Kentucky Derby as Buzz B Berkeley sees it…

6:05 pm Horseracing Handicapping, My POV
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I’ve been uncharacteristic this year in my coverage of the Kentucky Derby for 2012. There are so many reasons for this that I hardly know where to start.

But, start I must, so here goes:

“Back in the day” – it used to be so much less complicated to pick a winning horse. Not easier, just less complicated. I used a tiny “computer” from Radio shack. I wrote a program in “Basic” that was a very efficient numbers cruncher. That’s all we had to go on… numbers. We had the (limited) Past Performances and the Daily Racing Form – Period.

Today, we have videos of EVERY prep race and even workouts – software programs that were unimaginable 30 years ago. Details of every 3 yr old is available online as is the Lifetime performances of each. Now, I can sit home… watch races from around the world, listen to experts talk about the horses and the races, and I can even bet from home. And then, get real time coverage of the races.

But this year is unique because there has been no clear frontrunner… no favorite. Sure, we’ve had a full field of 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby for many years now, and the days of a Secretariat scaring off contenders seem to be a thing of the past, but still we’ve had favorites to concentrate on our handicapping efforts on.

Currently, the favorite is Bodemeister. That’s a sad thing for me but for purely selfish reasons. I LOVE Oaklawn. It’s by far my favorite track. And that’s where Bodemeister blew up the competition and ran away with the Arkansas Derby. His 9 length win rocketed him to stardom. I prefer going into the Kentucky Derby secretly betting on the AD winner… there’s no secret this year… the cat is out of the bag.

Bodemeister should go into the Kentucky Derby as the clear favorite this year. I say SHOULD because there’s a big IF involved:

This Wednesday, the winner of the Kentucky Derby may be picked “out of a hat”. That’s when the post positions will be chosen. With such a talented field this year, it could very well come down to PP as the most important factor as to who is the winner at the finish line.

Aside from that HUGE factor… let’s look at the horses:

There are many horses in this year’s race that should win based upon their prep races. So what’s a person to do?

Bodemeister: Clearly the fastest horse in the field. He proved that with a big Beyer (108) in the Arkansas Derby. I thought the first timing of :23 + was a bit slow, but he stepped it up and crunched the clock. Triple digit Beyers was not new to him; he did it 3 times in a row! BTW: only 3 other horses in the race got a 3 digit beyer (and they did it only once): “Creative Cause”, “El Padrino”, and my favorite name in the Race: “Daddy Nose Best” (it’s a clever name for a race horse, and it cracks me up). Every KD winner in the last 20 years (at least) finished with a 3 digit Beyer. However it should be noted that 5 of those past winners came into the race with no 3-digit beyers to their credit (including all of the KD winners in the last 3 years).

This horse brings up another factor that we didn’t deal with 30 years ago. Bode has only 4 career starts. That would not have gotten him any attention back then, but now, it’s not so uncommon nor a reason to dismiss a horse. The plot thickens!

Did you know that you have to go back well over a hundred years to find a KD winner that never raced as a 2 yr old? (I think it was 1892). Well, that’s the knock on Bode! Yep – he never raced at all as a 2 yr old.

Gemologist: He’s UNbeaten! Wow, that’s impressive in this year’s crop of 3yr olds. However, Gemologist has defeated a not-so-great group of mostly losing horses.

Hansen: Looking back at his record, it’s difficult to see why he got so much press as a leading contender for the Roses. It had to have come from last year’s Juvenile run here at Churchill Downs where no fewer than 9 of these contenders raced, and “Hansen” beat them all. With that exception, he’s a winner of minor races and beaten loser on occasion. I certainly don’t expect a rerun of the Juvenile. ‘nuf said.

Union Rags: here’s another horse with a lot of early press and promise. He couldn’t catch even “Hansen” in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile (more on that later). He was a favorite to win the Florida Derby but disappointed his believers. He did make up some ground on the eventual winner “Take Charge Indy”.

Daddy Long Legs: An unknown and unproven shipper, this horse sneaks in from Dubai with questionable credentials and unknown performances abroad. Another knock: he’s best on grass.

Dullahan: My pick to win earlier this month, this horse NEEDS a good post position to remain my pick. He cannot start from outside in a 20 horse field. Further, his best performances were on a Polytrack or grass, and that may not translate well when he hits the dirt. He needs more than a good post position; he also needs a fast pace which would enable him to close as is his want. If he pulls this off, he’ll have the target horse “Trinniberg” to thank for a really quick pace.

Take Charge Indy: He will not get the perfect race here that he got in Florida. There, he broke cleanly, got inside, kept the pace slow and had enough to outlast the rest including “Union Rags”. But here, with a dirt track, a 20 horse field and a quicker pace, he looks like an also finished to me. Not to say he won’t be a part of the exotics, but not the winner.

I’ll Have Another: Here’s a case of a good horse, with a good win, and a record including a win over another Kentucky Derby entrant… that simply is not fast enough to win this race.

Creative Cause: Here’s the horse that “I’ll Have Another” nosed out for the win at Santa Anita. That’s not much to hang your hat on. Could win, and that’s cool, ’cause he’s such a great looking horse! And don’t forget, he beat “Bodemeister”!!!

I repeat… What’s a guy to do?

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