Kentucky Derby picks
Eddie Mac tells you who he likes in this Saturday's $2 million Kentucky Derby.
LOUISVILLE -- On Derby Day, racing's longest day, the races begin at 11 o'clock, so to beat the crowd of 145,000 or so, it's necessary to show up by 9:30. Then you wait forever for the big event. You look and look again at the past performances for Churchill Downs' 12-races, and try to restrain yourself from betting all of them. Rarely am I able to discipline myself so rigorously, because boredom makes me do foolish things. I hope I can "stay within myself," as the coaches say, on Saturday, when I tentatively plan to wager on only three or four races besides the Derby. On the plane ride from Long Island on Thursday, I found a number of the Derby Day races inscrutable or dominated by a heavy, apparently unbeatable favorite. So I've tried to isolate three of them: a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the turf, the 7-furlong Churchill Downs Handicap and the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. And if I can limit my betting to those three races, it will be a greater achievement than picking the Derby superfecta.
I'll also tell you how I'm going to bet the Derby, a plan that could lead to riches and glory but more likely will cause muttering and anger by around 6:15.
4th race, 1 1/16 miles, non-winners of -3 allowance (turf)
Cool Conductor appears to hold a major class edge and drops into an allowance after running in eight consecutive stakes against the likes of Kitten's Joy, Prince Arch, Artie Schiller and Good Reward. The last time Cool Conductor faced allowance company was last May 16 at Churchill, where he won by 5_ lengths. Unfortunately, the price that day was 4-5, which I hope is not the case again.
1. Cool Conductor. 2. Cartoonist. 3. Tempered Steel.
5th race, Grade II Churchill Downs Handicap, 7 furlongs
Pomeroy looks like a value play in a contentious event that also draws the very tough Lion Tamer, Sir Shackleton and Gold Storm. Pomeroy has a lot going for him, including an easy win in his only previous try at 7 furlongs last year in the Grade I King's Bishop on Travers Day at Saratoga. He should be a lot tighter in his second start of the season for trainer Patrick Biancone, who removes the blinkers. Pomeroy raced without the shades when he won 3 of 4 as a 2-year-old, so it's not as if he's an unknown quantity without them. He should have benefited greatly from his first start of the season, a 5_-length turf sprint, the Grade III Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland. Pomeroy, in his grass debut, was bet down to 7-2 in a strong field and forced the pace until midstretch, when he faded to seventh, but only 3_ lengths behind Soaring Free, a multiple-stakes winner on the grass. I'll play Pomeroy to win and place and key him in exacta boxes with Lion Tamer, Sir Shackleton and Gold Storm.
1. Pomeroy. 2.Sir Shackleton. 3. Lion Tamer.
9th race, Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, 1 1/8 miles (turf)
I'll go with the classy Meteor Storm in a typically tricky renewal of the traditional lead-in to the Derby. Trainer Wally Dollase is very dangerous when he ships from California for big races, and Meteor Storm should be a decent price after running fourth and second in his only starts this year. His 2005 debut in the very competitive Kilroe Mile, a Grade I at Santa Anita, was a decent fourth, and his runner-up effort last time in the Grade I, 1_-mile San Luis Rey in Arcadia was strong. He's worked well the past month in Kentucky, and the turnback to 9 furlongs should help his late kick.
1. Meteor Storm. 2. A To The Z. 3. Senor Swinger.
10th race, Kentucky Derby
Here's how I will invest (squander?) my money on America's Race.
Since I have $10 future wagers on Bandini (my pick to win) at 14-1 and on Noble Causeway (my pick for second) at 18-1, I won't have to make win bets on either of them. I also won't bet to win on anybody else.
I'll play a $6 exacta, Bandini over Noble Causeway, and a $4 exacta the other way.
I'll put $10 win and $10 place on Noble Causeway, who might be the overlay of the race and could be its best closer.
I'll play two $1 trifecta boxes, using Bandini, Noble Causeway and High Fly and also Bandini, Noble Causeway and Afleet Alex.
I'll also bet a $2 exacta box using Bandini, High Fly, Afleet Alex and Noble Causeway. And just in case Bellamy Road runs like a demon again, I'll key him in $2 exacta boxes with Bandini and Noble Causeway.
Those are $74 I may never see again, but you never can tell.
1. Bandini could work out an excellent stalking trip and has the tractable speed, acceleration and distance pedigree to get Todd Pletcher off the Derby schneid.
2. Noble Causeway is the best closer in a speed-loaded group and should be the overlay of the race; unlike many of his rivals, he should love 1 1/4 miles.
3. High Fly should be well placed just behind the speed, and nobody can ride big races like Jerry Bailey.
4. Bellamy Road won't have things his own way up front this time, and trying to learn a new trick (rating) in the chaotic Derby is asking a lot, especially at short odds.
Watch the Kentucky Derby on NBC (Saturday at 5 p.m. ET).