Blowing the Derby Deadline

10 May

By Lucky Kalanges

It probably wasn’t a great sign when an OTB customer asked me last Friday night who I liked in the Derby and I couldn’t tell him.

“I don’t know,” I said. “If you see me tomorrow, ask me then.”

That’s not what anyone, especially a reading audience wants to hear, but it’s generally the way I play it. I have to see the odds, track conditions and whatnot before making my final plays, which this year, occurred probably 90 minutes before the race.

Unfortunately, my son had a Little League game between my final handicapping preparation when the track was fast and the weather was dry, and when the horses were loading into the gate. By the time I rushed home, showered and crawled up the Sunol Grade for my night shift at the OTB, the heavens had opened up, the track was sloppy and I probably should have heeded the impulse to cancel all my bets.

But you know, it’s the Derby, so I let them ride. The only good news to report is that the disqualification of Maximum Security had no bearing on my outcome. I was a loser either way.

Of the DQ itself, I have nothing to add that hasn’t been discussed ad nauseum, but you know that won’t stop me. When I first saw the objection was from Flavian Prat, the rider of Country House, like everybody I focused on contact between the two. When I couldn’t see any, I figured this objection would be tossed in the circular file like 99% of all jockey objections.

When the inquiry dragged on, I started to get more interested. It’s only when I saw a particular angle of the infraction coming around the turn that I understood why Maximum Security had to come down, based on the rules as written in Kentucky.

I think Eddie Olczyk of NBC Sports breaks it down well here.

At the time Maximum Security bore out badly, it looked like War of Will was loaded ready to at least challenge him for the lead. War of Will did recover and battled until the last 1/16th of a mile before fading to eighth, just a half-length short of finishing fifth and earning a $90,000 check.

The reason I agree with the DQ decision is twofold:

  1. The foul cost War of Will at least a half-length, denying his owners a shot at $90,000 in prize money or more. The way the rules are written in Kentucky, a foul that costs another horse an opportunity at a better placing may be disqualified. That’s pretty much the same way they’re written and enforced in California.
  2. Most agree that the foul could have easily caused War of Will to fall, putting him and his rider in grave danger. Had War of Will fallen, Maximum Security would have almost certainly been disqualified within minutes. Do we really need to see a horse and rider hit the dirt in order to disqualify a horse in the Kentucky Derby?

    I don’t think so.

I can only imagine the frustration of losing the Derby Superfecta or any bet with a sizeable payoff on a DQ like that. With Country House in second, the Superfecta was paying five figures with or without Maximum Security.

As it stood, the Superfecta payoff of $51,400 felt a little light to me given it paid nearly $20,000 last year with Justify on top as opposed to a 65/1 shot. Not surprisingly, there was only one winning ticket in the Super High 5 that paid a whopping $544,185.

Any word on who bought the winning Super High 5 ticket?

Another interesting development was the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot Pick 6 far outperforming the new, low takeout, two-day $2 Grade I Pick 6.

Here’s the comparison:

$2 two-day All Grade I Pick 6 paid $67,936
$.20 Single 6 Jackpot Pick 6 paid $271,869

The two Pick 6 pools shared the following winners:

  • Mitole ($6.40) in the Churchill Downs Stakes
  • Bricks and Mortar ($4.20) in the Turf Classic
  • Country House ($132.40) in the Derby

Here’s is where they differed:

  • Beau Recall ($23.00) in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Single 6 Jackpot)
  • Digital Age ($19.20) in the American Turf (Single 6 Jackpot)
  • Mr. Money ($17.00) in the Pat Day Mile (Single 6 Jackpot)
  • She’s a Julie ($12.00) in the La Troienne (G1 Pick 6)
  • Mia Mischief ($25.00) in the Humana Distaff (G1 Pick 6)
  • Serengeti Empress ($28.00) in the Kentucky Oaks (G1 Pick 6)

Given the prices of the winners were very close, even higher in two of the three G1 Pick 6 races, it was a bit surprising that the 15% takeout Pick 6 paid so much less than its Jackpot counterpart, which, in addition to its 15% takeout, rakes another 10% to the Jackpot ($137,594 to be exact).

A lot probably has to do with the Derby day Jackpot Pick 6 handling $1,066,333 vs. the new, two-day Grade I Pick 6 taking in just $479,561.

With time, however, I expect the two-day $2 Pick 6 to grow and I think it is a great way for Churchill Downs to eliminate the negative publicity associated with switching its Pick 6 from a $2 minimum on Oaks and Derby weekend to a 20-cent Jackpot in the middle of its prestigious spring meeting.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’ll be back before the weekend is up with a winning story  for a change. I case you haven’t noticed, I’ve grown a little tired of talking about myself losing money all the time.

Speaking of which, if you’ve got a winning story from the Derby this past weekend, we’d love to hear it. Hit me up at lkalanges@alamedacountyfair.com

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