why I think the two short-priced horses probably won't win: Lookin at Lucky, the morning line favorite (since Eskendereya was scratched) is a good-looking horse, but drew the number one slot, right on the rail. He's a mid-pack kind of horse, so after about 10 seconds he's going to find himself behind a wall of horse butts and might not emerge until after the race is over. Sidney's Candy, the second choice at 5-1, is a super-speedy front running type who drew the number 20 slot, which means he has a long trip over to the rail if he wants an early lead, and a whole bunch of other horses in the race are going to be seeking the same spot. I'm of the opinion that the front runners are going to poop out in the home stretch and the horse with the best position and smartest jockey is going to steal this.

So first I tossed all the horses who were speedballs, Like Sydney's Candy. Then I nixed the turf horses. I cut the one girl horse (sexist, I know). Then I looked through to see who hadn't run in a grade one race as a three-year-old. Here's who was left, with their odds:

2 - Ice Box, 10-1
3 - Noble's Promise, 12-1
6 - Stately Victor, 30-1
13 - Jackson Bend, 15-1
16 - Awesome Act, 10-1
17 - Dublin, 12-1

This is still a big list, and I'm probably going to mix up a bunch of exacta's using these numbers, possibly keeping Lookin at Lucky in the mix in case his jockey can find a buttonhole to sneak through.

But this doesn't answer the burning question, what is the No Hassle at the Castle pick for the winner of the 2010 Kentucky Derby? Since it's so wide open, I'm going to make a call that's a bit sentimental (this kiss of death for your bankroll) and that would be Stately Victor, because his dad is my favorite horse of all time, the 2004 horse of the Year, Ghostzapper. Stately Victor is shown at the top of this post winning the 2010 Bluegrass Stakes at 40-1.

I know it's not It's not a very authoritative or scientific pick, but hey, at least I didn't ask you for 25 bucks.