Derby grab bag!

April 30, 2002 10:33 AM
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Bettors should be out in force for Kentucky Derby 128, which has been tabbed a grab bag by most experts.

"I think it’s a great gambling race because of all the angles," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who trains Derby hopefuls Private Emblem and Windward Passage. "Whoever wins it, everyone will be walking around back here saying they knew it. I just feel fortunate to be deserving of this shot with not just one horse but possibly two."

Closer to home, several race and sports directors in Las Vegas are expecting plenty of betting action, especially on the exotics.

"There should be opportunities for big payoffs, especially on the trifectas and superfectas," said the supervisor of a Strip casino race book. "With morning line odds expected to start at about 5-1, the betting public won’t be caught up with just one or two horses."

Of course, because there aren’t any standout horses, picking the winner from a possible 10 or 12 contenders won’t be easy. Yet, there are a few scenarios that players should consider when narrowing their choices, according to GamingToday handicapper Rich Saber.

"The race will probably unfold this way: War Emblem will most likely take the early lead and dare the other horses to come catch him," Saber said. "How the rest of the field reacts could determine the outcome.

"The most likely winner will probably come out of the group of stalkers who will be right behind War Emblem," Saber continued. "They include Buddha, Medaglia d’Oro and Came Home. But it’s imperative that the jockeys on those horses go after War Emblem."

Saber added that the likely morning line favorite, Harlan’s Holiday, will come from off the pace, but may find the going difficult in the stretch drive, adding that the scenario of a late closer getting to the wire is unlikely at best.

"It would take a perfect trip for one of those late runners to get up in time," he said. "The best chance of that happening could be with Perfect Drift. But (at press time), we haven’t had the draw, so we don’t know the actual post positions. Those could be key to the running of the race."

GamingToday will have all the late odds and changes on its web site, gamingtoday.com. Also available online will be selections for all the Churchill Downs races on Friday and Saturday.