LOUISVILLE -- Although there is no future in the prediction business, it's preferable to prophesy as if you are confident in your vision. All pickers are often wrong, even if rarely in doubt. Which brings me to the 132nd Kentucky Derby.
I can't recall the last time I felt so vague about a Derby, and I've been picking them since 1984. I've had a few good hits, too. I was right with the Alysheba-Bet Twice exacta ($109.60) in 1987, as well as with Sunday Silence, Unbridled (10-1), Lil E. Tee (16-1), Grindstone (almost 6-1) and Silver Charm.
Unfortunately, I haven't gotten one right since Silver Charm held off Captain Bodgit in 1997, and I think I know why. I fell into the trap of foolishly jumping on a horse's bandwagon in March, usually making a future wager on it. I didn't do that this spring, because I wasn't high on anybody. Last week it even crossed my mind not to bet this Derby, but I am an American and must support my national race.
And so I will. On Saturday I will walk to the window and say this to the teller in the Churchill Downs press box: "$15 to win, $5 to place on the 5; $2 exacta box, 5, 8, 10 and 11."
That means I'm picking Point Determined to win, and boxing him, Barbaro, Sweetnorthernsaint and A.P. Warrior. That's a total outlay of a measly $44. I also may make a few Oaks-Derby doubles with Oaks favorite Balance and the four horses in my exacta box. But that's it. I rarely bet triples, and I never have bet a superfecta.
Why Point Determined? He's only 2-for-6 lifetime and never has won a Grade I. Well, he's improving at the right time and working out well for three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert. Rafael Bejarano is a brilliant young rider who has dominated at Churchill Downs. The pedigree (by Point Given out of a Broad Brush mare) says he'll have no trouble getting 1 1/4 miles, barring a bad start or traffic trouble. He should be in good position in midpack to make his move leaving the stretch turn, and he has a strong closing punch.
I expect the pace to be hot, and that favorites Brother Derek and Lawyer Ron will be compromised from their outside posts. There are so many need-to-lead types (Keyed Entry, Sinister Minister, Sharp Humor, Showing Up) it seems inconceivable that the front-runners won't create a pace meltdown. If there is one, and the gaps open at the right time for Point Determined, maybe he'll win at odds of 10-1 or so.
But who can tell? As Baffert said after Wednesday's draw, "If they don't break, it doesn't matter what hole they're in. If the horse is ready to run, if they have class, they'll get there."
1. Point Determined 2. Barbaro 3. Sweetnorthernsaint 4. A.P. Warrior