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You've Got To Bet The Derby
by Jonathan Wachs

Like the locals who despise the city folk who raid the Hamptons and take over their town every summer, wise guys and hardcore horse racing aficionados hate guys like me come Triple Crown time. While for most of the regular season, my attention is focused on more popular sports such as baseball, football, and basketball, something about the Triple Crown just piques my interest, and right around the end of April, I start hearing that familiar voice inside my head: "You've got to bet the Derby."

Typically, I like to bet $50 on each of the Triple Crown races. Nothing that will break the bank, but still enough to create some fun during Derby Day. Then I tell my wife to dig up her favorite funny hat and we head to a sports bar to try and find a New York bartender who actually knows how to make a mint julep without looking at me like Nick the bartender looked at Clarence when he ordered his strange concoction in "It's a Wonderful Life."

Now there is no shortage of information available for the horse racing gambler who has just awoken after hibernating for 11 months. The preps have all just finished up and everyone has an early opinion. Mind you, none of these opinions did a bit of good last year when Giacomo pulled off a stunning win. And only a woman in The New York Daily News and my barber, whose shop is named Giacomo, were known to actually pick that horse to win. And anyone who actually picked Closing Argument for second to complete the $2 exacta brought home $9,814.80. Now with those figures, you have to want to try and eliminate some favorites from your bets in order to make some money on this race.

Even a novice knows that the favorite rarely wins on Derby Day. Since 1979, only two post-time favorites have won the Derby. And even though I've read how Brother Derek is a monster, my bets will not include that horse.

The second item that has been well publicized is how another favorite, Barbaro, is trying to become the first horse since 1956 to win the Derby after a five-week layoff. Okay, you might think that's another favorite to eliminate from most of my bets. However, I also know enough to pay special attention to those workouts as Derby Day nears. Barbaro galloped out a very strong six furloughs in 1:12.1.

Now if you're going to pay attention to history, it might be hard to eliminate another favorite. Lawyer Ron has taken a path similar to Smarty Jones. However, in a race with a lot of very fast horses, some say he might be too slow. Once I've heard more than one person say a horse may be "too slow," it's hard to get that image out of my head.

Two horses who have been referred to by many sources as peaking at the right time are Sweetnorthern Saint and Point Determined. The wise guy choice is said to be AP Warrior. Wise guys are "the smart money." Wise and smart must know something I don't, so AP Warrior will be in my exacta box.

If you want to take a chance on a couple of horses with pretty good odds who have a solid late kick, try Steppenwolfer or popular sleeper Jazil (although I'm thinking too popular a sleeper, kind of like the guys picking the Brewers as the NL Wild Card.)

Finally, Cause to Believe has had some strong workouts and is loved by some who feel his running style fits the Derby, despite the fact that the horse will probably go off at around 50-1.

So I'm leaning toward a $4 exacta box with Point Determined, AP Warrior, SweetNorthern Saint, and Barbaro, and maybe a $2 exacta on Lawyer Ron and Steppenwolfer, just in case.

Perhaps I'll get lucky and win enough to start saving up for one of those $1,000 mint juleps they're serving at the Churchill Downs this year.

5Dimes Sportsbook