Horseplayers’ Lament: How Could We Have Hit That Derby Day Score?

I’m certain I’m not the only horseplayer kicking themselves over missed opportunities on Derby day. Oh, what could’ve been!

I find it helps to deconstruct race results after the fact — both as a learning tool for future wagers and as a way to either feel better about it or instill hope that a big score is still forthcoming.

This week, I’ve decided to try my post-mortem exercise in public. So, here’s a look at two wagers that paid massive amounts on Saturday. With the right strategy and reasonably sharp handicapping, were these bets hittable? And if so, how?

The Derby Superfecta ($1 Payout: $19,618.20)
I’m not generally a superfecta player, but I can’t help myself in the Kentucky Derby. The Derby super almost always pays huge and as we saw yet again this year, all it takes is one longshot to spike it.

From a bankroll standpoint, since Churchill Downs makes the super minimum a dollar, it gets expensive really fast. So to give yourself a chance, you either have to focus your roll on the superfecta or come up with a handicapping strategy based on a likely logical outcome and fire your shot.

This year’s super paid almost 20-grand with the favorite on top and two single-digit horses in second and third. What blew it up was 85-1 Instilled Regard in fourth. Remarkably, a horse with one of the best pedigrees for a classic distance was completely ignored at the windows and went off as by far the longest shot in the field.

So, this super would’ve been easy to hit for a sharp handicapper who identified Instilled Regard as a massive overlay due to his pedigree. But even if you ignored him (like me), this year’s super could’ve been hit with a “key” strategy.

Leading up to the race, many observers, myself included, kept saying Good Magic was the contender most likely to run his race in the Derby. He simply screamed “key me!”

Remember, the Derby super has been paying thousands every year despite the fact that favorites keep winning. So, even as a “saver” super if you’re playing against him, it makes sense to put Justify on top of at least a couple tickets. If we do that and key Good Magic in second on one ticket and third on another, we’re getting close to a strategy that will work and not cost a ton.

Outside of Good Magic, who were the other logical win contenders? Let’s say, based on their odds: Mendelssohn, Audible, Bolt d’Oro, My Boy Jack, and Magnum Moon. If we key that group in the other slot opposite Good Magic, and even if we go ALL in the fourth spot, those two bets only come out at $100 each and one of them is a winner.

So that $200 investment, a very logical play, would’ve returned $19,418.20.

Yeah, hindsight is 20/20 but this kind of strategy would’ve worked in previous years as well – identify a key horse to hit underneath the favorite, play a few logical contenders in one of the other slots and go ALL in the other slot to give yourself a free square.

The Churchill Downs Pick 5 (.50 Payout: $620,827.65)
Wow. Talk about a life-changing score. Congratulations to the woman in Texas who hit this thing twice with an $18 ticket. Let’s ask ourselves, could we have done that? I’ll go through each leg and see what it would’ve taken to beat this thing.

Race 8 – Churchill Downs Stakes
I absolutely believe you could’ve singled your way out of this race. Limousine Liberal was a standout, if you tossed the favorite Imperial Hint, which is usually my strategy in the first leg of multi-race exotic wagers. There’s no way around it, Limousine Liberal loves Churchill Downs and an off-track. With his victory here, he moved to 8-6-1-0 at the track, and three-for-three in the slop. He was a terrific single at 4-1 in a race with a heavy favorite.

Race 9 – American Turf Stakes
I would not have played Maraud as a single here but a 50 percent-winning filly trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez is a must-include on your ticket. Going five-deep here would’ve been a reasonable strategy to get through this leg.

Race 10 – Pat Day Stakes
This is the race that brought down the house, destroying most people’s tickets. It’s worth noting again — all it takes is one unlikely longshot to rocket a wager like this into life-changing territory. I didn’t identify Funny Duck as a potential winner of this race at 39-1 but a case could’ve been made to include him on your ticket. Talented trainer-jockey combo in Rusty Arnold and Brian Hernandez, no experience in the slop but bred for it by Distorted Humor, his speed figures were improving and borderline competitive here, and he was making the second start off a layoff. Not to mention, all of the races in this sequence, this was the most likely candidate for chaos – a mile race for 3-year-olds on a sloppy track.

I still think you’d have to go pretty deep to catch this winner, so for our purposes, let’s push the ALL button here.

Race 11 – Turf Classic Stakes
At 9-1, Yoshida was the best bet in this field. Coming off a long layoff for master Bill Mott, Yoshida clearly had grown up from his 3-year-old season to now 4. He had hit the exacta in his previous three starts, all graded stakes. Not saying I had him as my #1 in this field but he was a must include in a group of five potential winners.

Race 12 – Kentucky Derby
You could make a strong case for singling the Derby favorite Justify here, based on recent history and his chiseled greek god looks heading into the race. But you could also go about five-deep and have a reasonable expectation to snare the winner (Mendelssohn, Audible, Bolt d’Oro and Good Magic).

So, let’s add it up:

Ticket A (Justify as a single)

R8 – 1 horse
R9 – 5 horses
R10 – 14 horses
R11 – 5 horses
R12 – 1 horse

Total: $70

Ticket B (Five-deep in Derby)
R8 – 1 horse
R9 – 5 horses
R10 – 14 horses
R11 – 5 horses
R12 – 5 horses

Total: $875

That $70 ticket kind of makes me queasy to see it after-the-fact, although it just goes to show you how identifying the right race for chaos and completely logical winners in the other legs can result in a massive score. We didn’t even have to identify Funny Duck – just his race as the ALL race.

I don’t have the scratch to play ticket B, but those who do could’ve made a whopping $620,000 by either singling Justify or Limousine Liberal, going medium deep in three races and ALL in the other.

In hindsight, that doesn’t seem impossible, does it?

Just wait ’til next time.

The post Horseplayers’ Lament: How Could We Have Hit That Derby Day Score? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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