LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Readers of these reports have come to realize that I'm a racing fan. I like horses. I like the thrill of horse racing.
I realize that gambling on horse racing is what makes the sport go. But, I prefer to leave the gambling to those who enjoy it for its own sake.
However, when the world turns on millions of television sets to watch the Kentucky Derby, I feel like a bet is in order. But not just a bet. How about a fund raiser for a vital part of the sport? For the past several years, I have bet some of my dollars (not the publishers) on the world's most oversold horse race.
When I cash a ticket (or, hopefully several tickets), I send the money—all of it—to Anna House, the preschool and day care center for the children of backstretch workers that is located on the grounds at Belmont Park.
When you ask the folks at Anna House about their facility, they'll tell you:
“The men and women who take care of the Thoroughbreds at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack often need assistance for daycare. Days at the stable for grooms can start as early as 4 a.m. and continue until after 8 p.m. The Belmont Child Care Association provides a safe and loving care center for equine workers' children and provides early education for the little ones whose parents work at New York racetracks.”
My few dollars will certainly be appreciated at Anna House. They sure will appreciate help from the readers of TAPinto HORSES. I invite you to join me in sending at least a portion of your Derby winnings to:
2750 Hempstead Turpike
Belmont Park, Gate 30
Elmont, N.Y. 11003
So, with a hope and prayer that I've made the right selections to help Anna House, here are my selections for Kentucky Derby 2018:
$20 to Win on #7, Justify, a colt owned by Winstar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners, trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
I'm betting this son of Scat Daddy from the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic keeps his undefeated streak alive at four wins and that he breaks the “Curse of Apollo.”
Way back in 1892, a colt named Apollo won the Derby. He was the last colt to win the race who did not race at age 2. All of the winners since then at least started in a race at 2. Many went to their 3-year-old seasons without being winners—but at least they started.
Justfy will take a record of three wins from three starts into starting gate stall Number 7. He broke his maiden at Santa Anita in mid-February winning by 9-1/2 lengths with Drayden Van Dyke in the saddle.
Mike Smith got the ride in an allowance race three weeks later that Justify won by 6-1/2.
From there it was a quantum leap to the $1 million, Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby for Justify and Smith. That race, at a mile and furlong, was a clear win by three lengths with Smith sitting statue-still for the last eighth.
Because the springtime weather in Louisville can be, at best, unpredictable, I took special notice that the allowance win in March was over a sloppy track that the colt learned to relish in a hurry.
After breaking last in a field of five, he dug in to the sloppy going and was a handy winner of the mile race in 1:35.73.
When looking at a field of 20 starters that qualified for the Derby, I felt I wanted a colt that can stay clear of traffic. Justify came out of the gate in the Santa Anita Derby and was promptly in first place. From there on, every pole was a winning one.
Justify, Baffert and Smith check all the boxes for me.
As for exotic bets, let's try for a $5 exacta box.
Underneath Justify, I checked off Robert and Lowana Low's #16, Magnum Moon. His four-length win in the mile and a furlong in the $1 million, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby for mega-trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Luis Saez was accomplished mostly on the front end and from the six and seven paths in the home stretch.
Some of Magnum Moon's detractors say he was bearing out in the stretch because he was tiring at the end of the mile and furlong.
My Roku-view and subsequent quotes from Pletcher lead me to believe Magnum Moon was thinking about jumping tire tracks that were left behind when the starting gate crew removed the gate and then failed to completely rake out the area.
My other candidate for the exacta box is Smith, Magnier and Tabor's Kentucky-bred and world-wide raced #14 Mendelssohn, another Scat Daddy from the Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady.
This colt came into the North American spotlight when he was shipped over from trainer Aiden O'Brien's yard in Ireland to post a game win in the $1 million, Grade 1 Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar in November.
Two races later, he made the lead a quarter mile out and went on to win the $2 million, Group 2 UAE Derby at Meydon on March 31. His margin of victory in that main track race was 18-1/2 lengths after running 1-3/16-th miles (1/16-th less than the Derby) while carrying 126 pounds, the Derby impost for all starters.
O'Brien and his horses have enough frequent flyer miles. They don't need any more. If he and champion Irish jockey Ryan Moore are coming here to race, I'll take a look.
And, just for insurance, let's toss in a $2 trifecta on those three colts.
Then, let's all go to the Post Office on Monday morning to send our checks to Anna House.
I'll be interested to hear how you folks did and to learn how much went to Anna House. Send me an e-mail through editor Lillian Shupe via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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