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Kentucky Derby Preview and Predictions – Who to Bet

The Kentucky Derby.  Where men with an underdeveloped sense of shame and no business wearing a white suit don it proudly; where, like the feathers of a peacock, the absurdity and color scheme of your hat is used to indicate social status; and where 20 of the world’s finest 3-year old horses race for their sport’s greatest honor. @JoeBianchino

It is a spectacle every year.  And though in recent years the Derby hasn’t featured as much dynamic talent as the casual fan would hope, this year’s installment is rich with it.  The favorite, Bodemeister, has won two of his last three races by nine lengths and never finished farther than two lengths out of first.  The Todd Pletcher trained Gemologist is a perfect 5/5, including two wins at Churchill.  And early favorite Union Rags has looked staggeringly good in most of his races, finding himself unlucky in his two losses.

Andy Lyons, Getty Images

Those three lead the field, but the quality does not stop there.  Speed horses Take Charge Indy, Alpha, I’ll Have Another, and closers Dullahan, Creative Clause, and El Padrino represent contenders.  A short breakdown of the entire Kentucky Derby field can be found in part one of our preview.  In an effort to afford redundancy, I’ll spare you those details and move right onto how I see the race playing out:

As the cavalry charge explodes down the stretch for the first time, expect the long-shot Trinniberg to rocket to the front and lead a crush of speed horses into the first turn.  He’ll be joined by the favorite Bodemeister, and the all-white Hansen.  Keeping them close you’ll find the Calvin Borel ridden Take Charge Indy, Gemologist, and I’ll Have Another.  Those six will lead the field into the back stretch with Alpha, Union Rags, Went The Day Well, El Padrino, and Creative Cause settling in behind them.  Late chargers Dullahan and Prospective will steady themselves near the back of the field – trusting a hot pace to allow them to close on the front runners come the stretch.

Trinniberg will continue to lead through the backstretch, as that hot pace materializes – posting quick fractions the likes of which the Derby hasn’t seen in years. Through their trip down the back of Churchill, the only change may be a slight move from Gemologist, but he’ll remain no better than fourth.  As the field hits the top of the turn however, expect the paradigm to be turned on its head.  Trinniberg, having never run more than seven furlongs in his entire career, will hit the wall and succumb to the speed behind and as the early leader drops out of contention, expect Bodemeister and Hansen to vie for first.  Javier Castellano will have Gemologist third and well within striking distance, with Alpha and Union Rags revving up as the strung out pack begins to bunch – those at the back running onto the early speed.

Jamie Squire, Getty Images

But as the field strikes the top of the stretch it will be Gemologist and Bodemeister striking the lead, the former making an impressive move through the turn. Hansen will be there, but fighting the length and fighting to stay in touch.  Behind the chalk-white colt will be Alpha and Union Rags leading a group that includes the sliding efforts of Take Charge Indy and I’ll Have Another, and a surge from Creative Cause.  The big move, though, may be that of Dullahan.  Derby veteran Kent Desormeaux will keep the Dale Romans trainee in great position and as the field hits the stretch, he’ll start a charge from thunder deep in the pack.

With Hansen finally succumbing to the length of the Derby, a three way fight will emerge in deep stretch, with Bodemeister, Gemologist, and a surging Union Rags showing their class.  Alpha and Creative Cause will both be in contention, but they won’t worry the leaders.  Instead, it will be a hard charging Dullahan – taking full advantage of the early speed – that will frighten the front runners.

At the wire, it’s six to five and pick ‘em between Gemologist, Bodemeister, Union Rags, and Dullahan.  Honestly, I have no idea which of these four will win – it could be any of them.  Frankly, I’d rather just claim all four them, bet them all and not pick.  But forced to pick one as I am – making an impossible choice – I’m calling for Union Rags to be the one on the wire first.  The early speed of the race and their forward placement in it will prove too much for Gemologist and Bodemesiter.  Union Rags, having sat off pace for much of the race, will have enough in the tank to claim the first leg of the Triple Crown. Bodemeister will survive for second, Dullahan will be third and Gemologist will finish fourth – but I’m really just throwing darts between the four of them.

What To Bet: The best bet here may be to play a combination of trifectas and exactas including those four.  Alpha, Creative Cause, I’ll Have Another, and Take Charge Indy are other good choices for your more complicated exotics.  I’ll be playing an exacta with Bodemeister, Gemologist, Union Rags and Dullahan, and putting win bets on all of them depending on the odds.  I’ll also be looking to play win, place, and show bets with longer shots based on odds.  El Padrino and Prospective are late runners who, with odds that should be long, are worth a bet. Depending on the odds, and my willingness to throw around my cash, Went The Day Well could earn some consideration simply because of J. Velazquez as well.  But in the end, Bodemeister, Gemologist, Union Rags, and Dullahan are the ones that deserve your money.

Look, it’s horse racing.  A clip of the heels or an unfortunate trip and suddenly the Derby favorite is finishing dead last.  Anything can happen.  But I think you can probably tell, I see four horses here that are – through either overall skill, or race set up – the class of the field, and any of them could be the one to take this 138th Kentucky Derby (which is why I’ll be betting on each of them).  Whatever happens, one thing is certain – this will be appointment television for anyone with even the most passing interest in horse racing.  With the kind of class this field has to offer, it should be an explosive day from Louisville.  Good luck everyone.

Follow me on Twitter @JoeBianchino for live thoughts during Derby day and check back here for recap and reaction.

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