Kentucky Derby picks

Jay's got two stories and four picks to give you for this weekend's Kentucky Derby.

Updated: May 5, 2005, 12:01 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to

This week's writing includes a Derby pick and analysis unlike any other, guaranteed, and two stories aimed at making you feel good about our sport.

Derby Week, you need to think positive.

The best bet I ever made on a horse race occurred a number of years ago at Penn National, which is a track more rural than metro, situated near the Amish, Three Mile Island, and Hershey Park, home of chocolate.

I was at Penn National for the World Series of Handicapping, one of the first and best tournaments of its kind, none of that casino flash where in a contest you can bet ten racing screens at once, first handicapper to accumulate a billion in play money wins a small cut of the total entry fee-take. The Penn National tournament featured three days of live racing and betting on $5,000 claimers and old jockeys, the real stuff, no coastal showboating here.

In this tournament, I placed 15 meaningful bets and lost every single one of them, a feat that had tellers and contest officials whispering.

My second wife who is now my second ex-wife was with me at the time and pretended not to know me the third day.

Tapping out of a tournament with four live races remaining on the card does not result in your being banished from the grounds.

The last race on this day had one of my favorite lines: lost jockey.

Many handicappers regard this trip note as something similar to being assisted from the track. But frequently LOST JOCKEY means one thing, a longer price than had the jockey stayed on and finished last.

When the jockey was thrown to the dirt, the horse went off at 7-1; this time it was in a worse field, if anything, and opened at 20-1.

Here's what responsible gamblers of all games and sports play for: an edge. It's why picking the Kentucky Derby is so difficult, 20 horses spread from here to there, what's your secret edge, a Beyer figure?

At Penn National that gloomy Sunday night, I shook $90 out of the ATM and bet most reasonable combinations on the horse who had pitched the jockey one time back. The same jockey was here again, a woman named Verdeur, another positive, who goes asking for trouble.

The horse was named Head for the Keys.

It won by so much, I was taking bows coming out of the turn.

Head for the Keys paid $49.60, $19 and $8.

I won more betting lunch money on this horse, good lunch money, but lunch money nonetheless, than three of the people who in prize money at the World Series of Handicapping.

The other uplifting horse racing story for this Derby Week took place the day before yesterday.

I was at an Indian casino playing quarter slots, pretty fancy, huh. Slots are one of the keys to the future of horse racing, resulting in this horse player's lament: How long will knuckleheads pour money down slot machines?

One row behind me at the casino was a woman who getting on in years. She chain-smoked and poked me with a bony elbow and said she was too worn out to get up -- would I please load her slot machine for her? I said sure. She gave me nine hundred-dollar bills and played the $5 machine full-bore, three bets at a time, losing the $900 in 29 minutes.

It's the key to successful horse handicapping overall and essential to hitting the 131st Kentucky: the dummies are out to help.

Kentucky Derby analysis and picks
Blah, blah, blah, how in the world could the number five gate position have been the 15th selected, blah, blah, blah, blah, what could Bellamy Road like about the 16 gate, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, be sure and watch for Goldberg's pick, and I think you know why, blah, blah, maybe Lukas should think about a quarter horse, blah, blah, blah.

And one more thing, blah, blah, make it two.

1. Afleet Alex
2. Bellamy Road
3. Sun King
4. Greeley's Galaxy