One of our favorite weeks of the year has finally arrived with the 139th renewal on Saturday of the Kentucky Derby. When you factor in all the betting options and a full field of up to 20 horses going to post, it’s a horseplayer’s feast.
A recent visitor remarked that many horseplayers feel spending Derby week in Las Vegas is even better than being in Louisville. We think he’s right. Fighting the on-track crowd of more than 100,000 patrons can be a major distraction if you are intent on playing the ponies.
It’s been many years since we attended the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, but we still remember well the seemingly endless line of vehicles on entering and exiting the track. And there were the masses of bodies we needed to squeeze through in order to get to our seats. Then, there were those exceptionally long betting lines to deal with.
Yes, we’ll take Vegas any day for major sports events. The casinos here are pros when it comes to handling the influx of customers and, win or lose, everyone has a good time. You have many options to choose from here. If you want to party with friends you can do that. If you want to concentrate on your handicapping you can do that, too. All you have to do is decide what you want.
And, if you are looking for a little extra help picking winners, you might want to attend the Derby party in the Grand Ballroom at South Point where professional handicappers Patrick McQuiggan and Toby Turrell will be mixing and mingling.
Or you could head to Jerry’s Nugget, place a $10 wager and get a free KD souvenir glass for your mint juleps. We like to go here early in the morning because on Saturday and Sunday they offer free coffee and donuts. After that you should stop at either Cannery or Eastside Cannery and pick up great KD t-shirt with a $25 bet.
This weekend also features the return to the ring of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. “Money” Mayweather is a huge favorite against Robert Guerrero.
Too bad these major fights are now few and far between locally. How we got to this point is complicated, but we do think many current casino executives and community leaders either don’t know or have forgotten what big time boxing once did for our town.
The contribution of the “sweet science” to the Valley of Dollars should not be overlooked or forgotten.
Finally, if you are still going on Sunday, you’ll want to check out the Cinco de Mayo festivities. This Mexican holiday, in case you forgot or didn’t know, celebrates the defeat of the French by Mexican troops on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Here in Las Vegas there will be parties all over town, ratcheting up the fun even more.
Of course the most important part of the week for us is our Derby picks. We probably won’t make a final decision until after checking out the seminar at Palace Station where Gaming Today columnist and ace handicapper Richard Saber will be giving his insights, but right now we are centering on Revolutionary, one of the Todd Pletcher contingent of at least four horses scheduled to be entered. He has been working lights out and will be ridden by newly announced horseracing hall-of-famer Calvin Borel.
Unless Revolutionary lands the rail post position, he should be our key horse. We also lean toward Mylute, the second place finisher to Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby in March. Mylute will have Rosie Napravnik in the irons fresh off her appearance Sunday night on CBS’s 60 Minutes.
We'll likely key these two with Orb, Palace Malice, Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents.
In Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, we are all in on Midnight Lucky. She’s training great with room to improve.
Best of luck to all.
See you around town.
Eileen DiRocco is the owner and publisher of GamingToday, the bible for gaming news “you can bet on.” Contact Eileen at [email protected].