"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." - Thomas Paine
I haven't picked the Derby winner since Smarty Jones. Every year, I put aside my bread and butter tracks and look at the race that makes 'everyone a racing fan for a day', however this year just doesn't feel the same.
I love this sport and am passionate about my handicapping and wagering. I love the thrill of the 3 year old season as major preps and upsets abound - even if these are races I stay away from with my betting. I think we have all gotten past the initial buzz of PETA/Asmussen but with Churchill's increased take out - enough is enough. Many of racing social media crowd have called for a boycott, and as recent numbers have shown, handle is down so far this meet (I am reading reports that say between 13% - 14% through yesterday).
This leaves me conflicted. As a horseplayer I care about my bankroll, but I also care that the horsemen and all those on the backside can make a living.
Just like the situation here in Jersey, Churchill suffers from not having other gaming at the track to pull funds (could be a different blog entirely), but trying to squeeze blood from a stone is not the answer. Horseplayers are making their voices heard via their wallets - they have had enough of seeing less and less of their money returned.
Does raising the takeout really work? Another fine piece of work by Lenny Moon at Equinometry points out how this may actually hurt them further by paralleling California's take out percentages in his recent post Churchill Downs Takeout Increase: A Futile Effort to Resurrect a Once Great Track.
Not that much of my bankroll is ever bet on Churchill, but this year they won't see any of it. However, this hasn't stopped me from handicapping the Derby, which is as tough of a field as usual.
20 Wicked Strong (8-1) - As usual, there will be a hot early pace which will knock out a group of early speedsters. The outside post won't hurt now that fireball Pablo Del Monte has scratched and he should be able to tuck nicely into the pack hitting the first turn. He is bred for this distance (or further) and will have gas in the tank late when the leaders fold in the stretch.
4 Danza (10-1) - Not much in the PP's to go on here, but Bravo got him up late on his first test around two turns in the Arkansas Derby. Running style suggests a late move if he doesn't get shuffled back early with the mad rush to the rail.
5 California Chrome (5-2) - I doubted him in the San Felipe and was proven wrong. Not really bred for the distance, but has just been the best horse on the left coast all season long - beating a solid field in the Santa Anita Derby - by 5-1/4 lengths! He'll be running late, but that last furlong may do him in...
17 Commanding Curve (50-1) - My outside pick for the bottom of the superfecta. Bred a little short of the distance, but did recover from some trouble early to get up for show in the Louisiana Derby. The bottom spots are always a crap shoot, but this one should also been making forward progress late.
No suggested wagers since I will simply we watching this one as I sip a cold refreshing beverage from home.
Good luck all!