Favorites keep dominating Kentucky Derby

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Wow, four years and four favorites win the Kentucky Derby. So what do we make of it?

Three of the four years we have had California runners win the Kentucky Derby and they have dominated the last two years. Is it the great weather on the West Coast?

Could it possibly be the point system that has changed the dynamics of the Derby?

Looking back we see this is not some new phenomenon. In the great 70’s we will start with 1973 when super horse Secretariat won and paid $5 with the second favorite Sham finishing second.

In 1974 the entry of Cannonade and Judger paid $5 in a 23 horse field with the second favorite Hudson County finishing second. In 1975, my best time at the Derby, Foolish Pleasure won and paid $5.80.

In 1976 the bettors sent Honest Pleasure to post at 40 cents on the dollar. That year myself and some friends were at dinner Friday night at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky and at the table next to us was the owner of Honest Pleasure, Bert Firestone and his family with trainer LeRoy Jolley. I went over and wished them well.

As luck would have it the next morning we were on the elevator heading down to breakfast and the son of Bert Firestone was on the elevator and I say to him, are you going to be betting on your horse? He tells us his dad doesn’t think they can beat Bold Forbes.

Bold Forbes went off as the second choice in the race at 3/1. He had run seven races as a 2yo in Puerto Rico but ran out of competition so was sent to Laz Barrera for his 3yo season. Bold Forbes was a speed freak but Laz put long stamina drills into him and had him ready.

Angel Cordero Jr. was on board for the ride; he had 6,000 wins and 200 suspensions, that is how he rode. He shot Bold Forbes out to take a five length lead and with a great ride milked it to win by a length.

Now we move to 1977 when the great and undefeated Seattle Slew won paying $3 with the second favorite, the entry of Run Dusty Run and Bob’s Dusty, finishing second at 5-1 in a field of 15.

In 1978 it was the rivalry of the decade with Affirmed taking on Alydar. Affirmed won, as we know, at 9/5 with Alydar finishing second at 6/5. They traded punches in the Preakness and the Belmont but the order of finish stayed the same.

Is it possible we will have the Affirmed/Alydar battle this year between Nyquist and Exaggerator? So far Nyquist has beaten Exaggerator four times.

As a horse bettor and fan this is just great for racing and we hope these two knock heads all the way to New York where we see Exaggerator getting the best of Nyquist in what could be an epic stretch battle.

As far as the Preakness goes, most of the entrants in the Kentucky Derby will pass the Preakness. We will see some new runners taking on the undefeated Nyquist in what could be a field of between 10 to 12 runners.

Here are a few comments from some of the trainers.

• Bob Baffert on Mor Spirit: “He came away from there ok and he got a good spot going into the first turn. Then it just didn’t happen form there. He didn’t engage. He just didn’t have anything to fire for the finish.”

• Doug O’Neill on Nyquist: “He’s a special, special horse. You can see it in his eyes on a daily basis. He knows how to bring his ‘A’ game. If he was a human athlete, we’d celebrate him as a superstar.”

• Keith Desormeaux on Exaggerator: “ I didn’t think Exaggerator hit the brakes as much as Kent alluded to. He burst out of the turn. I thought we had time to catch Nyquist. He had clear running room the entire one-quarter mile stretch. I thought for sure we would catch him. He did kind of level off the last sixteenth of a mile. Maybe he ran out of training. I didn’t see where Nyquist was during the race until after it was over and he was there right on the pace. What a horse. I can’t respect that horse enough.

• Tom Amoss on Mo Tom: “I’m just proud to be from New Orleans. I’m proud that this is a Louisiana horse all the way. And we’re going to get ’em next time. We got the right set-up but the race just didn’t back up.”

As for Suddenbreakingnews, well he got the worst trip as he was jammed up just after the start and was steadied. He did finish with his usual burst and looks like a player in the Belmont.

So what about all the favorites? As chronicled above, things have cycles and we just happen to be in one.

The bottom line is there are a ton of opportunities out there to make some good cash betting the races, like the 20-cent pick six at Golden Gate. Just get off the couch and take a shot, you could be walking around lucky and not even know it.

Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GT’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Twitter: @SabesBet. Email: [email protected].

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