The first Saturday in May brings the culmination of the two weeks long Kentucky Derby Festival with a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbreds; the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky is home to the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” otherwise known as “The Run for the Roses” as the race only lasts about 2 minutes and the winner will be draped in roses.
The Kentucky Derby is also the first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing which includes the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Only twelve horses have won all three events in the same year since the Kentucky Derby was inaugurated into the prestigious competition in 1875. The first was Sir Barton in 1919 and the last was American Pharoah in 2015, the first to take the trophy in 37 years.
The twenty horses in this year’s field present difficult betting propositions for serious pony fans and those who only flock to the tracks or local off-track betting parlors for big events. Some handicappers note that half the field has a chance to take home the roses with four horses sitting at 6-1 odds or better on the Friday morning odds lines.
Race fans at home can start watching coverage on their local NBC affiliate beginning at 2:30 p.m. with post time scheduled for a little after 6:30 p.m. Many OTB’s will be switching coverage back and forth throughout the day to pick up highlights of the Derby festivities and undercard races. Look online for a Kentucky Derby party near you if you aren’t one of the almost 170,000 or so die-hard fans expected to pack into Churchill Downs, come rain or shine, for the big race.
While there is currently only a 9% chance of rain at post time, earlier in the day predictions are as high as 85% which means the track could be wet. What is already a tricky field, especially for a five-figure trifecta, becomes even more difficult when trying to determine who can run 1 1/4 miles in mud without going weak or faltering. At least with three-year-olds racing, there may be some data for handicappers to rely on, but barely.
One suggestion would be to take the ten contenders, then winnow your field down even more as only half of the horses running for the roses have ever raced on a wet track. Look at Classic Empire and Lookin at Lee, as these are the only two in the field who have raced on a wet track at Churchill Downs. Classic Empire placed first on May 4, 2016, and Lookin at Lee took second in another race but was more than 8 lengths behind the winner. For the third I’ll be pulling in one of the unknowns – either McCracken or Irish War Cry.